Saturday, July 28, 2012

Train to the Past by Brian

These past two months have been quite an eye-opener. Although I have been to many historic sites throughout North America and thoroughly enjoyed all of them prior to my trip here, never before have I had the opportunity to experience such a rich culture as I have had while here. Our trip to Florence, Italy during the mid-semester break specifically was the crown jewel of our treks here in Europe.

I guess I should begin with a preface—the decision to travel to Florence was not quite as planned out as we would have hoped. In fact it was the exact opposite, a result of hectic rushing around and spur of the moment decision making.

Upon arriving in Rome, Italy we had hopes of possibly being able to visit the surrounding areas. But with the trip’s scheduled departure leaving just hours after the final exam from Summer I, we had very little time to plan ahead. So, as soon as we got settled in to our B&B in Rome (and had checked “visit Vatican City” from our list), Matthew, Tony and I trekked over to the Termini train station.

The prices we found for most places were more than the predetermined 60 euros we were willing to pay for tickets to most places. We really didn’t want to go to most places though—we wanted Florence! Luckily for us, a little schedule manipulation (fast train there, slow one back) placed Florence exactly within our price range.

So, the next morning we set off, with Nicole now joining our trio, and hopped a train to Florence. Or, so was the plan. It turns out that there was a bit of a communication problem in trying to find our train. We ended up on the far end of the terminal, over a quarter mile away from our true destination, before we realized our mistake. With a measly five minutes left to spare, we were forced to sprint like the American Olympic relay team to catch our train, barely in time. In our defense, the train we were getting on was destined, and thus labeled, for Milan later that day. So, unless we saw the train’s personal id number, which hadn’t shown up on the marquis, we really couldn’t have known.

Thus, we find ourselves on the actual train. I spent a whole two hours not saying a single word—a feat in itself—entranced by the delightful conversation in perfect English that was occurring in the two seats across from me by an Italian businessman and an Australian vacationer. They spoke of origins; they spoke of politics, of economies and accents, of whiners and diners and stereotypes and favorite locations. They were so interesting and accurate that I postponed my intended nap for the return ride.

Florence was upon us before I knew it. After unloading from the train, we embarked to find a map and go see the sights. The train station in Florence, Santa Maria Novella, is directly in the center of the city, built I imagine, to orient all travelers toward the main attractions—the statue of David, Il Duomo, and the Baptistery of St. John. Immediately after leaving the train station, we set off in the direction of a grand dome to see Il Duomo, which I had heard from multiple sources was magnificent. We traversed through the local leather market, a local industry specific to many areas of Tuscany, stopping to pick up and look at and/or buy this and that.

We eventually came to the building we were looking for. Upon entering the building, we paid for admission, which should have been the first clue that the building we were in was, indeed, not the church of Il Duomo. Most churches do not charge, so we found ourselves in a museum.

We wandered through the exhibits that portrayed a history of Florence as it approaches the Renaissance and explains that we had actually stumbled upon the Chapel of the Princes, tomb to many members of the iconic Medici family, whom many historians mark as vital to the Renaissance itself, and their wives. We also found out that the tombs were sculpted by Michelangelo himself, whose sketches for various pieces are still preserved in his original handwriting on the nearby wall.

One tomb, that of Giuliano Medici was adorned with three figures. Below the sculpture of him are allegorical figures of day and night depicted as male and female. Across from Giuliano Medici’s tomb is that of Lorenzo Medici. It features two reclining figures mounted on the left and right sides of his tomb as well, dawn and dusk respectively, framing Lorenzo in the middle.

The main plaza we found featured an ornamental painted dome, of substantially less height than our original destination, painted with many of the most prominent scenes of the Bible. The ground and walls were decked in ornamental gold and silver, as well as mosaics of marble and other precious stones and gems. Pictures were strictly forbidden.

This is the Chapel of Princes in which member of the Medici family were buried and Michelangelo himself hid from the law when he was accused of treason. It stands much taller than many of the buildings around it, and it’s easy to see where we made the mistake.

