Posts Tagged With: Spain

Málaga

Welcome to Sunny Florida Málaga! When we stepped off the plane, that’s what it felt like. Mlike”: 1) 1 in every 4 people actually IMG_20140507_110948_563lives there 2) most tourists and inhabitants are over the age of 60  3) palm trees and gorgeous weather. OK, folks, we have a winner. We got off the plane and magically ended up in Florida! As we looked for the exit signs, we saw that they were in Spanish, English and German. German?!Yes, German. The most tropical tourist destinations in Spain [Málaga, Canary Islands & Balearic Islands] are actually most frequented by Germans, Brits and Americans. Once again, not a lot of people we met actually live there.

So let’s see. What did we do in Málaga?! We lived the LIFE! There isn’t a whole lot to do in the city center, except see the Alcazaba. Which, of course, we did. At night. And it was beautiful. Without Paco though, there was no tour inside. But it was still pretty. We also went to a mall and shopped. Well, Miso shopped and I ate candy. This mall could have been its own town though because it had everything inside – a movie theater, a supermarket/Wal-Mart-esque facility and so many stores. We went to the grocery store and loaded up on snacks and water. Miso will never let me live it down but I bought a 5 Liter jug of water for the 3 days. But it was only 75 eurocents, how could I not have!? [Water is super cheap here! See my post about Cultural Differences]

For the next 2 days, we paid €3 to lie on the beach with beach chairs and a tiki umbrella for 10 hours per day. That is literally all we did. We laid out and tanned, reading, talking, playing games on our phones, sleeping etc. I mean we really needed a vacation from our vacation. Chips for lunch, sandwiches for dinner. What a life.

I know, it’s not an exciting post but that’s all we did. We laid on the beach and got our tan on. And thank God because I am not cute when I’m pale.  IMG_20140507_111041_433

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Thur 1 May

IMG_20140326_123601_489I know it’s not May 1 anymore but I’m trying to catch you all up on my adventures so bear with me. May 1 was a very cultural day for us because we got to see a live bull fight! Bull fighting is a long-lived tradition among the Spanish people. Spaniards watch toreo like Americans watch football; I didn’t realize how big of a crowd would draw, but the place was pretty crowded. The most famous bull fighting ring in all of Spain is Las Ventas, located in Madrid, and is only 2 stops away from my house! I don’t know what I was expecting it to be like but I was definitely excited. Bull fighting is broken up into 6 fights, with 3 professional matadors and his teams. Fights 1 and 4 are fought by the amateur, 2 and 5 by the intermediary and 3 and 6 by the expert. If you have never seen a bull fight, get there 45 minutes late because never seeing a bull fight and then having to watch the bull suffer because the amateur sucks is heart wrenching.

First, when the bull comes out, the matador’s team taunts it to get it riled up. Then a guy on a horse comes out with a lance. The horse is blinded, deafened and armored so that it doesn’t get spooked and see a 2,000 pound pissed off bull charging it. And, oh yes, it does charge the horse. [During the 2nd fight we saw, the bull charged the horse so hard, it buckled. I was more concerned for the horse than the bull at that point]. Then the guy on the horse lances the bull in the back of the neck to “stabilize” it, in a way. Then the matador’s team gets these spikes and have to insert the spikes into the bull’s neck while another one taunts it. If the spikes fallIMG_20140501_185900_751 out of the bull at any point during the fight, the matador loses points. So now the bull is pissed off, with spikes in its neck and bleeding. Then the real matador comes out and taunts the bull and that was actually awesome. It’s exactly like the movies! But underneath the red cloak, he has a sword that he is supposed to stab into the back of the bull’s head and get it in deep, so on the next round he can remove it with another sword. This is supposed to signify the start of the end of the match because the bull is dying soon. What is supposed to happen is that this hit with the sword is supposed to put it out of its misery and die in the next few minutes. Then a member of the matador’s team gives it the “brain dagger”, in which they stab the bull in the brain and it dies. The end. Unless you’re the amateur. The initial stab didn’t go in right the first time, so he had to do it again. And the bull cried out and all of us had tears in our eyes. Then they had to give the brain dagger 5 times before it died. That was so rough. But the other 2 fights were great! Good thing we had to leave before the start of the 4th fight because I don’t think I would be able to stomach watching the amateur massacre another bull.

