Admiring the Palace of a Holy Roman Emperor

I can’t tell you how much I loved walking towards the Alhambra’s entrance. On the one side, the wall of the fort is at least two storeys high, rough-hewn stones and mortar tantalizingly hiding the history behind it. On the other side, the lush vegetation in autumnal hues let a dappling light fall on the path leading to the gate. Unseen crickets chirping in the vegetation was the only sounds disturbing our thoughts. When we finally passed through the gateway, it was strange to see the bustle of so many people on the other side.

We arrived a little too early for the time indicated on our tickets to enter the Nasrid Palaces. Luckily for us, there’s still plenty to see while you wait. In particular, the Palace of Charles V, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519, and also known as Carlos I, king of Spain from 1516 until his voluntary retirement in 1556. He had the palace built as a royal residence fit for an emperor in what was called the “Roman” style , a stark contrast to the Moorish architecture surrounding it. Ironically, he never lived in it, since the palace remained unfinished until 1923.

The building is square-shaped, but strangely enough has a large circular courtyard in the middle. Gareth and I took turns taking pictures of ourselves in the middle of the patio, as did most of the other tourists. I often get asked by random strangers to take their picture in front of well-known sights and this time was no exception – a lady with an unfamiliar accent quickly showed me how to work her camera before she and her partner also posed for a photo.

We then climbed up the stairs to get a better view of the roof and the columns of the courtyard and found the entrance to the Fine Arts Museum, which at the time was exhibiting works from the 20th century classical French artist, Henri Matisse. Although the entrance fee was nominal (and free to EU citizens), our visit to the Picasso museum in Malaga was still fresh in our memories and we decided not to go in.

The Museum of the Alhambra is located on the ground floor and houses a collection of archaeological artefacts, as well as Nasrid and Islamic works of art. We opted not to visit it and left the palace behind in search of something to eat. A stall in front of the entrance to the alcazar was selling chorizo rolls and we sat down on a bench to enjoy our lunch, while feeding bits of sausage to the stray cats roaming the grounds and marvelling at the view of Granada.

For more posts in the Spain 2010 series, click here.

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