From there we headed to the true Il Duomo (Cathedral), a cathedral with an adjoining 348-foot dome and nearly equally tall bell tower. Both required us to climb over 400 steps, one way, and took us, four relatively healthy young adults half an hour to conquer. In fact, the sheer magnitude of the tower is one of Brunelleschi’s greatest feats. It was, at the time, the largest freestanding dome in existence, based largely on the Pantheon’s design.

Artistically, the inside of the dome was equally impressive. Standing directly beneath the center of the dome, we could look up and see a giant multi-scene, gruesome battle taking place between heaven and hell. From ground level, every being looks completely and perfectly proportioned and drawn to size. However, as we climbed higher and higher up the dome, we began to realize that the paintings themselves were contorted, distorted shapes of what they once were, with vastly elongated limbs. This was done purposely. The way the eye perceives distances and the curvature of the ceiling required the actual paintings to be misshapen. Without this distortion, a viewer standing the ground floor would see shrunken dwarfish angels and demons. Such a perception would have a vastly different effect and meaning for the church at the time.

Upon reaching the pinnacle of the dome, we beheld what I found to be the single most impressive thing in all of our time in Italy, an absolutely breathtaking sky high view of all of Florence. Maybe it’s the hike up the dome talking here; maybe the effect of being cramped in such small confined spaces while ascending 350 feet did a number on my claustrophobic cerebral cortex. But, upon exiting the building and finding myself looking out upon the city, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and satisfaction, as if that place during that time was exactly where I was meant to be.

Pictures may not be able to do the skyline of Florence justice but hey I might as well try. Here in the foreground is the Cathedral bell tower standing almost as tall as the dome.

Post-descent we moseyed over to a nearby diner for a much needed reprieve. We received excellent food, good service and a great escape from the heat for about an hour and a half before we began the second part of our trek, the venture to see David. Much like our original trek to the cathedral, we knew where we were going. But, things are not always as they had seemed. As it turns out, David is no longer in the center of the square. “You can’t miss it!” our waiter had us believe, but it is much further down a side road, relocated to a nearby museum. We were charged an outrageous 11 euros to see its exhibits which, when compared to the other things we had seen thus far, dwarfed in comparison. Except for the David, he stood like the Goliath he so gallantly defeated, towering over people and portrait alike, his stoic face staring off to the right as you approach as if to say, “No big deal, I’m just magnificent. Move along!” This is exactly what we were not about to do, having found both a global treasure and air conditioning in the same place!

Alas, approximately half an hour later, we crawled out of our little corner and ventured across the city in search of gelato, a specialty in Rome. Locals insist you must eat gelato not once, but twice a day. We wholeheartedly agreed!

Since we weren’t allowed to take pictures of David, I felt I must supplement this section with a photo of the inside of Il Duomo.

The Ponte Vecchio was the final leg of our Florence venture. It was mostly just a pretty perch to go and enjoy some shopping, gelato and the sights. It was once a symbol of trade in the city and commerce and was quite the spot to enjoy our final hour or so in the city. We did some people watching and took some photos ourselves and generally just wound down from having done so much in so little time.

Matthew taking a picture of me taking a picture, or more likely than not, vice versa. You can see a beautiful shot of Florence from behind him.

Another shot of the Ponte Vecchio, a fourteenth century bridge that hosts 41 or so local shops that were all originally plotted out by Cosimo I de Medici.

From the bridge, we traversed the city a final time, arriving at the train station fifteen minutes before our desired departure time. Soon after, we boarded, marking the end to our little excursion. By the time the train had pulled out of the station, at least two if not all four of us, were soundly asleep, dreaming about the little Italian utopia we had discovered, and anxiously awaiting our next return.

This quaint little church is directly adjacent to the train station and is also home to a museum of sorts, what kind of art or history the museum houses however, I do not know.

