One way of getting to know Granada is by following the flow of water which, via its three rivers, bathes the city in mystery and surprise. There are cities where rivers predominate, cutting a swathe through its streets, where the width or volume of its course or its shining reflections at night have become world–renowned.
In Granada, however, water merely weaves its way through our imagination. Where does the river Darro go, forever concealed under Plaza Nueva? How does the water flow down from the highest point of the Generalife if there is no source, no natural springs to produce it? Here, water is submitted to any number of artificial devices; lifted to the heights of the Albaicín via the acequia of Aynadamar (an ancient irrigation channel), or protected in its squares, within aljibes (old water tanks), even under the city streets.
Indeed, the whole of Granada flows within an underground universe of currents that, from time to time, rise to the surface; in the carrera del Darro (Haddaru), in the old mill of the acequia Gorda (al–saqiya al Kubra), or at the confluence of the rivers Darro and Genil (Sinyil) that emerges close to the paseo del Violón.
However, not only does the water flow underground, it also forms melancholy pools, settling in invisible deposits, whose presence is hinted at in the names of its streets: Aljibe de Trillo, calle del Agua..., in approximately thirty aljibes spread throughout the city: agua oculta que llora (a weeping water shrouded in mystery)...
Water is everywhere, whether it be the gentle trickle emerging opposite the Hospital de San Juan de Dios, quenching the thirst of relentless afternoons in high summer or the magnificently ostentatious fountains in the Triunfo gardens —quite a feat of engineering— concealing the decorative Hospital Real behind a sea of light and colour. Regardless of its size or structure, every corner of Granada is blessed with at least one fountain, or even two as in the case of the banks of the river Genil in the Salón or the esplanade of Plaza Nueva. Even Queen Isabel and Columbus are there to dip their feet in the grand fountain of the Plaza Isabel la Católica.
The locals claim that only when the fountain of Plaza Nueva ices over has the real cold weather arrived in Granada, transforming it into a thermometer and a decorative symbol of winter for all to see.
Curiously, that which never freezes over is the other fountain situated in Plaza Nueva, close to Santa Ana. In keeping with the granadino tradition of moving monuments from one place to another, this fountain used to stand at the end of Plaza Nueva, although its name has remained the same: the Pilar del Toro (the Fountain of the Bull) after the figurehead from whose mouth spouts a fierce jet of water.
Another fountain not averse to being moved about is the fuente de las Batallas (the fountain of the Battles) in Puerta Real. In the Christian Middle Ages, batallas were the military formations which took place during demonstrations and parades to practise the arts of war. The fountain originally stood in the square in front of the Palace of Bibataubín, known today by the same name as the fountain.
The Plaza de la Trinidad is a square whose character changes depending on the vegetation of the season, so much so that it would be more fitting for it to have different names in summer and winter. In the middle of the square, a small fountain is ringed by an exotic garden, each bench (if you manage to find a free one) represents a temptation of sound and colour in which is merged the gentle trickling of water, the shade of the plantains and the calm traffic of passers–by.
Of all Granada’s fountains, the most impressive is that found in the plaza Bibarrambla; its decoration follows an almost hierarchical order from the brutal forces of mythological and aquatic nature as represented by the mermans (male mermaids) to the marine divinity of Neptune herself. Like the Pilar del Toro and the Fuente de las Batallas, this has also followed the tradition of having been relocated, it was previously situated in the paseo de la Bomba and the ancient convent of San Agustín.
Indeed, every pathway in Granada follows the flow of water underfoot, whether it be an old irrigation channel or a running stream, wherever you walk the murmur of water is all around you.
Its greatest beauty is reached in the Alhambra in its most famous of fountains, those which fill the Generalife, or that flow into the Myrtle Court or the Patio de los Leones, the pools of The Partal or the Fountain of Carlos V. But water is also present in lesser known corners nearby. It flows under the paths of the Puerta de las Granadas and springs forth from the Fuentes del Tomate and Pimiento in the Alhambra’s shady groves. It is water that transforms the Fundación Rodriguez Acosta into a secret paradise, concealed behind its eclectic walls and, takes pride of place in the Carmen de los Mártires, bringing its gardens alive, trickling down its walls of ivy and moss, springing forth from its fountains or in its rippling pools —awaiting the thirst of a roaming traveller.
However, perhaps the most famous of Granada’s fountains are in fact outside the city. In Alfacar, the fuente Grande de Aynadamar is a natural spring from which sheer beauty flows, although it has been claimed that its mournful character expresses the sad fate of the poet who lies beside it. Also very close to Granada and lost amongst the poplar groves of the vega is the Fuente de los Vaqueros. Its exact situation is however unknown, for today it lies only in the name of the small town Fuentevaqueros, birthplace of the poet García Lorca, a community surrounded by orchards, tobacco drying sheds and humble farm dwellings like so many others in the plain of Granada.
Finally we come to the fuente del Avellano (fountain of the Almond Tree) which can be reached by crossing over the river Darro at the bridge in the Paseo de los Tristes. A path, filled by a light, colour and beauty quite beyond words, leads us to the most literary fountain in Granada, that chosen by the poet Angel Ganivet to weep for his beloved city.