Andalusia Memories 2: Alhambra Walls and Water

“Perhaps there never was a monument more characteristic of an age and people than the Alhambra; a rugged fortress without, a voluptuous palace within; war frowning from its battlements; poetry breathing throughout the fairy architecture of its halls.” ― Washington Irving, Tales of the Alhambra [1]

 I just made a second trip to southern Spain. It had been over forty years between visits, and I had no idea what – if anything – I might remember. My first trip was with my high school Spanish Club. We were all young, and boy were we excited to be able to drink legally for a change!

In an earlier post I wrote about my spatial memories in Granada. At the Alhambra I had strange wavy recollections of reflecting pools and intricate walls.

To visit the palace rooms of the Alhambra is like stepping inside one gigantic extended scrollwork of interlocking geometric design.

I can remember loving the symmetry. I sure don’t remember any specific part of it. As I say, my memories are a blurry recollection of warm stone walls with ingenious decorations. Just… an impression of a harmony that contains a hundred thousand details you will get lost in once you begin examining the space more closely.

Southern Spain is frequently the hottest region in Europe. At the peak of summer, it stays oppressively hot (100°F and above) and very dry. We visited Andalusia at the very end of September/start of October, and the temperatures were still in the 90s. You seek relief in rooms with the latticed windows that let in light but not heat. Or you walk in the walled gardens.

Water, water, everywhere…. The former Islamic rulers built a sophisticated system of fountains and pools. Those fountains were designed to include the sound of flowing waters, and flowers and fruit trees were planted to delight the senses with their perfumes.

Memory returned vivid and at the same time somehow distorted at the Alhambra palaces’ innermost courtyard spaces. Only those wonderful carved lions at the private fountain were just as I remembered them.

And those were more than enough to make me very, very happy.

“In the present day, when popular literature is running into the low levels of life, and luxuriating on the vices and follies of mankind; and when the universal pursuit of gain is trampling down the early growth of poetic feeling, and wearing out the verdure of the soul, I question whether it would not be of service for the reader occasionally to turn to these records of prouder times and loftier modes of thinking; and to steep himself to the very lips in old Spanish romance.” ― ― Washington Irving, Tales of the Alhambra 

NOTES: [1] Wasington Irving is a lifetime favorite, beginning with my childhood: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow! Rip Van Winkle! I’d forgotten that he stayed and wrote at the Alhambra in 1829, when it was a neglected  ruin. Now, that’s artistic inspiration. © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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