However, none of it prepared me for actually being there. Stepping into the giant cathedral and seeing in person the giant columns and starred ceilings that I had only seen on the projector screen was truly incredible. It was like stepping into a well-loved fiction novel and seeing it all with your own eyes. Wow!
Then we explored the streets, wandering around in the brisk air, exploring street side stands and cute tourist shops, before returning to our hotel for a nice shower and some sleep. For Friday, we had our sights set on the Alhambra.
Another early morning, we warmed up with some hot chocolate and coffee, and then waited our turn for entrance into the great Nazarí Palace in the Alhambra. It was built in the 14th century by the Nazarí Muslim Empire when they occupied Spain. The introduced many design techniques as they wanted to impress any visiting dignitaries. Peacocks roamed the grounds and citrus trees filled the air with a new and exotic scent. To the people of Spain, oranges were new and strange, adding to the mystery and power of these foreign rulers. Note for any future visitors: buy your tickets early! They can sell out in advance, and then you will have to work harder to get the tickets, which could mean standing in very long lines!
The Alhambra also incorporates many pools as to create a double image, making the palace seem even larger. Even with all these things, the most impressive part for me is the yesería or plaster work. Intricate carvings cover the palace with sculpted words and geometric designs. The ceilings and archways are decorated with Mocárabes, a style of scooping the plaster that is meant to evoke the sensation of a cave filled with stalactites. And then, you can also visit the Patio de los Leones, featuring a large fountain supported by strong lions.
The Alhambra doesn’t end with the Nazarí palace. It also features an Alcazar, an old Arabic castle, along with a newer palace for Carlos V, from the 16th century, designed by Pedro Machuca, a Spanish painter. Then, there is the Generalife, a huge set of gardens across the river from the Palaces and Alcalzar that offers gorgeous views of the “Red Fortress”, as the Alhambra is often called. So, after this amazing visit, we set back down to the city to go to the bus station, grabbing lunch on the go, and making it just in time for our next ride to Cordoba.