Memories of Granada, Spain
Guest Post by Georgina Neumann
Magical land by any standards.
I had already been told that Granada was the cradle of flamenco, along with Seville and Jerez de la Frontera before I left Buenos Aires, my hometown, where I projected every step of my dream journey through Andalusia.
At that time I was studying singing and I was passionate about the art of flamenco. That’s why I decided to nourish myself with its roots and discover what that mystery was that enveloped all the exponents of that culture.
Photo Credit: Georgina Neumann
Arriving in Granada, Spain
I left from Malaga, a high class, glamorous and cosmopolitan city, where I spent a week, and from which I made a base to go to several of the white villages of the Costa del Sol.
I took the morning bus so that the whole day would not escape me.
I arrived one hot June morning and the first thing I did was to locate the hostel I had booked, like the rest, 6 months in advance (this is how you organize a journey of almost a month through the first world).
I got off the bus that had transferred me from the bus station to downtown, with my suitcase in hand and a couple of gift bags that I had missed, so hyper-charged I walked as I could to that address I had on a paper that I had printed at work forming a kind of booklet with each of the specifications of the tour, hotels, and places of interest to visit. That’s how I usually prepare myself to know each new place in-depth, beyond allowing myself to improvise and surprise myself while walking.
The initial section was not too big since I hit the Antares Pension exactly one block away, which was located a few steps from the Albaicín, an old Arab quarter declared World Heritage. But I would like to give details of this marvel later on.
I left my things in the room, changed my clothes and went out again to undertake that adventure that I knew would not disappoint me, even though most of the time we are used to expectation being frustrated in the face of reality. Well, in my case it wasn’t like that, but on the contrary. I would go so far as to say that it far exceeded my expectations.
And since I had that feeling beforehand, call it intuition, I didn’t want to waste a minute of my time on trivialities, so I set out, map in my bag, to march towards the Puerta Real de Granada, the first point known as a central and modern area with its squares, bars, and restaurants around it. Here, a short distance away is also the royal chapel with the remains of the Catholic Kings.
I found the story touching and engaging, at every step. I couldn’t help but be amazed at the mixture of styles that coexisted in the same space.
Suddenly, and already on the way to the next destination, I became static. Before me stood the Alcaicería flea market, full of color, little shops with handicrafts to buy as souvenirs and hanging lamps.
All decorated in a very striking way. Arab reminiscences (in fact its name comes from that language and has to do with the fact that it was founded in the 14th century next to the Great Mosque in the time of Muhammad). It was so beautiful that I stayed about half an hour watching each of its businesses.
Then I went to the Plaza Isabel la Catolica, which, it should be noted, has a landmark monument dedicated to the Queen and Christopher Columbus.
From there I continued to the Plaza Nueva- the oldest square in Granada-from where I was told that the Alhambra could be reached on foot, starting at the Cuesta de Gomeréz, which of course I scheduled to do one of the three days I planned to stay. I was also recommended another possible access alternative through the Cuesta del Rey Chico, an option that did not convince me much because it was going to be more complicated.
At that point, and already exhausted, I thought about taking a break at least for lunch; but, given the anxiety I was carrying, I preferred to move forward in my route, but not as just another tourist going to the advertised corners, but wanting to feel part of those streets full of charm and enormous beauty. I wanted to enter that world from the deepest part of my being, to feel “Granada” with my body and soul.
Feeling Granada with my Body and Soul
At one point, and out of the blue, right there in the street, I came across a lady (wrongly called “gypsy”) who was holding a sprig of rosemary, offering it for free in exchange for letting her read my hand to guess the future, which I did not allow at all because, although no one had warned me that it was a trap to get money since I was a little girl I never sympathized with knowing the unpredictable in advance.
So, scared, I ran away. Besides, I didn’t know if it was a myth or not, but I had this preconception that these people had the power to put a curse on you, so I thought it was better to be safe than sorry.
