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jueves, 28 de febrero de 2019

Where Does the Albaicín Pottery Come From? – Marci

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A friend of mine was visiting me in Granada and he spent a year here not that long ago, so he knew plenty of places that are off the beaten path. I already pride myself in knowing a lot of cool, less well-known places, but he definitely introduced me to a few new ones.

One of the new places he showed me was the Fajalauza ceramics factory. This is a place just outside the city walls near or in the Albaicín, just along the road up to Mirador San Miguel Alto. It is outside the area most people would walk to, but it is actually quite close. There is a small factory on each side of the road, both called Fajalauza, but one with an opening date of 1517 and the other with a date from the 1600s. I wonder what’s the story behind that!

We went into the one from 1517. It consists of a series of very odd, old buildings which were once the place where these were ceramics were made. The old oven is still visible, although I assume that now this whole site is more just a place to sell the ceramics. There is a small museum/shop where you can buy some tiles, plates, bowls, cups, etc. with typical Granada pottery. They are still hand painted, although they use modern ovens now.

They are certainly not trying very hard to attract tourists. I imagine most of their business comes from selling the tiles, but it’s hard not to see what potential this place has as a provider of hand-made souvenirs and maybe with a nicer museum or ceramics-making workshops… In fact, just a decent website would be a start! But I guess this is the different mentality towards business in Spain, versus that of a US-style business-driven mindset. Here as long as your company provides enough for your family and employees, it isn’t a must to scale it just because you can…

PS: If you want unique and cheap souvenirs from Granada, Fajalauza is definitely a nice option

viernes, 22 de febrero de 2019

Biking in Granada: A Survival Guide - Marci

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I’ve quickly had to realize that Granada is not the most bike-friendly city, but it is not as bad as some people think it is. When I originally told him the idea of buying a bike, Dani said “You’re probably going to die” – clearly that has been an exaggeration so far. But there are plenty of problems related to infrastructure for biking and quite simply, not enough people use bikes.

Granada has a lot of cyclists, but the vast majority of them are people doing cycling for sport. You see big groups or individual riders in full lycra outfits, heading up to the mountains on MTBs to hit some trails or racing bikes, to do some serious distance and elevation. Other than a few dedicated Deliveroo riders, there are not many people who actually use bikes within the city. I barely see any commuters riding their bike.

The Infrastructure

While I also mainly use my bike to go on trips and do exercise, I also sometimes use it to go to faraway places in Granada that would be inconvenient to walk to, like Decathlon. The first thing I noticed is the complete lack of places to park bikes. The vast majority of shops and public places do not have a single dedicated spot for bike parking. Even if places do, they are the ones where you can’t actually safely lock the bike, just the wheel.

Bike lanes and bike routes are also an issue. Some areas have great bike routes, like along the ring road (the motorway around Granada), but other important routes will either completely lack these, or they’ll be constructed in the most ridiculous ways. The bike path along Camino de Ronda, a very important route, is a great example of this. It’s a 2x2 lane road with a concrete divider in the middle and the bike path is put up on the sidewalk on the one side. Of course, this makes every single crossing dangerous for bikers and cars alike, but the worst part is that every few blocks, the sidewalk narrows. When the sidewalk narrows, the bike path disappears and re-appears one or two blocks later. What should a biker do here? Merge into traffic? Blast through the pedestrians? Push the bike?

Continuing along Camino de Ronda, another similarly ridiculous practice emerges: the huge garbage containers for household trash and recycling are simply stored on the bike route. Now finally they’ve at least painted around them, but it is still a very stupid idea. Imagine the outrage if they stored those containers on the car lanes!

All of this means that I usually ignore the inner-city bike paths and just merge into traffic. In the outer neighborhoods and the countryside, the bike paths are usually better and more common.

The Cars

While I’ve heard from some people that cars are really ignorant of bikers in Granada, the situation is actually not terrible. Having biked a lot in Budapest and Cambridge all year-round, I can say that people here are pretty similar in most respects. There will always people who are impatient, who cut you off or overtake too close. The only real difference I can see is that people here are not used to bikers in the city as much, so it takes them by surprise and some drivers panic or get confused. Most of them do just fine.

If you bike out of the city, along one of the popular routes like the one up to Güéjar Sierra, cars are amazingly courteous. I’m not kidding, I’ve never seen so many cars be so patient and be so careful about overtaking. Almost without exception, cars overtake with at least 1.5-meter distance, but usually a whole lane width. I’ve had cars patiently sit behind me for half a kilometer because they couldn’t overtake comfortably on the windy road. In most other countries, they would just blast past you, yet here they wait. Bikers and cars also work together to help safe overtaking, with the bikers waving the car to overtake when they see the coast is clear.

Bike Theft

I don’t have statistics for bike theft, I do know it is quite a problem in Granada, especially in areas near the bus station. I see a lot of bikes with stolen seats or stolen wheels locked up in places. Someone just takes the parts off that can be quickly removed. Because of this, I’m quite weary of leaving my bike unsupervised for a long period of time. But around shopping centers and in the countryside, I’ve never had a problem


Granada definitely gets a bad rep for cycling. While cycling within the city is still not very popular, the Sierra Nevada attracts so many cyclists that cars are actually surprisingly used to sharing the road with them. While I don’t always enjoy taking the bike to destinations within the city, I am super happy that I got a bike when I arrived here, because I can visit so many fantastic areas around the city that I would otherwise not be able to get to!

Guadix, the City of Cave Houses - Marci

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Kürsat, Hanna and I headed out to Guadix two weeks ago. Guadix is a city about an hour bus ride away from Granada. It is a very unique place, because there is an entire neighborhood of cave houses built inside the sandstone formations that are scattered across the landscape! It is absolutely surreal, and while I have visited before, it still blows my mind every time. It’s just so unique, it feels almost like a big settlement on Tatooine from Star Wars.

We started off the day with the worst coffee I’ve ever had in Andalusia… And trust me, I’ve had plenty of bad coffees around Andalusia, so I don’t say this lightly. Seriously, I’d give it a 1/10. Side note: now I’m spoiled because I’ve found all the good places in Granada, like Minuit, La Finca and Noat Coffee, so bad coffee tastes even worse. But back to Guadix! We walked around the ‘regular’ town center, exploring the winding little streets, looking around and observing a really cool mix of Moorish and Christian architecture. Unfortunately, the Alcazaba (the castle) was not open and we are not really sure if we’ve even managed to find where the entrance would normally be if it was open. Still, it looks really impressive from the outside, especially when you look at it from a further-away viewpoint.

The cathedral is amazing on the outside, but it’s debatable if the 5 Euro entry fee is worth it. But we could tick that one off the list. From there, we moved on to the cave house district! Yup, that’s the most exciting part of the whole visit. It’s really hard to describe how these houses look and how the neighborhood feels, so just check out the photos, and go visit it yourself if you are convinced!

These houses are awesome, because they keep an almost constant temperature year-round. They don’t get really cold in the winter and they stay amazingly cool in the summer! It is essentially an old-school. passive house. Slap some solar panels on top, and you have a super eco-friendly home! While some of these cave houses are opened up as mini-museums for tourists, we also got very lucky, because we bumped into a random guy in a small side street who just invited us into his house, simply to show us around because he liked us. That was a really good, genuine experience!

After wandering into town for some food, we decided to head back to cave house district to watch sunset from one of the viewpoints. For a while we were worried that it will just be hazy, but then the clouds put on the most magical show in all shades of orange, red, purple and pink! It was one of the best sunsets I’ve seen lately!

The whole trip was fantastic, and I really enjoyed visiting this unique place. I wrote a bit more in-depth blogpost about Guadix on my own blog, so if you are interested in reading more about the place, check it out HERE!

jueves, 14 de febrero de 2019

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New Year’s Eve in Granada

Granada is so much fun!

I think that people know how to have fun here. For the New Year’s Eve, my friends and I decided to go to the house of one of my coordinators.

One of my flat mates, Marci had his family as guests in our house first. Before we went to Sara’s house, we said a toast for the New Year in Hungarian. Also, Marci cooked hot wine to for us, which was very delicious. I will never forget that! Then my other flat mate, Hanna decided to join me and my best friend.

Grapes!!! Yes, I ate 12 grapes for each month and counted down until new year. Of course, we had underwear to wear on our heads =D It was the first time to celebrate New Year with different culture in another country. My coordinator has amazing flat mates who were really kind. We danced, sang songs and laughed a lot.

The 2019 will bring me so much laughter and new places to travel…

lunes, 11 de febrero de 2019

An Underrated Part of Granada - Marci

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Most people in Granada don't realize how close they live to nature! Yes, everyone knows that the Sierra Nevada is not so far from the city. Many know about the other natural parks in the area. But the Dehesa del Generalife is overlooked by many, yet it's the easiest place to escape the busy city life to and enjoy nature. To put it very simply, it is the hill behind the Alhambra and the Generalife, which is a protected area, covered in forests and olive groves, and serves as a recreational area for the people of Granada.

People can come here to run, hike or just drive up and have a family picnic and play sports. It is hardly undisturbed nature, but considering that it's pretty much inside Granada, it is as close as you can get. What I can recommend is to follow a circular route which follows roughly the perimeter of the park - see the signs advertising it!

While walking around the park, I would really recommend paying attention to a few of the places. There is one called Silla del Moro, which is not to be confused with the actual Silla del Moro, which is a Moorish fortification a little further back, but an awesome viewpoint that overlooks Sacromonte and the valley around it.

As you go around the park, you will see a series of ruins, which were one day part of the water supply system of the Alhambra. Look for Aljibe de la Lluvia. Sadly, you can't peek inside, but it is cool to see how far the systems supplying the Alhambra extended.

Around the other end of the park, there is a huge recreational area called Llano de la Perdiz. A lot of families and groups of friends walk or drive up here to do picnics, grilling, sports and have fun outdoors. It is a cool area, however I'd go a little further out on the dirt roads and paths. Just be careful, there are a lot of mountain bikers. Go to Mirador Cerro del Sol, it's one of the best views of the Sierra Nevada that you can get to easily. That's where you want to have your sandwich, taking in the amazing panorama!