IMG_20140501_222619_948After the bull fighting, we went to the first restaurant we ever ate at for the Welcome Dinner. But this dinner had a different title and was the end of an era for the kids on the Iberian program: Farewell Dinner. We ate like kings but it was bittersweet because nearly 20 students were heading back to the USA in the upcoming days. But we had a lot of fun and gave gifts to our professors and program director. And got a gift in return: a drawstring bag with all of our favorite places in Madrid. Then, we did superlatives. We had created some of them during our Northern Spain trip and voted on them later. Every single one of them was accurate, especially mine. I won “Most Likely to Snap in Agreement”. For those of you who know me, you can only imagine how I instinctively snapped when I received my award. It was a great night but everyone in the room felt it: our days were numbered.

While the 20 were frantically dashing for souvenirs and packing their suitcases the next day, I continued my streak of travelling and headed to…Germany!

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Northern Spain – Salamanca

Day 6! Woohoo! Final leg on this trip! We once again crossed the border and drove into Salamanca, one of the 9 provinces of Castilla-Leon, to the northwest of Madrid. And I loved it. It was one of my favorite places I’ve visited in Spain because of a few things but mostly because there were young people everywhere! Salamanca is a “college town” because the oldest Spanish university is la Universidad de Salamanca. [Everyone on the trip bought the T-Shirt; mine is bubble gum pink. Obviously]. But in general, I just loved the feel of Salamanca and its sand colored buildings. Literally, every single building is uniform in color, giving that old Spanish look that I love so much.

If you can guess the first thing we did, I’ll give you a euro. Did you think hard?  Because if you guessed that we saw the cathedral, you’d be correct. However, because some of the more irritating kids on our program complained about having to always see cathedrals so our professor let us off the hook. I was honestly looking forward to the cathedral because its absolutely beautiful [as most of the cathedrals are. I just really found an interest in architecture this semester ok? Don’t hate.]

After we saw the façade of the cathedral, we went to the university. Legend has it that if you find the frog on the building, you will have good luck in your studies at the university. News Flash: no one must have luck at that university because it is IMPOSSIBLE to Picture1find that stupid frog. First of all, this building is so intricate with all sorts of carvings, from the Spanish Kings, to patterns, to skulls, and of course, a frog. After 10 minutes of us standing in the hot sun, staring at the building, my professor made fun of us and showed us where the frog is. Well, I would have absolutely failed out of Salamanca because without Paco’s help, I would still be standing there. The frog is situated ON TOP of one of the skulls heads. I was not a happy camper because the frog is about the size of a miniature stapler….talk about finding a needle in the haystack, amirite?

After frog hunting, we got free time to roam around, eat and explore and what we found was the writing on the wall. No really, writing on the wall. All around Salamanca is a very specific font with the names and dates of people who have completed their PhD at the university back in the day when that was not a common goal to achieve. The random hodgepodge of letters to the left of the declaration actually spells out “Victor” to further proclaim the awesomeness of achieving the rarest and most difficult degree in higher education. Then we got back on the bus and drove back to Madrid. The End!

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“The Writing on the Wall”

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Northern Spain – Galicia

The second half of Day 3 we spent travelling to Galicia. If you haven’t figured it out yet, folks, we spent a lot of time in the bus, which isn’t good for our restless young heroine.

