Days 3 and 4 In Spain

Yesterday was my last day in Sevilla, and was definitely a day well spent. I woke up and made sure to check out el Museo de Flamenco Baile, which is a popular tourist attraction being that it’s the city’s most well known Flamenco museum and school. My friend and I walked around the museum, learning about the origin of the incredible dance, as well as the various types of flamenco dances there are, each based off emotions. We got to see videos of the different dances and techniques and learned about great dancers of the past and present. After the museum, we grabbed lunch by La Giralda (the tower I mentioned in my previous post), and took in the city’s beauty before it was time for us to leave. When we returned to the hotel, our suitcases had finally arrived, and we took a cab to the train station, and then a train to Madrid. Upon arriving in Madrid, we boarded the metro to go to our hostel for the night. When we got off at our stop and exited the metro, we had to ask numerous people to point us in the direction of our hostel. After walking through the city with our luggage (for what seemed like forever), we finally made it to the hostel.

Upon arriving at our new destination, we pushed the buzzer on the door and were let into the building. When we walked in, we noticed the huge spiral staircase that seemed like my worst nightmare. Just like the movies portray, we walked up two and a half flights of stairs, just to check in and be told that our room was on the next floor up. For those of you who, like me have never stayed in a hostel, well, don’t. (I’m kidding… kind of). There was no air conditioning, which normally wouldn’t be too bad, but considering that the only thing saving us from the 100+ degree weather was a small fan made the hostel quite an experience. And a tip for anyone planning on staying in a hostel anytime soon: when showering, make sure to hold your toiletries firmly or else you may end up dropping them in the toilet. (True story).

My friend and I made sure to leave the room before we had time to suffocate, and we headed over to eat dinner, and then to a pub in the middle of the city to watch the Spain vs. Portugal Euro Cup game. The game was incredible, seeing as everyone around us was full of spirit and energy as they cheered on their team the whole time. In the end, Spain was victorious and won during penalty kicks after overtime. The streets were filled with happy locals and the celebrations had begun since Spain was now going to compete in the Euro Cup finals. We headed back to the hostel to try and get some sleep before an early start this morning, but when the room was too hot for us to handle, we walked around the city to hang out with the locals, as they celebrated their victory.

This morning we made our way to the Madrid Airport and met up with our group, because today was the first official day of our study abroad program. Once everyone had arrived, we all hopped on a bus to Álcala de Henares, where we met up with our host families. My host mom greeted me as I got off the bus, and graciously welcomed me into her apartment with her eight year-old son. My host mom speaks Spanish and German, and nowhere in between those two languages is English, so whatever Spanish I know will definitely come into use, and if I don’t learn fluent or almost fluent Spanish by the time I leave here, well, for the sake of my study abroad funds, I won’t have to worry about that. But the biggest culture shock so far (well, at least for today) had to be learning that most of the houses and apartments in Spain don’t have air conditioning, which is something I’m going to have to get used to. And quickly).

I recently received a comment on my previous blog post asking me what the weather here is like, so if you still can’t tell (as I sit here sweating while writing this), it’s in the mid nineties at night and low one hundreds during the day. Hopefully the weather will cool down soon, but one can only hope so much.

In the morning, we’re going to have a group orientation where we will purchase our school books, take a tour of the campus, do whatever else the orientation entails, and take a trip to Madrid (which is only 25 minutes away from us) to check out some of the big tourist attractions. That’s it for now, but I will leave you with this; a new addition to my posts here in Spain.

Spanish lesson number one: When in Spain, you’ll notice that the people use a “th” lisp. In a book I recently purchased here, it explains that there is a popular legend in which Ferdinand I (also known as Felipe IV), a Spanish king, had a lisp when it came to pronouncing the “s” sound. A while later, all of Spain ended up mimicking his lisp, which apparently is how the Spanish lisp began. However, this story is just a myth, but the real “th” sound is only pronounced with the letters c and z (whenever preceded by an i or e), while the letter s remains the same as in English- all of which is a selectiveness due to the way Spanish evolved from Latin. The book hits the “don’t judge top soon” point right on by stating, “So when you hear someone say gracias (gra-thyas), they are no more lisping than when you say ‘thank you’ in English.”

Day Two In Spain

Last night, my friend and I decided to walk around the city, and decided to eat dinner at a local pescaderia, a fish and seafood restaurant. Of course I made sure to order Paella, a dish traditional to Spain (Valencia in particular) consisting of rice and various meats and/or seafoods.After dinner, we continued to walk around and came across a bar with free flamenco singing and dancing. We stayed for the show, which was awesome, and after a long day of traveling, went back to the hotel.

