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Granada, Spain - A City of Culture

Granada – A City of Culture
Granada....This wonderful city exudes a myriad delights contained within its ancient boundaries. Set at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it is developing into a large modern city yet retaining its special links with history.
The city lies close to the Rio Genil. The river’s abundant water, and the fertile soils that surround the Genil provided land for lush orchards, gardens and the vega. The vega is known as the Garden of Granada in that it provided (and still does) much of the food for the city as it was developing over the centuries.
The abundant supply of water from the Rio Genil and its tributary the Rio Darro, was paramount in the development of the city in the 12th and 13th centuries. It was during this period of history that the Moors reigned supreme in Spain. Although by the 13th century, they were losing many of their strongholds. Granada was the last city to fall to the dominant Catholic power in 1492.
But the Moors left behind a wonderful city built with defence in mind. Its fortress - La Alhambra – is world famous. It narrowly missed out on being elected as one of the new Wonders of the World. The palace stands out overlooking the flat lands of the vega and the Rio Genil. Immediately below the palace flows the Rio Darro. It divides the palace from the main Muslim settlement of the period, the Albaicin. The origins of the Albaicin date back to the 8th century when it was a fortress in itself.
It was not until the early 10th century that the first citadel was constructed on the site of La Alhambra. It was only after Cordoba fell to the Christians in 1236 that the Muslims chose Granada as their final stronghold; attracted by the fertile land and the defensive position of the already growing city. Having lived in dry and arid lands the plentiful supply of water and fertile land around Granada promised copious crops and gardens. The Moors used their skills in irrigation techniques to cultivate the land to feed a huge army of men that were living in the fortifications of the city.
The Nasrid Palace is the main part of La Alhambra. It is a magnificent building that is actually several palaces in one. It is just one of many fantastic buildings within the complex. It is without doubt a place to see before one meets their maker. Perhaps its crowning glory along with the Nazrid Palace is the Generalife Gardens (pronounced Heneraleefeh). These gardens are truly wonderful. With its fountains flowing, it is a peaceful place to sit and relax towards the end of the visit. There is a lot more to tell about the La Alhambra but perhaps that is best left for another time.
The Nazrid dynasty came to an end after 250 years in 1492, when they surrendered to the armies of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The king and queen are buried in the Cathedral’s Chapel Royal; as are most of their descendents. The cathedral is built on the site of the great mosque that was razed to the ground during hostilities. It is unusual for Granada as it has a gothic style of construction. It took many years to complete. With the final section on the western side completed in a Baroque style in 1667. During the 19th Century the French influence on planning infiltrated the city. Many of the narrow streets that were typical of Arab towns and cities were ripped out and replaced by long straight wide boulevards. Notably the Gran Via de Colon and the Avenida Constitucion. Fortunately, the Albaicin escaped the destruction and is a fine example of how the city looked hundreds of years ago. The route up to the Albiacin meanders through narrow streets filled the sweet aromas of tea and coffee escaping from the many Arab tea and coffee bars. That retain the links with Granada’s past in traditional ways.
Near the cathedral in the Calle Reyes Catolicos, is the Corral del Carbon. This magnificent structure is a unique survivor – a khan or caravanserai – which is a large courtyard that provided accommodation for caravans in ancient times. It was built between the 14th and 16th centuries. It is now an Arts and Crafts centre. A visit to it shows how it once comprised galleried rooms for travellers set over stables and storage.
To the south west of the cathedral is the Alcaiceria. It is a covered market and the term implies expensive goods. Here it was for long silk. The current building is a rebuild after a huge fire destroyed the original building in 1843. The square that adjoins the Alcaiceria is the Bibarrambla Plaza. The name originates from Bab Rambla; Bab meaning gate and rambla - sandy river bed. The Plaza marks the limits of the medieval town. The Rio Darro once flowed from the walls to the west. It is now flowing underground.
In modern times – post 1960 – the city developed like many other European cities. Construction saw the building of high skyscrapers, industrial estates and ring roads. The latter of which is continually full of traffic. The city is still expanding with urban sprawl moving ever closer to the vega. A new Bull Ring has opened in recent years, as did the only mosque in the city.
Granada is like many European cities in that it has the old blending in with the new. But Granada has something that bit different to offer: the large stores that grace the avenues - hotels that overlook the Rio Darro - and of course, - the magnificent Alhambra overseeing the whole city. Not only that, the municipality of Granada still retains the traditional free tapas with an alcoholic beverage. You can eat for free by moving from bar to bar.
Finally, the people of Granada are some of the loveliest and friendliest people in Europe. Just go to a bar in the evening and if some flamenco music starts playing, you can be sure to see some of the ladies get up and start dancing the flamenco. It really is a joy to watch this free show.
The wonderful thing about Granada is that it is only a one hour drive to the beaches on the Costa Tropical or the ski slopes of the Sierra Nevada. So if you are on vacation on the coast or skiing in the mountains Granada is certainly worth a visit.
Granada – a real city of culture. Go there and enjoy it.
Getting to Granada could not be easier now. Granada Airport is only a 10 minute drive from the city. There is an excellent road and rail network linking up the rest of Spain.
You will need to buy tickets in advance to visit La Alhambra. Get them online from www.alhambra.org the official La Alhambra website.
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