Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dale Limosna Mujer...

Washington Irving was inspired to write a collection of stories while staying in the Nazari Palace at the Alhambra; Manuel de Falla (also worth checking out, for those whose knowledge of Spanish music stops at Andrés Segovia and Paco de Lucia) had an entire period based on Granada, the highpoint of which was 'Noches en los jardines de España'; Claude Debussey wrote a prelude celebrating the 'Puerta del Vino', one of the entrances to the area of the Alcazaba; Francisco Tárrega, a virtuoso guitarist, composed 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra,' making extensive use of tremolo, very haunting; at a slightly lower artistic level, Mocedades sang a song back in the 70's called 'Solos en la Alhambra'; and an American friend of mine from 20 years back, who was a better pianist than he was a philosopher, wrote a very decent little 'Alhambra Suite'; I think even the Grateful Dead have had a go at it.

So I am not going to compete with all of these, by attempting to describe what it is like to contemplate and experience the Alhambra. I first went there in 1987, in the middle of August, and I remember the hill you walk up, a guitar shop on a curve the flowers and the fountains in the Generalife, the view of the Albaycín and the Sacromonte from the Palace and the Alcazaba , and the sun, always the sun and the light and the unbelievably high skies. I returned in 2000 with Mrs Hickory, very briefly, and it felt exactly the same. This weekend we were intending to visit the ruined munition works at Barrow-in-Furness but chance took us back to Granada and so I offer you these lines. And these photos. They have been done better as well, but I can't resist it.

Go to Granada, when the sun is shining. Visit the Alhambra, ignore the crowds, walk around it, look at the details of the decorations, the layout of the gardens, the walled terraces that drop in stages down the cliffs into the valley where the water runs between old stone houses that you keep wanting to live in. Go to San Jeronimo, a convent which still has nuns, and a church magnificently decorated with frescoes, paintings and statues from floor to ceiling, most of them worth seeing. And the reredos is also remarkable. In the Royal Chapel behind the Cathedral lie the bodies- you can see the coffins in a crypt beneath the tombs- of Fernando and Isabel, their daughter Juana la Loca and her beloved husband Felipe el Hermoso, and their son Manuel, destined to be King of Portugal but who died in childhood; yet another whim of fate that changed the future of the world.

Go and see it all, when the sun is shining. It isn't absolutely necessary to be in love, but it probably adds to the experience.

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