Day 4! We spent all day in Santiago del Compostela, which contains one of the most famous and significant monuments in all of Spain: the Cathedral of Santiago del Compostela. It’s so famous, in fact, that it is the engraving on the back of the Spanish 1, 2 and 5 eurocent coins. One of the most unique things about this Cathedral is that it is the final destination of a religious pilgrimage where people from all around the world start out at least 100 km (approximately 62 miles) from Santiago del Compostela and walk or bike the trail until they reach the Cathedral, collecting stamps from hostels and other checkpoints as proof of their journey. This adventure has now gone on my bucket list to one day do with my parents and my brothers when we are all a little bit older but not yet married [gulp…that could be in a few years for me…yikes] And we saw some pilgrims complete their journey as they proudly strolled in to the cathedral to endure the last ritual — the swinging incense and the burning of the clothes. Fun Fact: the original IMG_20140428_100004_306reason the gigantic incense was swung throughout the cathedral was to mask the disgusting smell of all the travelers, but is now part of the tradition [and maybe to still mask the smell]. We got to see this famous ceremony from the roof which was SO COOL. We climbed to the top and got to walk along the roof all the way around and look out onto the city. We learned about the architecture and then peered through the window to see the huge swinging incense. We also saw from the window the tomb of St. James. History Lesson: The name “James” translates into a few different names in Spanish: Diego, Jaime [like my cousin] and of course, Santiago. In the legend of St. James, the Virgin Mary appeared to him and said that he would have great success in spreading the word of Christ throughout the Iberian Peninsula. When he was executed, his executors put his bones in a little boat and pushed it into the ocean. The boat found its way to Galicia and when those who found his bones crossed a field, stars began to fall from the sky, signaling they should bury him there. Santiago del Compostela, translated from Gallego [the language spoken in Galicia], literally means “James of the Field of Stars”. When we got into cathedral, we of course explored, and got to visit the tomb of St. James from the inside. We also got to participate in a tradition in the cathedral called “El Abrazo”. In Spanish, “Abrazo” means hug. There is a g9lden bust statue of St. James that each person hugs and makes a wish and St. James will help make your wish come true. It was a cute tradition and I loved the Cathedral. If you’ve been counting on my adventures, we have seen about 10 cathedrals. This one is, by far, my favorite.

After our visit to the Cathedral, we got back on the bus and went to the Bodega Mar de Frades for wine tasting and a winery tour. This is good wine, like expensive stuff, as opposed to the stuff my friends and I have drank in Spain. The wine we tasted was from the Albariño grape and was harvested in the vineyard that stretched for miles. Unlike the Sidra farm, this bodega had very high tech equipment and huge vats to contain and ferment the grape juice. We tasted two types of wine and one champagne; the first wine Facebook-20140510-020217was sweet and almost fruity. It was very light and my favorite. The second wine was an older wine and had a smoky taste to it. Our professor, Elena, loved it but it was too sophisticated a taste for me.

After our wine tasting, we went to the shore in the tiniest little town and had a feast! Fresh tuna empanadas, salads, and homemade paella con arroz with vegetables and shrimp. I conquered a fear that day when I picked up the shrimp THAT STILL HAD EYES AND LEGS ON IT and peeled it to get to the edible meat. I was proud of myself. After that lunch, we all went  stuffed and sleepy back to the bus to cross the border and head to Portugal!

Galicia is easily one of my favorite places in all of Spain and one day, I hope to go back! 🙂
Shout out to my Aunt Jackie who is Galician and was 100% right about how much I would love Galicia!

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Northern Spain – Asturias

Did you miss me? I am so sorry for all of my loyal readers but I have been travelling and experiencing for 12 days straight and only now am I getting a chance to write about my adventures!

