Section: Features

Notes from abroad: Granada, Spain

The first time I heard the Spanish phrase “no pasa nada,” I was running a couple minutes late for class. I had gotten lost in Granada’s narrow, twisting cobblestone streets and reached my orientation room at 9:02 a.m., slightly out of breath. But rather than face a disgruntled professor, I was greeted with a friendly “no pasa nada” and instantly felt much better.

The sentiment — which roughly translates to “it doesn’t matter” or “don’t worry about it” — is just one of many Spanish phrases I’ve encountered, but it is also a testament to the laidback attitude of the Spanish people. The Granadinos (the name for residents of Granada) take life one moment at a time, at a comfortable and leisurely pace, embodying the idea of “go with the flow,” in the spirit of the two rivers, the Darro and the Genil, that run under the city’s streets.

Rarely do you see anyone in a rush (sometimes when I walk quickly, I get strange looks), and not stopping to chat on the street is simply unheard of. The Granadinos even plan their schedules to allow for maximum leisure time. Between 2 and 5 p.m. most stores close to allow employees to go home to eat with their families and even take a siesta if they so choose. I consider napping one of my favorite hobbies, so discovering this tidbit was quite exciting.

Once I’m done with my siesta, I love to explore the town. Granada is pretty small, so everything is walkable. The city was the last Muslim stronghold to fall to the Catholic Ferdinand and Isabella during the Reconquista (the period from 711 to 1492 A.D. that marked the return of Christian rule in the Iberian Peninsula), so Islamic architecture is prevalent. All mosques were converted into churches, and many original walls, arches and palaces remain as a testament to Granada’s past.

The city’s classically Muslim neighborhood, El Albaicín, is one of my favorite places to visit. Small white houses line either side of the narrow, uneven streets, which join together in the most intricate ways to form a complicated labyrinth. Getting around El Albaicín is definitely a challenge (I can see why it was so difficult to conquer), but it also houses some beautiful parks and churches that make the journey worth it. And, even better, it has a magical convent with muffin-baking nuns who sell bags of “magdalenas” in response to a secret password and a fistful of coins. (No joke.)

And who can forget the Alhambra? The magical fortress stands proud and tall over all the city, its bells ringing in a rhythmic, enchanting tune. It’s surreal to think of all of the people before me who gazed at the Alhambra or walked along its walls, and I sometimes feel like this is all a dream.

But then I remember where I am, and think of Granada’s beautiful plazas, delicious churros con chocolate, captivating flamenco and mouthwatering tapas. Oh, the tapas. I am still in awe of this beautiful system in which you pay for a drink and get a free plate of delicious foods. There are so many different types to choose from — my favorites are shawarma, falafel, risotto and piri-piri chicken — and you can easily pay as little as two euro for a satisfying dinner.

A year ago, I didn’t know where I wanted to go abroad. But Granada has proven to be the perfect place for me. It has everything I want in a city — a different language, a new culture, a rich history, a sense of adventure — and I can’t wait to see how the rest of my semester unfolds.


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