“Shtinkin!” + Ancient Moorish Castles


Hola! In typical fashion, I am once again writing to you from public transit, this time a bus that is taking me from Seville to Granada, Spain. I have been quite the busy (and often tired) bee, which is why I haven’t posted since last week. In that time, I spent a handful of days in Faro, then Lagos, and most recently Seville. On the buses and trains I took to and from these places I was simply too exhausted to do more than read my book, if that. I was re-reading Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, as I did last summer. Most of the time, however, I head my head against the glass of a window seat.

I ended up spending 3 nights in Faro, mainly with some friends I made and endless hours on the beach and the bay. I hunted for shells, ate fish, and drank beer with people from all over Europe, some south Americans, and one man from Japan. Bene was my favorite to hang out with- he became my go to eating/drinking/beach hanging partner in crime. He has long blonde hair and is covered in tattoos, yet despite his appearance only surfed a day in his life and was quite introverted. Excellent company in a smaller crowd. He plays base in an alt-rock/metal band in Germany though many of their songs are in English or Russian, and likes to make sand donuts out of crunchy sand. I, on the other hand, preferred to disintegrate my sand pieces by crushing them all at once.

At this point, I have a well-rounded network of German friends to visit whenever I find my way there, because it turns out, all the Germans have left the motherland and are vacationing in Portugal! I talked to a few Austrians who fell somewhere within the range of exasperation and doggedly amused that they left eastern Europe and yet still find themselves surrounded by people speaking German.

Apparently, the German word for ”smelly” is ”Shtinkin!” Amazing. They even have a word for ”good smelling” and its quite lovely actually: “reichen” <3

After Faro, I hopped on a train with Luca and Lukas (both German) on a sporadic adventure to Lagos! I hadn’t intended to make it there, but they showed me pictures of blue-green water and caves lining coves of rocky beaches and I couldn’t resist. I’m glad I didn’t, because I had a blast meeting more people at the hostel and hanging out with those two. Lukas told me ridiculous stories including the time he and three friends stole a bus in Vietnam, drove it back to the hostel, and narrowly avoided going to Vietnamese prison by paying off 7 angry men, while Luka became my adventure buddy, the only one willing to go swimming and paddle boarding and who somehow convinced me to run into freezing ocean water at 7 in the goddamn morning.

Getting a little carsick on this bus ride so I may have to wait until Granada to finish writing…


Alrighty. The image of my current situation: jean shorts and a baggy t-shirt, surrounded by rainbow hammocks strung beneath a plated canopy and a turtle named Elli keeping me company. Several trees surround me in this fun sized courtyard including a lime, olive, and Granada (pomegranate) tree. I have just stuffed my stomach full with two of these deliciously juicy fruits. Just checked into Amaka house for my last two nights in Granada before I fly back to Porto on Thursday. Time doesn’t fly on this trip- it ceases to exist. Moments, days, hours all feel as if they last an eternity, yet disappear in the blink of an eye. 

Yesterday I hiked in the Sierra Nevada. Major bucket list moment. Now I can say that I have hiked both Sierra ranges in the course of one year- the North American and the Spanish. I went with a small group led by a volunteer from the other hostel I stayed at, Eco Hostel. The trail followed a river into the heart of the front range, across bouncy bridges and into a mixed landscape of desert rock, grassland, and thick deciduous forest ripe with fall leaves. On our way back we all took freezing waterfall showers and let the sun dry us as we came back out of the higher elevations and into the delicate heat of Granada. On our way up, the Irish guy who was leading us revealed that he did not know what geocaching was (gasp!), and during the course of my explanation, a girl from the Netherlands who DID know what I was talking about and was a fan herself, looked up one that just so happened to be within a hundred meters of where we were! After scaling some boulders, I found it and we all signed our names. It was a very fun coincidence. We left a Portuguese book mark I had been carrying in the box of trinkets and re-hid the container among the pile of rocks. 

The other major highlight of Granada, and the one I had been specifically looking forward to, was the Alhambra (Al-Hamara in Arabic). I went with a friend of mine, Morad, on Saturday. When I arrived in Granada I went on one of the free walking tours that the hostel offered (amazing sunset views and a climb into the old Gypsy quarter, as well as a trek through a street I’ve come to call the ‘Falafel Strip’). The guy who led us, Marcus, alerted me to the fact that I’d most likely not be able to get a ticket one or two days in advance, as people book them weeks ahead of time. Boo. When I checked the website it seemed he was right, which I was pretty sad about. So that night, after doing a second walking tour of my own in search of falafel and nightitme views, I came back to the hostel common area/kitchen and ended up talking to Morad. He mentioned that at midnight, they release more ticket times and if you’re quick, you may have a chance to snag one. So midnight came, and he got his ticket, but the website crashed on my phone! I wasn’t the only one this happened to- I think it had something to do with the server or sim card. Anyway, he offered to grab me a ticket while he was buying his, and that way I could just pay him back. Yay! Since we ordered together we got the same ticket time and ended up spending the entire next day exploring Alhambra- after being out till 4am with two other friends the night we bought the tickets. The four of us, an Israeli, an Australian, a Catholic Palestinian, and an American- made up quite the group and a great time. We even got turned away from clubs for not being dressed nice enough. Ha! Thats how you know you’re in good company. It is true, though, everyone in Europe looks spiffy as heck. I’ve met maybe one or two other people on this whole trip that wear sports shorts like me LOL. 

