Weekly Photo Challenge : Masterpiece

Built in 1889 as a fortress, converted to a royal palace in 1333, the Alhambra in Granada, Andalucía in Spain,  has seen may changes over time, yet remains a masterpiece, and is my response to the “Masterpiece” prompt for this weeks “weekly photo challenge”. With a relatively plain exterior, the theme of “paradise on earth” becomes evident once you come across the reflection pools and intricate detailing within its walls. Craftsmanship of the highest calibre, without the aid of power tools, makes this a masterpiece worth visiting……………….the journey continues………..


Weekly Photo Challenge : Inside

Hmmm…Tuesday evening, I guess a little late but not too late to still make a submission for this weeks “Weekly photo challenge : Inside”. Looking at the number of responses to the challenge, almost 500 already, this is a popular topic :-).
My post for this challenge is about the inside of the Grand Mezquita – Cathedral in Cordoba – Southern Spain.

The site was originally a pagan temple, then a Visigothic Christian church, before the Umayyad Moors converted the building into a mosque and then built a new mosque on the site. After the Spanish Reconquista, it became a Roman Catholic church, with a plateresque cathedral later inserted into the centre of the large Moorish building. The Mezquita is regarded as the one of the most accomplished monuments of Islamic architecture. It was described by the poet Muhammad Iqbal:

“Sacred for lovers of art, you are the glory of faith,

You have made Andalusia pure as a holy land!”

I was there a few years ago, camera in hand and managed to get some shots of the inside of this amazing building and its numerous columns, some of these images make up my post for this challenge.

……….the journey continues……..

time to linger…amidst the clouds………….

The one thing that is consistently true about holidays, is that no matter how long or short, enjoyable or not, decent weather or not, far away from home or just down the road, they all come to an end :-(. Spending time in the Alpujarras was like being on a feelgood drug intravenously, aided by excellent weather over the festive season, it become infinitely more pleasurable. The opportunities to hike and explore the area were compounded as decent weather days literally just rolled from one into the next. The area ha a myriad of hiking routes and as I’ve said in previous posts, just so many villages to visit. Each of them with their tiny populations, clinging onto the hillside, almost like a single integrated structure.

One of the places I didnt mention in my previous blogs was Orgiva, capital of the Alpujarras. Very different in that it has a much larger population numbering some 5000. I suppose it is big enough to be called a town as opposed to a village, with its Hotels, Bars, Restaurants, Camping sites, and even two public squares. Thursday mornings sees a market take over the town, interestngly the town seems to have a large alternative/new age component so besides vegetables and wholefoods, hippie art, jewellery and even alternative treatments can be found there.

So as my time in the area was rapidly starting to diminish, I knew I hadnt seen enough, hadnt done enough etc etc. Because the place just has this way of captivating you. In a last act of desperatation, I decided to pack away the hiking boots, and climb into the car and go on a drive to try and cover more ground. This has the downside that you’re restricted to the roads that are neatly cut into the contours. Make no mistake, this is not easy driving, with hairpin bends galore, going around them too quickly will see you defying gravity not to mention reaching out for the paper bag :-). So the drive wound its way past a few villages and seemed to just keep climbing until you got to a slender ridge, on one side of which you could see deep into the valley below, and on the other side there was rapidly rising layer of mist, nice and thick, filling the entire depth of the valley on the other side, and softly beginning to stroke the level that the raod was on, almost eerie, though in a nice way, completely surreal. It was incredible because as the road wove its way along this ridge, so you drove into and emerged from this soft white cloud. A short while later, there was a junction with a bunch of roadsigns on it, clearly an important turning point for people headed in all directions. It was rather opportune that at that very junction was a bar/restaurant/coffee shop, almost like a way point, a destination, a change in direction, a decision point, a turn around point,  where you stopped, had a coffee while you contemplated where you were going to next. Somehow, this seemed to be gathering point of many souls, probably of the clouds too, all at this transition point, before moving off somewhere else.

There was a road to the coast, but I was pretty content with being in the mountains, so just lingered in the coffee shop for a while, chatted to some locals, before reluctantly making my way back to my lodgings to prepare for the long way home :-(. Alpujarras was one of my memorable journeys, to those of you that joined this particular blogging journey with me, thank you, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed telling you about it.  The journey continues ……………………………….. 

Todays images are just moments along the way………..moments along the drive and in the Alpujarras…………………………………..

Jamones…..fit for a Queen….

I must confess that when I first started looking at visiting the Alpujarras, I had no idea, maybe I should correct that, I did not notice that Jamon Serrano (cured ham) was such a significant export item from the area. The obvious reasoning behind my not even taking notice of that fact is that I dont eat it… 🙂 so highley unlikely that its something that would have jumped at me while I was discovering what an amazing area this was for hiking.

