Travelers knew long before scientists that time is not a constant. There are places, everyone knows at least one, where time runs slow. Granada is such a place, and the rushed travelers who file into the city fight the pace of the city and invariably lose.
I was lucky to be a student in Valencia, and luckier still to have a girl willing to cross the Atlantic and go with me from city to city in Andalucia. She told me Andalucia, which is the driest part of Europe, means “place of water.” As you slide through the surprisingly green Sierra Nevada, you see what they mean.
The air here, a local explains, is always cool. The buildings seem universally white with black wrought iron fixtures. The exceptions are the palaces and Cathedrals atop the greater hills. Greatest of all is the “Red House”; the Alhambra. That’s our first stop.
We walked a bit around the grounds, which were endless. The fountains push water by no other means than gravity and feed the reflecting pools as they have for seven hundred years. A guide passes by with a group in tow. No fishing in these waters,he explained. The beauty of the water itself was what the Moorish kings prized.
The outer grounds were gardens full of fountains, and within the gardens the fortress itself had walls, palisades, moats, portcullises, and within the fortress stood a palace upon a palace. When the Spanish took the city and the Sultan who resided within cried when he turned it over. You need not ask why. Isabella and her heirs gilded the Lily by bulding more palaces, all in the latest fashions, on the grounds. Despite this, nothing seems newer. Through restoration or some other strange power, all seems equally ancient.
The city proper comes right up to the walls of the fortress, and we dined below, illuminated in sacred green, ordering whatever the waiter dared to mention. I asked Sara if she could imagine giving away the Alhambra, and she said it was living somewhere else after that boggled her mind. She ordered Granadas for dessert, which confused me until she explained that Granada is spanish for Pomegranate. They serve the seeds soaked in orange liqueur and covered in sugar. I finished mine and, feeling like a Sultan, ordered more.
Then it was truly night, though everything’s lit, so when we walk around the city we find no problem going up the cobblestones. Even though we are on the top of the mountain there is always something higher, so we follow the streets up past stalls selling guitarras, and you allow yourself to wonder how long something like them has guided this road.
A knowing crowd is happy to pull along passersby, and we found ourselves taken to a dancehall with wooden doors as black as the iron balconies above it. Inside, the smell of candles and sherry reassure you. The mountain air is not scented like Seville; you can’t smell Jasmine in every breath. Instead, you take in the sights and in them you discover the flavor of the place.
We took our seats at long tables. I had no idea what time it was. Before my phone ate my watch I compulsively checked the time. Checking a watch is admitting to waiting for something to begun or hoping something will end. I don’t recall checking mine that whole night.
Things got loud. A Man in a red sash claps and lifts the women in the air. The woman hold black fans and when the men lift them onto the tables, they wind those fans around themselves. Your eye is at their command and you look where the fans tell you. These Flamenco dancers, not Spanish at all my Basque grandmother maintained, are irrevocably associated with the country. Spain could no more banish the image then they could the Toro and his Toreador.
A song stops, and before the next one a dancer claims she will show us what her grandmother taught her. I knew that this is the way they danced a hundred years ago. It’s the way they will dance in a hundred more. We walked out later and saw what was clearly sunrise beyond the low hills. Unclear was the year. In Granada, there is no way of knowing when you are.
About the Author: Gregory Johnson is a writer living in Florida. He is the founder of Gainsayer.me and his fiction has been published by the Saturday Evening Post, Xenith, and Short, Fast, and Deadly Magazine. He holds a Masters in Creative Writing from The New School and is working on a novel.
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