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Visiting Granada, Spain including the world famous Alhambra and dealing with lost Russian tourists

Posted by on October 30, 2011
Alhambra outside from a distance

Alhambra from a distance

And so here I am in Costa del Sol, going on a typical tourist bus trip to some tourist location with a bunch of other tourists. I signed up to go on this particular trip en-route to Granada, Spain, to see a very famous castle called Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Stage, built back in the 14thcentury. Originally, it was built by the Moors and later conquered by the Spanish to create an interesting blend of architecture intertwining Moorish/Muslim and Spanish/Catholic influences. It is a very majestic place with a lot of history inside of its walls. The picture that is mostly correlated with Alhambra is that of the Patio de los Arrayanes where a corridor with a pool showing a reflection of some of the architecture as shown below.

Patio de los Arrayanes, Alhambra

Patio de los Arrayanes - not professional but my own picture

But the insides of this castle has even more to offer. Take a look at this arena/coliseum that was also built. I have no doubt that this was a Roman inspiration of sorts for fights or even receptions or parties back in the day. However, I’ve heard from the tour guide that the arena is used from time to time for music concerts for children to pay for their parents – not a bad place to play and/or sing surrounded by history.

Alhambra Circular Arena

Alhambra Circular Arena

But it’s the inside of these towers that really captured my eye. I couldn’t believe how much fine detail was put into these walls and ceilings and supposedly, there was a lot of color put into them before time took its toll on the paint and slowly disintegrated away.

Alhambra descriptive wall, ceiling, corner

Alhambra tower's descriptive wall and ceiling

Alhambra descriptive wall, ceiling, corner

More of Alhambra tower's descriptive wall and ceiling

Alhambra descriptive wall up-close

Look at how much detail was put just into the wall!

Alhambra watch towers

Alhambra Watch Towers

There is a lot to see about this place as you can already see the history of it everywhere in this place. Many people from all over the world come to see this place making it of the top three most visited sites in Spain. This place was also considered as a finalist to be one of the new 7 world wonders of the world because of its uniqueness. Even the city of Granada itself was a nice place to hang out and look around especially with all the eye candy walking around. I’ve never seen so many good-looking women taking a stroll in a city like that – even our tour guide would poke an elbow in my ribs telling me to look over there – amazing, pretty girl! He later told me that like Alhambra itself, Granada also intermixed its Moorish and Spanish population leading to great blend of well-shaped eyes in the women. I don’t know if that’s true or not but it seemed plausible to me.

Despite the grandness of the mixtures of the city, people, and Alhambra, there’s another thing I have to talk about which is about the tourists which it made this trip really stand out like a red dot on a white background. Many of the tourists are obviously Europeans on this trip and a vast majority of them are Russians. I have nothing against Russians as some of them are probably my ancestors but I’m going to explain why I pointed them out.

Most Russian visitors to Spain do not and cannot speak Spanish nor English which can be a very bad thing. I don’t know why but I theorize that Western languages are difficult to learn for Cyrillic/Slavic speakers. Anyhow, after the tour of Alhambra was over, all of the tourists including myself got back on the bus on-time to go back to the hotel. There was only one big problem. One of the Russian tourists was missing and presumed to be lost. I could see that there was some panic on the faces of the tour guide and his Russian translator. The immense size of Alhambra meant that security had to start looking for this Russian guy and it was already problematic for the rest of us tourists on the bus which meant that we all had to stay there, delayed until that one guy was found. Wow, was some of the people pissed especially the non-Russians (particularly the punctual Germans) to where people started throwing around verbal insults at each other about how Russians were bad tourists while the Russians thought the non-Russians were not fully understanding and hateful. The entire session was in broken verbal English lashing or whatever language everyone was throwing at each other lasting for about an hour until the missing guy was found which I thought the entire thing was pretty funny. The bus ride back was a little tense and I could still feel the heat especially the Germans and Russians (C’mon, guys, WWII was over in 1945! And this is Spain by the way!) but everyone made it back alright despite the missing Russian guy thinking it was okay to just walk off and explore on his own instead of following the guide and the rules.

Remember what I said about knowing something about the language of the foreign country you’re going to? Well, this is where you’re going to need it. Even if you think you’re going to be okay without it and think that everyone speaks English or some other language – think again! That’s how a non-English, non-Spanish speaking Russian got lost at Alhambra castle because he did not know anything about foreign languages and decided that he could do whatever he wanted. All I can say is wrong answer! If you’re not willing to learn the language, at least do this: respect the culture, customs, language, people, and follow the rules. It’s not that hard to do. Because the moment you break some rules thinking you’re king, you’ll find yourself in a world of hurt.

It is the same anywhere in the world and not just in Spain. I remember watching this drunk American guy in a bar in Thailand going off with verbal insults about how everything in Thailand sucked until one guy, presumably a Thai guy, walked up to him and kicked him in the head and knocked him out unconscious. What it made it even worse was when police showed up, the American guy was simply hauled away in cuffs and off to prison. When you have no idea how everything works, it might not be a great situation at all if you don’t respect the system put in place. So in other words, don’t be that guy. Remember you’re basically a guest in a foreign country and you should act accordingly. You certainly don’t have misbehaving, loud, foul-mouth people in your house causing all kinds of havoc. Ensure that you keep that in mind when going abroad. You’re visiting someone else’s home that truly enjoys living there and I’m sure he/she would say that YOUR home isn’t all that great either.

serrano ham slices, spanish ham, mountain pig slices, cured pork

serrano ham - it's good

One more thing I have to mention is that if you don’t know the language, customs, and culture, you probably have no clue about the food either. On the way back, the bus still made a tea/coffee stop where I found myself staring at some serrano ham (jamón serrano) and ordered some. None of the other tourists knew what I was eating and some were actually looking at me oddly because I was eating something they weren’t used to. They’re basically dry-cured thinly-sliced ham pieces from special-raised pigs which you’ll know if it’s available by looking if there are hanging ham legs in every cafe or restaurant. I have to say they’re great to eat but can get quite expensive if you’re eating too much of it in Spain.