When you go to Alhambra, do not skip the Alcazaba. I felt like skipping it. After all, who wants to see a boring old fortress when you have beautiful palaces and gardens around you. I only went to give my husband a little bit of breathing space before the long walk to the Generalife and the summer palace of the Nazarite princes.
Boy, am I glad we went. The fortress was a fortress, just like any other and smaller than most. It was made more interesting because of the associated stories in the audioguide, which happened to be too poetic and imagine-this-and-that for my taste. But the reason you cannot miss the Alcazaba is what awaits you on top of the Vela Tower.
As you climb the narrow flight of stairs to the top, the audioguide tells you how this bell tower is the most central part of Granadian life, how its bell rings for all important occasions, and how Granadians use it to orient themselves in the city. The bell, of course, was added once the Roman Catholics conquered the city.
As you hear this narrative you will walk through the open doorway to the roof of the tower. You will step out and then you will stop breathing. The audioguide in no way prepares you for what is in front of you: a breathtaking view of the snowy peak of the Sierra Nevada, framed by lush green hills and the gardens of Generalife and the summer palace of the Nazarite princes below.
I read about the priviliged view the Nazarite princes had of the Sierra Nevada, but nowhere in the grounds of Alhambra did I find it. I started to think it was a myth. And to think I could have missed it. I stood there for many minutes just looking and absorbing as much as I could. I did not want to leave or close my eyes. A part deep inside me grieved with the knowledge that I would most likely never see this view again.
I live in Switzerland. I am used to the best of nature all around me. But the view of the Sierra Nevada captured my heart and imagination like no other scene has before. I could not take a good photo since the sun was in my frame. That made it even more important that I try to fix the scene in my memory as much as I could. In the end, I was forcefully taken away by my husband.
I don’t have a photo of the view to share with you, but here is one of the Courtyard of Lions, which is gorgeous even in its current state of renovation.