Tuesday, June 7, 2011

All Around Andalucía

Yet another amazing weekend traveling throughout the Iberian Peninsula - this time it was a planned UNC trip through Cordoba and Granada, the other two major cities in Andalucía (the southern region of Spain) besides Sevilla. We went to Cordoba Saturday morning, came back to Sevilla that night, then left for Granada early Sunday morning and just returned Monday evening (meaning we got to miss class, yay!)

It started out with another 2 hour bus ride (I'm so over buses right now) to Cordoba at 8:30 am - and our first stop was an ancient 1st century Roman bridge leading to the Mezquita de Cordoba. Its a 10th century mosque that was later converted into a cathedral when the Christians took over Spain. It was a little bit creepy walking on a bridge that old, but apparently the Romans knew what they were doing if its worked this long! The mosque (its technically a cathedral now but everyone still calls it a mosque) was absolutely huge - the 3rd largest in the world. It was pretty funny to see how the Christians tried to cover up the fact that its a mosque with religious elements such as crosses and statues - that building definitely had an identity crisis. It was really cool to learn about all of the different styles of architecture in class then be able to see it first hand.

Muslim - style arches in the mosque

We then went to Calle de los Flores, pretty much just a tiny little side street with a bunch of nice flowers. After that we wandered through the old city and through the Jewish quarter in order to get to the oldest synagogue in Andalucia, and one of the 3 remaining synagogues from the Medieval period in Spain. It was really small and had been converted into a Christian hospital in the 1600s, but there was still very beautiful carvings in Hebrew all along the walls. It was dedicated to Maimonides, a Jewish doctor and philosopher who was born in Cordoba before the Jews were driven out of the country. After our tour we had some free time in the city before heading back to the bus, so of course I went shopping. Later we got on our bus yet again to head back to Sevilla for the night (don't ask me why, Cordoba and Granada are only an hour apart, and Granada is 3 hours from Sevilla). We got some good Turkish food for dinner then watched USA get killed by Spain in soccer. 

The next morning bright and early yet again we set off for Granada, a beautiful mountain town. The cooler weather was much appreciated - there was still snow on the tops of the mountains! When we got there we checked into the Hotel Los Angeles - it was very nice with a pool and yummy food. After we got settled in we went on a tour of La Alhambra - the palace complex of Ferdinand & Isabella, and later their son Carlos V the Holy Roman Emperor. Needless to say, it was gorgeous. It was also built by the Muslims, so there were tons of colorful mosaics and intricate gardens surrounding the different buildings. 
Then we climbed to the top of one of the old look out towers used by the army in order to protect the city - this tower was called Torre de la Vela and it has the best view in all of Granada - the climb up those steep stairs was totally worth it!
View from the top of the tower
After our tour of La Alhambra, we had time to explore the city - I'm in love. Its like the Asheville/Carrboro of Spain, so many hippies everywhere and an absolutely gorgeous landscape. We went to a Recycling Fair where everything being sold was made out of recycled goods - there was also a bike-powered carousel and a huge life-size chess board. We kept wandering and found another open air market that had so many different kinds of food - olives, peppers, dried fruit, nuts, cheese, chocolate, crepes, EVERYTHING. We got a lot of samples and it was all amazing. 

After more wandering and shopping we went back to the hotel for a huge dinner, then it was time to hike up to the Mirador (the overlook) at the top of one of the biggest mountains in Granada. Lets just say flip-flops were a bad choice for this trip. But, as always, the view in the end is always worth the hike, and this time we were able to see La Alhambra all lit up at night. After this we walked through the Muslim neighborhood where there were tons of traditional shops, cafes, and restaurants. We ended up going to a Teteria (an Arab tea cafe) where we all sat around a table and drank a bunch of different kinds of amazing herbal teas. Being there was like a total escape from Spain - it felt like we were in a small town in the Middle East, it was very relaxing. By the time that was over it was time to head back to the hotel for the night. The next morning we got a REAL breakfast! Eggs and everything! The first time I've had something besides a plain slice of toast in a month...so nice. Then we went on a tour of La Capilla Real where Ferdinand & Isabella are buried, along with their daughter Juana la Loca and her husband Felipe el Hermoso. Unfortunately we couldn't take pictures in there, but trust me, it was really pretty! The next stop was the Catedral de Granada, another beautiful Renaissance style cathedral - the 4th largest in Spain behind those of Sevilla, Madrid, and Toledo. 
After the tour we decided to stick with the Middle East theme and got some falafel for lunch, and of course we had to get ice cream after. This place was AMAZING - all of the flavors were so unique and it was much cheaper than the ice cream in Sevilla. I got roche and chocolate orange flavor...yum :)
After a little bit more exploring and shopping it was time to get back on the bus and head home (it was perfect timing because it had just started thunder storming). I was very sad to leave - I could have easily spent another week there (good thing my parents are coming soon so we can go back!) We got back to Sevilla right around dinner time and I had tons of homework to do...back to the reality of why I'm actually here. If I had it my way I would just travel around Spain forever, I can't believe theres only 2 weeks left of my program then 2 more weeks of traveling with my parents! Next weekend we're heading to Cadiz (the oldest city in Spain), and I just booked at day trip to Gibraltar for the weekend after that! Hasta pronto :)

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