Leather handicraft straight from the workshop on four wheels
Wandering through Iberian lands
24/01/2021 5:54 PM
Today’s post is our memories from 2016 and 2019, we will tell you about our adventure with the Andalusian capital of … skiing! But Granada is not only Sierra Nevada but also narrow, winding Arab streets, the Alhambra palace and amazing views! This time we are sharing our subjective feelings and adventures related to this city, in the future we will probably prepare an article which we will tell you more about the history of this city.
Granada was definitely the place where we really realised that having both a van and a motorcycle was an awesome idea. Generally, from the very beginning, the plan was that we would park the car on the outskirts of a given city, and with the help of two wheels, we could easily find a good parking lot. In Granada we found two really good spots.
One with a view of the snow-capped peaks of Sierra Nevada. Parking along the street.
The second one is at the very top of Sacramonte at Ermita de San Miguel Alto with a panorama of the entire city on the other side (in 2016 you could stand everywhere, in 2019 the police issued tickets for camping in the „parking lot”, but there is no ban in the forest)
This time we came up with the idea that maybe some couchsurfing locals would help us explore Granada. The first attempt kind of failed cause the couple who went with us for a beer turned out to be quite… boring. Rodrigo, on the other hand, turned out to be perfect – Arabic lecturer, translator, Chinese-learning beginner guitarist. If you ever visit Granada do it only with him! (https://www.couchsurfing.com/users/1006024106). I will remember a walk around Albaicín for the rest of my life, just like the flamenco concert he took us to. The entrance fee was 12 EUR per person and the experience was worth a lot more. It was the most intimate concert I have ever attended (not counting the ones JJ did just for me). The room, or rather the patio, was filled with maybe 10 people, and the music and atmosphere touched me so deeply that I lost consciousness. I even tried to leave the hall before it happened, as soon as I felt weak, but right in the door between the “concert hall” and the foyer I fell down (maybe better – the vestibule, because the foyer is by definition a large, vast room, and El Tabanco – the place where the concert took place – is maybe 30 square meters in total). Of course, everyone came to see what happened to me, and until now I am still not able to answer that question.
That evening was also the only one when I wore high heels. If someone was or will be in Granada, check the road from Ermita de San Miguel Alto to El Tabanco through the gypsy caves … (hint – there is no road or asphalt there, there is a path through the bush). Half of the way I was barefoot and when we finally went to Albaicín, it turned out that the pavement was so slippery that I was carrying my shoes in my hands anyway.
Rodrigo also showed us a musical square, the name of which I have nowhere written, and a few years later it was difficult for me to locate it – its official name is completely different. Our then “guide” called it just that, because every evening you can go there to listen to live music. People of all ages come to play their instruments right there. The best thing is that the acoustics of this place allow different musicians to play at the same time in different corners, even completely different types of music, and nobody gets in the way. Between jazz, flamenco, guitar, clarinet and African drums, jugglers and firedancers with burning pois. The place is located in the Albaicín district and is called El parque de Santa Isabel la Real, also known as el Huerto del Carlos. To be honest, I don’t know if there is still such a cool atmosphere there, because when I was writing this article, I did a little research on the web (2019) and it turns out that the residents were not very happy that people visiting the square in the evenings pissed at their house or garage doors. The mayor of Granada wanted to prohibit drinking and smoking there, and by law he could only introduce such a ban by making the place a specially protected area for children. The idea didn’t work out but it’s possible that the police are watching this place and it does not have the same charm as before. If any of you know anything about this place or has recently visited it – let us know what’s up and we’ll update it. We met an Egyptian guy there who instilled in us the idea of spending the winter in the Canary Islands. He said he once flew to spend the carnival there and stayed 17 years. We also found out how much a coke dash and a gun cost in Colombia. Oh, such an interesting place.
Sacramonte is a neighborhood located on a hill where mainly gypsies live in their caves. Albaicín, on the other hand, is an Arabian district full of narrow streets and interesting alleys. Of course, you can go to Arab shops where you will feel like on a real souk – so obviously I do not recommend it, I hate it, I advise against it. But … only there you can buy trousers from Chile from a Russian shopowner in a Spanish city, on a Moroccan bazaar with Indian things. And the prices are fine.
Alhambra is the Alhambra. I managed to buy a ticket when I came back to Granda after 3 years because when we visited this city for the first time there were no tickets available. I’ll post a few photos, but in general, you can read about the Alhambra everywhere, so I’m not going to bore you with stories about the Moors in Spain, not this time. One thing that made a huge impression on me was the painting “Cristo de Kennedy” by Benito Prieto Coussent.
If you get bored of wandering the narrow streets of Albaicin, peering gypsies in the cave windows of Sacramonte, listening to live music or eating the region’s popular Piononos biscuits (which taste a bit like flan) washed down with Alhambra beer, then Sierra Nevada should be your next stop.
We were unlucky the first time we went there. Our car broke down. It was repaired by a deaf-mute mechanic from the Mercedes service, but we didn’t go hiking cause this incident spoiled our moods a bit. As our friend Wojtek says – “always something” (always wind in the eyes of the poor …). I, taking advantage of the opportunity when I returned to this beautiful city, which is probably number one in my private ranking of cities in Spain (it is not anymore, I wrote that in 2019 :)), went with my colleagues for lunch to Sierra Nevada. I didn’t have winter clothes with me but it was okay. A guy, who was going up with us in the ski lift, told us that the day before he was snowboarding in a short-sleeved T-shirt. And we came back to the hotel with rosy cheeks (from the sun, not from the cold). It was the first time I saw a snow bike and a chair on one ski that is driven with poles. You can of course rent all the equipment (skis, snowboards, helmets, clothes, shoes etc.) at quite acceptable prices, unfortunately IMO the skipass is expensive (https://sierranevada.es/es/invierno/forfait/tarifas/). Of course, if you are not a fan of snow madness, you will also find something for yourself – you can continue drinking beer upstairs, after reaching the top by cable car, for which, unfortunately, you also have to pay a lot. On the other hand, they serve fast food at prices that are convenient, even for students.