Our Group Trips by Michael

The first of the trips we took this summer was to Italica. It was really enjoyable to see all of the old ruins and, since we all went as a group, having other people helping you look around was a plus. Looking at the old coliseum, homes and roads of the old Romans was really interesting. To see that some of the items that were so old yet still in good condition was really amazing. The top of the hill provided an awesome view of the surrounding areas.

Going to the soccer or futbol game between Spain and China was an awesome and fun activity. This wasn’t with Texas Tech but with just some friends and a good opportunity to have some good times. It was really good timing because it was the last friendly game before the Euro Cup. I went with Brandt, Casey and Joey. Spain won so it was a good time to be in Spain.

Toledo was an amazing stop on the way to the Madrid. The bus passed through a narrow castle gate/wall that was really cool. The bus driver was awesome at that. Then, we went to a Church to see the painting, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, which is probably El Greco's most famous painting. After that, we went to some of the sword shops for which Toledo is well known. I got an amazing Damascus steal knife. It is such a good one that I know I will enjoy it for a long time. A lot of my friends also got some cool swords and knives as well.

In Madrid, we got to see three of the world's top art museums in only two days. My favorite of the three was the Prado museum. I have to say that the art there was a little more classical and that’s probably why I liked it with the Goya dark paintings and the Velasquez’s and the El Greco paintings. Just staying at the hotel and hanging out with friends for one of the nights was really fun. On the second night, we went to a club called the Kapital. It cost 20 euros to get in but was totally worth it and I enjoyed every second with my friends.

Stuck in a Foreign Country by Chris

On June 22, Graham, Cynthia, and I were off to Lagos. This was our first trip on our own, and we threw a plan together a few short days before by booking a hostel and buying bus tickets. Our first speed bumps were when we could not purchase a bus ticket online for Graham, and we could not buy a bus ticket from Sevilla to Lagos. Plan B was for Cynthia and I to buy the round-trip tickets that took us from Sevilla to Faro, Portugal, online and purchase Graham's one-ticket at the bus station. Once we were on the bus for a few hours, we realized that there was not anyone getting on the bus, and they were not making sure that people got off, and we decided to take the bus all the way to Lagos instead of getting off at Faro. We got off the bus, found our hostel, and then went to the beach for the rest of the weekend.

Sunday morning finally came and we all went to the bus station. Sadly, they did not have any buses to Faro for Cynthia and I, but there was a bus directly to Sevilla for €22 for Graham, but Cynthia and I did not want to take that bus because we had already paid for the bus from Faro back to Sevilla. We went to the train station to buy our tickets, had lunch, and said goodbye to Graham as we got on the train to Faro.

When Cynthia and I first got off the train from Lagos to Faro, we had to find our way to the bus station, which turned out to be an easy task. After arriving, we checked an information board and saw a bus to Sevilla in about an hour at 15:30, but our bus at 17:30 was not on the board yet. Before we left, we checked with someone at the information counter who told us that our bus would not be on the information board because it was not a bus with EVA, the company that operated the bus station in Faro.

We wandered around the city and ended up at a McDonalds that had Wifi, and decided to kill some time and check Facebook. About an hour before we were supposed to leave Faro, we were back at the bus station, just to make sure that we didn't miss the bus. We waited. And waited. And waited. The bus never came.

We went back to ask the lady at the information desk where the bus was or if it was running late, and after looking at our tickets, she told us that the bus was here on time and pulled into lane six, which we had just spent an hour sitting in front of. The bus DID NOT come and we were stranded about 120 miles from Sevilla.

Our only option at that point was to purchase a ticket for the next EVA bus that would get us as close to the border as possible, since EVA only operates in Portugal and we could only buy tickets for an EVA bus at the station. From wherever that was going to drop us off, we would have had to find a way to cross the border into Spain and some way to get the last 90 miles home.

We went back to the McDonalds to inform everyone what had happened and we decided that our only way of getting home was to take the bus as far as we could and figure it out from there. By the time we were back at the bus station to buy our tickets to some unknown city near the border, the woman at the information desk had made several phone calls and got some information for us. The bus that we had tickets for actually did not exist, but she was able to talk another bus company into letting us get on a bus for Sevilla at 1:00AM for free!

