Travel Thursday Encore: Chilly Spain, Part 3

The Patio de los Leones–Patio of the Lions–is the most photographed place in the palace, therefore the first likely to pop up on a Google search. If you haven’t seen it, describing it is kinda hard: an arcade of horseshoe arches and white marble columns along the borders, while at the middle is a fountain supported by twelve marble lions tinkles. The fountain leads off in thin canals, and because the arches take the place of real walls, there’s no real inside.
I almost wasn’t in the mood to appreciate it, because like the previous patio the entrance was weirdly angled and I almost broke my nose again. One book said the architects wanted to woo the visitor with lush and mysterious effects, but I stopped being wooed a long time ago.
Taking a deep breath–the loud “whoosh!” immediately afterward a dead giveaway–I opened my eyes to take in the vista with a new perspective. . . mental perspective, that is, not with the camera, at least not yet. It didn’t take a genius to see why this place was named after lions, though the dozen statues supporting the fountain barely looked like cats. They appeared to be kinda snarling as they spit out the water, but I think the sculptor had only heard of this animal, never seen one, and even then it was just a rough description based on the tiny pet version.
Straddling one of the small channels that flowed symbolically to the four corners of the earth, and more literally to the surrounding apartments, feeding the small fountains inside–if you could call it an inside–I felt like something was missing, though I couldn’t tell what it was. Since I’d be here for three weeks, I figured it would come to me on its own, but it never did.

Nina Murdoch (“puritanical Australian”)
IT SEEMS CROWDED AND UNATTRACTIVE WITH ITS 124 COLUMNS, ARCHES, TILED PAVILIONS, LARGE FOUNTAIN, EIGHT SMALLER ONES, AND TWELVE FUNNY LIONS.

Sure sounds puritanical, doesn’t she? And according to history, this patio usta be a garden, which probably complimented the architecture better than what it looks like now. With flowers, trees, and plants, I can imagine it looking crowded, but right now, with pebbles that make it look like a Japanese garden, it seemed eerily desolate, despite all the tourists. Did I say Japanese garden? How ‘bout a kitty-litter box? For these goofy lions.
Staying in that same part of the world, it occurred to me that these dozens of skinny columns and thin archways, with their honeycombed decorations, reminded me of Thailand, some multi-roof Nepali pagoda style of architecture that spread to East Asia. {I’ll spare you my research on the erotic art on the roof struts, especially since there weren’t any here.}
But then I finally stepped on the pebbles, and found myself looking down in surprise: the softness, the way the pebbles allowed the weight of the body to sink in, was cushioning my feet, actually relaxing them. Energy flowed into my body, right through the material under the soles of my boots. New-agey awesome.
I went inside, so to speak, and when I turned around to gaze at the patio and the fountain of lions, it finally looked awesome. The columns brought shadows in, making it seem like a forest as I stood next to the small fountain inside. With the sun toward me and hitting me in the face, it was very difficult to see the fountain, let alone photograph it, as it was in full shadow. The smaller fountain next to me was fed by a channel that came from the lion waterway, so I followed it with my eyes and finally made out the big fountain in the strong shade.

Here’s a quote I really liked:
A STRUCTURE SO OPEN TO THE ELEMENTS AND INCORPORATING SO MANY POOLS AND FOUNTAINS MIGHT BE ALL VERY WELL FOR THE SUMMER, BUT WOULD HAVE BEEN RATHER LESS INVITING DURING GRANADA’S COLD AND DAMP WINTERS. IT IS A BREAKDOWN OF THE TYPICAL WESTERN BARRIERS BETWEEN EXTERIORS AND INTERIORS. ROOMS OPEN UP INTO LANDSCAPED COURTYARDS AND AN ABUNDANCE OF WATER FLOWS FROM OPEN TO ENCLOSED SPACES, ECHOING THE SOUNDS OF RIVERS AND SOFTENING IN ITS REFLECTIONS THE HARDNESS OF MAN-MADE LINES.
They missed the chessboard on the floor, but I forgave them.

;o)

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