Monday, April 14, 2014

Domingo de Ramos

Today (technically it's Monday now here, but I swear I started it before midnight) in the Catholic world it is Palm Sunday, or as it is called in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, Domingo de Ramos. Every Palm Sunday in Alicante and other cities in Spain, there are processions where people dress up wearing pointed hats/masks (they look like the Klu Klux Klan masks, but the Spaniards were using them first and they are in no way shape or form used for the same purpose) carrying statues of biblical scenes while others carry palm branches. Domingo de Ramos is considered the start of Semana Santa, or Holy Week, and throughout the week there will be other processions in Alicante and other cities.
Dolo and me at the procession









Semana Santa is also spring break! Like I mentioned in my last post, I am going to Madrid, Segovia, Ávila, Toledo and El Escorial. I'm really excited; I'm not sure how I'm going to get through the three days of classes though before I leave, but I'll have to manage.

After the procession, I came home to eat and I did a little bit of homework before one of Dolo's friends picked me up and we went to Castillo Santa Bárbara where there is currently a Star Wars exhibit. It was really neat to see all of the Star Wars memorabilia.

The name of the exhibit:
The Whole Galaxy in the Castle

They had paintings of Star Wars scenes based
off of famous Spanish Paintings
Based off: The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest
by El Greco

Based off: Saturn Devouring His Son by Goya

Based off: Guernica by Picasso






Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Just a Normal Week

Sorry, I haven't posted in a while, I've had a pretty uneventful week and a half or so and I don't really have much to talk about. I don't even have any pictures from this past week, but I promise to take some more to show all of you. However, if you want to see some pictures from Spain and the things Spain is famous for check out this link (http://www.buzzfeed.com/conzpreti/reasons-you-should-be-in-spain-right-now); it's a list from BuzzFeed of the 25 reasons you should be in Spain right now, and they are very good reasons. It's very cool, or as they say in Spain: ¡es muy chulo!

Last weekend I planned my upcoming spring break and I'm going to travel around Central Spain for a week. I'll be going to Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Ávila and El Escorial (which is a palace/monastery only 1/2 hour from Madrid). I'm super excited, however it makes it a lot harder to focus on school with a trip like this coming up, but I'm managing.

El Escorial (found via Google)

I've finally started to feel a bit homesick because I registered for my classes next fall at CMU and that got me thinking about CMU and my friends there and how much I miss them, but I got over it pretty quickly when I realized it was about 50 degrees back home and 75 degrees in Alicante.

Speaking of next fall, I was notified last week that I was accepted into the Accelerated Master's Program for Spanish!!! Starting next fall I will be able to take graduate-level classes while completing my Bachelor's and for the price of undergraduate-level classes, which cost about half as much. It's a great opportunity, not only because it costs less, but because if all goes well I should only need 1 more year of schooling in order to graduate with my Master's!

The first sentence of my acceptance e-mail



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Faro de Albir


This past Sunday I went with Dolo and some of her friends to the faro de Albir (Albir lighthouse) in a town just about 30 miles to the north of Alicante called Albir. The lighthouse is situated on top of a mountain/cliff (whatever you want to call it) that's right on the Mediterranean; the water was so amazingly blue that day, words cannot even describe it and these pictures, unfortunately, don't do it justice, but they're good enough. The lighthouse and the trails are part of, what we would call a state park, el Parque de la Sierra Gelada (Sierra Gelada Park) because it's named after the mountain range it's located on.




It wasn't very strenuous (thank goodness, because I am definitely not a mountain climber); there was a paved path to get to the main attraction, the lighthouse. However, we also saw some old ochre (or ocher) mines alongside the mountain and we had to walk down the mountain, but there was a path (although not paved) so it was still pretty easy to get to them. We all packed lunches and ate them on the bank where the mountain met the Mediterranean. The mountain offered amazing views of the Mediterranean, of Albir and two another cities called L'Alfàs del Pi and Altea and other mountain ranges in the background.

Ochre

The remains of the mine

This is where we ate lunch!



After we left the park we went to either Albir or L'Alfàs del Pi to a heladería (ice cream parlor) because after walking around all day in the sun we were a bit tired and hot. Then we returned to Alicante and Dolo and I just sat around for the rest of the evening/night because we were so tired.

This weekend Dolo is going to Madrid for a girl's weekend with some of her friends from Pinoso so I'll be alone this weekend, but I plan on hitting the books hard because it's finally starting to sink in that I have two 10 page papers, a 5 page paper due and an analysis of a 20th century work of art at the end of the semester; and seeing as we're less than a month from the halfway period of our semester, I figured I better get started on them sooner rather than later.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Granada

The Alhambra from a plaza below it
I wanted to post this earlier in the week, but I've felt a bit lazy lately; Wednesday was Día de San José (Saint Joseph´s Day) which is also when they celebrate Father's Day in Spain, so there were no classes, so I should have posted this then, but like I said, I've been feeling lazy. However, I did do something somewhat productive on Wednesday, I Skyped with my high-school Spanish teacher and two of her classes; I talked to them in Spanish for a little so they could get some practice understanding Spanish, but then they asked me questions in English and I made it easy for them by answering in English as well. I hope that I inspired someone to study abroad someday, because I'm not even halfway through my experience and it has already been the best experience in my life so far.

Well, now for the good stuff: my trip this last weekend to Granada.