We had some time to kill, and on that particular night, it was a good thing that we had to kill it in Faro. In the middle of town there was a large stage set up with a giant screen on it. It took us a while, but we finally realized that it was for the England vs. Italy game in the Euro Cup. We watched the second most exciting soccer game I have ever seen (next to the game where Spain defeated Italy for the title of Euro Cup champion), and then got to roam around the city for a few more hours until our bus arrived.

1:00AM came, and so did the bus that would eventually take us home. Luckily we were able to get a one-hour nap before we had to wake up for class the next day. Overall, it was an eventful and exciting weekend.

Philosophy With TJ

Earlier this Summer, our Philosophy class had a surprise trip to Cordoba! I was playing a game of cards with my roommates and halfway through our host mom, Lola, comes in and gives me the phone. A guy from the TTU Center was telling me to get over to the Santa Justa Train Station as soon as possible, because our class' bus to Cordoba was supposed to leave over an hour ago! Lunch was just coming out and the pasta was the quickest meal I've ever had, and in under five minutes I was heading to the train station.

Upon arriving, I was given a bocadillo which tasted like a chicken fajita. Soon after we were on our way to Cordoba. One of the reasons I've enjoyed Spain so much is because surprise trips like this may happen, but everything is just able to work out very smoothly. Unplanned activities in Seville are usually equally or more fulfilling and eventful than trips we may have known about for weeks. Things just kinda work out!

The main reason we were going to Cordoba as a Philosophy class was because it was the birthplace of three of the major philosophers we had covered up to that point. Seneca, and Averroes (Ibn Rushd), and Moses Maimonides all have statues scattered throughout the city and its famous Jewish Quarter. Around the year 1000, this city exemplified European progress through the Middle Ages. We visited a restored house that was at one point a Jewish house/Synagogue, but a Christian home was built on top of it. While being restored as a Christian monument it was discovered that before it had been Christian it was a place where Jews had gathered to practice their religion possibly even during the Spanish Inquisition. It is now a museum dedicated to Maimonides and the Jews who lived and died during this time period.

One of the ways that some of the courses taught in Seville differ from those taught at the Lubbock campus is the ability to go out and see what you're learning about. In Philosophy, we were taught about three philosophers whom we were told were influential thinkers who were highly involved in the politics of their times. We read about how some writings survived the fall of the Roman Empire, and how even as societies crumbled and failed around these men, their works demonstrated very advanced perspectives on how things should be done. The only problem with learning about stuff like that in class is that we really don't have any context to see where it occurred. Many of the students here had never been to Europe before, which makes it very hard to imagine a Medieval city that is very well preserved today. The advantage of taking Humanities & Visual and Performing Arts classes in Spain is that after you read and discuss key people, places, and events, you can take a bus to go see where it actually happened, or in the case of such a historical town like Seville it might be just down the road!

Although the trip was completely unexpected, many people enjoyed Cordoba as a more relaxed city. After the museum, we hung out a cafe and then in a nearby park until it was time to leave. Overall, it showed me how much stuff there is to do in a place like Spain, even on short notice.

Spain from Joshua's Eyes

Spain has been a wonderful and eye opening experience for me. It was a real shock at first. Then, as I adjusted, it became easy to notice a lot of the wonderful aspects of this great country. First of all there is the architecture and history. There are so many interesting and amazing historical buildings and events that occurred in Sevilla. Almost every old structure seen in Sevilla has some tie to a significant historical event that occurred here. All the way from the old Roman walls to the cathedral. It is amazing to be able to live in a place where so many interesting things happened, and to actually be able to see where they actually occurred. This is completely different from most cities in the US. There may be a few cities that have a lot of historical monuments and structures. In Spain however, it seems like every city we have visited is covered with history and amazing sites that take would days, even weeks to appreciate and take them all in.

