Tuesday 10 January 2012
Term II: Spain
For the better part of a month I was convinced that I was going to spend the rest of my nine months abroad unhappy and the saddest part of this is that I was okay with that but in the past week my sanity has returned thanks to the sun. Before coming to Edinburgh I would complain about the sun on weekly bases expressing how much I loved the rain and clouds and cold; no more of this from now on I will embrace the sun and its healing powers.
For the final stretch of my winter break my dad and I departed from the cold, dark, rain of Britain for the warmth and sunshine in south western Spain. We arrived in the city of Malaga which sits on the Costa del Sol on the Mediterranean on 3 January and immediately made our way to the beautiful city of Marbella where the rich and famous often spend their summer holidays. We were in Marbella for three nights and during the two days that we spent there we just walked up and down the coast soaking in the healing sun and looking out at the stunning Mediterranean. Within a day of my ‘Spanish Sun Therapy’ I was already beginning to feel like my old confident self again sure that the coming term would be much better and that I was strong enough to take any further curve balls thrown at me. On the third day we departed Marbella and drove three hours to the small ‘desert’ town by the sea, San Jose where we spent two nights in a beautiful hotel surrounded by the silence of the wilderness. San Jose was a lot like Death Valley in California and I often found myself pondering if I wasn’t actually in Spain but was instead back in the United States, the all-Spanish channels on the television cleared that confusion up real quick though. On the one day that we were in San Jose my dad and I went for a four hour walk along the coast. Though San Jose was beautiful and the freedom from the pollution and noise of the city was refreshing and enjoying the silence was unnerving and I was constantly afraid that I would wake up in the night and see a pale face looking in my window (we were on the first floor); I’ve obviously watched too much CSI.
On the second day in San Jose we drove to our final destination away from the Mediterranean into the mountains of Spain. Our final stop for four nights before returning to Britain is the beautiful old Islamic city of Granada. A city that is not only filled with dozens of breath taking views but whose Islamic and Spanish history has made it a gem in the western world. The streets are filled with the mixed tongues of Spanish and Arabic braiding themselves together and breathing throughout the city making the return to an English language country similar to going from Raphael to the modern form of art which is just a canvas painted red or blue. Though we arrived in Granada early Sunday I was tired from not sleeping a lot the previous night in San Jose and decided to call it an early day and retired my lovely apartment/hotel room (has a kitchen and dining/living room plus a separate bedroom) to watch the BBC in English and the Simpsons and Top Gear in Spanish (a true fan will watch it in any language) with a doner kebab. The next day we encountered the colder weather of the mountains and shivered our way to the Granada Cathedral which was colder inside than it was outside. The Cathedral ceilings were easily as tall as those in St. Peter’s at the Vatican and were all white with six or so columns reaching from the deteriorating marble floor to the arching white ceiling high above, this was the stunning part: the massive columns reaching up to the light of heaven being let in by the windows around the ceiling. Though this part of the Cathedral was stunning the rest was gaudy and a bit painful to the eye, at the apex there were floor to ceiling gold decorations and multiple paintings hanging in between the golden decoration. Though this Cathedral’s architecture was mesmerizing the frigid temperature would not be ignored and soon it become unbearable and we left the Cathedral hoping to encounter some warmth outside but we were only greeted by the cold shadows of buildings. Not getting deferred from the cold my dad directed us toward the Real Capilla de Granada, or the Royal chapel which is part of the Cathedral, where the famous King and Queen Ferdinand and Isabella are buried. After visiting these two monuments we weaved our way in and out of gift shops slowly making our way back to the hotel originally to put on warmer clothes but later to use the toilets. For the rest of the day we just wandered around Granada and climbed to the Alhambra the royal fortress and palace of the last Islamic Sultans in the 13th century which was written about by Sleepy Hallow author Washington Irving in 1829 while he was living in the royal chambers. We ended our day with another doner kebab for dinner and some BBC news and Top Gear. Today we went and visited La Alhambra which is one of the most impressive royal fortresses I have ever seen with stunning sweeping views of Granada and the surrounding areas including the Sierra Nevada. The Alhambra begins its history in 1238 with the Nasrid emir Ibn al-Ahmar establishing himself in Granada and ordering a fortress for his court to be built on the hill. From this his successors enlarged the precinct finally forming a “citadel possessing all the facilities befitting a medieval town, with walls, castle, palaces for the royal family and aristocracy, servant districts, mosques, baths, schools and exchange markets, as well as a network of streets, a channeled water supply, orchards and cemetery” (Olmedo). After the handover of the city to the Spanish nobility in the 14th century Charles V made some reforms to the Nasrid monument which had been mistreated after abandonment. The most stunning part of this bewildering fortress is the Nasrid Palaces which is a series of rooms, arches, and walls covered with the intricate artwork of Arabic calligraphy and design too small and detailed to ever be captured by a camera. Like the stunning structure of St. Paul’s in Rome the Nasrid palaces are a sight that is not only worth seeing but must be seen in person because there is simply no picture, painting, interpretive dance, etc. substitute.
During this trip in Spain I have found myself wondering over and over again: why am I not studying in Spain? Not only is the weather nicer but also the men are more attractive- tall, dark, and handsome just the way I like them and they have a general healthy glow about them that British men are missing (probably due to the sun exposure and reduced alcohol intake) – the culture is rich and colorful and it overall has a certain spice that Britain not only doesn’t have but probably never will. But since I don’t know Spanish and my major is English Literature/Education Edinburgh was the school to choose for study abroad and I am close enough to make another Spanish visit soon with my dear friend who is studying in France this term.
Olmedo, Fernando. Granada. Ediciones Aldeasa. Spain: 2007.