In the meantime, I got lost, although that didn’t worry me at all. It wasn’t the first time that I had been on a trip and appeared anywhere and then as if by magic, found my way back. So I let myself be carried away by the wind, and indeed the wind was so strong that it brought me back to the source. I don’t know how, but I fell into the Albaicin. Or Albayzin. One of the oldest neighborhoods in the Nazarite city.
At first, I hesitated to get involved. My idea, at first, was to make only an approach to the neighborhood because I was tired and did not want to meet it reluctantly but with all the enthusiasm that territory with such historical importance, at the social and cultural level, deserved.
However, curiosity got the better of her. My feet began to go by themselves as if they had a life of their own and I was not able to decide anything. As I went on I was even more attracted to the people (their appearance), the scents, the variety of colors, the network of narrow, cobbled streets, the cisterns and the number of small businesses on both sides as well as bars and Arabic food outlets.
My head was spinning non-stop. It was so beautiful that I didn’t know which way to look first. The encounter between the Muslim and Christian cultures that the tour guides talked about there was colossal.
Unexpectedly, as I walked uphill to the famous Mirador de San Nicolas, and following a group of teenagers because I was afraid of getting lost again, I began to hear an extravagant tune coming from some not-too-distant hiding place. That exquisite sound made me transport myself mentally to another dimension. This prompted me to find out who the owner of that voice was.
In a couple of steps, I found the performer who had captivated me with her vocal register. She was a middle-aged woman dressed in a mustard skirt, a red shawl and a matching scarf that covered her head. She was moving her body to the beat and was accompanied by a guitarist who had stood behind her. The truth is that I was petrified watching them. So sublime and with a remarkable mystique.
Everything in Granada was like that. A few hours were enough to understand that I was in a special, romantic and inspiring place that was going to leave its mark on me forever. Its entire history was impregnated in the streets, in the buildings and, fundamentally, in its own people who, with so much love, prioritized the preservation of its essence of all times.
It was 5 pm and I was already hungry. I sat down in a bar called Las Cuevas to eat a sandwich. Having recharged my batteries, I resumed the journey I had left behind to the Mirador.
I went up to the top of the Albaicín with hundreds of people who were looking for the “photo”. Once there, I was once again speechless. Without a doubt, it was one of the most beautiful sceneries I have ever been in. One of the best views of the city as you can see the whole Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada in the background.
I devoted myself without hesitation to enjoy the sunset sitting on one of the edges that was available in the middle of the crowd whose goal was to leave the moment immortalized. I also asked someone to take a picture of me, but with the awareness of knowing that, if that did not happen, that image would remain in my retina for eternity.
What caught my attention was the number of artists who had offered their music, dance, and objects. It was priceless for me to witness that creativity all together in an environment with a unique and unrepeatable identity. It forced me in a certain way to be alert with all my senses awake so as not to miss anything and to be completely permeable to the experience.
I began my return, at the end of the evening, with the real intention of remaining in a horizontal position for a long time after having enjoyed a tiring day. I was exhausted but happy.
When I entered the room, I threw myself into bed non-stop, with my clothes on, and fell asleep.
When I woke up I looked at the clock and it was 9.30 pm. This gave me enough time to go to dinner and if I hurry I can even get a ticket for the flamenco show that was presented in the tablao located one and a half blocks from the hostel. I learned about it that afternoon when a boy invited me to go and enjoy it with whoever I wanted. He told me that it was not expensive and that it was worth it.
I walked fast trying to remember to locate that little place that looked like a hideout. The road led me there alone, and suddenly I was standing in the doorway. In front of it was a man in his forties or so, sitting on a stool, playing the guitar in a spectacular way. He looked a little bit like a hippie with a gypsy tint.
His music gave him away quite a bit. I was so moved that I was paralyzed for a few seconds listening to it. Immediately afterward, I went in to buy a ticket.
I still had to wait half an hour for the show to start so I passed a bar that was on a diagonal and seemed to be exploded with people, which made me hesitate. But since I didn’t want to go too far, I sat down at the bar to taste a mini Spanish tortilla with a soda.
I paid what I consumed and returned to the premises where they had already started cutting tickets.