Another thing to note about my time here is the people. They seem to be laid back and friendly, for the most part. The people here also get really excited when the opportunity for an argument arises. They keep the argument friendly most of the time, but because of their energy and the language barrier it seems like they are really angrily arguing. They eventually settle down and casually go about their business for the day.

Another great experience was traveling in Spain. All the excursions we went on were amazing. The hotels were very nice and it was great to have an actual breakfast compared to our every day breakfast of toast or cereal. It was very interesting to see the difference in each place we visited. Each city seemed to have its own culture and feel. It was really great to be able to experience many different cultures inside of one larger culture.

One more thing I have really enjoyed is learning about the music of Spain. It's really great to be able to listen to a piece of Spanish music and be able to hear its influences gained over many years. I personally enjoy the folk music more. It's fun and always upbeat and happy. It's is also great to hear the passion and emotions of singers in flamenco music. I can definitely see why it’s so popular here. I'm definitely glad I was able to partake in this wonderful and eye opening journey.

Parsa Gets to Know Cadiz

A very popular beach destination for Sevillanos is the beautiful southern port town of Cádiz. Filled with history (it is the oldest continually-inhabited city in the Iberian peninsula, and quite possibly in all of southwestern Europe), radiating with natural beauty, and alive with the rich culture of the extremely warm, welcoming, funny, and beautiful people of the city, Cádiz is a city I found myself enamored with from the second I stepped off the train and felt that cool ocean breeze.

As one could imagine given my thoroughly detailed description, Cádiz was too beautiful to go just once; I had to go twice. The first time I went with a group of TTU kids right after we went on our Itálica excursion. From the moment we stepped onto the beach, the welcoming nature of the locals was evident, as we instantly began to play football (soccer) with a group of guys on the beach and conversed with them. I then went on to meet a multitude of people on the beach, one group with which I walked around and talked about the differences between American and Spanish culture, music, etc., and even the differences between normal Andalusian culture and that of the Caditanos.

We went on to relax on the beach, and then went out to try and find a hostel, for which I had no intention of paying. That being said, we continued on with our festivities for the night, meeting and conversing with tens of people along the way (well, I speak for myself), and a few of us then ran into a group of twenty-somethings on the beach dancing and playing flamenco at night. One of the dudes was from San Diego and was teaching English abroad in Cádiz, and one of the guitarists actually ended up being amongst the best guitar players I have seen in my life (let it be known that I have seen more than my fair share of concerts in my time). He even busted out some Mississippi Delta Blues and blew my mind right there on the beach in Cádiz, Andalucía. What a surreal experience that was.

So, having said that I didn't want to pay for a hostel, safe to say I didn't stay in a hostel. A few friends and I slept on the beach (perfectly legal in Cádiz), which started out being one of the most comfortable and relaxing sleeps of my life... it did not end that way. Let's just say the ocean breeze that once welcomed me, was no longer so welcoming. There must be balance in the universe, no?

My second trip to Cádiz was equally memorable. A group of the TTU kids went to Cádiz earlier in the morning, but I wanted to sleep some more so I took a later train in. This time, my friend from back home was studying abroad in Cádiz, staying right next to the beach I slept at last time, and so most of my time spent was either by myself exploring the city or with him and his buddies. It turned out that the night of the Saturday that I got there was Carnaval in Cádiz, so it was quite the experience that night in the streets. A Brazilian singer, Carlinhos Brown, was there on a huge 18-wheeler with a stage on top of it putting a concert on in the streets. I went to that and then proceeded to get a real taste of the nightlife in Cádiz with a group of students like myself who knew where to go. 'Twas indeed a great time. Met more of the beautiful Caditanos (including Caditanas of course) whom I have come to love, and came away with more stories to tell. And yes, I slept on the beach again. This time, it was later in the summer so the breeze was my friend. And let's just say I went a bit more prepared than just the towel I had taken the previous time.

