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Alhambra - Updated

Worth the trip? Check the new note at the end of the entry.

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The Alhambra is on most lists of things you must see in your lifetime, and I am sure if we hadn't already been to Seville and Cordoba I would have felt the same when I saw it. The fortress is massive, the views from the top are unparalleled, the palace architecture and ornamentation splendid, and the gardens are glorious. Altogether, the Alhambra lives up to its reputation.
But even so...
Having just traveled in Seville and Cordoba, I could not help compare it with the alcazars in those two cities. Neither Seville nor Cordoba has the magnificent setting of the Alhambra, which sits above Granada like a crown, watching over it and providing views across the entire valley out to the Sierra Nevada.
Cordoba's alcazar sits in the middle of town, with only modest views, and was used by the Spanish Inquisition and thus has been extensively modified. Gone is the palace architecture and rich decoration. Even the changes the Inquisition made have been modified as viewing dozens of small cells for prisoners probably would not be the best attraction.
Seville's alcazar, however, has been well preserved, probably because it was built by a Christian king. Plus, through luck or restoration, it has much more of the color that originally covered the now white plaster, and while the plaster work is worth every second you spend examining it, color adds the dimension needed to appreciate what it once must have looked like.
As for the gardens, many of the Alhambra's are modern simply because Napoleon's army destroyed much of the grounds and a fair amount of the palace, not wanting to leave a fortress behind them. Only the quick reactions of the people of Granada saved the Alhambra from being completely burned to the ground. Meanwhile, Cordoba's gardens are a water paradise and as for Seville's, they are Dorne- what else needs to be said. (If the reference makes no sense, check "Game of Thrones.")
All in all, if I had to pick one of the three to revisit, I would choose to return to Seville's alcazar.
For a far more complete set of pictures of the Alhambra, and frankly better photos than I took, go to:
He founds some places we did not visit that show aspects of the Alhambra that had I seen, might have changed my mind about which was more beautiful, Seville's alcazar or the Alhambra.

Posted by randjb 00:33 Archived in Spain Tagged alcazar seville alhambra granada cordoba Comments (0)


A different experience

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Seville was an entirely different experience than Paris. We were there seven nights, six days, and Debbie and I were busy nearly the entire time. Unfortunately, Chesirae caught whatever illness I had in Paris and was stuck in the apartment almost the entire time.
If you haven't been to Seville, we highly recommend putting it on your list. The city has lots to do, lots to see, and great food, all at very reasonable prices. Here are our recommendations:
1. The Alcazar - this is a fortress palace built by the Catholic king that conquered Seville from the Muslims. He built it around the existing Alcazar that the Muslim caliphs had created and, though he was a Christian, he used a great deal of Muslim art and architecture. The inside of the building is roughly an 8 on a scale of 10, but the "not to be missed" portion is the gardens. Those of you who watch "Game of Thrones" know them as Doran, and they are as beautiful as gardens get.
2. Italica - Slightly northwest of Seville, Italica was the first Roman settlement in Spain originally inhabited 2,200 years ago. At its height it had roughly 25,000 residents and was the birthplace of the first two emperors not born in Italy, Trajan and Hadrian. The walls and ceilings of the buildings have all disappeared and only a small portion of the town has been excavated. Nevertheless, what has been excavated is impressive. A few roads have been revealed as well as the large villas that line them. These have one or two feet of wall to show where the rooms were. The best of the rooms still have their original mosaic tile floors. Some of these are amazing. You will also find the remains of what was once the third largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire. The amphitheater is an impressive ruin and this last year was another of the sites "Game of Thrones" used for filming.
3. Plaza de Espana - In the 1920's Spain held an expo that featured a unique architecture that combined the many styles of Spanish history and the modern era. What remains of the expo are a number of buildings, canals, and bridges that form the cornerstone of the Parque de Maria Luisa. Both the park and the plaza are worth the visit. Like Central Park and Golden Gate Park, this is more about strolling around and experiencing the park than it is about doing something specific.
4. The area around Seville's cathedral - The cathedral itself is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and third largest Christian church in the world. It is not, however, a church we walked away from thinking we "had" to see it. It is big but Europe has many cathedrals I would recommend seeing before this one. That said, the area around the cathedral is definitely worth visiting. The shopping streets are there as well as the city hall (a story in itself) and some absolutely unique architecture. At night, you will also find entertainment including Flamenco, an experience not to be missed.
5. A controversial choice: the bullfights - We did not see a bullfight as they are held in April and May and are, even in Spain, subject to a lot of controversy. Seville, however, has one of the larger arenas and hosts the best matadors during the two month season. So if you want to see a bullfight, this would be the right place to see it. You'll need to get tickets in advance as they are popular despite the many people who object to the sport.
Altogether, this is a city worth spending some time in. We were delighted with what we saw and the people we met.

Posted by randjb 09:40 Archived in Spain Tagged seville Comments (0)

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