Having spent all of today traveling around Sevilla, I realized that there’s a lot more that the city has to offer than one may think. First off, we walked around to check out all of the local shops and restaurants. We then entered the Catedral de Sevilla which is the largest Gothic Church in the world and the third largest church in Europe (after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul in London). The cathedral claims to contain the remains of Columbus, and the golden centerpiece is the world’s largest, containing 2,000 statues, illustrating 45 scenes from the Bible. Next to the cathedral is La Giralda bell tower, the city’s most recognizable monument. The lower two thirds of La Giralda are from the late twelfth center, and are the “minaret of the city’s old mosque.” The top part, or the upper third was added later on to house the bells, and at the very top stands the Giraldillo, not only a weather vane, but the largest bronze sculpture of Renaissance Europe. Upon leaving the Cathedral and Giralda Tower, we exited through a patio of orange trees, seeing as Sevilla is home to over 20,000 bitter orange trees, whose fruits are often exported to England to make marmalade.

The next stop on our list was the Plaza de Torros de la Real Maestranza, the bullfighting stadium here in Sevilla. Bullfighting takes place from the months of April to October and with only 12,000 seats in the stadium, Sevilla is known as the birthplace of modern bullfighting. We walked around outside, saw the four main entrances and exits for the main bullfighter and for the bulls. One entrance is for el torero, the main bullfighter, should he win the fight. Only one or two toreros actually win a bullfight each year, sometimes none, but there is a special exit for them in which they get carried out by the crowd in celebration. A second entrance is for the bull to enter, another for the bulls to exit if they’re dead, and the last one is an exit for the main bullfighter to be taken to the hospital, should he need immediate transportation. After seeing the plaza de torros (bull-ring), we  were then shown a museum with interesting artifacts dating back to the seventeenth century, a room serving as a cathedral for the toreros to pray before the fight, as well as where the horses and mules are held (Picadores, or lancers, ride horses alongside the toreros and acts as aids, should it be necessary. Mules on the other hand are brought in at the end of fights to help carry dead bulls out of the ring). After learning the history of bullfighting and seeing how interesting it looks, you can bet that I’m going to try to go to one before my trip ends!

After spending the remainder of the day walking around and taking in the sights, dinner was definitely something I was looking forward to. I made sure to order Gaspacho, a traditional tomato based soup with cucumber ice cream, and tapas de solomillo y patates, steak and potatoes. The dishes were incredible, and the idea of tapas, finger foods, originating in Spain, is pretty cool, considering you get small bites of delicious foods, which still fill you up.

Day One In Spain

No trip would be complete without annoying traveling stories, and although it’s only my first day here, I have plenty. Yes, I try to keep my posts inspirational to help others, but sometimes we need to vent, and if the airlines won’t listen to my complaints, I figured someone here would, so thanks in advance. Even though I’m from South Florida and go to school in Orlando, the Tampa International Airport offered the most inexpensive ticket prices, so I decided to start off there. My flight was delayed a while not because of the torrential downpour taking place due to Tropical Storm Debbie, but because the airline’s generator wasn’t working, so they had to wait for a mechanical engineer to take a look at it. We finally left three hours later (in the tropical storm bands), and were on our way to the Dulles Airport, where we would then take a connecting flight to Madrid. My friend who is traveling with me and I were told that we would be missing our connecting flight and would have to spend the night in a hotel by the airport, complements of our airline. As we landed, however, the stewardess made an announcement for us to go speak with her when we got off the plane, and when we did, she told us that our connecting flight was delayed due to potential gas leakage problems, so we took off to the gate. Of course it was one of the furthest gates away from us, but we made it in time, and were told by the crew that we were extremely lucky to have made the flight. Once we sat down, the already two-hour delayed flight was further delayed an hour and a half. We took off and upon arriving to Spain, we found out that our luggage hadn’t made it, and wasn’t yet traced to any particular airport. There’s no need to further complain, so I’ll stop it at that and change the subject.

Since my friend and I have plans to spend the next to nights in Sevilla, we boarded a bus which took us to the Atocha Train Station in Madrid, and we hopped on a two and a half hour train to where we will be spending the next few days. We plan on walking around a little later, so upcoming posts will be much more interesting, but the culture shock has already begun to kick in. You can clearly tell that the people here in Spain have their own unique accent with the infamous lisp that Spain is associated with. The crowds and crowds of people in the train station, the overwhelming amount of people on the busses, and only fragments of English being spoken by passerby tourists makes it somewhat uneasy to be away from home, but somewhat exciting as well. The two definitely balance each other out and all I can hope is that I pick up more the language and fast (and get my suitcase too). That’s about it for now, but there will be plenty more to come soon, and lots of pictures as well.

Until next time,

Daniel. Or as they say in Spain, Daniel