Life in Sacromonte: A Nomadic Cave Dwelling Community

Life in Sacromonte: A Nomadic Cave Dwelling Community

History of Sacromonte

Nestled in the foothills behind the city center of Granada lies the neighborhood of Sacromonte. Legend has it that after the Christians conquered Granada in 1492, they convinced the remaining residents of the city to relocate to Sacromonte, assuring them the land was sacred. “Sacre” translates to sacred and “monte” means mount. Whether this legend is true or not, Gypsies, or gitanos in the 1500 did indeed establish homes in the hillside by carving out caves big enough to live in.

An important thing to note is that there’s often confusion when throwing the word “gypsy” around. Sacromonte became a Gypsy (with a capital “G”) neighborhood, Gypsies being people from Romani or Gitano descent.  Nowadays the residents of this neighborhood seem to be the artistic, out-of-society, free spirit type of people who often call themselves gypsies. My intention is not to place any unnecessary labeling on any group of people, but to portray and honor the culture of this interesting and fascinating aspect of a city I love. One of my favorite things to do in Granada is visit this part of the city for a glimpse into a lifestyle so different than mine. And not to mention, the views from up there are amazing!

Inside the gyspie homes

The hostel I stayed at in Granada offered a free walking tour through Sacromonte, which turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. Normally I am absolutely against joining guided tour groups, but this one seemed to be different. The hostel workers befriended some of the people living in the caves in Sacromonte, and they offered to open their homes to us where we could sit out in their front yard to watch the sunset over the city. In return, we each bought a beer or two from the Sacromonte residents so they earned some money as well.

The tour started out in the maze-like Albayzín. Like most cities constructed during this time period, it was actually meant to be a labyrinth of some sorts to act as a defense when intruders entered the city. Today the steep, extremely narrow roads are nearly impossible to drive through, reminding me to never, ever rent a car in Granada. When cars pass by, the only choice you have is to lean against the wall and hope your toes don’t get run over.

Our little tour passed through one of my favorite viewpoints in the city, the Mirador de San Nicolas, which features an impressive view of the Alhambra. In this plaza, the liveliness of the city is tangible, and someone is almost always playing live flamenco, adding to the magical atmosphere this place has to offer.

Moving right along, we reached The Highest Staircase Ever without any side railing, so if you happened to have too many sangrias and miss a step, you’re doomed to roll violently down the hill to your very probable death. Focused, I gasped for air as we climbed up.

We finally made it to the top of The Highest Staircase Ever and were greeted by an extremely cheery Senegalese man. He welcomed us with open arms and beer for sale at a euro each. We each bought a beer after we came to the conclusion that this would be the unofficial cost of the walking tour. He then welcomed us into his makeshift cave home, which had reggae music blaring from two speakers inside. There were two bedrooms, a living room/kitchen, and an outdoor covered area for eating and hanging out. There were also tattered chairs of all shapes and styles placed out along the road for us to sit and watch the sunset.

 

The view from up there was absolutely beautiful. All of the city lights twinkled in the distance, and the Alhambra especially stood out at nighttime, dignified and golden. As the sun faded into the distant mountaintops, I felt truly present with the experience, totally enveloped in the magic of Granada.

 

After some time, we thanked our hosts, bought a beer for the road, and then we made our way down The Highest Staircase Ever, which somehow was even more terrifying on the way down. As we winded our way down through the Albayzin once more, I remembered the quote by Francisco Alarcón de Icaza:

“Dale limosna, mujer, que no hay en la vida nada como la pena de ser ciego en Granada.
(Give him alms, woman, because there is nothing worse in life than to be blind in Granada).

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El Camino de Santiago Photo Essay – Week 1

El Camino de Santiago Photo Essay – Week 1

El Camino de Santiago

A Spiritual Pilgrimage – Week 1

Photo Essay by Jamie Gominger

 

Day 1 of the Camino Francés

St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

St. Jean-Pied-de-Port.

Sunrise over the Pyrenees.

Sheep grazing in the fields along the Camino.

Steady climb up the Pyrenees after passing Orisson.

Roncesvalles, Spain.

Monastry converted into a pilgrim’s hostel.

5 euros per night, 120 beds per room

Day 2.

790 kilometers to Santiago.

Fellow pilgrims taking care of some serious blisters.

Typical house in Navarra, Spain.

Day 3.

Passing through the countryside.

Pamplona.

Day 4.

Leaving Cizur Menor. Another Camino sunrise.

Golden. Steady climb up to the Alto del Perdon.

One of the many sunflower fields.

Alto del Perdon.

Food trucks. A beacon of hope.

 

Puente de la Reina.

Moving Abroad Soon? This Should Help.

Moving Abroad Soon? This Should Help.

The lead up to moving abroad seems like the most overwhelming process, but what about when you’ve arrived in your new home? What’s next? The first couple of weeks after moving are essential to quickly feeling settled into your new life abroad. Here’s some advice I’ve learned firsthand from my move to Spain.

Make friends immediately!

Avoid the depressing, lonely times by reaching out to anyone you may know in your new country. Even if you don’t know anyone, you can go to a yoga class, book club event, or any type of activity where like-minded individuals meet up. Having time to yourself is important, but having a group of friends to confide in definitely makes the transition easier. If you’re an auxiliar de conversación, be sure to check the Facebook groups and make an effort to meet up with fellow auxiliares once you get to Spain. On day 2, I met up with one of the British auxiliares. Now he’s one of my roommates, and I consider him a really good friend of mine. Not to mention, I can endlessly annoy him with my sad attempts of having a proper British accent.