I handed mine in eagerly and automatically entered what looked like a dark rectangle illuminated only by a blue light with chairs scattered lengthwise and on either side.
Since it had not yet been completely filled, I was able to choose a seat in the sixth row, calculating from where the artists would be placed. I didn’t want to be so close to them but rather to be a spectator from a distance. Anyway, it looked perfect from anywhere in the room because it was tiny.
Its small measurements made it a welcoming place where one could breathe an atmosphere of unparalleled intimacy with the audience, a detail that, prima facie, I must admit, fascinated me.
Suddenly, a girl settled down next to me and asked me if I was alone, to which I answered yes. She asked me if I minded her keeping me company. I told her not at all. We started talking. She told me she was from Brazil, lived in Canada and was married but had come to Granada to take a course without her husband.
For my part, I told her that I had traveled alone to fulfill my desire to immerse myself in that Andalusian universe with the intention of deciphering what fiber touched that culture in me that made me vibrate at a frequency that moved me beyond the normal.
Lost in Music and Dance
The sound of the instruments began to flood the atmosphere. In contrast, a deafening silence took over, erasing the previous murmur to give way to a man’s voice, broken and almost raspy, that began to sing a song referring to the moon, interpreting it with a hint of anguish and a feeling so deep that it seemed to be born from the depths of his heart.
Suddenly, a dancer with agitated features burst onto the stage to display an original and interesting display on the stage.
It was all very exciting. I was so delirious that I could not believe that this was happening to me. And, as if some spice were missing to make the evening even more attractive, in the middle of the exhibition, I watched, incredulously, as one of the organizing musicians walked towards me to sit next to my seat. My heart at that moment was beating at an unusual speed. Meanwhile, the repertoire was taking its course without his presence.
He stayed looking at me and smiling alone, evaluating my behavior, until he leaned over to tell me in my ear that his name was David, that the next night he was going to perform as a soloist with his guitar, and that on that occasion he gladly invited me to see him. Until that moment, I had not noticed that he was the same man who had already captured my attention in the outside segment.
We crossed some words, but I continued to delight in the gala and he returned to his place until its conclusion.
Before leaving, Gabriela, a new companion of emotions, proposed that we do something together for the rest of the evening, but she asked me to wait for her first because she had to greet some friends who were the ones who had called her and who she wanted to introduce to me.
In the meantime, I stopped at the entrance where they were offering some drinks to make the wait more enjoyable. Without even noticing it, behind me she appeared embraced by the members of the band: the guitarist, the singer, the pianist, and David who, besides the guitar, had played some African drums. They came with a quite high level of euphoria.
A Special Moment
I greeted each of them with a kiss, praised their work, told them that I was studying singing and that I had been very pleased with their performance. They felt so comfortable with my comments that, as a way of repaying me, they improvised a little song with my name, shouting flamenco.
I almost died… because they also demanded that I sing with them… which I didn’t do… I was overcome with shyness, but at the same time, I found it an extremely flattering gesture on their part. I felt very special being the center of attention. It was a miraculous moment, one I never would have imagined I would live through. One of those gifts that life gives you without waiting and that were meant to be for you.
After chatting and laughing for a while, I was convinced to go to a bar together to prolong the talk. We went to an old tavern located two streets away from the origin.
Even though the good energy between us was flowing at full speed, I knew that it was getting late and the next morning I was scheduled to go to the Alhambra, a representative place of the city to which I had to dedicate several hours and to go through it thoroughly I had to be one hundred percent clear.
Which is why I decided to make the retreat. However, it was not so easy to say goodbye, as I was tempted to go on with a proposal that was almost impossible to refuse.
They told me if I wanted to accompany them to the home of a cantaora from Sacromonte (a neighborhood of Granada’s gypsies whose usual dwellings are caves and small white houses arranged in a labyrinthine fashion, located in the eastern part of the capital, with a population that has its own customs, and in which legends and flamenco shows are commonplace) that I was going to give a concert, off the record, only for a small group of people.
