Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 4: Sevilla to Granada

We caught our first train of the trip this morning. It was the first time I had ever used a Eurail pass because usually I just buy individual tickets. I was a little skeptical of how the process would all work out. Usually, trains in Europe are extremely efficient; you just show up and you hop on.

Using the Eurail was a little bit different but overall very easy to use. We still had to pay 4 euros for some reason that none of us know, of course it was explained to us in a hurried Spanish but we've learned when to ask someone to repeat something if it's going to be useful to hear it a second time or not...this time, it wouldn't have been useful. (I still don't understand why people don't speak slower to people they know are not native to their language. People back in OKC do it all the time and it bothers me. If you are communicating with someone, try to make sure they understand you, that's a pretty important part of communication, if you can't be polite enough to slow down just don't talk to them.)

After catching our 11 a.m. train to Granada, we arrived 3 hours later and flagged a cab to take us to our hostel. Those not familiar with the rich history of Granada, click here. Those wanting the Cliff Notes version: imagine an Arab town with hookah and insense shops imagine everyone speaking Spanish...that was pretty much our first observation.

Obviously, not all parts of Granada resemble an Arab feel to it. In fact, our hostel was in the Albaicin (The famous historical Moorish neighborhood of Granada) which is a good reason that this city had a MUCH different than feel than Barcelona and Sevilla. That is why I love Spain so much, so many different cities with millenia-long histories and very proud cultures.

After we checked into our hostel, we grabbed some much needed lunch at a local tapas bar. Granada does not mess around when it comes to tapas. Like Madrid and many other cities in Spain, the tapas are free with any drink order. Granada prouds itself in being the most generous and over the top when it comes to dishing out tapas. Marek and I ordered a beer tonight and with the 1.50 Euro (roughly $2.25) cerveza came a ham and cheese sandwich on ciabata bread with french fries for each of us. Most places give you some jamon iberco or chips or patatas bravas, but not Granada, they come equipped to bring repeat customers.

After lunch, we walked around the Albaicin area looking in a couple of the numerous stalls of gifts and knock-offs/black market items (nothing too appealing unless you like realy cheap leather bags and scarves).

My friend, Jason Opheim, lived in Granada so I had him shoot me an e-mail with some "must see" things in Granada. Something he mentioned was a tetoria (tea shop) called Alboca Tetoria. the directions he gave us were probably spot on, but when the streets change names every 30 feet and are so curvy that it appears a 3-yr old drew the streets on a map, it makes it very difficult to find anything specific. At one point in his directions we were to "hop a wall"...needless to say, we didn't even find that wall.

None of that mattered because the main goal was to find the best spot possible to see what Bill Clinton once said was, "The most beautiful sunset I've ever seen," and we saw it. It was gorgeous. Nestled at the the top of a hill as if trying to compete with the Acropolis in Athens, is the Alhambra. The Alhambra was a Moorish castle-sustaining city built 1300-1400 years ago when the Moors took control of Spain (as did the Romans and many others at different points in history). It is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It is absolutely incredible to view for the sunset.

For the sunset (VIDEO), you must climb one of the hundreds of small streets to a random plaza and look out over a canyon of crammed residential buildings and over a moat/stream. As you do so, the Alhambra stands tall shining in the sunset that falls on the otherside of the city. but it is not just the Alhambra that pulls the colors in, it is what is behind the Alhambra that makes this scene truly spectacular.

Off in the distance behind the Alhambra are snow-capped mountains which turn a shade of purple just before nightfall kicks in and the lights from below the hill are placed on the Alhambra. All of this together, along with hundreds of other spectators and locals (some playing guitars and drums and singing a language you don't understand) is what made today special.

Granada - Day 4, complete.

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