Alhambra de Granada - Albaicín

Just close before I visited Andalucía in March 2019 I had bought Kurt Hielscher's Spain photoalbum. For me, it was a test. How would it work out if I would expand my Yugoslavia photoproject to another country? The test was the Alhambra de Granada opening the book with a collection of 22 photos! It took me less than half an hour to make the decision. Ofcourse the Alhambra itself is stunning. These photos made the experience overwhelming for me. I only managed to capture some, but now I was sure I wanted to expand the project to other countries, Spain to start with. Soon I would buy the other books as well and started to visit the places in it.

The Alhambra de Granada with the mighty and snowy Sierra Nevada in the back as seen from Albaicín.

Photo: Kurt Hielscher, shot somewhere between 1914 and 1919 during Kurt Hielscher's unplanned stay in Spain.

"Trotzig, mit grandioser Wucht ragen die Türme der Alhambra aus der Tiefe empor, in ihrem Rot wie flammende Riesenopferaltäre zum Himmel lodernd." - Kurt Hielscher

"Glorious, with grandiose force, the towers of the Alhambra rise up from the depths, blazing red up to the sky like giant flaming sacrificial altars." - Kurt Hielscher in the preface of his Spain photoalbum. This is what the Alhambra looks like from a distance. I can agree on this with Kurt Hielscher. Impressive and inviting for anyone who is a little curious. You can't wait to start exploring. To wander through the complex and let oneself become surprised just around every corner, by a detail or a wide view. It simply does not stop, but there comes a time at the end of the day that you have to decide to leave.

Just inside the Generalife for a few moments and then this. Photo: Casper Molenaar, 5th of March 2019

I remember us, me, my wife and our boys, 11 and 8 years old at the time, queued up at the entrance full of expectations but also annoyed by the number of other tourists. We were about to forget the crowds soon when our eyes got caught by the details and the views from the Generalife. Well for a while then. When I tried to make the photos ofcourse I was disturbed by the number of people moving all the time, but I realised these photos with the people and their cellphones could also become a way to show the timejump of a hundred years.

Colonnade el Generalife, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt HIelscher.

Colonnade el Generalife with my youngest son as tourist, 5th of March 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

In 1237 the Arab Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar gained power over Granada, Málaga and Almería. The Nasrid dynasty emerged. Mohammed I became the first Muslim monarch in Spain. He wanted to modify and extend the original ninth-century citadel into a new Alhambra. In 1238 a design was made. It would consist of six palaces, two towers and various bathhouses. Under Mohammed I, the first palace in the Alhambra was built: the Alcazaba. The Sultan of Granada Yusuf I turned it into a roya palace in 1333. In 1492 the Alhambra fell into the hands of Christian leaders. The palaces were partly changed in the Renaissance style. When diving deeper into its history one can see all the changes and additions that have been made over the centuries, but not so much by comparing Kurt Hielscher's photos and mine. 

Palacio de Generalife, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Palacio de Generalife, 5th of March 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Entrada del Generalife, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Entrada del Generalife, March 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

Sala de los Reyes, the Hall of the Kings or Justice Hall, a good example of the stunning interior of the Alhambra. Kurt Hielscher also made a photo, but I only found that out afterwards. At the time I was there, I did not realize it was the Sala de la Justicia, the name Kurt Hielscher gave to this hall in his book. Kurt Hielscher was only a few meters to the back and left when he made his. Photo: Casper Molenaar, March 2019

Sala de la Justicia over a Century ago by Kurt Hielscher

Patio de los leones, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Patio de los leones, 5th of March 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.  

La fuente en el patio de los leones, 1914-1919. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

La fuente en el patio de los leones, 5th of March 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Patio de los Arrayanes, 1914-1919. Photo: Kurt Hielscher

Patio de los Arrayanes, 5th of March 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Patio de los Arrayanes, 1914-1919. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Patio de los Arrayanes, 5th of March 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar. With my oldest son at the age of twelve.

Patio de Diraxa a century ago. Photo: Kurt Hielscher

Patio de Diraxa: check the trees. 5th of March 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Mirador de Diraxa, 1914-1919. Photo: Kurt Hielscher

Mirador de Diraxa, 5th of March 2019. Sometimes it is hard to make the exact same shot when there's a lot of movement surrounding you. Photo: Casper Molenaar

Today's name of this characteristic street is Carrera del Darro and it is situated at the leftbank of the Darro river, just between the Albaicín neighboorhood and the worldfamous Alhambra de Granada. Kurt Hielscher did not make his photo from the street but probably from one of the balconies of the streets houses. Strolling this street to the east one leaves behind the lively city centre of Granada with its bars and restaurants. The walk becomes even more special when one turns left up through Albaicín. Every few dozens of meters one can look down back on this quarter and up to the impressive Alhambra. There are viewpoints all over the place and another reward of the "climb" is a look at the snowy tops of the Sierra Nevada.   

Carrera del Darro, Granada, 1914-1919. Photo: Kurt Hielscher

Carrera del Darro, Granada, 5th of March 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

For me my visit to the Alhambra became a special experience. For a long time it was on the bucket list of my wife Kim to bring me and the boys to Andalucía and the Alhambra in particular. I hestitated for years, clinging on to my favorite part of Europe: the Balkans. But now I am so happy to have my scope extended, and therefore my photoproject. It was also a nice day with my family: leaving from Malaga in the morning, went for a swim and an ice-cream in nerja and then in the afternoon to the Alhambra and in the evening we strolled around the city center of Granada. A day full of impressions, unforgettable to experience it with my wife and children and Kurt Hielscher's photobook under my arm. And then Córdoba, Antequera and Ronda were yet to come, but I already got the taste. Only three months later I would make a second round to Andalucía. This time on my own. I managed to go to Antequera again, but also Écija, Carmona, Alcalá de Guadaíra, Sevilla, Arcos de la Frontera, Jerez de la Frontera, Vejer de la Frontera, Tarifa and Algatocín.

This is the first page of the first photobook from Kurt Hielscher. It shows a churchbell as well as the Alhambra and the snowy tops of the Sierra Nevada. The photo is probably taken from the Aljibe de San Cristóbal at the top of the neighboorhood Albaicín in Granada, but I am not sure about that. I will be more than happy to come back one day and find out. Most tourists go to another viewpoint and church: the Iglesia de San Nicholás. From there it is only a 500 meters walk but we did not do that. I had only one change to go to the right mirador, but chose the wrong one, but with a view as spectacular as Kurt Hielscher's one above.  

Viewpoint/Mirador de San Nicholás in Albaicín on the Alhambra de Granada the morning after our visit in March 2019.

Below: View on the Alhambra de Granada from the Generalife. Photo: Casper Molenaar, 2019

in the footsteps of Kurt Hielscher