Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spain 7

The Alhambra

Here's the view from St. Nicholas's church, the best view in the city. It took 3 photos, as the complex is large and sprawls across the mountain top.

I'll describe the buildings as I visited them, from right to left.

I started with the Alcazaba, the military complex. It was basically a set of buildings (now gone, though you can see the foundations where there were several towers, and the view from them was, well, there's a photo. You tell me.) I didn't have much time here, as my ticket for the Palacios Nazarines, was for 10 and I got to the Alhambra complex around 9 (I lined up at 6:30 to get my ticket - as they stop selling once they reach a certain number of visitors). They also limit the number of people in the middle complex at any given time to keep the monument in good repair.
I spent more time there, though not as much as I would have liked. The walls and ceilings were all carved and patterned. Here's a view from the windows (also carved). The picture beside it is of one of the interior courtyards. This one looks onto the room where the Sultan met with his subjects. The pools are designed so the buildings seem to disappear into them (it's the technique used at the Taj Mahal). The picture beside that is the room itself. The sultan would sit in one of the alcoves, back lit by stained glass windows.

The next section was the 'lion's fountain' courtyard. The fountain is being restored so the centre of the courtyard's all boarded up. The king's chamber was also closed for repairs. I've got lots of pictures of this side of the courtyard. Again, amazing carvings in everything. The close up shows you some of the detail. I also added a detail of one of the stalactite ceilings. Not all of the ceilings were like this, many were wooden, but the work here was incredible.
The complex ended with another courtyard and a garden.

From there it was a long walk around one curve of the mountain to reach the Generalife garden complex. It was designed as a heavenly garden on earth. Once you reach it the garden takes up most of the hilltop on this side. You can see orchards and other gardens inaccessible to tourists. The buildings here enclose other gardens. Another interesting feature was the water staircase. (There were fountains at each landing and the handrail was a water runway.)

I'd gone through a different entrance than the one my guide book suggested, so I passed through that one on my way out. The Moors had an eye towards defense. They planned the main gate so that you couldn't move directly from the the outside to the inside, you had to go around corners making an attacking army easier to halt. There were also murder holes in the ceiling for defenders to take out more attackers.
Outside this gate and down the hill a little was a fountain.

On the path in front of it was a mosaic done in stones. I've put the photo in here not because this was unique, but because a lot of the roads and paths were done this way. Not necessarily with mosaics, but with rocks set inside cement.

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