Monday, December 17, 2012

Granada

Give him alms, lady, 
since there is nothing in life
like the sorrow of being blind
in Granada.  

This past weekend I went to Granada.  Wow.  There are no words, no photos, nothing--except maybe some of Lorca's poetry--that can possibly capture the beauty, mystery, and enchantment of Granada, and there is no way to express the sensations of standing in the Alhambra or wandering the winding uphill alleys in the Albaicín neighborhood.

It was basically a dream come true for me to finally go to the Alhambra and to Granada.  In high school I was always checking out a big coffee table book with photos of the Alhambra and I've read and heard so much about Granada through flamenco to finally go there was astounding.  

Granada was the last Muslim stronghold in Spain, conquered in 1492 by the Catholic monarchs Ferndinand and Isabel.  It has a rich history that includes Jews, Muslims, Christians, Africans.

Federico García Lorca is from a small pueblo on the edge of Granada, and he is the most flamenco poet to have ever lived.  Many of his poems are the lyrics of flamenco songs, and he also wrote essays about flamenco and is responsible for helping to create one of the first flamenco singing competitions, which he did in order to preserve the purity of the art form.

This is a view from one of the towers of the Alhambra.  It looks down on the river Darro and the Paseo de los Tristes, which has that name because it was the walkway to the cemetery.  I thought looking at the roofs in Paris was amazing,
but that was nothing compared to the view of the Albayzín from the Alhambra.  I wish I could transmit the sense of beauty and tranquility and sheer awe of the view.  
A view from one tower of the Alhambra
to another.  

This is one of the gates to the city.  


The Alhambra at night.  Magnificent.



It was drizzling ever so slightly for much of the day on Saturday in Granada, but it gave the city an even more serene and mysterious quality.  Here's a poem by Lorca that I think transmits the feelings I had while discovering the city on a grey day with the slightest rain drops (I unfortunately can't find an english translation):

LLUVIA 
La lluvia tiene un vago secreto de ternura,
algo de soñolencia resignada y amable,
una música humilde se despierta con ella
que hace vibrar el alma dormida del paisaje. 

Es un besar azul que recibe la Tierra,
el mito primitivo que vuelve a realizarse.
El contacto ya frío de cielo y tierra viejos
con una mansedumbre de atardecer constante. 

Es la aurora del fruto. La que nos trae las flores
y nos unge de espíritu santo de los mares.
La que derrama vida sobre las sementeras
y en el alma tristeza de lo que no se sabe. 

La nostalgia terrible de una vida perdida,
el fatal sentimiento de haber nacido tarde,
o la ilusión inquieta de un mañana imposible
con la inquietud cercana del color de la carne. 

El amor se despierta en el gris de su ritmo,
nuestro cielo interior tiene un triunfo de sangre,
pero nuestro optimismo se convierte en tristeza
al contemplar las gotas muertas en los cristales. 

Y son las gotas: ojos de infinito que miran
al infinito blanco que les sirvió de madre. 

Cada gota de lluvia tiembla en el cristal turbio
y le dejan divinas heridas de diamante.
Son poetas del agua que han visto y que meditan
lo que la muchedumbre de los ríos no sabe. 

¡Oh lluvia silenciosa, sin tormentas ni vientos,
lluvia mansa y serena de esquila y luz suave,
lluvia buena y pacifica que eres la verdadera,
la que llorosa y triste sobre las cosas caes! 

¡Oh lluvia franciscana que llevas a tus gotas
almas de fuentes claras y humildes manantiales!
Cuando sobre los campos desciendes lentamente
las rosas de mi pecho con tus sonidos abres. 

El canto primitivo que dices al silencio
y la historia sonora que cuentas al ramaje
los comenta llorando mi corazón desierto
en un negro y profundo pentagrama sin clave. 

Mi alma tiene tristeza de la lluvia serena,
tristeza resignada de cosa irrealizable,
tengo en el horizonte un lucero encendido
y el corazón me impide que corra a contemplarte. 

¡Oh lluvia silenciosa que los árboles aman
y eres sobre el piano dulzura emocionante;
das al alma las mismas nieblas y resonancias
que pones en el alma dormida del paisaje! 



Court of the Lions in the Alhambra.

Inside one of the rooms of the Alhmabra.  I wish this picture could capture the sense of tranquility and majesty that exists when you are there in person.  Especially with the light rain falling, it was truly serene.  

Check out the detail on this ceiling of the Alhambra.  So intricate.  






This looks like Morocco, right?  It's a market in Granada,
with lots of goods imported from Morocco.  
One of the many small alleys in the Albayzín,
the neighborhood that faces the Alhambra
on the hillside and is reminiscent of Morocco.
We spent a fair amount of time wandering
the pathways of the Albayzín, and my calves
were definitely sore to remember it the next day. 


The front of the cathedral.  I thought the Cathedral was magnificent--I couldn't take photos  of the inside,  but was in awe; although it's a good thing I went before the Alhambra, because in comparison, it's not really all that spectacular.  


This is the beginning of the gorgeous walkway towards the Alhambra.  It's a steep uphill climb that reminded me of Prospect park with all its greenery and the changing colors of the foliage.  There are two waterfalls that run along both sides of the walkway.  
This is the gate to the Alhambra.  There is a hand
inscribed on the top of the archway and a key on the inner
arch.  There are many legends regarding the two symbols, one being
that when the hand and the key touch (i.e. when the Alhambra falls)
it will be the end of the world. 

This is the Palace of Carlos V, it's built
in the middle of the Alhambra complex. 


This would be the view of the Sierra Nevada (the snow covered peak), but the clouds were covering it..
A view of the hillside
and the wall of Nazarí.  

José Fernandez and me enjoying a drink in the Albayzín.  I know
José from the flamenco festivals in Albuquerque and he sang for
performances I was in on several occasions.  It was strange but
  wonderful to hang out with him in his town finally!  He's an
amazing singer and quite a character.  We enjoyed eating snails together
(He made me try them for the first time and they're delicious!) and drinking
a couple of cruzcampos, then of course some singing and dancing.   :D

A view of the Alhambra from the hillside with some cactai.  
A view of the hillside overlooking Granada.  
Would you like to live in a city
where you never have to pay for
food?  Then Granada is the place to be!
When you buy a drink, usually for about
2 euros, you get a tapa free!  And New Yorkers
are not the only bagel makers, many little
sandwiches have basically a bagel
as the bread!






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