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The Alhambra Inalambrica

by Richard Stallman Contributions Published on Jul 12, 2010 05:17 PM
Stallman visits The Alhambra in Spain during a trip to the University of Granada. The Alhambra was one of the sites I arranged to see when I visited Spain almost ten years ago, before I could speak much Spanish. I found it amazingly beautiful, but time had eaten away at the memories.I could still remember how I was struck by its beauty, but I could not remember anything specific about what I had seen. So when I was invited to speak in Granada, I eagerly accepted.

I was looking forward to seeing the Alhambra again, but especially to seeing it with Tania. I wanted to drink in her amazement at the beauty of the old palace and gardens. I made arrangements for her to be able to visit Spain along with me, including Granada.

When Tania broke off with me in March, that meant I would be in Granada without her. By myself.

The thought of her absence, that I would be unable to enjoy her enjoyment of the Alhambra, felt like a horrible loss. In the week or two before my visit, I often wondered what it would be like to be there and feel her absence. I wondered if the pain of her absence would make it impossible for me to enjoy seeing the Alhambra myself. I was not sure if I wanted to go there.

After actually arriving in Granada, and starting to plan what I would do while there, I learned that it might not even be possible. Someone told me it was necessary to reserve tickets to visit the Alhambra months in advance. I said, "Why didn't my hosts tell me!" And I imagined what it would have been like to arrive with Tania only to discover that we could not in fact visit the Alhambra. I would have felt an absolute failure.

I was told that a neighborhood near the Alhambra was also interesting. Unsure whether it was possible to visit the Alhambra, and unsure whether I wanted to, I made plans to visit that neighborhood instead. But when we got out of the taxi, I found that my hosts had led me to the entrance to the Alhambra. There was a long line for buying tickets for that day--but the tickets being sold were for entry in the afternoon. So we made the plan that we would visit the areas that did not need a ticket, and meanwhile someone would get on line trying to buy tickets for the following morning.

As we wandered around the non-ticketed areas, we encountered a guide who told us he had extra tickets, left over from groups whose numbers were a little less than planned. He said we could buy them and enter that morning. However, we had to mention there was a snag: "there is another one of us, and he isn't here, he is waiting on line." The guide said that he would be there for another hour or so, if we could get it together. That person's cell phone was unreliable, and it took a while before we could get through to him. At that point he told us that he had got all the way through the line, only to find out that they didn't sell tickets for the following day. Apparently they could only be reserved remotely. Thus, we accepted the guide's offer and bought three tickets to enter right away.

Visiting the Alhambra again brought back memories--which had stuck vaguely in my mind, but had lost their connection to any particular place. And I enjoyed it thoroughly. I began to feel I could enjoy life even despite rejection and loneliness. I took plenty of photos.

While leaving Granada, I recognized the similarity between the name Alhambra and the term for wireless network, "red inalambrica." (H is silent in Spanish.) So I started telling people that the Alhambra was so old that they were thinking of replacing it with a wireless network.

I emailed that joke to Tania, and she replied, "What is the Alhambra?"

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