I left Alicante on a bus to Granada at 9:30am on Friday, I wasn't as bold as my fellow Chippewas, who left at 3:30am when they went last month. I went alone, because they had gone already, but I didn't mind at all. Really, it was a great experience because I learned that I can now do that kind of thing without feeling (too) nervous. I arrived in Granada around 2:30pm and the hostel reception was closed from 2 until 5 for lunch and a siesta, so I just explored the beautiful city for awhile and went to the Cathedral (and took some photos even though a sign said not too - I know I'm a terrible person, but it was too beautiful not to take pictures and I did make sure that my flash was off). Once my hostel was open I checked-in and went to my room to drop my stuff off before exploring some more. The hostel, called La Almohada Hospedaje (The Pillow Inn) which was amazing and beautiful; it's a traditional Spanish house, with a patio in the center and everything, which the owner redecorated and reformed it a little. I really liked the key to my room and the whole hotel in general and I was able to get my own room for only €20 (about $28) which I didn't think was all that bad, of course there are cheaper places, but I decided to splurge a little for my own room. I recommend La Almohada Hospedaje if you ever go to Granada.

Catedral de Granada




The key to my room

My room

After checking-in, I went to the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel) where 2 kings, 2 queens and a prince are buried: the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Fernando; there daughter Queen Juana I (better known as Juana la Loca) and her husband King Felipe I; and Prince Miquel (of both Portugal and Spain), Isabel's and Fernando's grandson from their oldest daughter Isabel . Being a huge history geek (especially when if comes to Spanish history), I was so excited because Isabel and Fernando played such an important role in the history of Spain. Friday night was a little boring because I decided to hit the hay early because my ticket to the Alhambra was for 9am and they recommend that you get there 30-60 minutes early so I got up at 7:30 and I am not really that much of a morning person.

Granada is best known for the Alhambra, a palace built by the Muslim rulers of Spain in the 800s; originally a small fortress, it became a palace officially in the 1300s after renovations and when the Nasrid dynasty made it their official palace and ergo the capital. after many years of wars between the Christian kingdoms and the Muslim kingdoms, by the late 1400s only Granada remained under Muslim rule, until 1492. We all know the rhyme: "in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue" (which Granada is an important city in the history of Columbus because it was there where Queen Isabel gave him permission for his first voyage), but for Spain 1492 was also the year that Granada, the last Muslim city, was taken by the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabel and King Fernando.

So Saturday I got up early and went to the Alhambra, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is so amazing; words cannot describe it. The main attraction is the Nasrid Palace; it is the most beautiful part, the walls are extremely detailed with Arabic and other designs in stucco. There are arches everywhere and I love arches (I know, I'm kind of a geek) and lots of water in various fountains, the most famous is the lion fountain in el Patio de los Leones (the Lion Patio). The Nasrid Palace is breathtakingly beautiful, I would go back in a heartbeat.
The entrance to the Nasrid Palace



Pretty much all of the walls are like this - amazingly
detailed with beautiful Arabic calligraphy





Patio de los Leones

Fuente de los Leones
Lion Fountain




Also in the Alhambra is the Generalife, essentially the palace gardens, but it also contains what used to be the summer home for the kings. Not a lot is in bloom right now, so it seemed a little bear, yet it was still extremely beautiful. The Alcazaba is the fortress part and it has towers you can go up to get great views of the city. And finally the Alhambra has el Palacio de Carlos V (Charles V's Palace - as in Charles V Holy Roman Emperor who was also King of Spain), which acts as a museum of the Alhambra's artifacts. I spent about 3 hours there, which I guess is normal and I understand why, there is so much to see and you definitely do not want to go through it too fast because everything is so beautiful there.
Lighting is kind of bad, but me at the Generalife with
the Nasrid Palace in the background

Patio de la Acequia
Patio of the Canal


Escalera del Aqua
Water Stairway

Altar of the church in the Alhambra

Palacio de Carlos V

Entrance to the Alcazaba

El Albaicín and Sacromonte from the Alcazaba

Interior of the Alcazaba

Granada from the Alcazaba

After the Alhambra, I went to el Museo de las Cuevas del Sacromonte (the Museum of the Sacromonte Cave's). Sacromonte is a mountain on the outskirts of the city and when the Romani (gypsies) began coming to the area, they lived in the caves in the mountain. The museum recreated the caves to make them look like what they did when people lived in them. People still technically live in some of the caves, but they have been remolded to be more like a house than a cave.



The Alhambra from Sacromonte


Then on my way down from Sacromonte, I stopped at a museum in the Albaicín (the older part of town) called the Palacio de los Olvidados (the Palace of the Forgotten). It's a museum all about the Jewish culture in Spain before they were expelled from the country, focusing on the Jewish culture in Granada. It was very informative and it was a guided tour, and although I waited about 10 or 15 minutes, no one else came so I had a one on one tour with the tour guide, which was pretty nice because I could ask whatever questions I had.
Symbol of the Inquisition, which was what
caused a lot of the Jews that converted
to Christianity to leave Spain and some
were even sentenced to death


A table with Islamic aspects - it is believed
it was made by a Jew because of the Star of David
on the bottom

Then I headed back to the hostel for a little rest then went out for dinner and to see the city at night and it was so cool to see the Alhambra with a full moon (or at least nearly full) behind it, too bad my camera is horrible at taking pictures at night so none of them really turned out so great.

Sunday I slept in after the long day I had on Saturday and since I didn't have anything planned, I simply walked around the city and just went to a few stores and a couple other places of interest such as a park where I could see some of the Sierra Nevada (Snowy Mountains - and rightly named so). Then after a little while, I went to the train station about an hour early (after missing the train in Valencia I did not want to miss the bus). I got back to Alicante around 9:30pm so I basically unpacked and went to bed because I was so exhausted.
"Granada" means pomegranate in English so
you see pomegranates all throughout the city; for
example, this pole that separates the street
from the sidewalk.

Statue/fountain of Queen Isabel giving Columbus
permission to go on his first voyage



Sierra Nevada

Nothing too exciting this last week, other than Skyping with my Spanish teacher from high school. This weekend I plan on just relaxing a little after two the trips the last two weekends and I'll probably try to do some reading for my classes.