So I just returned from my long weekend, which I opted to spend in Granada. It was about a 5 hr bus ride to Madrid and another 5 hours to Granada, but hey, I had 6 days so why not? I had heard from many people that it is among the most beautiful places in Spain and my friend David and I had decided to go and meet up with our friend Matt, who was my roommate in Argentina and who now lives in Granada.
We ended up finding a hostel in the Albacín, the oldest neighborhood in the city. The interesting aspect about Granada is that there is a historical Arab presence there that has lasted since the Moors controlled that region of Spain about 1200 years ago, and this old neighborhood was where the Moors resided after they were conquered by Spain. As a result, at times it felt as if we were not in Spain at all, but rather in a Muslim land. The food has an Arab flare, there are hookah and tea cafes everywhere, gypsies line the narrow and worn streets selling cultural goodies and even the Spanish language has an Arabic touch to it. It’s very unique and equally interesting and awesome.
Additionally, Granada is famous for its tapas culture. In a nutshell, a tapa is free food that one receives when they order a drink, anywhere. So if you go to a bar, for example, and order a beer you get free food, which is about the size of an appetizer. But, if you stay at the same bar, each time you get a tapa (which is to say, each time you order a drink) it is a larger portion than the previous one. I felt like I was in heaven, I am pretty sure the tapas tradition is among my favorite things in the world. For the whole weekend, David and I spent money on food twice.
Aside from David, Matt and my adventures, David and I met a few Americans at our hostel, three girls in the same program as us, who were also in Granada for the first time. We spent most of our time together, even staying up all night on Sunday walking around the city and ultimately deciding to go the Alhambra-a Moorish palace that overlooks the city and which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain-at 5 am to wait in line to get tickets. That night we got 2 hrs of sleep before waking up and returning for the tour, which was incredible. This is after David and I had stayed up all night Saturday going to tapas bars and a club with people we had met and then deciding to go to the Mirador de San Nicolas in order to catch the sunrise. Needless to say, I am still exhausted, but it was well worth it. One of the best things about traveling is meeting fellow travelers and establishing friendships and contacts; I now have friends and places to stay in Toledo, Seville, and Madrid.
All in all, I am pretty certain that Granada is my favorite Spanish city and I would undoubtedly consider living there in the future. Given that there is an international university there, the city maintains a touristic presence (which can be a plus at times and a minus at times) yet successfully preserves its historical roots, both Spanish and Arab.
Pics will be posted next week on facebook.