Monday, February 22, 2010

"De nada", says Granada

As part of my program, we take 'cultural trips' to other cities around Spain to enrich our understanding of this country. So far we have visited Madrid, Cadiz, and Córdoba. Last Friday, we added Granada to the list.

Actually, the University of Michigan has a program located in Granada, which I immediately crossed off the list when I first thought about applying to study abroad. Since Granada was the last city in Spain to be occupied by Muslims before the Christian re-conquest, it has a heavy Moorish influence on art architecture, something I thought I didn't enjoy. I was wrong.

Granada is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. From the moment we saw the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance, I was in awe of the city and all it offered. As I have mentioned previously, Spain (and Europe in general) lacks a lot of natural areas, and so Granada was a much appreciated change of pace.

It was a two day trip, and we had nothing planned for the first day, so we decided to do what we do best: eat. I, however, was feeling a bit sick, and so spent my day watching everyone else eat. Joy. Anyways, we visited the oldest Tapas bar in Granada, where you order a drink and get paella (a rice, vegetable, and meat combo typical of Spain) for free, which I would have appreciated more, had I been able to take advantage. This is actually a common offer in all of Granada, and I wish Sevilla would follow suit.

The rest of the day passed by uneventfully until Chantel, Melissa, and I decided to wander into a chocolatería (chocolate store), where I would be once again subjected to the wonderful pastime of watching other people eat. After seeing the delicious-looking pictures of crepes outside the store, they didn't hesitate to order two: one with strawberries and the other with chocolate. We sat down, and began talking. Some time passed, and I asked out loud what was taking so long, since not many people were stuffing their faces with desserts at 4 in the afternoon. And that's when I saw a gigantic plate filled with crepey goodness being topped off with a mountain of whip cream. Literally, a mountain. In a David After Dentist-like state I asked "Can that be real?" (Use this link if you have no idea what I'm talking about: And it was. Even after removing a napkin's full of the cream, there was enough left to spill out of the sides as Chantel rolled hers into a burrito-like shape. Like I said, gi-nor-mous.

Sunday, our group traveled to La Alhambra, the main attraction that Granada boasts. Literally translated, "the red one," La Alhambra is the citadel and palace made in the 14th century by the Moorish rulers of that time. It's situated at the top of a hill, functionally for protection and symbolically to represent power. Because of its high altitude, you are able to see the entire city of Granada spread underneath, and then the Sierra Nevadas on the side. Our group stopped at one particular hallway for awhile, just to take in the incredible landscape. I don't even think the painter guy with the gray affro on PBS could have captured it... (Someone tell me they remember him!)

Besides the views, La Alhambra has beautiful architecture and gardens. After the Christian take-over, the original Moorish decoration was altered or removed, making it have a combined Christian and Moorish influence. Walking through the hallways, fountains, and rooms, I kicked myself for making such a haste judgement about Moorish art, since it truly is gorgeous. No offense, but the Christian art paled in comparison. My eyes never tired of looking at the intricate ornateness of it all.

My favorite thing (and the one I remember the best) I learned about La Alhambra was a story that our tour guide told us. There is a Cypress tree in one of the gardens that is held in place by an iron piece, since it is long dead. Underneath this tree, Sultana Zoraya, one of the wives of the king, would meet her lover in secrecy. The king found out about her infidelity, and since Sultana Zoraya was his favorite wife, he was just not going to take this. (At this point I would like to interject my feminist opposition to the king...notice how she was his favorite, and not only, wife. Yeah, not cool.) So, he decided to invite all of the men in the family he suspected held his wife's lover to a party. Instead of trying to discover which specific one it was, however, he got impatient and just killed them all. Obviously, a great guy. Anyways, now the people of Granada say that the brown spots on some of the fountains/gardens are the blood stains from the killed men. Which is obviously not true, but still adds a bit of a haunted house feeling to the place.

Overall, it was a wonderful weekend in Giant-crepe-and-moorish-art-a-go-go land. Definitely my favorite so far. So thanks Granada, for being so flippin' sweet. (Its answer is the blog title...)

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