Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Granada and its carmenes

Granada is famous for its many carmenes, houses that were built in a very unique style during the Muslim era. They are surrounded by high walls with no windows for defence and one little door to go in. This means that you don’t have any idea what might be inside the building when you look at it from the outside. When you step through the door a whole new world awaits for you.

These buildings usually have a square shape.The house is at the back and in front of it there's a huge, designed garden. This garden is full of life, a little green private oasis in the middle of the town and its design is only limited by the owner’s imagination. The word carmen originates from the Arabic karm which means 'grapevine' and you can always find grapes in them that climb up on the walls then continue overhead led with wires to provide shade. There are other plants as well, however, such as pomegranate, orange or lemon trees and many flowers that give the courtyard a lovely smell.

Those carmenes I have seen are in multiple levels (the neighbourhood of Albayzín is built on a hill) and on every level there was something special to explore. A pond, a fountain, a beautiful, well-positioned tree or a dense bush shaped as a dome. The water in the courtyard is led through by little channels and fountains in varied shapes and sizes.

There are many places in the city where you can visit a Carmen. Many hotels in Albayzín are carmenes and there are many carmen restaurants as well. These not only show you their hidden interior and their delicious food but also provide an amazing view over the Alhambra, too. It’s worth going for the experience even though they are quite pricey.

Even though most of these houses are in private hands there are a few that you can go into for free. During my time in Granada I visited the Carmen de la Victoria, de los Geranios, and de los Martires and their hidden treasures.

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