I know it has been a while since I last wrote, and it feels like a lifetime. In the last three weeks I have visited almost ten different cities, another country, and another continent. Here are the highlights:
The trip to Segovia was a class trip. We visited the royal palace there as well as the Alcazar (a more military castle) and the famous Roman aqueduct. It amazed me to see how well-preserved the aqueduct (right) was. Most interestingly, it is not held together by any glue or mortar but by the precise shape of the blocks used to construct it.
Barcelona and Girona
These Catalonian cities were absolutely beautiful! Barcelona was such an interesting mix of old and new architecture. It had a big-city feel without being suffocating because of the beach and the parks scattered throughout.
What I found most interesting were the buildings built by Gaudi (left), including the famous Sagrada Familia church. I also stayed for the first time in a youth hostel, which was such a great experience. Everyone was so friendly and had so many different travel experiences to share.
After staying in Barcelona for two days I decided to take a side-trip to Girona, a small city a little over an hour north. The rest of the people I was traveling with wanted to spend the day on the beach, so I decided to go by myself. It was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had.
The town was in the mountains with a river running through it, so the scenery was gorgeous. Also, there was an old Gothic part with a wall around it that you could walk on (right) and get a great view of the city. Plus, the weather was wonderful for a day of exploring.
The class trip to Andalucia (southern Spain) was one of two long trips that we will take. We stopped first in Cordoba, then in Sevilla, and ended in Granada. The highlight of Cordoba was the Mosque (left).
Beginning as a Visigoth church in the 7th century, it was taken over by Arabic Caliphs who changed it into a Mosque and continued adding to it until it was converted to a Catholic Cathedral in the thirteenth century. The history in Andalucia of all the changes in power fascinates me.
In Sevilla we watched flamenco, which was mesmerizing. The guitar player as well as the singers and the dancers were so talented. The rhythm of flamenco is very strong and very syncopated, and the music includes guitar and voice as well as clapping, tapping, and stomping. It was easy to see its gypsy origins.
In Granada we went to the Alhambra built by Spain’s Moorish rulers. Built on a hill, the Alhambra (left) has a wonderful view of the city of Granada. It also demonstrates the meticulous detailing of Arabic architecture.
The group trip ended in Granada, but a couple of friends and I decided to extend our trip south to Morocco. We spent the night on the southern tip of Spain in the windsurfing town of Tarifa before taking a ferry to the African coast.
Morocco was almost a different world. In the morning when we arrived in Tangier there were very few women in the streets and almost none in the cafe where we ate breakfast. We did a little exploring through the market (complete with hanging chickens, intestines, and an entire cow’s head) and around the narrow streets of the old city.
We walked into one shop and spent over an hour talking with the shop owner about Arabic, Morocco, and the Islam religion. After talking with him I was better able to grasp how much misunderstanding there is between cultures, and when we left, my friend – expressing the sentiment of the group – questioned, “Why can’t we all get along?”
We met up with the family friend of one of the boys on the SMU trip, who took us to Cape Spartel. From there we could see the Mediterranean Sea to our right and the Atlantic Ocean to the left. Also, we had almost all of Africa to our back and Spain straight ahead. I have never felt so small.
We got back to Madrid on Sunday night just in time for me to finish an essay and get back to class on Monday. Midterms are in two weeks; I can’t believe how fast the time is going.