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Tue Jan 06 2015: El Hombre in Alhambra

Long day ahead of us, so we're waking up extra early.

The Pula Girls had originally planned to come to Granada to see the Moorish palace, Alhambra. We had booked our accommodations for two nights only, one day to see the palace and then leave the next day. However, we had no idea that you had to pre-book tickets to see Alhambra in advance. You can't just show up and go in and because the tickets are limited, they only allow you a small window of time to enter the palace.

So we didn't get to see Alhambra yesterday and we have to check out today so it's all got to fit in, somehow. I'm really appreciating the luxury of time that Neda and I have, compared to how Iva and Tajana are having to squeeze their tour into their jam packed and tight vacation schedule.

Neda woke up to find that her bike had sent her a message overnight...

Early morning ride to Alhambra, you can see snow capping the mountains of the Sierra Nevada in the distance. Brrr....

Finally! We got tickets!

Truthfully, Alhambra wasn't even on my radar for Spain on this trip or our last one seven years ago. Neda had at least heard of it. The Pula Girls organized this excursion and I'm glad we got to go because it's a beautiful example of Medieval Moorish architecture. From all the readings I've done, they say Alhambra is the most visited site in Spain. For good reason too!

I have to be honest and say that I've never read One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, but I did see the Disney Alladin movie... I could imagine flying carpets all over the place and Robin Williams bottled up in every lamp here!

The palace walls overlook the city of Granada

General admissions lets you walk around the palace grounds. Tickets are for entry to the palace itself. Picture by Iva

Alhambra is taken from the Arab "al-qala’a al-hamra" which means "The Red Castle". It was originally a small fortress built in 889, but it lay in ruins until the 11th century when a palace was built on the site. Renovations continued through the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries and most of what we're seeing today is the architecture of the last Muslim emirs in Spain in what's known as the Nasrid dynasty.

Mysterious Tajana. Picture by Iva

I feel bad for not understanding more Croatian. From the way Tajana makes Neda and Iva laugh, I am missing out on some really funny material. Neda tells me she has a really insightful and acerbic sense of humour and attempts to translates some of Tajo's quips later on, but like most humour of that kind, it gets lost in the translation and it really has to be in the moment. :(

Fountains in the palace grounds

In the summer, the grounds must be rife with flowers. These arched trellises bare all in the off-season

You aren't allowed to touch the intricate stonework, but they did provide a replica for visitors
to paw at the reliefwork. The Pula Girls use it to showcase their nail polish handiwork.

Inside the Palace of Charles V. Picture by Iva

It's very rare that the two of us are in the same picture, but now we've got so many shots of us together thanks to Iva. She borrowed our camera with the wide-angle lens for the day and had some fun playing around with it in Alhambra. She's a really good photographer as you can tell by some of the pictures I found on our data card later on.

Official RideDOT.com videographer/photographer

Jump for joy!

The Palace of Charles V is a Renaissance-style building that was constructed on the grounds of Alhambra for Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, because he didn't want to stay in the existing palaces after the conquest of Granada in 1492. It has a huge circular patio enclosed inside which was originally supposed to be covered, but the construction was never completed and it remains roofless to this day.

The expulsion of the Moors by the Spanish was unmerciful. You could say they were quite roofless as well.

Granada through the porticos of Alhambra

Casa Real Vieja (Old Royal Palace). Picture by Iva

Gorgeous picture that Iva took of us inside a ḥammām‎ (a Turkish-style bath). I love this shot!

I like how the exquisite arabesque detail intermingles fluidly with the calligraphy

Cool tiling? But wait, there's more...

Moorish tessellation

These tiles all over Alhambra are an example of tessellation, a repeating pattern of shapes that fit together without any gaps or overlap. We all take this for granted in our wallpaper and flooring, but there is actually a branch of mathematics that studies the rules of tessellation. A tessellation that has translational symmetry, meaning it repeats in two directions (up/down and left/right) make up something called a "wallpaper group", because it can be used to make wallpaper (duh).

More complex tessellations. What do you call a happy Islamic mason? Merry Tiler Moor.

What is fascinating is that mathematically, there are 17 different kinds of translational symmetry or wallpaper groups. They say that all 17 kinds can be found all over Alhambra. This is astounding for 14th century medieval Islamic art. M.C. Escher, the famous mathematics-inspired Dutch artist visited Alhambra in 1922 and was so captivated by these tiles that he made several copies in his sketchbooks. These Moorish tilings eventually influenced his style of art, leading to countless drawings of his own tessellations of which he is most famous for.

I did an art project on M.C. Escher back in high school and he was my favorite artist back then, so while the math is interesting, I really find it cool that Escher thought these tiles were cool. Because Escher is cool.

Beautiful day for a ride!

We left fairly late from Alhambra. The road from Granada to Cordoba is a nice twisty highway and the countryside is lined with thousands of olive trees planted in uniform rows on either side for as far as the eye can see. The late afternoon sun lends a little bit of warmth, but this is January and most of Canada is blanketed with a thick sheet of snow right now.

I don't complain one bit as I follow Neda's line through the sweeping turns on the smooth blacktop underneath us.

What a long day! The sun is disappearing in front of our eyes as we get closer to Cordoba

Arriving at the hotel moments before sunset

Not that I am counting, but it's now been ten days without rain with The Pula Girls. My thoughts turn towards kidnapping...

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