We went to Granada to see Torin. He has been hanging out and working in southern Spain and happened to be working an extended stretch in a hostel in Granada. He has talked to us about Granada for some time and figured we’d like it here… so we went. It was everything he claimed and more, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time here, exploring the city, going for a spa, wandering up into the Museum of Sacromonte and seeing the currently occupied caves. We had an apartment rented right in the heart of the city and it was a great base from which to explore. The only frustration in our time here was that we were not able to get into the Alambra. That is the price one pays for not planning ahead, and in reality, you need to plan months ahead to get in there, particularly at the height of tourist season, which it was. It just wasn’t going to happen for Mary and I since we can barely manage to plan a week ahead.
But we had a great time and enjoyed re-connecting with Torin yet again and seeing where he worked. We did use his connections at the hostel to get in to see a traditional flamenco show. It was down in a small crowded basement bar and was something we probably wouldn’t have found on our own.
Let’s talk about food… during our time here in Spain we’ve had a bit of a challenge figuring out how and when to eat. We’ve talked in previous blogs about adjusting to eating late and eating tapas. In Granada, tapas is definitely the way to go. For every drink (sometimes non-alcoholic drinks counted), you got one tapa, so provided you drank enough, you could get a free dinner (not counting the money you spent on drinks). But it was a matter of balance and sometimes it worked (if the establishment was generous with their tapas), and sometimes you finished the evening feeling you had enough to drink but you were still a little hungry.
We had arrived in Granada the week that Semana Santa – the week before Easter – was starting. This is a big deal in Spain and an event worth taking in; though if you happen to be in Spain the week before Easter, you will have no choice but to take it in as it takes place all over. The cities of Granada, Malaga and Seville are the most active and we happened to catch it in both Granada and Malaga.
What happens are a multitude of processions (like a parade but with a religious theme). These processions last for hours and weave in and around the city, usually starting at noon and some lasting right through the night. Most consist of a group of individuals (men I think) with large pointy hats, masks and long robes, a brass band, a group of women dressed in black, and a float carried by a large number of very strong men.
The men in robes and pointy hats would be more familiar (sadly) to us as the KKK but in fact, these processions and the outfits they wear have been in place long before the KKK. But it’s hard to get over that image, even with the different colors.
The women in black are very sombre as they march with veils over their faces and carrying candles. Then again, I guess that’s to be expected given the story that this is to represent. But then we have the brass bands which don’t really fit with the whole theme but then music is always a welcome addition to any parade. The floats are huge and commonly require the services of 50 men to carry them. They all wear padding on the back of their necks and shoulders and there are usually at least two teams since they must carry this for hours on end. The synchronicity is quite something to watch. To start, they get a signal from their leader to take their position, which is usually squatting under the support beam. Another signal and they all lift together, and a third symbol they all start marching swaying slightly from side to side. The float often carries hundreds of real candles and a life size religious figure. Sometimes the men carrying the float are actually underneath it, hidden by a large skirt around the float.
These processions go on for a week so at some point, the novelty wears off and then it becomes a challenge to move about the city without being stopped by them. At one point, Mary was on the opposite side of a procession as Torin and I and it took a good 45 minutes before we were reunited on our side. She finally ended up just cutting across a procession which didn’t make her any friends. Some people take these processions pretty seriously.