The next day I couldn't get a hold of my friend, so I explored the city on my own. Went to a new beach I had yet to go to (La Caleta), explored perhaps the most beautiful park of my life, complete with dinosaur sculptures (I thought I was in Jurassic Park!), and took many a photograph, before making my way back to the train station to make my way back on over to Sevilla. Many memories have been made in Cádiz, and hopefully more to come in my lifetime. Until we meet again, Caditanos!!

Culture Shock by Joey

Every day Texas Tech engineering students go on an expedition of walking and bus riding in order to travel through the city to get across the river to the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Ingenieros. ETSI is Sevilla’s school of engineering, and every morning TTU engineering student go to this school for our morning engineering classes. At the lively hour of nine o’clock in the morning, TTU engineering students will take either Statics or Thermodynamics 1. Our professors have very good connections with this school and often times will invite guest speakers to speak to the engineering students. These guest speakers could be representatives from engineering companies or staff members form ETSI.

For one of our presentations, Dr. Johan Wideberg from the engineering school came in to speak to us about culture shock. He explained this topic by giving us his life story and sharing with us his traveling experiences from the various places he has lived and worked. In the presentation, Dr. Wideberg broke culture shock into four phases: Honeymoon phase, Negotiation phase, Adjustment phase, and Mastery phase.

He explained that the Honeymoon phase is best associated with when you are first exposed to a new culture. Everything is new, exciting, and it seems like it is the best thing in the world. Everybody in the engineering group had such high spirits and it can be seen through their smiles. The excitement was just radiating from everyone. I know when I first came to Spain, I was bouncing all over the place. I wanted to get out and do things, see things, and experience everything I could. I was taking pictures of everything that had the slightest bit of interest.

If you are in a place long enough, you will eventually hit the Negotiation phase. This is where you become a little annoyed at the culture. You get a little bit frustrated at the language barrier and you begin to notice the faults of the place that you previously thought was so great. I am not sure about everybody else in the study abroad group, but I did. It can be difficult to accept the fact that not everybody will understand you. I believe that it might be mixed with a little bit of homesickness; and not seeing what you are used to (back in America).

After you pass through that phase, the next phase is Adjustment. This is where you begin to adapt the new culture and make it your own. You begin to build a positive attitude and get a deeper understanding of your surroundings. This phase is fairly obvious. The engineering students begin to go out and make their own experiences, travel to different places, try new things, try to understand, and share stories. I love this phase. You begin to feel comfortable in your surroundings and step out of your comfort zone. I know that I began to pick up some Spanish and push myself to learn more.

The final phase is the Mastery phase. It is complete mastery and adaptation to the culture. This phase is difficult to obtain. I know, personally, I have not gotten to the Mastery phase. I am still in the Adjustment phase and that is perfectly fine. The Mastery phase can take years to get and I have only been in Spain for two months.

The final topic that was discussed was Reverse Culture Shock. Basically it is the same phases but for when you go back to where you originally came from. More than likely, by the time you have gone thought the phases of culture shock and return home, things would have changed and it takes more time to adjust. What I am looking forward to the most when I return home is experiencing this reverse culture shock with America. It will be fascinating to see my home through different eyes.

Dean Al Sacco and Dr. Audra Morse, from the Whitacre College of Engineering, visited the TTU Seville Center and joined us during the presentation. (Dr. Anderson is to the right)

A Literary Visit to London with Guillermo

Part of my Study Abroad experience was traveling to London during the weekend between summer sessions. I chose London because if it was good enough to host the Olympics, it was good enough to host me. Also it was the cheapest trip for me, which is probably the real reason why I chose London. I saved a lot of money by staying with my best friend from the U.S; he was staying with family in London during the summer because of a research opportunity he obtained.

One of the many places I visited was the Sherlock Holmes museum. It was on the top of my “to do” list as I am currently reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It was a great experience because it completely changed my mental visual of Sherlock Holmes’ home and environmental scenery. I also enjoyed the fact that his home was arranged to the tee as it is in the novel. For example, there was a syringe laid on his desk, representing his requirement for cocaine stimulation. When he was not stimulating his great mind on a case he stimulated his mind with the drug.

