Granada (3): Sacromonte, Street-Music & Souvenirs

Foreword
I had been obsessed with visiting Granada for years. Every time Placido Domingo sang Granada,¹ I felt he was personally inviting me! So forgive me if I go a little overboard…  This is the last (phew!) post of my trilogy on Granada. For the earlier pieces, click on Granada (1): The Paradise of the Nasrids   and  Granada (2): After the Moors

Sacromonte
After the Alhambra, there is nothing more to see in Granada, right? Certainly not: it is a common misconception!  Granada offers plenty: Sacromonte , for instance.

After the Christians conquered Granada by the end of the 15th century, the Jews and Muslims started leaving the city. Outside the City Walls was the Valpariso valley by the Darro river². They modified the caves in the hill into houses and took shelter there.The Gypsies were already  settled there; so the Muslims and Jews probably lived there briefly before fleeing Spain forever.

The Gypsies are believed to have migrated from India; but since they came via Egypt, the locals thought they were Egyptians— the term ‘Gypsies’ is derived from ‘Gyptians’. For centuries, they have lived in the Sacromonte Caves, following a unique lifestyle and practicing their (now famous) art:Flamenco.

The flamenco shows are all in the small taverns — caves dug into the hills. Sacromonte is full of  winding streets in the undulating hills— streets lined with white matte walled houses and bright flowers.sacromonteshop

The Flamenco shows start at about 8 pm and go on late into the night. Once you enter a tavern you are given a free drink and treated to lively, vigorous dance and music. The songs sound vaguely like Indian folk music and the dance has a lot of foot-tapping and clapping. But this is an inadequate description— it must be seen and experienced!lostarantoscafe

flamenco

Anu recorded a short video and  uploaded it on the Youtube too! Click here to see it: Flamenco in Sacromonte

Moorish Houses
Yes, I mentioned the white-walled houses. Both in Sacromonte and Granada, the houses have a distinct style — a Moorish influence. We found a lot of houses with name Carmen, and I thought it was the influence of the Opera by Georges Bizet³! It turns out that I was wrong! A Carmen is a house with a garden; the Arabic word for vine is Karm, so Carmen is a Garden Villa!

carmen3

carmenhouse

Street Musicians
Great performances are not limited to Flamenco in the Sacromonte taverns alone. They are all over the streets of Granada. On the streets, there are extremely talented musicians playing a wide variety of instruments. Many of them are “concert-hall class”, but they seem to be happy performing for small tips that they receive from passers-by. Sheer love of music, perhaps? There was even one Japanese musician playing the  Vuvuzela in order to finance his travels across Europe!

music1

music2

Food
Spanish cuisine is a genre by itself. Some Indians may not appreciate it; but Granada has a whole range of Arab cuisine that suits the Indian tongue: Shawarma, Chicken Kebab, Pilaf, Falafel, Potato Skins and so on. The Moorish influence lives on in the many Algerian & Moroccan restaurants.

streetcafe

shawarmaking

Just loafing…
If you are the type who likes to just loaf around, ah, there is the Hop-on-Hop-off City tour. It looks like a toy-train that has escaped from a kid’s bedroom– but does the job quite well!

hoponhopoff
If you are a die-hard souvenir shopper (unlike me), there are many places to do just that. We found an interesting place  close to where we stayed. Just next to the Alhambra, is the Puerta de las Granadas (Gate of the Pomegranates). This Gate leads to a sloping street  (Cuesta de Gomerez) that connects to Plaza Nueva. This street is dotted with quaint little shops selling all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs. Great for browsing, perhaps expensive to buy!

pomegranategatePuerta de las Granadas
souvenires

Window-shopping in Cuesta de Gomerez

Mind your language

Granada (and indeed, all Spain) is very tourist-friendly. There are English sign-boards in most main places and one can usually get by with English. The sign-boards are not exactly in Queen’s English — or may we are talking of a different Queen here? It takes a tad longer to understand them, yet none can deny this: the  sign-boards are charming in a Spanish kind of way !

english2Labours of Maintenance: Tougher than Labours of Hercules?

english1And, what may be these ‘Improper’ uses?

Notes & Trivia

1.There are many lovely versions of Granada. Here’s one of them: Placido Domingo & Zubin Mehta
2. The name Darro is believed to be from D’Auro (of Gold) because the River Darro had sediments of Gold.
3. Carmen was the most famous Opera by Georges Bizet. It is about a  soldier who falls madly (and hopelessly) in love with a Gypsy in Andalusia (where Granada is). Here is a piece from the opera which I love: Carmen suite

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