At first, I was hesitant to respond because for me it symbolized an unbeatable opportunity. But my final answer was negative. I didn’t dare to visit that area in the dark without knowing how to return and with people I had only just met. I woke up almost at dawn to get ready, go to breakfast and take the road to the Alhambra.
Road to Alhambra
I chose to walk up the Cuesta de Gomérez from Plaza Nueva. I discarded to do it from the Realejo neighborhood or from the Paseo de los Tristes by the Cuesta de los Chinos.
Once I crossed the Puerta de las Granadas, I found three possible routes, among which I preferred the central route following the Paseo del Generalife to reach the Access Pavilion where the ticket offices are.
Having entered the complex, I understood the reasons why they had told me in advance that their visit would take me at least 4 or 5 hours, or even more. It was like a city apart. Monumental and picturesque, erected by the monarchs of the Nasrid dynasty of the Kingdom of Granada, it was made up of a group of Palaces, gardens and a fortress (alcazaba).
It had been originally created for military purposes.
The first thing I did, before the tour, was to ask for a map to help me locate the central points to visit: The Nasrid Palaces and the Patio de los Leones, the Alcazaba, the oldest part of the Alhambra, the Palace of Charles V and the Generalife Gardens.
From this starting point, with the data at my disposal, I started a non-stop walk.
I didn’t stop walking around from 10 am to 5 pm. There was too much to see inside and too much information to incorporate. Its charm entered through the eyes, at every moment, without asking permission.
Really, and without going into detail, since it exceeds what I wish to expose, it was an extraordinary and unparalleled expedition towards an essential piece of the history of this amazing city.
Exhausted after the long and intense walk and with an indescribable joy in my heart, I returned to the guesthouse to relax a little. Rest was also essential.
I was so exhausted that I only managed to go to a nearby restaurant to have a drink. As soon as I sat down, I placed my order and started answering messages from my family that I had pending.
With unusual speed, the waiter brought the food: tapas — squid, potatoes bravas and olives — and an exquisite must juice (grape — without alcohol) that I usually order when I go to Spain because in my country it doesn’t exist.
When I finished dinner, I couldn’t stop yawning. It was as if a train had passed over me. As if the spirit determined me to go on, but the body did not give the same message. Obviously, I was determined to stop. And that’s what I did.
I went to sleep, knowing that I was wasting one of the three nights I had chosen to spend there. However, despite my guilt, I understood that sometimes the need to slow down and gather strength to keep going is stronger than moving forward blindly.
I woke up as new, fresh and alert. It was the last day and I wanted to make the most of it, as the Spaniards usually say.
I put on a flowery dress and went out into the street with an idea in mind. To take a free walking tour of the metropolis and its surroundings.
I walked, by chance, to the Paseo de los Tristes (official name: Paseo del Padre Manjón- located in the Darro Valley, between the Alhambra and the Albaicin), where I stopped by the statue of Mario Maya. There I saw that there were several people surrounding a boy with a blue umbrella.
As I had already done free tours in other countries, I knew that this was the method used to identify the guide so I approached them until I managed to ask if I could join the group of “Granada Magic tours”.
Since there was no opposition, and in order to wait until the scheduled departure time, I leaned against a railing that faced the Darro River. Here I stayed for a while with my eyes fixed on it. Until I reacted to the call of “Are we all here? Then we left.” Words from our tutor.
The first thing he told us before starting the walk was his name and that if any doubt arose along the way, we could interrupt him without any problem. After that, we went into the different most famous quarters of Granada, starting an unsuspected adventure full of stories and legends extraordinarily narrated by its speaker, who stopped at each part of the stretch and told them with an overwhelming force that gave them a surprising seal of credibility.
His fantastic story managed to capture our attention completely, making us laugh and move at every moment.
The only thing that worried me was that I had to leave half an hour earlier than the rest because that morning I had bought a ticket in advance to go to the Cueva de la Rocío in Sacromonte at 8.30 pm to see a flamenco show and I needed to prepare myself with enough time not to miss the transfer that was included in the package and he would pick me up 15 minutes in advance.
