The final portion of our trip in Spain proved to be quite eventful.
Prior to leaving on the trip to Spain, we had purchased tickets to visit the Alhambra in Granada. As we had tickets for morning and we were in Ronda the night before, we had to leave at a time that seemed like the middle of the night and was pitch dark. So we packed up our rental car and set off. According to the map it was a bit over 110 miles so we should arrive easily. For some reason, we hadn’t realized there were mountains to cross nor did we know that the road was under construction. So in the dark, we came to a detour sign which pointed us off onto an unpaved road heading up a mountain. For a very long time, there were no additional signs indicating we were on the right track. However, there were not many other options so we kept going and thinking it would soon get better. Eventually daylight arrived and we got onto a paved road again. Of course, by this time, we were well behind our planned arrival time in Granada.
The next obstacle arose when we entered Granada and got completely lost. We planned to park the car at the hotel and take public transport to the Alhambra but had absolutely no idea where we were in the city and hence no idea where our hotel was or how to get there. We spotted two police officers on a corner. I pulled over to the curb, Patty jumped out of the car and, using “caveman” Spanish, asked them to show her on our map where we were. Soon we were off again and with little difficulty found our hotel, even though it was literally hidden in a very narrow alley. Fortunately it did have an underground garage where we could leave the car.
By the time, we arrived at the Alhambra, we were told we had missed our allotted time to visit the Palace. We did not realize that we were scheduled for a specific half hour since our ticket said morning. We then had to buy another ticket which was not until late in the afternoon and discovered that we would also need another general afternoon ticket. The original ticket had implied that once you were admitted, you could stay as long as you liked but this was not really the case. We discovered later that we were not the only ones who had to buy two sets of tickets and even witnessed a fist fight between a very irate British man and a security guard. The ambiguity of the ticketing process combined with the intractable attitude of the security personnel produced a number of unhappy tourists.
Finally, with both morning and afternoon tickets in hand (and a bit of grumbling about their system) we entered.
The Alhambra is truly amazing and its history is fascinating. The Alhambra was both a palace and a fortress of the Moorish monarchs of Granada. On a rocky hill, the imposing reddish walls and parapets conceal from the outside world the delicate beauty contained within. The Moorish portion of the Alhambra includes the Alcazaba, or citadel, which is the oldest part.
The complex of Nasrid palaces was built primarily between 1238 and 1358 during the reigns of Ibn al-Ahmar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty, and his successors.
The Generalife was constructed in the early 14th century as a summer palace centered on courtyards and surrounded by orchards and gardens. It was designed to give the Granadine kings a place of relaxation and reprieve from the business and intrigue of the palaces.
After the expulsion of the Moors from Spain in 1492, much of the interior of the palace was vandalized. Charles V, who ruled in Spain as Charles I (1516-56) rebuilt portions in the Renaissance style and destroyed part of the Alhambra to build an Italianate palace in 1526.
Some of the towers were blown up by the French during the War of Independence in 1812 and in 1821 an earthquake further damaged the structure.Restoration of the building was begun in 1828 and continued through the 20th century.
There is a tremendous feeling of calm and serenity as you walk through the various gardens and courtyards. The decorative work is so intricate it creates a sense of wonder. The gardens invite one to sit, relax and enjoy.
We spent time wandering the Alcazabar, the Generalife and other areas of the Alhambra and found ourselves still having time to kill before we could finally enter the Nasrid Palaces. Leaving Ronda well before sun-up, driving in the dark on a detour through the countryside, getting lost in Granada, having to purchase duplicate tickets and walking for hours in the Alhambra finally took its toll. Patty simply had to have a rest while we waited our tour time. (This was good for many laughs later and only added to the overall ridiculousness of the events of the day.)
The palaces are beautiful and awe-inspiring. All in all, we felt the tour was well worth the wait and general frustration.
The setting on the hill overlooking the old city of Granada emanated an air of being surrounded by history and the mystery of the lives of the kings and their followers.
We spent our evening in Granada exploring and found an excellent place to have dinner. The next day we turned in the rental car and headed to the rail station for the train trip back to Madrid. Our adventures in Spain were nearly over – for this time.