A few weeks ago, Spanish Studies Abroad (my studying abroad program) took us on an overnight trip to the beautiful city of Granada. Widely known by the Alhambra, this city in the foothills of Sierra Nevada had more to offer than I imagined.
The first thing that amazed me about Granada was the fact that it was warm and sunny, there were palm trees in some areas of the city, but as I looked up I saw snow-capped mountains… The Sierra Nevada. I quickly learned that Granada is one of the top skiing destinations in Spain, which I thought was crazy because when I think of skiing in the States I think of Michigan in the winter… not a sunny place like Granada.
After walking around the city for a while, we met our teachers for our tour of La Capilla Real. The Catholic Monarchs (Fernando and Isabel) were the king and queen who basically unified the Iberic Peninsula kingdoms that formed Spain. By unifying Spain the monarchs not only increased their power but also were able to conquer the last Moorish territory and spread Catholicism. The Catholic Monarchs didn’t stop their mission of evangelization in their kingdom, Don Fernando and Doña Isabel were the monarchs who sponsored Columbus’ trip to the “new world” and supported him in taking their religion to new and far places… Long story short, this couple was a very Catholic one, and thus before they died their only request was that their bodies be buried in a special and “simple” chapel in the city of Granada (since that had been one of their most important conquests). After Queen Isabel died, the chapel was built, and it became the place of her and her husband’s burial place. The Capilla Real was beautiful in the inside, full of detailed and meaningful images, but unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures (SORRY!!). Inside the chapel, there was also a museum where many of the personal belongings of the King and Queen, such as crowns, bibles, mirrors, paintings, etc. were displayed and it was amazing to see some of these antiques.
After our tour, a group of us headed to the place my host dad told me we HAD to go to, El Mirador de San Nicolas, a look over point at the top of a hill (it was a hike to get there, but worth it). When we got to the top of El Mirador I was in awe of what was ahead of me… the perfect view of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada on the background, as well as a view of the entire city of Granada. Since it wasn’t too long until sunset, we decided to get some ice cream, sit and enjoy the view. PS: This is the perfect place to get a full view of la Alhambra…
After looking at La Alhambra from afar I couldn’t wait to be able to explore it the next day. As we made our way to the Alhambra our teachers told us that due to preservation issues the entrance to it is very restricted, only around 600 people per hour can have access to it, therefore if you plan on visiting it make sure you get tickets ahead of time, because they sell FAST!
Now, what is this place that everyone wants to visit?… The Alhambra is basically an entire city within a city, to say it in a few words. It was first built by the Moors as a fortress at the top of the city (so they could keep watch of intruders), and slowly additions were made to make it a palace. When the Catholic Monarchs took over Granada this quickly became their residency, where many more additions were made. The tour of la Alhambra was about 3 1/2 hours long… The extent of this structure was incredible, there were numerous fortresses, gardens, rooms, and patios, and not to mention that since it was originally built as a fortress it has the BEST views of the city.
Even though walking around the Alhambra all morning was exhausting, it was definitely worth it, and to be honest, I have nothing but respect and admiration for whoever built these structures, because WOW!! I definitely would not mind living there 😉