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Granadina: Alhambra At Last

Living in Madrid has been exciting in ways I hoped it would be, yet also in ways I never imagined. As every day passes and circumstances change, I keep questioning whether I’ll actually leave (for good) at the end of this school year, but regardless of the inconsistencies in my head, I’ve come to a point where I no longer think too much about the near future. I can’t say where I’ll be a year from now, but a year ago, I wouldn’t have said the same thing. One major consequence from my travels here has been the ability to truly live in the moment; no thoughts of moments to come, but simply that pure live-in-the-moment feeling that we, as North Americans, often have a hard time coming to grips with. Though the feeling’s been felt several times before in my life, I let that ability to live in the moment escape me once I hit a certain age. But now, through living the laid back take-it-as-it-comes lifestyle found here, I’ve managed to let myself go in the moment. I’m living life to the fullest – as the cliche saying goes – and am loving every minute of it.

My realization that this has become my new state of mind came to me during my bus ride back from Granada to Madrid. There, staring off into the Andalusian mountains, I finally understood just how much I was actually letting myself take in the views I was looking at, rather than thinking of something else. I’ve visited places before, but rarely in the way I did there. I soaked it all up, which left me nothing short of exhausted. Having said that, the experience was thrilling, wonderful, and nothing short of amazing.

Inside the Palace.

I mentioned in a previous post that I was unable to visit the Alhambra the first time I visited Granada in December. The revisit meant a necessary advanced-booking of a trip to the famous site, which meant no fooling around. The last day I spent in Granada started rather early, with a rapid trip up the hills of Granada to where plenty of world travelers congregated in one single file that led them into the famous Palacios Nazaríes.

There have been a few places in the world I’ve traveled to and felt as though I made an immediate development or connection to what I was seeing in that moment. Beaches are a place that often do it for me – letting me feel that inner peace – while a few other places have given me similar satisfaction. The Alhambra is, without a doubt, a place to add to that list. In fact, it is by far the best place I’ve visited in Europe thus far. While not a prototypical European site, the beautiful palaces, gardens, views, and everything that comes with it were all more than I expected. I had heard, over and over, just how much the Alhambra was worth a visit. How, as someone living in Spain, it was unthinkable for me to leave without having visited it. Now, I understand. The architecture is breathtaking and beyond monumental. Its history is, quite clearly, hugely important to Spain and its development. It is, after all, the greatest example of how Spain was once a completely different country for hundreds of years. It also marks a difference between Granada – and perhaps all of Andalusia – from the rest of Spain.

The view from below.

Walking up the steps, down the alleyways, and into the gardens has you wondering how life was once back in Muslim Spain. How did the Alhambra’s residents walk around such a large area? How did they dress? What would they do there? How many people actually lived there? What did it take to make it their home? While the several tour guides – in person and on tape – explain its history, for an imaginative person, the Alhambra is a dream come true. Its mysteriousness will, no matter what you do, captivate you while simultaneously entrancing you.

Similarly interesting, though nowhere near as impressive, was the bullfighting arena found near the center of Granada. A look around was undoubtedly interesting, and again, made me picture the bullfighters, bulls, staff, and spectators that have been there before. A walk through where the bulls would come through gave me chills, instead reminding me of the gladiators of times past. However, while bullfighting is seen as more stereotypically Spanish, I like to think the Alhambra is my kind of Spain.

Sitting atop Alhambra.

Obvious monuments aside, it was great to be back in the city again – to see the markets, the culture, and everything in between all felt familiar in the best way. Thankfully, though, I can now say I’ve seen what I needed to see. On to the next one.

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