I forced these wonderful humans to be my friends!

Get plenty of rest

Jet lag comes at ya fast. Before you know it, you’re on the other side of the world, haven’t slept in 30 hours, and look like a hot mess. The key to making the initial adjustment is getting enough sleep every night. I had trouble with this, which made the apartment search much more draining. Ironically, I arrived in Ibiza the week of the famous clubs’ closing parties, which are the last huge parties before the season ends. However tempting these parties were, I was already so disoriented from the move and knew it wasn’t a good idea. Part of it had to do with the fact that I didn’t have a place to live and the cover fees to go to these parties were astronomically high, but hey, there was a more responsible part of myself that didn’t go because I needed to take care of myself for the upcoming months in Ibiza.

Embrace the feeling of unfamiliarity

I awkwardly looked around for a girl my age that I’ve never met. She told me to meet her at a certain cafe at 10. No, I wasn’t buying drugs. I was viewing her apartment, and I was pretty nervous because she only spoke Spanish. Though my knowledge of the Spanish language is pretty good, I tend to forget the most simple verb conjugations when I’m nervous. It’s a real problem. I took the five minutes before meeting up with her to review useful vocabulary.

How’s this for a pop quiz, I thought.

Thirty minutes of forced conversation and a highly uncomfortable amount of long pauses later, I left her apartment and exhaled a sigh of relief. It was super awkies, but I was happy that I forced myself out of my box. Isn’t that usually a big part of why people have the desire to move abroad, though? By moving abroad, we want to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones to grow, evolve and learn more about ourselves and the world around us. When you’re going through something uncomfortable or frustrating, remember that it’s really just another way that you’re bettering yourself.

Get lost

The amount of times I’ve been lost this past month would send the older generations on an endless rant on how “back in their day, they used a map the old fashioned way and got around just fine and kids these days need to learn how to use common sense”, but hey, this millennial didn’t have data or wifi so GPS wasn’t an option and being lost was inevitable. I think the best way to discover a city is to get lost and find new places within the city. Just last week, I turn a turn down the wrong street and found a park I didn’t know existed! Life is exciting like that, so do yourself a favor and get lost.

Zippin around, getting lost on the backroads in Ibiza.

I’ll be honest. It’s taken me a few weeks to feel like I’m really settled here in Ibiza, but I’ve learned that all of the above helped tremendously with the transition. I hope my experiences can help you out in some way! Questions or comments? You know what to do! 

How to Become a Viking in Scandinavia

How to Become a Viking in Scandinavia

 

So there I was sitting in a café, contemplating how I’d spend my Christmas. It was December 20th, and the feeling of Christmastime seemed to engulf this small Mediterranean island as people popped in and out of shops to collect last minute gifts. As perfect and magical as Ibiza is, I was a bit bummed that I wouldn’t be able to spend Christmas at home with my family. 
Suddenly, my phone rang. It was one of my best friends, Paolo, who happened to be in Iceland at the time. And just like that, we decided we’d spend the winter holidays in Scandinavia.

“Who in their right mind would go to Scandinavia in the middle of winter?” asked any logical human ever. Someone who is training to become a real life Viking, that’s who.

In a matter of a few days, after a three-hour flight up north, I hopped out of the plane into the cold, winter air in Copenhagen. I met up with Paolo and announced the plan: It is time to become A VIKING. I said with enough enthusiasm to wake up everyone in our wood cabin-esque hostel.

Luckily, Paolo agreed. Our time has come.

Step 1 to becoming  a Viking: refrain from describing everything as “lovely”. I failed miserably at this because look at this view (below). It’s lov…shit. See what I mean?

 Ok, from now on, when asked about the scenery, make manly grunting noises that translate to indifference. Indifference is the key, people!

 

When socialism meets Christmas spirit, there has to be at least one deliciously free Christmas feast to be found. 

 And because any good Viking should be able to successfully forage for food, that was our mission for Christmas Eve in Copenhagen.

As we walked down the lonely boulevards (because apparently people have these things called families with whom they celebrate Christmas), I was beginning to feel like I was in a depressing Green Day music video. 
That’s when we turned the corner and saw a Christmas miracle. It was the most random renovated warehouse filled with long tables, decorative lighting, live music, gigantic cut-out ornaments hanging from the ceiling, and people of all ages enjoying a Danish feast. A FEAST, I SAY. And unlike almost everything in life, the food was free.

  Step 2 of Viking Training: ☑

Next up, we made our way to Sweden via train. With the little sunlight that we had left, we noticed traces of snow on the ground on the way to Gothenburg. By the time we left for Stockholm, it was what any small-town Southerner would call an incredible winter wonderland. Or if you’re a Viking, it was “alright” because remember, indifference, people! Which leads me to my next point,

Viking Training Step 3: conquer the cold (and just about everything else). Do you think the original Vikings would’ve let a little bit of snow and soul numbingly cold winds get in the way of invading entire kingdoms? No. So that’s why I wouldn’t dare let the cold stop me from walking around mostly lost in the middle of a thriving city!

So, the moral of the story? Take it from the Vikings!

1. Be chill.

2. Always say ‘yes’ to free food

3. Push through those adversities, especially when it comes to snow/freezing rain/gail force wind.

This article is from a compilation of my Instagram photos and captions. I edited it for fluidity purposes, but yeah! For more photos and travel stuff, look me up on Insta: @thetruebravado.