The cities within the city

Of course I got lost inside Alhambra. I felt overwhelmed from the very beginning, when it took me so long to get there by bus from the center of Granada, and then walk up to what I thought was the top, the palace, only to discover it was only the meeting point for thousands and thousands of tourists who had got up early in the morning to be sure they had a ticket. I got my ticket and braced myself for a big day.

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And big a day it was, because I clearly saw why it´s called ciudad palatina, a literally palatial city inside the small town that is Granada. Everything is about the inside: while the reddish outside is plain and seemingly austere, this fortress hides palaces and centennial richness, art, colors, and architecture. It´s so beautiful and impressive that I somehow didn´t even want to find out more than exactly what I saw: I didn´t want to know anything about the construction phases, about the meaning of the colors and the orientation of the rooms; not anything more about the history and the sad last centuries of the Moor presence in Andalucía.

I only saw what a marvelous combination is was: thirteen towers for observation and protection – today offering the most beautiful views over Albayzín; the huge complex built on a red hill – nowadays a rich museum that documents all that is left of a whole era of science, culture and civilization.

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Arabesques at home

Some five hundred years ago, it was just a pagan symbol of what was thought to be an unjust and un-Christian rule and occupation, what the Moors left behind when ushered out of Andalucía by the force of will of a Catholic queen. Today, millions of people want to see it each year, wait for weeks and months to get the ticket that allows them to step inside the courts and palaces and enjoy the sun and light and breeze in one of its gardens.

So of course I got lost and I forgot myself there. And of course I couldn´t help but wonder where did all that wisdom and strength go, or what is left of it, whether some of it may still be there, inside those walls, up on these ceilings or in the infinite forms of the arabesques.

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The famous Court of the Lions

I remember I had planned to spend a couple of hours there and get back to the city just in time for an interview I had before lunch. I was late, of course, and I regret I didn´t allow myself to spend more time there, thinking that some day, I´ll certainly be back.

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The Lions
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The outside of the fortress
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The oasis of the garden

Author: Ruxandra Constantinescu

My every now and then jottings run on this blog in English, Spanish, and Romanian, as a tribute to all cultures I currently find myself at the crossroads of. I was born and raised in Bucharest, but I had been traveling in my mind every since I could read. Eventually, I started doing it for real as soon as I could, so I got to study, work, live, and travel in Romania, Germany, France, and Spain. Take your pick of posts on books, travels, places, people, current social and emotional issues. International politics or current affairs are no stretch, as neither are movies, series, journalism and communication, nor teaching EFL.

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