Arriving almost at the end of the walk, I realized that I would not be able to desert given the interesting content, so I gave myself to the enjoyment without any remorse.
Finally, we said goodbye, thanked me for having made me spend an extremely pleasant afternoon and deposited money in a backpack that had been placed on the floor. Each of us left at will what we thought was right. I would have been happy to give more in proportion to what the other party had given.
I practically flew away to make myself beautiful, to prepare some things and to go out again.
Since I didn’t know where the meeting corner was set up for us to get up, I had to consult more than one person until I found it. Anyway, I got there early and even had plenty of time to cross over and sit down to eat some Arabic bread with cheese and tomato in a cantina located just across the street.
As soon as I visualized that the bus of the hired company was about to park, I paid in a hurry and jumped over there to join the rest of the troop.
Soon we landed at Cueva de la Rocio where they lined us up to enter the place in an orderly fashion.
Since I never liked to walk in a block, I opened the door to investigate the place, which had a huge terrace crowded with people. I found it very attractive and beautiful as each of its nooks and crannies. For a moment, I felt like staying there and having a drink. But the truth is that, out of respect and fear of getting lost from the others, I went back inside almost at the beginning of the show.
When I entered, they showed me where the exhibition was. By that time, they were almost all settled in. I noticed that there was a free seat at the back and I jumped in without thinking.
The hall was medium-sized, it looked like a white tunnel. It was dimly lit, with a focus on the artists and chairs around for the guests, leaving space in the middle for the dancers to dance. In the front, near the curtain that served as the door, were the musicians standing and a singer in the center arranged magnificently for the occasion.
Minutes before the performance, the waiters came to offer us the option of drinking soda or sangria. Most of us chose the second one to get in tune with the event.
Surprisingly, a typical dancer came in wearing a red dress with flounces and a flower at the side of her hair. She showed her extensive knowledge to the extent of an exceptional song and said goodbye amidst applause, giving way to another partner.
And she, likewise, another dancer who gave a phenomenal performance.
As if this wasn’t enough, a woman appeared in a white lace dress, similar to a bride, with an elegance rarely seen, who instantly placed herself between two bailaoras to begin what would be the gypsy wedding.
Between constant applause, a dancer broke into the scene with a presence that took all eyes off. Owner of security without equal and with an exotic beauty dazzled each one of those present with his dance.
In particular, I was hypnotized by the expression on his face when dancing. Serious, with a hint of pleasure and suffering at the same time. I couldn’t take my eyes off him for his flamenco stamp and the passion he put into what he was doing.
At the end of the show, the artists invited a couple of people to dance on the floor. It wasn’t my luck. When it was over in full, we applauded them furiously to give them the farewell they deserved. Right away, I heard that they were calling us back.
I was so shocked by what I saw in that last dancer that I didn’t want to leave without knowing his name and how I could contact him. The coordinator of the group told me that his name was Ivan and that he was very well known in Granada. That he was accessible beyond being an exponent of flamenco in his land and outside it, and that I could easily find him on Facebook.
We went down to the Mirador de San Nicolas which was as incredible at night as it was during the day. We stopped for a while, in silence, to contemplate the view. But it was a short stop because the driver had to keep catching up with everyone at their destination.
On the way back, I grabbed my cell phone and looked for it through that social network. While it was quite late, I sent him a friend request. I thought I would never register it or answer it if I saw it.
I was wrong, which pleasantly surprised me. In less than an hour, he had added me. Such was the happiness that I felt that, immediately, I thanked him for the gesture of humility he had. We exchanged a couple of words and told him that he would let him rest easy but that he was going to start following him as an artist to know his career.
Memories of Granada
That was my last night in Granada, a magical place where everything was possible and where my dreams came true.
The next morning I traveled to Córdoba.
Have you traveled to Granada? Is it on your list now?
Tag us and someone you would love to travel to Granada Spain with @neumanngeorgina @katrinajuliafit @fitlifecreation
If you love this, you'll love our inspiring travel now and in the future post and series.
Thank you to Georgina for contributing.
You can find Georgina via
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