As a Harry Potter fanatic I could not miss out on my opportunity to visit platform 9 ¾. If you do not know that is the Platform for the train that takes students to Hogwarts. I will be sincere and say that I was not impressed with the sight. But, at the time everything was funny and my friend and I had a rather amazing laugh about it. As we walked into King’s Cross Station we asked for platform 9 ¾ and we were pointed to the right direction. As we walked closer and closer we noticed it was just a simple wall and of course half a cart coming out of the wall representing how the Harry Potter characters have to run through this wall. We were expecting Platform 9 ¾ to be in a pillar where the actual trains are like how it is in the movie but we were shocked to see a random wall be used for this spectacle.

In conclusion, my voyage to London was a ten out of ten experience. I was able to visit a great city and had a great time. I remember how my best friend and I used to talk about back in our freshmen year of high school about how one day me and him would go to the same college and go abroad together at least one time. It was all a dream back then and now two out of three of our dreams became authentic. We both attend a university and we both went abroad the same semester, we do not attend the same university but is it not great anyways? I think so. I will one day look back and think about how this was the time of my life and how money really did buy happiness for me but then again money did not buy the company I had during this great trip, not only London but Spain as well.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In Cordoba with Aileen

Earlier this week we took a day trip to Córdoba. To enter the city, we walked over a first-century bridge built by the Romans that had been in use by cars until only ten years ago and past the towering tax-collecting gate.

1st-century Roman bridge

Our main destination was La Mezquita, a mosque built in the 8th-10th centuries. As was the custom, the patio outside the mosque had several fountains, for cleaning oneself before prayer, and irrigation tracts leading from the fountains to numerous orange trees. Upon entering the mosque, we walked through a 'forest' of columns, past alcove after alcove housing saints, crosses, and other Christian figures, and examined the signatures of just a few members of the ancient construction crew.

There are over 1000 columns in the mosque

Workers leaving their mark on history

Tucked away in a corner was a still-active chapel that put any other I had ever seen to shame. Had we spent all day in the mosque, I'm still not sure we would have discovered all the delightful intricacies that made the building so awe-inspiring. Though it might have been an 'eyesore' in terms of the mosque's sanctity, my favorite part of the tour was the cathedral that is situated right in the middle of the mosque, interrupting the neat spread of columns. From the brilliant ceiling to the elaborate woodwork, not to mention the ornate organ pipes in between, everything was beautiful.

After leaving the mosque, we explored the nearby shops and browsed through the abundant silver filigree offerings. We spent the rest of our time in Córdoba navigating the narrow streets and enjoying the nice weather.

Flamenco Show by Kristin

During our weekend trip to Granada, our group went to a Flamenco show. We first took a short ride through winding streets that seemed too small for buses to fit through before arriving at a cave-like room that was set up with chairs surrounding a dance floor. After filing in and ordering drinks, three dancers—dressed in the traditional flamenco style—a singer and guitar player arrived. Each flamenco dancer performed solos accompanied with a passionate song by the guitarist and singer. The dancers’ feet moved at unbelievable speeds with expressive arm and hand movements.

All five seemed to work together and get their energy from each other. While one danced the others would clap, stamp their feet, sing and play along.

During breaks in between performances, we tried out our flamenco poses [as you can see from the picture, we are naturals :) ].

The dancers then returned and performed partner and group dances. During one of the dances, Brandt was chosen to perform his best version of flamenco with one of the dancers, which was entertaining to say the least.

For the final dance, the singer returned from the break dressed in a shiny suit and began to dance. In addition to the feet stomping at fast rates, clapping and quick hand movements, he also incorporated jumps and spins to his solo.

The entire performance was very exciting and due to the small space, we were able to experience the style of flamenco to the fullest. It was easy to see that the dancers and singers were having fun with their routines and with their audience. Overall, it was an amusing and enjoyable evening that was filled with authentic Spanish culture.