In the evolution of tourism from its beginnings to our days, during the nineteenth century we found a class of travelers who had special relevance for Spain and especially for Granada. It is about the Romantic Travelers, writers, painters and musicians who described an exotic and dreamy Granada with an international impact that reaches our days.
The illustrated travelers
But to really understand this phenomenon, it is necessary to go back to the eighteenth century, the century of the Enlightenment. Young people of the European nobility and bourgeoisie began their personal and intellectual development by doing the “Grand Tour”, a trip through central and southern European countries that normally did not include Spain. The result of these trips were travel books of a very academic style in which precise descriptions and the inclusion of geographical and statistical data prevailed over the literary style.
With the turn of the century, the intellectual sensitivity of travelers and their motivations to travel gradually changed as well. If the enlightened travelers traveled to feed the intellect, the romantic travelers did so to feed the soul. And all this was reflected in the artistic style with which they tried to immortalize their trips, either in written form or through other artistic expressions such as painting or music. The academic style gave way to a moving and passionate style in which the beautiful and the sublime highlighted the experienced reality.
The search for the exotic.
This change in style led to the search for exoticism as a synonym of freedom, of rupture with the new industrial and gentrified civilization. And the highest representation of this exoticism was in Spain considered as less developed and purer, in that the Arab features were still very present. This made Granada a must for the romantic traveler and the Alhambra the goal of his trip, as an ideal setting for stories and paintings.
Making a complete list of the illustrious romantic travelers who have visited Granada would be an arduous job, but we can highlight some of the most representative figures.
Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870)
Writer and French historian, traveled to Spain on 6 occasions and was strongly influenced by the beauty and customs of the country. Fruit of this influence is the short novel “Carmen” that Bizet would turn into a famous opera.
Richard Ford (1796-1859)
Writer, draftsman and, above all, hispanist, this English traveler came to fix his residence in the palace of the Generalife.
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
Danish writer and poet, very famous for his immortal stories for children. He visited Granada in 1862 and, in his book “Voyage in Spain”, described his stay as follows: “The bright sunny day was transformed into a sunset glow, and Granada became a fairytale city, we were in the fairy world of One thousand and One Nights”
Washinton Irving (1783-1859)
Famous writer, journalist and American politician, he became United States Ambassador in Madrid. He came to reside temporarily in the Alhambra, where he would write his famous “Tales of the Alhambra”.
Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
French painter and illustrator, accompanied on his trips to Granada the baron Jean Charles Davillier. His magnificent illustrations surpassed in interest the travel books whose texts they complemented.
Jean Charles Davillier (1823-1883)
This wealthy French baron reflected his travels through Spain in his famous book “Voyage en Espagne” illustrated by Gustave Doré.
Théophile Gautier (1811-1872)
Writer and French dramatist. He was deeply in love with Granada. His book “Voyage en Espagne” is one of the key titles of romantic literature.
David Roberts (1796-1864)
British painter very influential in spreading the exotic image of Spain. His images of the Alhambra and its surroundings are a clear exponent of what the romantic vision of the time supposes.
Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Poet, novelist and French dramatist, is one of the leading figures of French literature. In his work “The Orientals” he described Granada as follows:
Soit lointaine, soit voisine,
Espagnole ou sarrasine,
Il n’est pas une cité
Qui dispute, sans folie,
A Grenade la jolie
La pomme de la beauté,
Et qui, gracieuse, étale
Plus de pompe orientale
Sous un ciel plus enchanté.
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)
This famous French writer, author of universal novels such as “The Three Musketeers” or “The Count of Monte Cristo” visited Granada in 1846 and was so impressed that he left a phrase for the memory “I begin to believe that there is a happiness greater than that of see Granada, and it is to see it again”.
So you know, if you want to emulate those romantic travelers who did not hesitate to immortalize their trips in the best possible way, do not hesitate … enjoy a Pictourama!