There are two more places in the Granada area that we can recommend – Beneficio and Santa Fe, If you ever get to Granada, it is worthwhile to complete the whole “sacred hippie triangle” – Granada, Alpujarra (Beneficio) and Santa Fe.
What is Alpujarra? It is a region in the Sierra Nevada mountains. There are a lot of villages there, and in the vicinity of one of them you can find the hippie commune of Beneficio. If someone likes Aunt Wiki, something about Beneficio can be found there (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beneficio). Do not believe, however, that alcohol or drugs are forbidden in the area – this is not entirely true. We also went there „clear”, because we had read on the internet beforehand that alcohol was not allowed and it turned out that everyone was drinking beers. I don’t know, maybe there really is a no-drinking rule but nobody obeys it? Anyway, we took a few days of detox in a beautiful valley where the sun hardly ever shines. To be honest what we found was what not entirely what we expected. I will start from the beginning, i.e. from getting to the place.
JJ took a hitchhiker who showed us how to get there. We took her from a nearby village, she must have been waiting for a bus or soemthing (I don’t remember anymore). But I do remember that she was eating a pomegranate and spitting pieces on the floor in the car. The peelings also landed there. Not that we are some kind of pedants but still.… The access road is terrible, just wide enough for one van.
If you do not plan to use a tent or build a hut, you have to stay with the car at the very beginning of Beneficio, in the parking lot. We parked next to the Gypsy rolling stock, and as we still had stickers of indalo man (a prehistoric magic symbol that is also a symbol of Almeria) on the back door and on the tank of the motorcycle, we immediately got new friends because our gypsy neighbor said it was also the symbol of her family and proudly displayed her ankle tattoo.
In front of us we had a drummer’s workshop, who told us a bit about how agave drums are made and how well they sell in the Canary Islands. Each winter, he would create a new assortment, which he sold in the Canary Islands in the summer. As far as I remember, some of his handcrafted drums were able to reach sky-high prices of EUR 300-400. Of course, at Beneficio, everyone grows weed that can be bought at wholesale prices and from organic farming! This alcoholfree thing is not true, as I wrote earlier, everyone is drinking. The lack of heavy drugs is probably also somewhat untrue because during just one week probably 5 people asked us about different drugs – some wanted to buy and others wanted to sell. We were there in low season so it was a bit quiet and sad, no sense of community whatsoever. Probably in summer the atmosphere livens up a bit but really – not what we expected.
In general, walking up the village along the river you will find some really nice initiatives. The coolest thing are shit-pits, which are simply public toilets that keep you from shitting anywhere. They are just holes in the ground. In these more exclusive neighborhoods, they are covered with a wooden structure and generally look like toilets. In the poorer parts, they are holes in the ground on which pieces of boards are placed, and possibly some piece of material that theoretically serves as a curtain. We were there when I was still quite reluctant to use such places and it was really not easy. However, non-compliance with the rules could end badly, for example with stigmatization – on the bulletin board I once saw a poem about an individual who instead of shitting into a shit-pit did it under a tree. Oh, what a beautiful pamphlet it was!
Another cool thing is the common area – there is a kitchen, a school, the aforementioned notice board and a huge tipi, where in the evenings the whole community gathers and creates music together (… in season). I wrote about the school because some of the families who live there moved in 15, 17 or 20 years ago and live there with their children. The older ones attend schools in the nearby villages, and the youngest spend their time at school in the Beneficio area. Unfortunately, apart from real locals, there are also a lot of very young people who come to drink and get high. The place definately has „something” but for us it’s not „that thing” if you know what a mean. There are already thousands of entries on the Internet about this place, so I recommend Uncle Google if someone interested the topic.
AND! We liked the cookies’ initiative. One girl was making super tasty chocolate cookies and selling them for pennies. We don’t eat sugar or sweets, but I will remember these sweets for a long time! I don’t smoke (only tobacco), but for fans there are also some „space” cookies available.
The last stop is Santa Fe. When we were in the area for the first time, we didn’t know that such a thing existed, so we didn’t get there, but we met a lot of people who did and recommended going there. Hot springs and the hippie community as well – we met one couple who lived there in winter. Finally, we managed to get there in 2019. Nothing special, very difficult access, when it rains there is so much mud that it’s easy to lose shoes in it. We were there out of the high season because there weren’t many people, but many friends reported that when crowds come there, it is a neverending rave party on a garbage dump. For fans of rhythmic and pissing off techno music, it should be ok. The local special pebbles are also cool, they can be polished (they look like glass then) and framed in a piece of leather.
Granada, to be honest, is a city of one (maximum two) day trip. It is charming and atmospheric, but there is not much sightseeing – Alhambra takes about 3 hours without audioguide, at a leisurely pace. So, if you are not going to give up this point of the program, you may need two days. If you do not intend to visit Alhambra, one day is enough for the city itself. Neither Beneficio nor Santa Fe are mandatory – if you don’t go, you won’t lose much. The advantage of the province of Granada, however, is the fact that on the same day we can ski and then go to the coast and bathe in the sea. It’s one of those places in the world that has everything withing reach!