Directly after spring break, we had final exams [boo hiss] but were rewarded with a 6 day trip to the North of Spain [and Portugal!] to celebrate the program coming to an end. So on Day 1 [April 25] we geared up and headed from Madrid to Cantabria. It took everything I had not to jump out of the bus while it was moving — the drive was 9 hours. Yeah, I don’t do well sitting still for that amount of time. We got to Cantabria and pulled into a little village and had lunch by a marina. It was chilly but still pretty and Picture1there was a beautiful mountain view, but we only spent a few hours there. Then we got back on the bus and drove an hour more into Asturias where our big red bus drove into a very, very narrow dirt road and pulled up to an isolated hotel with its own private beach that we stayed in for two nights. The beach had a grotto and walking in the sand and among the rocks gave me the first taste of summer 🙂

Asturias is farmland and on this particular day, rainy farmland. There is nothing around for miles, which is what makes it pretty and quaint. But me personally, I could never live there. To start off Day 2, we left the hotel that morning and drove into the mountains to Covadonga. History Lesson: In 711, Don Pelayo was the first king to fight against the Muslims and his victory in the Batalla de Covadonga was the first step in the Spanish Reconquest. In Covadonga, we climbed into a rock tunnel and up to a small church built into the side of the cliff, where there was mass going on. Could you imagine if your home parish was in the side of a cliff?! It was beautiful. Then we went down to the Lagos, or IMG_20140426_111034_281Lakes, of Covadonga. The Lagos is one of the prettiest natural sites I’ve seen during my time in Spain and there was a fountain with Holy Water, as the lakes are flowing with blessed water. After that, we saw a big statue of Don  Pelayo and a small church. This church was unlike ones we have seen on previous trips — this one was austere and dimly lit but still beautiful and reverent in its own way.

After that, we got back on the bus and drove out to the countryside to a Sidra factory. Sidra is a special type of fermented apple juice that is famous in Asturias for the way they pour it. Click here to see a video of how Sidra is poured! We saw the apple orchard where our guide, and the owner of the farm, picks his apples to make sidra. He took us to the troughs where the apples are juiced and barrels where they are fermented and then are bottled. We got to eat a traditional Asturian lunch in their backyard and each got a chance to pour Sidra and drink it, too! Being in that backyard was like being at  a family reunion. I loved the atmosphere and all of us laughing and eating showed me how much of a family our program had become, despite how dysfunctional we are.

Day 3! We packed up our stuff and got on the bus to travel to another province, but not without seeing ancient cave art! We bussed it to a small town called Ribadesella and ventured into the Cueva de Tito Bustillo. IT WAS AWESOME! No pictures allowed because flash could distort the original colors on the rocks. I had never been in a cave before and we walked 15 minutes into the depth of this cave, probably to the center of the earth, with massive stalagmites just like in the movies. Then we got to the drawings and they were very realistic! These caves had been discovered by a bunch of teenaged cave hunters, one of which was Bustillo, who tragically died while cave hunting and had the cave named after him. The cave paintings were determined to be at least 15,000 years old. There was a purple horse, a mammoth and even a reindeer drawn in what looked like charcoal on the side of rocks inside the cave. I wish I could have taken pictures but I did buy a magnet of the horse and postcard of the cave, which is the closest I could get to a picture.

Then we were off on our horses and travelled to the next province…Galicia!
[Did you see what I did there about the horses? I know you smirked, I know you all did]

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Good Friday

Mary and Jesus

Mary and Jesus

Today is Good Friday, and in the Catholic faith, today is one the most important days of the liturgical calendar. In Spain, Semana Santa is celebrated from Palm Sunday to Easter with processions. And they are amazing! In the south of Spain, in the provinces of Andalucia, such as Malaga and Sevilla, the processions are huge and extravagant. They are not as flashy in Madrid but there is a procession every day and today was the day to see it. These processions are intense and could frighten small children, but are altogether moving and a great religious experience.

The procession is carried out by people dressed in white robes and black shoes and masks over their faces that come to a point at the top. As they were explained in class, they look like the KKK. Not a great reference, but an accurate one. They carry the banners and candles and the first person in the procession is the cross-bearer. The crucifix he holds is massive and silver and so beautiful. Then came the military band and they were great. Then came the sinners. Yeah, hold on I’m getting to why I said that. The people who came after the band walked the procession barefoot with chains around their ankles, as an act of penance in order to be forgiven for their sins. The Spanish onlookers have 2 different opinions about these people: some people are generally moved that they have taken on this challenge and are paying for their sins. The other half looks down on them and sneers at how they are obviously sinners and deserve to walk with chains. Behind them are three people, 2 men and 1 woman, who bear wooden crosses as their act of penance in the same style that Jesus bore his cross.