Anyhoo- it ended up being really cool going to Alhambra with Morad because he speaks fluent Arabic, English, and Hebrew – so I could talk to him normally, practice some Hebrew, and he could translate the thousands of Islamic inscriptions which covered nearly every surface of every palace we saw. Granted, most of them said the same thing- the motto of the Nasrid family, the Moorish dynasty that ruled Granada from 1238 to 1492. The general translation is: “We believe in one god; there is only one god”. No wonder the Jews and the Muslims got along! The Sultan and his court were exiled by the Castile Christians, though the Alhambra was deemed too precious to destroy. I was told that the Sultan spent his last days before conquer partying (as he should) in this heavenly palace upon the hill. When forced to flee to Fez, he did not look back until reaching the mountains, at which point his mother gave him permission to “cry like a girl” (so it is said). It took 150 years to complete the Alhambra, and after spending 6+ hours there, I can confirm this claim to have zero exaggeration. It is truly a sight to behold. It would have taken any normal civilization hundreds of years, but alas, this is the Muslims we’re talking about! When Europeans were still convinced the Earth was flat, Islamic scholars were studying astronomy and inventing alcohol in Baghdad. The mathematical genius inherent to the artistry, architecture, and irrigation systems present within the Alhambra have baffled historians for years. For example: there is a fountain encircled by 12 lions, whose mouths once spouted water according to the hour of the day. At 1 o’ clock, only the lion resting at the 1 o’clock position would produce a jet of liquid tapped from the rivers of the Sierra range beyond. At some point the fountains were tampered with in an attempt to solve the mystery of how they worked- one was taken out and deconstructed, but when it was replaced in its position, the whole system failed. *** sources here differ on who tampered and when. This fountain reflects the status of the whole palace system as a feat of hydraulic engineering- very rarely could you venture anywhere within the grounds where there wasn’t a gently trickling stream or bubbling pool. It was made in the image of heaven according to the Quran- where water flows freely and fruit abounds in the coolness of a palace upon a hill. Why be afraid of death when you could look forward to such a place as this?

I left the hostel and am sitting in a cafe, where I just spoke with the owner- a gentleman named Mohammed who just finished his pHd in Archaeological history here in Granada. He was born in Syria but has been living here for 15 years. He was curious as to what I was writing about and I told him, he asked what I studied and I said I finished school but I studied history, so we talked about Alhambra and his area of expertise in the Andalucian region. He just told me that Damsacus is structurally very similar to Granada because the Caliphate who ruled this area built it in the image of the eastern cities. Indeed, my understanding is that many cities in the Moorish region have a circular layout in which the palace exists at a central point. It is cushioned by a donut of civilization before the city reaches a walled circumference. Much like Baghdad. I imagine Granada may look a bit different because of the position of the mountains- to my eye it seems as if they form a rear barrier while the city stretches along the hills and into flatter land, spanning out in a semi circular fashion.

He just brought me half a pomegranate to snack on. Here they are called the Granada fruit, as they are the symbol of the city itself and exist everywhere. Little does he know how many I’ve already gobbled down today, but they are delicious and impossible to refuse. I’ve also had two sesame and honey ‘Arab cupcakes’. If you couldn’t tell, I’ve been eating well here.

Okay- backtracking a bit. Before Granada, I was in Seville, and before Seville, I was in the Algarve, southern Portugal. In Seville I spent 3 nights at La Flamenka hostel where most everyone spoke spanish but I was still immediately invited to hangout and drink soda-wine (Tinto de Verano) on the rooftop with the people who worked there. ‘Twas quite a good time, despite the never-ending lack of sleep. The rooftop was huge, filled with couches, chairs and cushions, plants, umbrellas, cafe tables, more cushions, and an excellent view of the Cathedral, which I saw for this first time at night, enhanced by the brilliant gold of lamplight. I spent the entire next day roaming around half the city with an Indian guy from Vancouver who I got along with pretty well, though I did have to shake him off the following day so I could have a much needed 24 hours to do my own thing and recharge. Which is fair, considering we explored Plaza de Espana and it’s whole surrounding park, much of the Triana neighborhood across the bridge, and still barely made it back within a 20 minute radius of the hostel before stopping for way too many beers. Accidentally drinking ourselves through siesta. Finally, we meandered our way somewhat in the right direction before stopping ~again~ because the smell of food was so overpowering that we decided tapas were in order. We joined a crowd of people dining in the ambient shadow of the Cathedral and ate really good stuff that I truly can’t recall. Though I have a picture of a mound of gray mush that, at the time, I thought was magnificent. I don’t think sober Eva would agree. 

Seville truly comes alive at night. After midnight, throngs of trendy people aged 5 to 50 flood the streets, eating drinking, shopping, you name it. One of the major highlgihts of Seville was seeing the “Mushrooms” at night. A humongous wooden structure outfitted with a fluctuating light display, it is truly a sight to behold. Skaters claim its floors during the day, clubbers and diners flank its steps at night. 

Just spoke with Mohammed again, he is going to bring the book he published on his study of the region to the cafe tomorrow so I can see it. I also learned that he is living here in Granada because of his work at the University, but he is not allowed to return to Syria because of political “problems” with the Syrian government. He is the second person I’ve met in a situation where they are no longer welcome in their home country. The first was a man from Cambodia who was fleeing for his life, and was in the process of trying to reunite with his family and bring them to asylum in North America. I have also learned of a situation where someone I know was dating a girl in secret because the extremist community she was born into strictly forbade women from seeing men that were not of the same group. Murder was a very typical punishment- when I questioned how likely it was, I was given very recent examples, one of which involved a girl being bombed inside her car as recently as last month. I hesitate to write about these subjects on a public platform which is why I am being intentionally vague. Needless to say, the experiences I’ve been exposed to by talking to people on this trip have certainly put my “American” problems into perspective.

On that note, I am going back outside to explore this beautiful city in the time I have 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *