Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Alhambra & Generalifè

(Note: Since getting on the internet is time consuming I have found it hard to post to this blog. The Spanish siesta closes internet cafès mid-day, which is fine with me, but their dinner is just as important. So when the internet cafèes re-open at 3:00, they close again by 7 or 8pm. At that time I am still out sigh seeing as it does not get dark until 9:45 or 10pm. As a result, it is easy not to eat dinner until 10pm, unless I have missed lunch and gotten ravenously hungry! Therefore, I am posting the next 5 to 7 entries from Milan, Italy, my first few days after arrival. I have found a great hostel where I can do laundry, cook, use the internet for free and easily download images off of my camera. I also have a comfy bed finally and am using these few days to catch up on sleep that I rarely got in Spain. One example, my last night in Barcelona the fùtbol team won the championship. Which one? I don't think it really matters. Barcelona fans are crazy and will celebrate given any reason. Edwin, Amanda & I were walking home from eating out at a Spanish vegetarian restaurant and saw that there were about 2 minutes in the game. Score 2-0 (manchester had 0). What I loved was that the bars were full of people of all ages. Men in business suits stopped outside the window and jumped and cheered when the game was over. (These are the same men in business suits eating ice cream cones everywhere at lunch hour!) So the rest of the night was LOUD! And you hear it because no one really has AC so the windows are open. That is one reason I never got a full nights sleep.)

" A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart." - Frank Lloyd Wright

The Alhambra!
How beautiful it is! As I walked up the small street leading to the Alhambra the weather was nice, a bit cool. The entrance takes you through a forest that winds around the Alhambra's walls. At 10am the sprinklers were running and with the shade it was so cool on that walk that I could see my breath when I exhaled. But within 10-15 minutes I was in the sun, warming up, and within the walls of the Alhambra it was hot.

The most striking thing about the Alhambra is how modern it seems. I was aware of this at the time but did not have the words for it. But as I visited the Mesquita in Còrdoba, and later the Cathedral & Alcàzar in Sevilla, it finally hit me. The Islamic architecture is all based on geometric forms and (mathmatical?) patterns which seem as contemprary as any today, just more intricate. The forms and plans for the rooms are often a circle within a square, which hold religious significance. The multitude of patterns - on the floors, on the lower wall in tiles and carved into the upper walls and ceilings were always different, yet seems to mesh togther well. Not an easy task. ( Whereas in Barcelona, at the Palau de Musica Catalunya, I felt seasick from all the various ornamentation.) And the attention to detail.... I still cannot fathom how they carved the details in the material. I look at it and think - lasercutter!

The Generalife was georgeous also. The plants were not as lush as I anticipated and it felt crowded. But there was a simplicity to certain details that were wonderful. The most notable element in both the Alhambra and Generalife started when I crossed through the gate at the edge of town into the forest. The sound of water....Everywhere..... all the time! And it was so refeshing. As big as the entire complex is, there was only one time I did not hear water, or for that matter, see the birds that were always flying about. And that was is in Charles the IV Palace. A square brute building placed within the Alhambra walls with a large circular court in the center. Very traditional and it just happened to be the last space I entered that day. I found it very unpleasant and left after 10 minutes. The Alhambra is scaled to people. Charles Palace was not. I found this an interesting contrast. I wonder if anyone else noticed.

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