After that, there was an explosion of “AYYYY GUAPO!”, tears and clapping. A gigantic float of Jesus came parading down the street being pushed along by more people in the masks. The float was absolutely breathtaking and many people, including myself, said the Our Father. As Jesus passed, a wave of women in all black with old school high veils followed behind, and another wave of tears and clapping started. I figured out why about 2 minutes afterwards. These women signify the women who mourn Jesus and behind the crowd of veiled women was another gigantic  statue, this one of the Virgin Mary. Spanish people love the Blessed Mother more than anything in the world and as she passed, the crowd broke out into the Ave Maria [Hail Mary] prayer out loud.

It was a beautiful ceremony and I was so excited to watch a religious and cultural experience amongst Spaniards!

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Cultural Differences

This blog is usually dedicated to my adventures and how I’m spending these four months traipsing around Spain and Europe. But I’m going to take a page out of my friend Lorainne’s book and do one on culture. You can check out her study abroad blog here.

So what is different between Spain and the USA? So much.

New Cultural Differences: May 13
Water
In America, water is pretty expensive; even store brand isn’t that much cheaper. But in Spain, water is so cheap! In Málaga, I bought a 5 Liter [1.32 gallon] jug of water for €0.75. That’s $1, folks. A gallon for a dollar. When was the last time that happened?! Exactly.

New Cultural Differences: April 18
Dogs
In America, dogs are always on leashes. Always. Not even a question because if not, the dog got hit by a car – God forbid. In Spain, it is COMPLETELY NORMAL for your dog to roam the streets with no leash. They just trot alongside their owner like this isn’t the most absurd thing I have ever witnessed. But they behave, unlike American pups. They wait outside of the restaurant or store for the owner without being tied to a tree and don’t jump in the street after a squirrel. Cool trick for Spanish dogs; never gonna happen for American ones.

PDA
This one is a big one. During the time of Franco’s dictatorship, a lot of things were prohibited. So when he died, the Spanish population gained a lot of their privileges back but took them to an extreme because they could. And one of them was sex. It is adorable to see couples, young or old, holding hands or arm in arm walking around. And literally everyone is  a couple. If you’re single in Spain, it’s horrible for your self-esteem and you’re doing the culture wrong. However, there is a line between adorable and disgusting. It is a common occurrence to see couples kissing aggressively as if they are in their own house or having sex in parks [majorly awkward for the unknowing group of Americans] For Americans, this is too much for us and are really uncomfortable as PDA is generally frowned upon in public situations. I do love the couple-ness about Spain and we should bring that back to the USA but not the making out on trains. Like please wait until you get home.

Crosswalks
How this could possibly be a cultural difference is beyond me, but it is. At the corner of each street, there is a crosswalk. Simple enough, right? Not for Spaniards. Crosswalks are often in the middle of sidewalks and not on every corner. So sometimes to get somewhere, you have to walk a block, cross the street and walk a block back to get to where you want to go. #annoying.

Original Cultural Differences: April 5
Sports
America’s favorite pastime is baseball. If you don’t love baseball, people will say you’re Un-American. [And let me be clear, you are]. And obviously, people are also loyal to basketball, hockey and American football teams and rally around their teams in a strong fandom, living for rivalries and wishing ill on all that makes the enemy happy. But not all Americans are sports fans. In Spain, EVERYONE is a sports fan. [Finally, a country that understands my needs]. And they aren’t just a sports fan – they are a die hard fan. Spanish companies have taken breaks from the work day to watch the game at the office and when you go to a game live, the energy is electric. At American sporting events, people are hyped up, don’t get me wrong, but when was the last time you saw “The Wave” go around the stadium 5 times in a row without stopping? Right. The designated fan sections at games are filled with people waving flags, screaming all of the chants perfectly and even jumping in unison. I have mentioned the fandom at Atleti games in previous posts but it is still amazing to see every time.