So imagine my surprise when as I got closer to the villages I was travelling to, I started noticing these huge pieces of Jamones hanging in shop windows, out in the open inside some shops, but very much in what I would refer to as front of house. Pardon me for my ignorance about how these things are dried, and the merits of how it is done. And the closer you got to the higher villages, there seemed to be just more and more of it whereever you looked. So, when I arrived one morning at the breakfast room of a pension I was staying at, I was confronted by a whole array of these stands laden with Jamones, literally surrounding the table, small ones, big ones, pink ones, darker ones, wetter and drier ones, all just hanging out there with a little cup below to collect any residue that may be dripping off it. You almost had to weave your way around to get into the chair. Fortunately for me, I dont consume any ham, so having breakfast being overlooked by these huge pieces of Jamon was extremely unusual, perhaps a tad out of the ordinary, almost a little over the top for me. But, spare a thought for the poor dude having ham and eggs for breakfast, bet he was feeling a bit imtimidated, being overlooked by these huge Jamones that were probably still running around not too long ago :-(. No offence intended to those that enjoy these Jamones, this is just my perspective.

So I figured, this was significant enough to read about, and flipped through my trusty lonely planet Andalucia….and sure as nuts on page 362 under Trevelez were all the facts, neatly laid out and amongst them the one that I obviously didnt notice……So lets look at all three…Trevelez at 1495m claims to be the highest village on the mountainside, it is a frequent starting point for accents of the high Sierra Nevada – I would have noticed the first  two :-), and it produces some of the countrys best Jamon serrano which is trucked in from far and wide for curing in Trevelez’s dry mountain air. See, now thats the one that would have gone right over my head like a speed read 🙂

I’ve read that the significance of the region for producing Jamones of the best quality is reinforced by the fact that it has the Royal Seal of approval, making them fit for a Queen. Once you’re aware of the facts, the whole picture comes together, throughout the region are buildings with signage noting the building is a Jamones reserve, presumably a holding area fro the already cured jamon, or perhaps just a larger space where it is cured . Once again, I must emphasise no offence intended to Jamones lovers………………………………

The journey continues………………………………………Todays images are of some of the buildings I came across, and yep! a close up of some jamones …………………..



car lights shine only in a straight line………….. :-)

This recent excursion to the Agulhas region with the blog, has put me into a kindof holiday mood 🙂 and I started become nostalgic about some of the holidays I had been on previously. I think I did mention somewhere that I’m an eternal traveller, but with one slight problem, according to me, I just dont do it enough :-). So I figured, why not do some armchair travelling instead, its also a kind of journey after all.

So, here we go, this time we are heading overseas, yep! “pesheya” as they would say in Zulu (one of the local languages), so fasten your seatbelts :-). We’re heading to the Alpujarras, “oh!no! there he goes again heading off to some remote place again” I can hear you exclaim :-). Well, fortunately, we have our good friend Google Earth to show the way to those of you that dont know, and are interested to know. Alpujarras is a region of Andalucia in Southern Spain and is situated east of Granada nestled below the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The town we are heading to first is Lanjaron, which is kindof a gateway to the region, well, maybe not, but for me it was. I had the privelage to visit this wonderful area a few years ago. Incredibly scenic and tranquil.

South Africa is a large country and travel between cities by road is much faster than most places in the world. Probably because we have the space and the road infrastructure connecting the major cities is relatively good. So,  when travelling, one often makes the mistake of misjudging the amount of time it takes to travel distances. Such was the case on the trip to the Alpujarras. Left Granada in the late afternoon, and headed towards Pampaneira which is less than a hundred kilometres away, no problem, forty five minutes, tops :-). All well and good bar a few small minor details 🙂 Well, firstly there was stacks of traffic leaving Granada, everybody else who was still working, was heading home 🙂 This was mid winter so the sun sets reasonably early!!  Driving is one the right hand side, in a left hand drive car, something I was not entirely familiar with, everything is the other way round here!!. Neverthless, I was positive, no problems, we’ll get there pretty soon. The motorway was a good opportunity to become familiar driving on the “opposite” side :-), however, once the road veered off into the mountain as it became increasingly darker another little detail became very apparrent…..car lights shine only in a straight line 🙂 and negotiating hairpin bends on a road you’re not familiar with, that has signage in a language you dont understand can be seriously difficult. Visulaise this you’re cruising along at 60 km an hour, and there is a hairpin bend sign ahead, so you slow down to negotiate the bend, and as you enter the bend the lights are shining straight ahead onto an olive tree plantation and theres no road ahead anymore 🙂 it just happens to veer away to your left 🙂  Well, needless to say I decided that Lanjaron was going to be the pitstop until daylight resumed.

The landscape is pretty steep, with numerous terraces and roads cut into the contours. As Density of buildings is very high. I read that the area of the Alpujarras covers 2500 km and contains 40 villages only six of which exceeds 200 inhabitants…So, this is about the beginning of my visit to the area…the journey continues…………………..  

Todays images are of the Lanjaron region, with the steep slopes, contours, winding roads, olive tree plantations, roadside stalls, dense villages and snow capped mountan tops. All these images taken with Canon G3