The week of being a tourist in Spain
The Travel Experience
I was filled with emotion as I waved goodbye to Philadelphia and welcomed Spain as my new, temporary home. I left my parents embrace at the airport with feelings of excitement and nervousness. I was so fortune as to fly with a friend and former travel-mate, which made the flying process much more palatable. To my dismay, we did not have seats on the plane even remotely near each other. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however, because I was seated next to a Spanish woman, Matilde, or Mati for short, who was happy to chat with me the entire flight. The hours flew by as a I learned about her upbringing, her children, her husband, and her personal history as a dual citizen and wife of an American military man. Mati and I exchanged numbers, as well as Facebooks, and she offered so much valuable knowledge about Spain—from common Spanish phrases to recommended places to travel—Mati’s advice will follow me throughout this experience.
Madrid, Toledo, and Segovia
Upon arriving in Madrid, I was stunned by the beautiful architecture and layout of city. It’s easy to overlook or forget European history that we learn through textbooks, but when you are in a city that pre-dates America’s founding by nearly 1000 years, you are struck in the face with unforgettable beauty. I spent the first week in Spain exploring the city as a group with the best tour guide I have ever had, Jerry. Our first tour began close to our hotel, where we visited the original border wall built to once protect the city from invaders under Muslim rule, and the other, larger wall, built after the Catholics reconquered Spain. In that same day, we had the opportunity to visit the Real Madrid stadium, as well as the bull stadium, Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas. My favorite part of the local tour was our stop at Museo Prado. The art exhibition was fantastic, including pieces from Picasso, Greco, Goya, and Velázquez.
Throughout the week we traveled to smaller cities close by Madrid, such as Segovia and Toledo. In both places, I was stunned by the architecture and to learn about the role of religion in the development of these masterful churches, cathedrals, aqueducts and other buildings. In Toledo, for example, a lot of the churches, and even the sole synagogue, were plastered with Islamic influence—in both the materials used as well as the designs. We learned that, although Toldeo was reconquered by the Catholics, they often contracted Muslim artists to construct some of the most sacred religious buildings, such as the Cathedral of Toledo. We also learned that the Catholics built the Cathedral of Toledo after the city’s reconquering on top of the former mosque. I found it so interesting that the Church incorporated Islamic elements in the design of its cathedral.
Off to Oviedo
Yesterday we left Madrid for Oviedo, the capital city within the providence of Asturias. The trip was roughly 6 hours by car, but I kept occupied by the views from outside of the car window. I met my host family upon arrival, who welcomed me with open arms. I am still adjusting from living in a hotel with classmates to living in a stranger’s home, but I am optimistic about the transition. It has only been a week since I left Philadelphia, but I am definitely missing my family and friends. I begin classes tomorrow, and will report back next week about my classes, new experiences, and how I am feeling!