With only 52 days officially left of this so-called “Expatriate Year,” it kind of feels like a race against time to see everything I can in this country. Though I sincerely mean this statement, it is simultaneously ironic.
The irony lies in the fact that this past weekend, I went to Granada; a place where time seems to cease to exist. I’d heard that Andalusia (the southern state in which Granada is found) had a different sense of time than does the rest of Spain, that they moved at a slower pace, that life continued on later than in Madrid, for example. When I first heard this, I laughed. I didn’t believe it. Madrid couldn’t possibly be considered fast-paced, could it?
But now I realize how wrong I was. The stereotype for Andalusians is one of laziness, but also of extreme friendliness. Having only spent all of 36 hours here, I cannot say with certainty that I can affirm either one. But I can say that I completely see why some might consider both of these to be true.
Upon entering the city, it felt like Yian and I had entered a time-machine back a couple of centuries. Sure, there are of course your local Burger Kings and Zaras, but once you enter the Albayzín neighborhood, there are nothing but tiny, curvy, steep, cobble-stoned alleyways lined by small homes adorned in a “Medieval, Moorish style” that wind up to a small plateaued plaza where you might find a man playing his peaceful guitar with not a care in the world, or you might wind up at a bigger plateaued plaza finding yourself surrounded by groups of beautiful hippies performing circus acts…also without a care in the world.
What I found to be the most magical aspect of Granada was this described sensation. Not only did I feel like time stopped, I felt like everyone’s mood was influenced by the sheer beauty of their surroundings; that their high spirits stemmed from the rosy-glow that the pink sunset showered across the city; that they were all just as drunk as I was off of the hot, dry air we had all been inhaling all day.
As Yian and I frolicked around, we found ourselves stunned time and time gain by the impressive panoramic views that would suddenly appear as we twisted and turned around the neighborhood. The pink and orange of the sky was hard to fathom as real. Especially paired with the festive music that marked the end of the day’s fasting during this holy month of Ramadan. Alas, it was very real…a fact that reminded me about how fortunate I am to get to experience such natural brilliance.
Anyway, the sun did, eventually, go down, and with it, we descended back down towards the city center. We found ourselves starving and on a narrow street lined with restaurant after restaurant of Arabic food. This was perfect. We chose one at random, sat at table next to a large open window facing this narrow street and its many tourists walking past, and proceeded to spend the next two hours slowly satisfying our glutinous desires with an incredible three-course meal.
Needless to say, after this heavy meal combined with a long day of frolicking in 100 degree weather, up and down steep alleyways, we began to question our original plan to experience Granada’s nightlife.
Though still undecided at this point, we ended up taking a pause at a large plaza nearby our hostel. There was an empty stage set up in this plaza, and naturally, we decided to hop up onto it, sit, and people watch. Shortly thereafter, we noticed a man a few feet away on the stage that appeared to have the same idea as us. Thus, we began to chat.
As it turned out, he was not your every-day, meet-in-passing, talk-about-the-weather type of man. He told Yian and I a bit about his life story and spiritual mentality that has guided him to his current point in life, as we sat and marveled at his profound depth and beautiful, infectious smile. It doesn’t happen often that you chance upon meeting somebody that makes you stop for a moment and question your perception of reality itself. But given the general sensations we had been experiencing all day, our interaction with Pedro didn’t feel like chance. This interaction left us perplexed and curious, enough so that I actually watched the documentary he recommended last night so as to try to gain some clarity behind why he had said that “in order to see God, I look at someone’s face. Because God is everyone, and everyone is God.” My takeaways from this documentary (Inner Worlds Outer Worlds, if anyone is interested) can and likely will be their own blog post, but all of this has been to say that this interaction with Pedro could not have ended our night in a more fitting manner; slightly ominous and enchanting, just like the city we were in.
The next day, Sunday, Yian and I went on a tour of Alhambra; the legendary palatial city that represents the rich history of Granada’s religious propriety.
Here is where I might receive a little bit of negative responses. While I did find Alhambra to be splendidly beautiful, I cannot say that it is the most beautiful structure I’ve experienced in my life; nor can I say that “going to Granada and not seeing Alhambra would be like going to San Sebastian and not seeing the beach.” (For reference, see Blog Post about San Sebastian) It is definitely an incredible space with a fascinating history, but I think to see it several hundreds of years ago would have been something out of this world. With its rich colors faded, and practically none of its stained window adornments left, it is difficult to imagine the breadth of its beauty at that time.
That being said, I would 100% recommend that one visits Alhambra, and also would 100% recommend going on a guided tour (our tour guide was a lovely lady whose aura emulated that of the friendly Andalusian stereotype) in order to fully understand its importance.
Granada. I cannot wait to one day return. To experience the glow of the sun’s kiss as I drink a can of Alhambra beer with the mountains and city-scape as my background. To watch more jugglers with chiseled abs in a plaza ridden with dogs. To meet more friendly strangers that make me think twice about my existence. And of course, to take many more photos worth sharing on Instagram. 😉