What do you expect when first arriving to an unknown city? Arriving to Granada, I was pleasantly surprised. A one-day stay quickly turned into five: a combination of couchsurfing, hostel and camping above the city.
At first I wasn’t impressed with Granada, cycling in on the main roads it looked like just another drab city. But I was reminded that first impressions can be deceiving, and after a while I found myself in the old Arab town, the Albayzín, where street musicians, artists, Arabic shops, tea houses and restaurants can be found aplenty. Cute white-washed buildings and winding streets reminded me of the old town in Zagreb, but more secretive and harder to navigate. Food is cheap, and the free tapas continue (importantly).
Everything became much more intriguing when I joined the free tour with the hostel, which was a little unorthodox. We began walking around the old town before ascending the hill to the church of San Miguel overlooking the city. All this was pretty standard until we got near the top, when things got interesting. There are several caves up here, much like the surrounding areas of Granada. Built into the rocks and many with electricity, gardens and vegetable patches, we met some Senegalese men who actually live here.
I believe most are just squatting, but what else to do with a derelict building (*cough* cave)? Apart from just looking totally badass in army-camo / semi-hippie gear, the guys offered us typical Senegalese coffee and showed us inside their houses. Many contain all the mod-cons like sofas, TVs and bedrooms. Outside were some plants, a barbecue and some puppies came up to play with us. And nobody can deny these guys have the best view of the city.
It seems like they just sit here all day jamming, banging their handmade drums and enjoying the sunshine. The tour continued to the top where we caught the sunset behind the hills surrounding the city.
The following day, I visited the Alhambra, the famous palace overlooking the city, with some people from the hostel. It’s sort of like an Arabic Edinburgh Castle, encircled by a high wall and trees.
There are many free parts and some of the stonework is pretty impressive. How long would it take to carve all this by hand? And there are hundreds of walls like this one.
Many beers and tapas later, a few of us returned to the hills around the city to look for a place to camp. Many gypsies stay in their motor-homes behind the cave houses, as the police seldom move them on, and so our reasoning was, if we were camping for only one night, why would we get in trouble? We got a little lost, made a little fire and talked into the night before heading back to the hostel a little drunk, accidentally walking through a bunch of private property and jumping a wall.
We did camp the following day though. And it was a great night sitting by the fire, playing games and chatting, with one of the best views of the Alhambra.
Then it was off for some new adventures with some new friends on the other side of Sierra Nevada…but that’s a story for another day. Until then, do you think you could live in a cave house? And do you think the gypsies should be allowed to stay for free (especially with that view)? Let me know what you think in the comments. Catch ye efter.