Saturday, January 30, 2010

Unnamed road, Pulpi. 37° 20.676'N 1° 41.212'W

Back on the coast, just west of a place called Pulpi, we happened onto a free-camping paradise, low hills right on the sea, dozens of RVs, all enjoying the same view. We plan on staying here a couple days, doing nothing but walking into town, 3 miles away, for wifi. At a bar. Life is good.

Oh, Pulpi is famous, by the way. According to the all-knowing and self-correcting Wikipedia, "On September 29, 2007, Pulpi tossed the world's largest salad, with 6,700 kilograms (14,740 pounds) of lettuce, tomato, onion, pepper and olives, supervised by 5000 cooks over 3 hours. A Guinness World Records judge was present to confirm the new record. The salad was prepared in a container 18m (59ft) long and 4.8m (15.7ft) wide." Too many cooks may spoil a soup, but, apparently, not a salad.
Not a bad view, and the price is right; the place is so popular that a truck from 
town calls every morning at 9:30, selling bread, milk, newspapers, etc.

Moonrise in the afternoon 

Only cloud in the sky at sunset, Friday night

Full moon over the Mediterranean, a place called Playa del 
Serena Mar; indeed

Other Side of the Mountains

But for the lack of sagebrush, you'd think you were in the
American West


Ditto ditto

Many houses are carved into the rock, with a regular
house looking facade

Closer up

Reminiscent of the Big Hole in Montana

Heavy-duty terracing, some of it by the Moors, for the
olive trees

As you get closer to Almeria, the valley opens up and then
is covered, not by condos, but these huge vegetable farms,
all covered in plastic, one humongous greenhouse of

The east side of the Sierra we drove through is a landscape very reminiscent of the American southwest. In fact, we read, it is used very often for Spaghetti Westerns filmed in Europe (Sangria Westerns? Paella Westerns?).

Sierra Nevada

We have crossed the California Sierra Nevada mountain range many times, even climbed Mt. Whitney way back in 1972. They are much higher, larger, more rugged than their namesake, The Sierra Nevada here in Spain. In winter especially, the Sierra Nevada are an impressive brilliant white backdrop for Granada, and seeing them we decided to risk crossing them en route back to the coast near Almeria. It was a gorgeous drive, superb highway, not all that much snow really, and none on the road. The terrain east of the mountains was equally interesting.
Sierra Nevada from Granada

Higher up on the west side

At the pass, about 4,000 feet

Looking back from the east, still up high

In the high valley east of the mountains


We cross a hill, see a flash in the distance,
and then this large fire; never did find out
what it was about

Castle in the valley foothills

Forest of windmills encroaching another white town

Iberian Insights, #1

If El Greco had been a flamenco dancer, he would have held the castanet like this:

Thursday, January 28, 2010


After the Alhambra, we bussed back to the
old town (Alhambra's up on a big hill) and
took in a few more sights;  in the Isabella
Catolico Plaza, the famous sculpture of
Columbus making his pitch

Over by the cathedral, which we skipped, is the Royal
Chapel, where Ferdinand and Isabella and their immediate
progeny are buried

Famous painting depicting Boabdil's surrender to F and Y

In the chapel, the altar, dedicated to John the Baptist and
John the Evangelist; the beheading scene is unusually

Tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella

Actual coffins of F and Y

Alhambra III

View from Alhambra back to Plaza San Nicolas, the
previous evening's view

The old fortress; the only reason to visit it, it is said, is for
the views, which were no doubt diminished on this rainy cloudy
foggy day

Side door entrance to Charles V Palace; the palace is a
humongous square edifice, Renaissance, plopped down in
the middle of the Alhambra complex (well, at least the
conquering Christians didn't destroy it entirely), with a
large round columned open area in the middle; Charles
didn't live long enough to see it roofed; his son, Philip II,
built El Escorial instead; anyhow, it was under Charles V
that the newly united Spain and the older, humongous
Hapsburg (Holy Roman) Empire were united, via marriage;
thus "Imperator Caesar Karlos V" on the door; biggest
empire since the Romans; it was also Chuck 5, as I recall,
who quipped that he spoke French to his courtiers, Spanish
to his priests, Italian to the ladies, and German to his horse

Inside the Charles V courtyard; the echo in this large space
is incredible


We walked over to see the Generalife, the
separate gardens, notable for being largely
unchanged over five centuries; this, I promise,
is the last water feature, in the summer palace

Alhambra II

In the Washington Irving suite of rooms; Irving's Tales of
the Alhambra renewed interest in the place; he was later
US ambassdor to Spain; born of a very wealthy NY family,
a genuine Romantic and Grand Tourist; there is a huge
exhibition about him going on here; as we saw in Ecija,
the Ruta Washington Irving is a major Spanish trek

View from Irving's rooms

View out his other window

In the orange garden

Another water feature

And another; water has a special place in Islamic notions of
heaven, I understand; nothing anthropomorphic going on there,
I suppose

Alhambra I

Great hall; Court of the Myrtles (?)



A water feature outside the Comares, the
throne room, historically important because
a) that's presumably where the Moorish king
Boabdil surrendered, and b) presumably
where Columbus made his pitch to the Royals
(wasn't he already abroad, so to speak?)

Looking the other way

Entry to the court of the two sisters, or was it two cousins?

More water features; since it rained most of
the day, and was chilly, we were less
impressed by all the water features than we
might have been in, say, August; besides,
I was kaleidoscoped-out by this point;

Really into columns

This is the fountain of the twelve lions, or somesuch, which
in some sense told time, or season, or month...whatever; the
lions are away being reconditioned, or possibly hibernating

Artsy-fartsy attempt to amuse myself

The Alhambra is actually three or four sites, the Palacios Nazaries, the Generalife gardens, Charles V's palace, and the old fortress, the Alcazaba. The Palicios Nazaries is the main thing, the last palace of the retreating Moors, built in the 13th and 14th centuries, handed over to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. (Ferdie and Izzie were really multi-tasking that year). We spent the better part of the day seeing all this, reputedly the top site in all Spain.

They say what you get from something depends a lot on what you bring to it. I confess I do not bring a great deal of knowledge about Muslim art or religion to these sites. Rarely do they do anything but geometrical forms and calligraphy of lines from the Koran. Particularly in religious settings, there can be no copies (graven images) of nature, people, etc. Not even half way through the Nazaries, I felt myself actually yearning for a St. Sebastian, an Annunciation, a Chinese landscape, even a Picasso. How long can you stare, with interest, at a kaleidoscope?

Maybe it was the season, the lack of novelty, or something else, but I was less impressed with the Alhambra than with the Alcozaba in Seville or, especially, the Mezquita in Cordoba (apples and oranges, yes, I know). The audio-guide, with its deadening, I mean, soothing, music and voices, saturated with Washington Irving (ick!) style romance/fantasy of the Alhambra did not help. When Irving found the Alhambra in the 1820s or 1830s, it was a fair ruin. The job of rebuilding it, deliberately, as a national monument/tourist destination must be as interesting a story as anything Boabdil or Ferdinand or Isabella did here. But that story's not much told. And for the rest, you are asked to use your imagination as to what things looked like, who was there, what was going on, etc.  Personally, I have very weak imaginative powers when it comes to sultans and sultanas, ambassadors and emissaries, et al., although I do a little better with harems.