Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Se Fué a Granada por Silencio y Tiempo, Not Entirely

Sevilla made a powerful impression on me in my first trip to Spain. The three hour train ride south provided some welcome down time following a nearly sleepless night and days full of sightseeing. My time was shared between napping and intently scanning the alien countryside passing by my window to this undiscovered world. The warm Mediterranean landscape felt like a mixture between Italy and the Dominican to me until we encountered the contrasting, snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains. This was our cue that arrival in Granada was imminent, and I had no idea what to expect. For years I had wanted to visit Sevilla, above all other Spanish cities, after hearing of its beauty. Spanish friends described Andalusia radiantly as a region of beauty and welcoming people, but I wasn't really sure what to expect. Even Sevilla shocked me with its otherworldly beauty despite having previous expectations. Granada had a clean slate devoid of any expectation and proved to be a vastly different wonder to its Andalusian neighbor.

Granada is almost like a clash of distinct cities forced to mesh, but refusing to assimilate into one. Shopping and commerce crams into an area of multi-story metropolitan buildings. History resists time in a section filled with basilicas, the thousand year old Arab market and the cathedral. Ascend uphill to a whitewashed central sphere of buildings hundreds of years old and almost exclusively white. A white that is worn by centuries of overlooking the diverse city, and surrounding landscape below. Alhambra with its Arab gardens rests on an adjacent hilltop presiding over the same contrasting city but in an area full of color, in stark contrast to the white across the way, and the white of the snow capped Sierra Nevadas in the distance. The time and colors spatter onto the Andalusian canvas to create a captivating masterpiece.

A vibrant city of youth aid in regularly painting the town full of color. The 88,000 student university is one of the most important in Spain. Picture a city of just under 240,000 inhabitants housing a college community of that size. In Granada, you will discover a city of exciting life mixed with old, young and new, Arabic and Spanish.

I'm sure everyone got their fill of food descriptions from my time in Sevilla so I will spare some this time. In theme with the city itself, I consumed nearly every type of food known to man. Middle Eastern and African foods found their way to my stomach along with the inevitable fill of delicious tapas. Drinks were cheap as they were in Sevilla, so going out was convenient. Granada's nightlife separated it from any other place that I have ever been. Bologna is no slouch being home to over 100,000 students that crowd bar filled streets but I may never find another place that compares to this one.

Botellón is a phenomenon that serves to initiate the debate as to why Spain is one of the most fun places on earth. Any country that has a name for the gathering of young people in a large outdoor area for the purpose of drinking is a country you go to for fun. Starting around eleven to midnight, thousands take to the designated parcel of land to begin their night socializing amid liquor, wine and beer. American college students can imagine a pregame among the masses where meeting people is easy. Meeting masses of beautiful Spanish girls with their wavy, long dark hair was a simple task. All of this is a testament to how open and friendly the Andalusians can be. We partook in two nights of this outdoor activity and I discovered two new experiences. Both nights we were invited to join groups of girls for phase two of the night consisting of bars and clubs. The first new discovery was that the all night partying associated with Spain is not an exaggeration. As I stood outside the club in the packed street on the first night, I grabbed the arm of the lovely young Valencian girl who had guided me around for the night and told her I wasn't ready to go. The shocking discovery was when I glanced down at my watch to find that it was six in the morning. The street was brimming with activity and the bar was full. I can think of very few times in my life where I had no intention of crawling into bed at this hour, but neither of us were ready to call it quits. The Spanish party scene is rightly famous, and you can expect to find people in the streets at that hour nearly every night. The only experience that may be more shocking than that was the reaction of Spanish girls to social situations. My friend and I approached a group of fifteen beautiful girls the other night in Bottelon. Every man reading this knows what an invitation that is to be devoured, but it definitely wasn't in Spain. The people are extremely outgoing and friendly. The girls took us in and took turns trying to bridge the language gaps between Italian, Spanish and English. Maybe being foreigners gave us the advantage of being a novelty but I will never forget, and probably never repeat that experience in my lifetime.

Four of the best days of my life were spent in Granada. The nightlife, beautiful and open-minded Spanish girls, food and the cultural melting pot all colored this city with a special beauty. The gardens of Alhambra were enchanting. The sunset from above Granada was a sight on our to-do checklist. Three men of three different nationalities basking in a sunset over this unique treasure is true beauty. Each of us revealing our romantic sides of bringing a special girl to this special place. This city came together seamlessly for me. The ambiance of the calm scenery combined with the vibrant music at sunset to perfectly piece together the entire trip of history and chaos. The open culture of this gem will forever feel like a home I belonged to, and can't wait to return to.

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