Friday, March 13, 2009

"Vente conmigo a vivir..."

Short geography/history lesson: The southernmost tip of Spain is only about 2 feet (ok, really around 2 miles, I believe) from the northernmost part of what is now Morocco. This means that in the year 711, it was extremely easy for a decent-sized contingent of Muslims to cross over to Spain and take over fairly quickly, with the exception to this being the northernmost sections of the peninsula. In 718 the Christians started fighting to take back power in the peninsula, though it took them until 1492 to actually succeed fully at this. During this time the Muslims centered themselves in the south of Spain, specifically in the part that we now know as Andalucía, with their capital being Córdoba. Though the Catholic Kings and the Inquisition did a pretty good job of getting rid of anyone who was not a Christian, Muslim influences remained - and still remain - throughout Spain and are strongest in Andalucía...

...which is where I just spent the past week! We (our program) set out early Tuesday morning and after a nearly 6-hour bus ride (gag) we arrived in Córdoba. After a lunch at which we were served salmorejo, a variation on gazpacho and a specialty of Andalucía (I was one of about 2 people who actually ate and enjoyed all of it), we visited the Mezquita-Catedral: the Mosque-Cathedral. This building was a mosque that was built in 785 and enlarged a variety of times by several Muslim kings. When Córdoba was reconquered by the Christians they consecrated the building as a catholic church and in 1523 they idiotically began covering up some of the most beautiful architecture I have ever seen and made the center section into a Baroque-style cathedral. They should have been shot. Luckily, they only did this in the very center, so the majority of the Arabic architecture remains and oh, boy is it something to behold. I decided at that moment (and throughout the rest of the trip) that I definitely prefer the old Muslim architecture and art to the overwhelming gaudiness of the Christian/Baroque stuff.

After visiting the Mezquita-Catedral, we hopped back on the bus and drove another couple of hours down to Sevilla, where we stayed for the next two evenings. We spent a lot of time walking around the city, both with the whole group and then later with our art teacher. The weather was absolutely perfect the entire time we were down there - perfectly sunny and high 60´s/low 70´s. Sevilla is full of orange trees (which you cannot eat - they are incredibly bitter and are actually used for cosmetics) and beautiful gardens...I was so excited to see some vegetation! Wednesday evening we got to go to a traditional Flamenco show...I tell you, I have no idea how they move their feet so fast and with such passion. It is exhausting just to watch! By far the coolest thing we did while there, though Cassie accidentally ordering fried sardines was a close second. You eat the little suckers whole (head and all); I did try one and they actually aren´t too bad so long as you don´t think too much on what you are actually eating. Mmm fish eyes...delish...

Another favorite Sevilla moment: Wednesday morning we visited the cathedral, which is the biggest cathedral in the world. Now, when we go on these trips we are accompanied by Fundación professors who act as our tour guides. Cassie and I (as well as several other girls) are particularly fond of Andrés, who has gone on several of these trips with us, and we always try to be in his group (not only is he incredibly interesting, but he has this very soothing voice that almost purrs when he says any word with an R in it...). At any rate, apparently in Spain the ¨official tour guides¨ are overly territorial about all of these historic places, thinking that they are the only ones who should be allowed to give tours of them. While at the cathedral, we had one particular woman, one of these ¨official tour guides¨, seek Andrés out and interrupt our tour twice to try to tell him that he should not be allowed to give a tour. The second time she literally tried to tell him that we could not be in a certain part of the cathedral (though we clearly could), and his response was (roughly translated), ¨This is a cathedral. It is not anyone´s territory. I am a professor with my students; now leave us alone!¨ When she stomped off like a 3-year-old, he sarcastically called after her, ¨¡Aw, pobrecita!¨ (Oh, you poor little thing...) We felt he deserved a round of applause because we just wanted to drop-kick her, crazy woman.

Thursday morning we headed to Granada. Thursday we mostly had free time to wander about the city and take in some of the glorious sun by the river. Friday we visited La Alhambra before heading home to Madrid. La Alhambra is apparently the most visited place in Spain. It is more than just a Muslim palace - it is a mini-city within Granada. It is also one of the best preserved Arab palaces anywhere, especially when you consider how old it is. For example, in one of the rooms the original tile was replaced when the Christians took over, yet Chuck pointed out that even though it was replaced hundreds of years after the palace was built, it was still two and a half times older than our own country. That kind of stuff blows my mind.

In conclusion, when I am Queen of the World, I am going to have my winter home in Sevilla. Woudn´t want my summer home there because it gets far too hot, but I´m sure it would be about perfect in winter. You are all invited to visit.

1 comment:

Julie said...

But you won't be Queen of the World until either I die or abdicate the throne, and so I won't get to visit. How sad is that? :(