The Alhambra is not just another historical site and a visit to the Alhambra is not just any ordinary visit. The Alhambra is a matter of great pride for Spain and great care is being taken towards its preservation. Only a limited number of tickets are sold to restrict footfalls. Luckily, I am here during off season and can buy the ticket at the counter, during peak season tickets are often booked online months in advance. Serpentine queues form early in the mornings to buy the few tickets that remain.
And buying the ticket is just the first step. It requires meticulous planning and precise time management to get the most out of your visit. The ticket allows access only for a few hours and you must finish your visit within that time. The Alhambra has two parts to it, one, the palaces and other monuments and two, the Generalife Gardens. I head off towards the palaces first.
While in most castles and palaces it is the paintings, sculptures and other royal artefacts which articulate the history of the site and the legend of the erstwhile residents, in the Alhambra that task is left to the walls, ceilings and floors. The palaces here are completely unadorned but the elaborately carved arches and the mosaics on the walls and ceilings are eloquent of their rich history. The Alhambra was not all built at one time, every ruler and every century brought additions to the city and thus it is an amalgamation of styles from different eras.
One of the most fascinating sections in the palaces is the Exhibit of the Lions. The twelve marble lions were a part of a complex fountain system that is believed to have been made in the 10th century. Over the last few years, a great amount of effort and money have been expended to restore this masterpiece that used to grace the courtyard of the main palace. The exhibit displays the restored sculptures and also gives details about the elaborate restoration process. The last on the cards is a stroll through the Generalife Gardens which used to serve as a retreat for the monarchs to get away from their daily activities.
I end my last evening in Granada with a mini tapas crawl. The tapas culture in Granada is quite different from Seville. Tapas, here, refer to the food served with the order of drinks and are not charged for. On the flip side, it means that you don't get to choose the tapas. Fortunately the extremely well-informed and organised Victor has given me a list of few places which will allow me to choose my free tapas and also informed me of the vegetarian options available to me. After my fill of 'free' food, it is time to pack and gear up for my next destination.