Over our spring break we traveled to Spain! We started in Barcelona, took the train to Madri and flew home from Lisbon. Traveling and using a different language was one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had while abroad. Different music, food, and culture surrounded us for the nine days. I thought that there was going to be a much more difficult communication process on the trip, as I speak a little Spanish but no Portuguese. However, almost everywhere we went people spoke English to us and helped us translate different food options. This is especially helpful because we were traveling with two people who could not eat gluten and the communication was always easy and transparent.
My favorite place that I visited was the Prado Museum in Madrid. The art was different than any I had studied before, coming from a western concentration with my studies in art history. The influences in the modern rooms of Spanish culture included bright colors and political statements. The museum layout was similar to ones that I have been to before with one main old museum and an additional new wing built. This divided the more Spanish specific art from the traditional European artists. Artists like Rubeun, Vermeer, and Rafael lined the walls. Paintings that I had only seen in textbooks were right in front of me. The museum was mainly empty, a difference from my visiting in the free packed London Art Galleries. It was a Wednesday and the museum was only free to students so this cut down on the amount of tourists wandering. The openness allowed me to not have a plan, but to wander where I thought would be most interesting. I wandered for an hour or so through mainly religious artwork. Madrid had a very catholic culture which is reflected in the art taken from cathedrals. I rounded a corner and audibly gasped. The Las Meninas were standing in front of me. It is one of my favorite paintings and I hadn’t known that it would be on display. Painted by a lesser known artist Velazquez, it showcases a very unique positioning and almost still like effect of the little girls getting ready. It was so much bigger that I thought it was, spanning an entire wall, in a room all by itself. I must have stood there for 45 minutes staring at the painting and all the details. Getting to see this painting and all of the paintings in the Prado was a cultural introduction to Madrid that helped me learn more about the Spanish people. The deep religious ties in intrinsic art and the bold difference of the modern artistic style are things that I did not expect to learn on our spring break.