Thursday, February 7, 2013

Alhambra I--Introduction and Alacazaba

The Alhambra started its existence as a 9th century Moorish fortification on the hill overlooking Granada, Spain. Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada, converted it into a royal palace in 1333. The complex was intended to be a paradise on earth and several caliphs of the Nasrid dynasty left their mark in the following 160 years. When the Catholic Monarchs reconquered Granada, they began extensive repairs and extensions. Emperor Charles V built a palace there as well, a model of Spanish Renaissance architecture. The glory of the Alhambra faded over the centuries until Washington Irving stayed there in 1829. He was inspired during his stay to write "Tales of the Alhambra," which fired the imagination of his many readers. It was declared a national monument in 1870 but extensive restoration would only happen in the 20th century. In 1984 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

We'll start our tour with the furthest away from the entrance but also the furthest away in history--the Alcazaba or the military fort. The fort is on the very point of the hill where the Alhambra is located, commanding a magnificent view of Granada. The view as you approach the fort is more intimidating than exhilarating.

Entrance and main keep

J and I wandered the walls and climbed the towers. Our first climb was the Torre del Homenaje, which is the keep. The view from the top took what breath we had left from climbing the tower.

Looking back to the Nasrid Palaces (left) and Palace of Charles V (right)

We went back down the tower and through the Plaza de Armas, where the soldiers would have been quartered. When the sultans were in control, their guards were stationed here and would have kept order in the Alhambra if necessary.

Too much contrast between the glorious fortification and the humble ruins of the soldiers!

J happy to wander through another maze

From there, we climbed the Torre de la Vela or the Watchtower, where the soldiers could see all of Granada and were able to signal if there was any emergency.

On the way to the watchtower, looking back to the keep

Granada with the cathedral off on the left

More of Granada

The Alcazaba as seen from the Watchtower

Early-era early warning system

We walked over to the Torre de la Polvora or Gunpowder Tower which gave a nice view of the gardens and Red Towers off to our south.

Granada Cathedral closer to the middle as seen from the Gunpowder Tower

Gardens with the Red Towers on the right

We then came back out of the Alcazaba to rejoin Mommy and L at the Palace of Charles V, where they were trying to stay warm. That will be our next post!

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