Siesta
Why pre-schoolers have the right idea and the rest of the American population doesn’t is absolutely beyond me. But the Spanish have it down to a science: siesta. Taking a nap in the middle of the day is the greatest tradition ever known to man. Who disagrees with this idea? Oh, no one. I thought so.

Holidays and Vacations
America is a religiously tolerant country as we were founded on the principles of religious freedom by the Pilgrims in the 15th century. We are also a country without a national religion. Therefore, in American schools, we get days off for holidays like Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, both of which are Jewish holidays, as well as getting off for Christmas and Easter week. But the Spanish are very Catholic and school holidays are dramatically different. For example, December 8, the day of the Immaculate Conception, is a national holiday and nobody has school or work. There are no holidays for the Jewish faith and Spring Break week is always during Semana Santa [Holy Week] to enjoy the processions as they prepare for Easter.

Ashes on Ash Wednesday
This one was really weird for me. Ash Wednesday in the USA means the priest makes the sign of the cross on your forehead in ashes and you wear it as a sign of your faith all day. In Spain, the priest sprinkles ashes into you hair and makes the sign of the cross over your head to bless the ashes.

Music
Spain is stuck 20 years behind the USA with music. Restaurants play the best music because it’s all throwback from anywhere between 1998 and present day, with the majority of music being played between 2000 and 2006. And it’s great. I ordered food the other day listening to old Maroon 5. But because of this, the following for boy bands, like the Backstreet Boys, which I first-hand witnessed, is like they think they’re Americans themselves. I love it.

Hostels , Hotels and WiFi
Do we have hostels in the USA? I had never even heard of the concept of a hostel before deciding I wanted to study abroad. I really don’t know if we have them because I’ve been so lucky to have stayed in hotels my whole life. Hostels for the most part are pretty solid, except the one in Switzerland, but nothing beats a hotel. But something different about Spanish hotels is that they are equipped with twin beds, side by side. If you’re a couple, you have to specifically ask for a “cama de matrimonio” [marriage bed]  And of course, WiFi. Because of roaming charges, most of us depend on WiFi while in Europe. There are usually 3 places I can get WiFi: my house/hostel where I’m staying, school and restaurants. All you have to do is order something and then you can ask for the WiFi password. This does not happen in the United States. I have never even thought to ask for WiFi because we have data plans. Does the USA have WiFi for paying customers?

McDonald’s
McDonald’s has an awful reputation in the USA about being disgusting, fatty and cheap. In Europe, it isn’t. McDonald’s is regarded as a restaurant and most are two stories tall with easy check out machines that you can customize your order without talking to the cashier. The food is made well and is more expensive and Spaniards love it! [But they don’t have Wendy’s here, which is only mildly soul-crushing]

Concept of Time
I live in New York and go to school in Washington, DC. People we have to go, go, go, take names and kick ass, accomplish more than 7 things in one day or else you’ve wasted time etc. These people have ZERO concept of time. Lunch could take 1 hour or 4. But the best example of this is with clubbing. When Spaniards party, they stay out from when the metro closes at 1 am until 630 am when it reopens. It is completely normal to do that on a Monday night, go home, take a shower and head to work or class, with a quick nap in there if there’s time. Every American who first hears about this is in a state of shock: “What are these people thinking?! A Monday? I don’t think so. Friday or Saturday only. Thursday if I really need it, but not until 630 in the morning, just because”. It’s a great time. Still overwhelming, but awesome. However, on the other hand, because of their complete lack of time, these people meander. This is not something that I can handle. When I get behind a slow person in America, I get impatient, but here it’s maddening. Some people walk like they’re stuck in molasses. Sorry, but I am American and I have to things to do.

I’ll be continuing to add to this post, as I remember more things. Be sure to check back in every now and then!

