Have you ever read a book that transported you into a foreign world, made you fell in love with that place then within you grew such a strong urge to experience it for yourself? Granada is that place for me, but it didn’t come out of an engrossing fiction novel like the Alchemist
or sparked by a travel related book like Vagabonding, the city sprung to life in my imagination after reading a biography based on Granada’s internationally celebrated poet and playwright, Federico Garcia Lorca.
|A view of Granada from the Alhambra
Why did Lorca love Granada so much? It has a rich culture and history, but like a granada, a pomegranate, Lorca described it as a hard and skull-like on the outside, but inside it contains the ”blood of the wounded earth’’. The city wears a mask of beauty with pain of relinquished treasures and faded golden eras resting behind it.
The Alhambra and General Life
A large fortress complex with city ruins, gardens and palaces covers the hill encompassing the Alhambra and General Life. Although the Alhambra was already on my travel bucket list, after reading Lorca’s descriptions about the iconic palaces and how he would spend the whole day there absorbing the details enticed by its exotic influence, a strong urge grew in me to see this destination as soon as possible.
”The water suffers and weeps, full of tiny white violins.” – Lorca
In the Nazrid palaces, everything fell into place. Experiencing the Alhambra and General Life meant so much more to me than simply visiting another awe inspiring world heritage site – it had many stories, history, connections, influences, and I was right in the middle of it all in my own world paying no mind to the hundreds of visitors snapping photos. I wanted to internalize these details like Lorca did.
Discovering Granada’s lyrical secret, Lorca spent time getting to know gypsies in the Albaicin, the Moorish neighborhood, and later compassionately documenting their ballads and organizing a gypsy ‘’deep song’’ (canto jondo) festival in the 1920s. Lorca was convinced that the authentic deep song was replaced with flamenco. We had the opportunity to see a live performance in an intimate setting while having tapas and sangria. The show was entirely captivating and there is something about the song and dance together that attracts something deep in your core.
A gypsy cave dwelling museum (Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte) on the side of a hill in Granada’s Sacromonte district with insight into the Roma culture, traditional living, crafts and musical tradition.
Lorca’s Summer Home and El Rinconcillo
We visited Lorca’s summer home as well. The biography Lorca by Leslie Stainton is quite detailed, and practically everything our tour guide told us, I already read the story behind it – from the puppet shows Lorca would put on for his sisters to the infinite hours he spent in his room writing and compiling his poems to recognizing the ”Mariana Pineda” poster on the wall – one of his first plays, to the gifts from other well known Spanish and Granada native artists.
In the 1920s, Granada had a dozen or so popular artists who called themselves El Rinconcillo (the Little Corner) and gathered at what is not el Bar-Restaurante Chikito to recite their poetry and literature, play their music, and share their artistic creations. Right in front of a plaza in Granada, it’s a charming place to have some tapas.
A Clash of Cultures
In 1942, the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabela defeated the Islamic Moors in Granada after more than 700 hundred years of rule over Spain. Lorca nostalgically mourned this triumph for Spain, and stated that ”being from Granada gives me a sympathetic understanding of those who are persecuted. Of the gypsy, the black, the Jew . . . of the Moor, whom all Granadinos carry within us.”
In the old Moorish neighborhood, the Albaicin.
We visited some churches that were built over former mosques, and the Moorish influence is undeniable in Granada from the Albaicin and the bazaar, the food, people’s physical features, the architecture, to the cultural mixture that Granada and the Andalusian region is known for.
|A church with the doors of a former mosque.
”It will always be like this. Before and now. We must leave, but Granada remains. Eternal in time…” – Federico Garcia Lorca
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