Castles, Cathedrals and Cats, oh my! If there were three things that my trip this past summer had plenty of, those would definitely be at the top of the list. Where do you ask, was the land that possessed a multitude of such treasures? Spain was the destination for my group from Dallas, Oregon, and as cliché as it is to say, it was the trip of a lifetime.
One downfall was because of the fact we were a school group, there were multiple times when we were all walking around, for example, in downtown Madrid with our suitcases rolling behind us through crowded walkways of annoyed Spaniards where we stuck out like a sore thumb. Although traveling like a mob was necessary to keep everyone safe, it wasn’t high on my list of favorite things to do. It killed me that in that type of situation there was absolutely no way you could enjoy the culture because of being so self conscious about your differences from the people around you. When you’re walking around in large groups of people from your own country, it’s much more difficult to speak the native language, and interact with the people, the culture and the city in an appropriate manner, and any possible connection is instantly lost.
I really did enjoy the touring that was done with the entire group, but my absolute favorite part of the trip were the times we were allowed to simply roam the cities on our own, and were able to discover for ourselves what exactly it was that the people who lived there were founded on. One night in Granada after a day of seeing sights including the Alhambra, and the Cathedral of Granada, a small group of my friends and I headed out for the night. We wound through cobblestone streets with the classic white spanish plaster buildings engulfing us with their history, and took in the atmosphere at our own pace. The uneven streets flowed with the natural rhythm of the hill that the neighborhood was built upon, and helped us to “feel” the city, opposed to the controlled, forced flat paved streets that are commonplace in America. It was so easy to get lost on that hill because of its winding qualities; there wasn’t just one choice of direction when you were trying to get someplace with so many forks and alleys you could explore. As we made our way up the hill, we finally arrived upon “una vista preciosa”, from which you could see the Alhambra, and look down upon all of Granada as it sprawled across the countryside. It was truly a moment that I will never forget because of the authenticity of my surroundings, and the feeling of pure and unfiltered culture that oozed from every nook and cranny of the square. It captured the culture of Spain in the view of the Moorish castle on the skyline, the houses of the common people who had seen generation upon generation of locals, and the sounds of the gypsy flamenco band that sat atop the cross in the middle of the square and serenaded anyone who was willing to listen.
In that moment, though there were obviously people from many different races in the throng, I felt fully welcomed as a native. That night sealed my appreciation for the Spanish culture, and instilled in me a new found knowledge that above anything else, the most important thing to do when you’re striving to honestly experience something new, is to simply and completely become lost in it.
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