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Baloncesto

What’s “Baloncesto”, you may be wondering. Baloncesto, in Spanish, means “basketball”! Last night for our soccer class [yes I know, basketball game for soccer class..?] we went to a basketball game. Professional basketball in Spain is big here. No where close to the following of soccer, but the stadium was pretty full last night. We saw Real Madrid [who is owned by Real Madrid Football Club] play Lokomotiv Kuban, a Russian team whose uniforms were blinding red. The game was held at the Palacio de Deportes, a casual 4 minute stroll from where I live in Goya. The building is beautiful with big glass windows and painted teal with stars on it. The

basketball game

Real Madrid v. Lokomotiv during warmups

reason we got to go to the game is because one of my soccer professors, Pablo, used to play for Estudiantes, another professional Spanish basketball team when he was younger. After he retired, he went into business and him and Marco, my other professor, are partners. Right?! How cool is that?! The game was interesting for about 5 minutes but Real Madrid was running circles around Russia and ended up beating Russia by more than 25 points. It was a fun experience and really interesting to see Spaniards invested in another sport other than soccer.

 

As a sports marketing person, maybe Spain is the country for me to work in 🙂

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Reina Sofia

For class on Thursday, we went on a cultural field trip to the Reina Sofia museum. The museum is named after the current Queen, Sofia, and houses contemporary art. This museum holds pieces different from the Prado, which I’ve mentioned in previous posts. The Prado holds classic art, such as Baroque and Renaissance styles that are each associated with a specific century. But contemporary art has many styles so there isn’t one that stands out the most. The museum is HUGE so we only saw the highlights of the museum. We saw works by Goya and other artists but then we saw the most important piece in the whole museum: Picassos’s Guernica. This painting is  enormous and really weird, but the significance is awesome. As with all big masterpieces, there is controversy over it. The painting is located in Madrid, but the town of Guernica is located in the Basque country. So, obviously, the Basque want it back to put in the Guggenheim, but the Spanish government said no. Madrid 1 – Basque Country 0.

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Guernica

The Guernica is about the bombing of Guernica, where the fascists bombed the town of innocent civilians during the reign of Franco. Immediately, Picasso started working on the piece and 7 weeks later, the 30 foot masterpiece was completed. However, because Picasso is Picasso and was very creative and different with his work, the painting is not pretty or comprehensible. But, of course, each piece of the painting represents something. The two main animals in Spain are bulls and horses, so they’re included. The Spanish word for lightbulb is “bombillo”, representing the bomb that was dropped on the town. It was definitely a cool cultural excursion!

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Cuenca & Valencia

This past weekend travelled to the east coast of Spain and visited Cuenca and Valencia. In all honesty, this was my least favorite trip around Spain. It was still fun and I still took a million pictures, but there wasn’t a whole lot to like there was in Barcelona and Andalucía.

We spent most of the first day in Cuenca. Cuenca is about the size of my high school and there are only 2 things to see there. The first thing we saw was, of course, you guessed it: a cathedral. This cathedral was much than the ones we have seen before because this cathedral was the first to be built and was the prototype for the other cathedrals to be based off of. Inside, our professor explained that the Cathedral of Cuenca was a mixture of different artistic periods, with pieces of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic art adorning the interior. It was a very pretty church nonetheless and I answered all of the Sainthood questions correctly that Paco asked us.

Then we saw the hanging houses from this awesome bridge suspended over a massive gorge. They were very cool and the signature of Cuenca. We got to go inside one of them that had been converted into an art museum. A modern art museum. Now, as we all know, I’m not a big art person but Paco makes it interesting for me and I feel engaged in the art because he is such a good professor.

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Casa Colgada

I could not care less about modern art. Like at all. I have arts and crafts from kindergarten that look like some of this stuff. In my opinion, I just can’t put modern works and masterpieces from El Greco and Picasso on the same level. If you’re into that sort of stuff, go see it! You would love it — I just didn’t.

