The Tsarina

Words & Photography

Dorothea Gundtoft

The Andalusian passages written by Hemingway, the somber notes by Irving Washington who lived inside the magnificence of The Alhambra, the fashion world’s enfant terrible; John Galliano’s upbringing leading to a mind changing encounter with Steven Robinson, all depict the magnificence of the most southern point of Europe, that I had forgotten.


I grew up surrounded by the red Tierra of the Andalucía soil. Olive trees, Naranjas, and exotic fruit, blossoms in the ray of the light from a pastel blue sky, never a cloud, never one grey medium day, always an explosion of colour. The once occupied lands by Moorish armies and generations of Islam residing for more than 700 years, colour the Andalusian heritage, the culture and the colors of the Azulejos. The influence continued to flourish within the confines of Islam until The Fortress, Calat Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site from 889, turned into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada.

I was born in the cold North of Europe, Denmark, near the German boarder, but taken to live abroad at the age of 10, in Marbella, surrounded 
by a Spanish background of temperament, the Sevillana and an international sphere. I didn’t notice 
the impact until today, almost ten years later, after 
years in London and other hectic places, that my
upbringing and character today is so clearly influenced by Andalucía nature and history. I fell in love 
all over again with the mathematical multi-coloured 
tiles, handmade lanterns from Granada, narrow 
steep streets with Jasmine flowers blossoming and
 the history of my hometown Marbella that once 
used to be the exotic destination for Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot, film directors and royalty such as
 the Saudi King Fahd and his 3,000 family members
 who visited their palace every summer.

The Andalucía nights and days inspired great writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Irving Washington, who happened to reside within the walls of the great Alhambra, where he occupied a wing of rooms, with the view of Granada and a marble fireplace. He referred to this phase of life in his writings known as his ‘Spanish Sketch Books’, where he wrote, “How unworthy is my scribbling of this place”. He later wrote the book titled ‘Tales of the Alhambra’.

In Seville I visited the great Alcázar (a Hispano-Arabic worked for room of the prince) royal palace, like a copy of God’s version of Eden, originally a Moorish fort, created in the Mudéjar architecture and one of the oldest royal palaces still in use in Europe with the upper levels still being used by the royal family. Every monarch has added their own touch to the Alcázar palace throughout the Renaissance, Baroque and the 19th century. With the tomb of Christopher Columbus preserved in the Cathedral of Seville it testifies to the once important port and outlook onto the world trade and discovery of the New World in 1492. The Spanish temperament and anguish enlightens my own senses, as I realize how we act as a product of our own upbringing (…)

Read more in Tomorrow’s Journal | Issue 10


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