While I haven’t felt inclined to write about every individual trip I have taken while abroad, my time in Granada left a greater impact on me than most – one I don’t want to soon forget.
Every semester my study abroad program (USAC) plans an optional weekend excursion to a new city. Spring 2016 was Granada, Spain.
I was looking forward to it after we had such a positive group experience in Madrid, especially since all of us students had gotten to know each other better since then.
Upon arrival, Friday afternoon, I was in awe of the mountains. While this may be a symptom of being from Kansas, they were nonetheless the perfect snowy backdrop to a gorgeous city. I can now check seeing the (original) Sierra Nevada Mountains off my bucket list.
The first day, our whole group was given a tour through some of the historic neighborhoods. Narrow windy streets led us through picturesque homes, shops, and restaurants to an unforgettable view of the city at sunset.
In the evening, a few friends and I had the opportunity to see the traditional Spanish dance of flamenco, which requires an incredible amount of rhythm, passion, and footwork. Although it is a style of music and dance that I am not quite accustomed to, we had a great time taking part in an authentic part of Spanish culture (and drinking wine of course).
On Saturday, we all visited the Al Alhambra and let me tell you – I was not ready for it. What appears to be nothing more than a cathedral from afar, is actually an entire medieval fortress. It is unique in the fact that it is the last fortress remaining from the Arab empire (and Moorish architecture is no joke). I asked our tour guide if it was possible to be married there; He laughed, but I was serious. I will keep you posted on this.
The Arabic influence is still alive and well in the city today and as a result, Granada is rich in culture. I think this is why it impacted me so.
Wait… it gets even better. Granada is known for including free tapas with any drink you order. I can not imagine a greater concept than a city that feeds you as a reward for drinking.
On my way home with a couple of girls, we noticed a large group of people gathered in one of the plazas. Upon walking closer we saw dancing. What was sweet entertainment at first soon became a spectacle that we couldn’t stop watching.
Everyone dancing, what we soon discovered to be the tango, seemed to know exactly what complicated steps to take with their dance partner. There were people of all sizes, ages, backgrounds and economic classes. Mothers dancing with daughters, women with their girlfriends, lifelong couples, complete strangers – we saw it all. Nothing defined any one couple except for the flow of the music that joined them together.
It was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever witnessed. In one minute, a woman’s eyes are closed and she is passionately enthralled in the number with her dance partner, and in the next, the music ends and they are exchanging polite casualties as if nothing ever happened between them.
It is the simplicity of a dance in the street on a sunny Saturday afternoon that restores my faith in humanity.
We eventually were able to break away for a nap.
Later, after meandering in and out of shops, we landed in one of the local téterias – a common place for local people and tourists alike to sip yummy tea, smoke hookah…and order crepes if you are Emjae and I.
It was an experience I can best describe as: entrancing.
The inside was dimly lit by handcrafted stained glass lamps and candles, complete with eclectic decor and pillows to sit on. It felt like I stepped off a bustling side-street into another world completely—a much quieter world, rich with history and culture.
Finally, I got to end my day (I’m talking midnight to 2 am) soaking in an arabic bath house—a spa-like arabic custom.
While I appreciated their strict no-phone rule, I wish I could have somehow captured this experience for you because words just won’t do it justice.
You walk into a candle-lit, labyrinth of rooms filled with various shallow baths to lay and relax in—some cold, some warm, some hot. It created a deeply restful environment to just exist and marvel at the incredibly-detailed architecture around you…oh, and the couples making out by candle light. Nice.
The experience was complete with a steam room, an inclusive massage and of course, tea. I was sure that I had died and gone to heaven.
Granada, you were a dream. You bet I will be back for you one day.