Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The 'Real' Espana- Granada, Spain

We were told if we wanted to get a good taste of authentic Spanish life and culture we should travel down south. As we drove down the country side and passed terracotta coloured houses lost amongst the dry dusty landscape I could feel the change commencing. In my mind this is how I pictured Spain.

Before christianity rained, Spain like most parts was a Muslim country. Granada was the last town in all of Spain to give in to the Christians and give up there religion. Therefore there is still an immense Muslim culture throughout the town that is still very present today. The little town is home to the grand Muslim palace the Alhambra. Tickets for the Alhambra are impossible to get without weeks of booking ahead so unfortunately we were unable to view all its glory from within its walls however we were still just as happy taking in the huge infrastructure from afar, especially come night fall when the Alhambra would light up and glow bright. 

The streets were very typical to the muslim style, very small and narrow. The houses were all fenced off from the outside world, another Muslim trait as Muslim families valued their privacy. The town was like a labyrinth as we started venturing up hill into the towns neighbourhoods we became increasingly lost with every turn. To find our common ground we took an alternative walking tour with a young local girl Raquel who had lived in Granada her entire life. The tour started at dusk where we began with watching the sun set over the beautiful city. As we became lost in the towns maze we were taken to all kinds of secret little corners and local hide away spots. As we climbed under a rusty bit of tin ignoring all the do not enter signs we were bought to a lookout where the youths of Granada liked to go to hangout with there friends, drink and smoke. The lookout was on a structure that was apart of the old city walls dating back hundreds of years ago. It was amazing to get to see a glimpse of authentic Granada living. With the glowing Alhambra always in our sight we continued our adventure.

Granada is home to many illegal caves, the caves are house like structures built into the side of the mountain and are home to many hippies, street performers and eccentric travellers. The caves have been inhabited for centuries and were originally home for the gypsies. As we made our way into the illegal cave district in the darkness of the night we were promised all the cave residences were extremely friendly and that if any of them ever invited us into there cave we should take them up on that offer. As we stood out over the edge of the city Raquel pointed into the far distance towards a mountain, on top of the mountain stood a tower which was apart of a water source that fed water into the Alhambra. 'That is where our tour will be ending tonight' we all laughed amongst ourselves until we all realised it was no joke. Supplied with torch head lights there was no turning back as we all ran wild through the woods. Hiking our way up the mountain I was on all fours vertical in the darkness of the night gripping onto rocks climbing up into the unknown. We were taken through a tiny little tunnel that was dug out into the mountain back when the Muslims ruled and built them as escape routes, it was also used by the soldiers in the Spanish Civil war. Now it was being used by a bunch of nervously giggling adventurers. Making our way to the top looking out over how far we had come and at what we had accomplished was an amazing feeling. Being completely surrounded by mountains we began screaming out into the distance spanish phrases listening to our voices ricochet and bounce down far below we hoped for a response in return but unfortunately there was no reply. It was so freeing and such an adrenaline rush all at the same time. As we made our way down back into the town we finished our tour in a little tapas bar where thanks to Spanish law we drank an abundant amount and were all showered with free tapas.

Granada is the epicentre of where the art form of Flamenco dancing was invented. Deep in the illegal caves the gypsies along with the Jewish, Muslims and Christians all came together and poured there heart out on the floor and danced from their souls. It seemed only right to head down to the caves where it all began and watch a Flamenco show. Venta El Gallo is an old cave that has been turned into a restaurant and bar where Flamenco is performed. Sitting in a small intimate setting created the perfect authentic ambience. As the spanish guitar played and the vocals began instant chills ran through me. The dancers were so intense, so passionate. It was a performance like nothing else I had ever witnessed it was so strong and so emotional I could feel the pain of the performer with every stomp and every bold movement. I didn't want it to end I wanted to turn back the clock all the way back to when flamenco began. I wanted to be a flamenco dancing gypsy girl.

I was promised an authentic Spanish experience by going to Granada I imagined in my mind exactly what that might be like. What I was told and what I imagined was not even close to the experience I had. Yes it was everything I had ever hoped for and imagined but it also was so much more then I ever could have fathomed. I was blessed with a truly wonderful experience down in the south of the beautiful country of Spain. An experience I will hold close to my heart forever. 

The Wanderer's Daughter xx

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