Then we got back on the bus and headed for Valencia. The first thing we saw in Valencia was my favorite part of the trip! We went to the Fallas museum. Fallas is a festival dedicated to the Patron Saint Day of St. Joseph, which was on March 19. This festival is a festival of lights and illuminations…and fire! The Valencian people spend an entire year making gigantic parade floats out of wood and paper mache. And on the night of Fallas, the floats are burned. All that hard work just to go up in flames — literally! But there is a special competition for the Ninot Indultat. [“Ninot” means “doll” in Valenciano]. This means that one doll/figurine from the best float will be saved and put on display in the Fallas museum. The museum had all of the Ninots since the beginning of the 2o century! Some of the Ninots are huge and overwhelming and others are small and preserved in glasses cases and others are entire scenes with multiple characters. But of all the Ninots are very

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Ninot from 2012!

detail orientated and life-like, even the ones from back in the day. The 2014 one wasn’t on display yet but the 2013 one was a little girl sitting with her father in a chair reading a book, with a bookshelf behind them and a rocking horse by the little girl’s feet. It was so realistic! But my favorite is the Ballerina from 2012! Other than the Ninots, there are also paintings of the Falleras. The Falleras are girls who dress up in traditional costumes and put their hair in Princess Lea buns and have a beauty pageant. For little American girls, the goal is to be Miss USA. For Valencian girls, the goal is to be Fallera Mayor. These girls are so pretty and they take a lot of pride in their regional culture and competition. For those of you who are up on your Iberian Peninsula

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Fallera [left]; Dama de Elche [right]

history, the area of Valencia was controlled by the Iberians and they created Dama de Elche. Look at the similarity. It’s just a theory but it could work. I know you all see it.

 

The next day we started off by going to the Aquarium. I love aquariums and this one reminded me of Sea World. There was a shark tunnel that we got to walk through and tons of different species of fish. There was also a beluga whale and walrus exhibit and they were awesome! Beluga whales were my favorite when I was a kid and would watch the same VHS about whales with my brother over and over again. So I was very happy to see the Belugas. But the best part of the aquarium was the dolphin show! There was an outside arena and the dolphins were wonderful! I want a pet dolphin that does backflips in my pool, don’t you?!

After the aquarium, we went to….the Cathedral. But this Cathedral was no ordinary Cathedral. This Cathedral was a religious experience that I haven’t had since I went to the Vatican in Rome. In the Cathedral of Valencia, in the most sacred chapel of all the chapels, is the Holy Grail. Not like the Jay-Z song, y’all. The Holy Grail is believed by Catholics to be the Chalice that Jesus drank

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Holy Grail

out of during the Last Supper. I didn’t experience the Miracle of Tears or anything like that but I was definitely moved that I could be so lucky to stand in front of one of the most important Catholic artifacts in the world. The Chalice was guarded by glass, a velvet rope and two security guards so no one was getting past that but it was still cool to see it.

 

On the last day of the trip, we went to La Albufera. La Albufera reminded me of Sunken Meadow Park on Long Island, where I used to go on nature field trips in elementary school. La Albufera is a National Park and has many species of ducks inhabiting the area. We even went to a museum about La Albufera that was in a garage. I’m not even kidding. We went on a riverboat cruise in the park and also visited the 4 ecosystems that make up La Albufera — forest, marsh, dunes and beach. It was rainy and cold so we didn’t get to spend time on the beach, which ended up being a good thing because we learned that the beach is actually a nude beach. And we definitely didn’t need that, like at all. La Albufera  is famous for its rice paddies. Valencian rice is the best for making paella and the type of rice harvested in La Albufera is specially marked to be sold only throughout Spain — it does not go outside of the country. How authentic! I had to buy a bag so that my parents can make paella for me when I get back to the states 🙂 Even though the town was a ghost town with only 500 residents, there were 3o restaurants, all dedicated to paella. And we ate some for lunch and it was so good!

 

 

 

 

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