Friday, May 20, 2011

The Alhambra

by Robert Bovington

If there is one place you should visit in Spain, it is the Alhambra Palace in Granada. Even those of you who are not in the least interested in culture and would prefer beach and booze to visiting one of the most beautiful artistic creations ever to be built by man, should visit this magnificent site. On second thoughts - don't! People clad in football shirts that fail to hide their potbellies would lower the tone somewhat!

Alhambra viewed from the Mirador San Nicolas
photo: Robert Bovington

The Alhambra reigns supreme in the city of Granada and rightly so. If it stood on a flat plain, it would still be one of the most spectacular fortresses ever built. However, it sits at the top of the highest wooded hill in the city. Not only that - this red-walled palace has the fairytale backdrop of the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Well, for most of the year the mountains are snow-capped - in August, they are somewhat er... rock-capped! Anyway, at that time of year it is too hot in this region to do anything but laze on the beach or booze! But I digress.

If the view from afar is spectacular, the interior of the Alhambra is simply stupendous! There is so much of artistic merit to see. However, there are four main areas to explore: the Alcazaba, the Palace of Charles V, the Casa Real or Royal Palace and the Generalife Gardens.
photo: Robert Bovington

The Alcazaba, the oldest part of the Alhambra, provides tremendous views of the city, the palace and the gardens.

Palace of Charles V

The Palace of Charles V tends to stand out a bit because it was built in Renaissance style, which is not exactly in keeping with its surroundings. However, it does contain two museums - the Museo de Alhambra and the Museo de Bellas Artes.

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace really comprises a number of buildings called the Nasrid Palaces. They are the central nucleus of the Alhambra. Visitors, who have already admired other parts of this magnificent fortress, are spellbound when they encounter the magnificence of these palaces. If you do not have time to explore the Alhambra in totality, you simply must allow time to visit the Nasrid Palaces! They are built around three courtyards - the Golden Room, the Myrtle Courtyard and the Lion Courtyard. 
Alhambra - Patio de los Leones
photo: Robert Bovington
Such is their splendour and unsurpassed beauty, that I cannot really find the words to describe the exquisite detail of the palace interiors, so I won't! All I will do is list some of the architectural masterpieces. There is the Hall of the two Sisters, the Hall of the Abencerrages, the Hall of Justice, the Court of the Council Chamber, the Court of the Vestibule and the Peinador de la Reina, or Queen's Robing Room. The Hall of the Ambassadors needs special mention as it is the largest and was the grand reception room. The throne of the sultan was placed opposite the entrance. It was here that Christopher Columbus received Isabel and Ferdinand's support to sail to the New World. 

Comares Palace - alcove ceiling
photo: Robert Bovington

Granada Alhambra Patio de los Arrayanes
photo: Robert Bovington


There is much more to see than listed here but do leave time to visit the delightful Generalife. This garden not only has an avenue of cypress trees, terraced gardens, clipped hedges and grottos, but also fountains and a long water channel (acequia) with water jets surrounded by all manner of plants and flowers. It is a delightful place.

photo: Robert Bovington
Books have been written and music composed about the Alhambra palace. In particular, Washington Irving wrote 'Tales of the Alhambra', Francisco Tárrega composed ´Memories of the Alhambra and the composer Manuel de Falla wrote 'Nights in the Gardens of Spain' which included the piece - 'In the Generalife'.

Washington Irving
drawing: Robert Bovington
The Alhambra and the Generalife are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Spanish Impressions Web Site

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