A Travellerspoint blog

Flamenco and Tapas Round 2

sunny 12 °C

So remember how I said I would post the remainder of the Sevilla trip 'tomorrow' three days ago? That was actually your first lesson in the Spanish 'mañana'. When someone says 'mañana' here or 'after lunch' or any ambiguous time qualifier, that can mean anywhere from when they said to an indefinite period of time afterward. So really, this followup post is right on time!

So I believe I left you with us crashing into bed on Friday night after a rousing Flamenco show. So it's now Saturday morning and the four of us have decided to take a morning train to check out Córdoba. This small(er) city is situated an hour and half by train north-east of Sevilla, along the same river. It grew into prosperity around the same time as Sevilla, and we were able to see much of the same type of architecture there. Córdoba too has a beautiful Alcazar, a former royal palace, and their Mosque-turned-cathedral called La Mezquita. We arrived at about 10 am, and knew beforehand that we were there on a religious holiday (Day of the Immaculate Conception). But we didn't consider the effect it would have on our desire to see La Mezquita. Unfortunately, we found out early that it was not scheduled to open until 5:30 pm, which was a problem since we had train tickets back at 6:15 and the train was a 20 minute walk. We decided to see the rest of Córdoba first and return at 4:30 and try to get tickets and get in the front of the line to get in.

Just around the corner from La Mezquita is the old Roman bridge that spans this river I was talking about, the Guadalquivira. Unfortunately I have already said everything I know about the bridge, so a photo will have to suffice.

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I suppose it's worth a mention that the weather in Sevilla had been subpar since we arrived, with clouds and rain, so the brilliant sunshine we had in Córdoba was an extremely welcome change. Oh, and another observation: when anyone ever mentioned Spain, I had this idea of the stereotypical type of house that I would see everywhere. Of course I live in a city, so we have buildings instead of houses, but I found that everything in the south of Spain was this stereotypical plaster-looking style with half-circle roofing. I think that in the south, this style has been developed to maximize cool air in the summer time. Apparently it is not strange to hit 50 degrees celcius there in the summer, which is all of about 120 degrees fahrenheit. Anyway, another Spain mystery solved.

I can tell you a bit more about the Alcazar, which was where we ventured off to next. It was a former royal palace that was used during the times of the Inquisition, but it actually sits on the site of a castle dating back to the visigothic time period in Spain (700s AD). It is relatively small compared to the usual decadence with which these palaces are usually made in Spain, but it is nonetheless spectacular. One of the greatest parts of the Alcazars in Sevilla and Cordoba were their adjacent gardens, with statues and fountains and reflecting pools.

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Córdoba's garden's were completed with a statue of our friend Chris Colubus presenting a scroll to the King and Queen. I will take a moment right now to direct you toward my Flickr feed where there are lots more photos, including one of Chris. http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasclift/

After exploring every nook and cranny and tower that the Alcazar had to offer, we decided it was time for lunch. We have found that the best was to do this (in the absense of any specific recommendations) is to wander until something strikes us. In this case, we stumbled upon this little hole-in-the-wall place (I'm not lying, they didn't have chairs or tables, and really only a couple people could fit comfortably in front of the counter. However, behind the counter, and man and (presumably) his wife were tending a huge rotisserie cooker. On it they had a bunch of chicken and a whole piglet. When we arrived we learned that they also offer duck, but didn't have any cooked at the time. So the four of us bought a small loaf of bread at a nearby store and took our whole chicken (the kind gentleman at the counter had used his pruning shears to cut it into manageable pieces) into the nearby courtyard and sat down and had a wonderful feast. Anyone watching probably thought we hadn't eaten in weeks, but there are no friends when there's a great meal between us. Juicy and wonderful, it probably took five years off my life. Worth it.

After the feast, we wandered around the old part of Cordoba more, passing Calleja de las Flores

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and many other quaint little streets and alleys, very much folding into my Spanish stereotypes. Finally we decided to head back to La Mezquita to try to get in the front of the line to see the cathedral. Of course we arrived an hour before it was scheduled to open, only to find that there was already a line of 150 or 200... Not knowing how long it would take to let everyone in and really not wanting to miss our train, we debated for a while on the best way to proceed. Finally we decided to buy our tickets and give it a go. At the very least, we decided, we could walk through and see something that perhaps we will never see again. As it turned out, our debates were for naught, since we were let in at 5:15 (count it! first instance of anything happening early here) and they let everyone in basically at once. And what a treat to get inside.

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La Mezquita was, as I mentioned earlier, originally a Mosque, but was transformed into a Cathedral in 1236. The stark contrast between the Muslim architecture and the Christain influence is incredible. Apparently Muslims have been lobbying viciously for a long time to be able to pray inside as well, but have been denied repeatedly by both local authorities and the Vacitan City. I can't say that I blame them, as the inside is truly a work of art as well as a temple, and it just doesn't feel like the traditional Christain churches I have seen in northern Spain.

Finally running out of time, we all hustled back to the train and actually were early! Whoda thunk it. Once back in Sevilla, more exquisite tapas and a dose of churros y chocolate put the perfect cap on an incredible day.

Sunday morning we lost Rebecca, as she got on an early flight back to Ourense. The boys were left with one more day to explore the city, and we did by taking a stab at Sevilla's own Alcazar. There is an interesting story with this building, as it has a formidable wall on one, and only one side. Apparently a long time ago when the Vizigoths burning and pillaging, the inhabitants of the city at that time did not have a sufficient army or sufficient time, so they hurriedly put up a serious-looking wall on one side to scare away potential trouble-makers. And it worked! Now don't go citing me in any history papers with that story as it could be myth, but ya gotta trust your tour guide, right?

Again, the highlight of the Alcazar in Sevilla for me were the gardens. Sure, in the building, the rooms and ceilings were impossibly gilded with exquisite designs, but the serenity and beauty of the gardens captured me more. Impressive architecture with fountains, winding paths, and beautiful flowers made for a nice break in our incessant running around.

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After the Alcazar, more tapas (obviously) and we had to say goodbye to Ross, who had to catch the evening bus back to Madrid. After seeing him off, Alex and I returned to the hostel without a plan. I remembered earlier that FC Barcelona was playing a team from Sevilla that night, and suggested that Alex and I go find a bar to watch the game. Then, he asked where the game was being played, and we realized that we could probably go and catch the soccer game! After some investigation, we decided to give it a try, especially since Messi (a Barcelona player, and arguably the best ever) had a chance that night to break the all-time record for number of goals scored in a calendar year. He was one goal short at the start of the game... So anyway, we took a city bus to the game and inquired as to the availability of tickets. Unfortunately the least expensive ones were sold out, but I managed to convince Alex that this is a once-in-a-lifetime type of deal, so we took a chance. Of course, Messi is good on his word, and hardly goes a goal without scoring, so we only had to wait 30 minutes to see him score the two goals to put him over the edge. Here is his celebration after goal number 2

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Both the two of us jumped out of our chairs, only to sit back down meekly as we didn't see much enthusiasm from the fans who were watching their team lose. This was an interesting dynamic. I think that in the US even at an away club, people would take a moment to appreciate the moment that they had just witnessed. Not at the Real Betis stadium. Fans were pissed Messi had scored to put them down 2-0, record be darned.

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Still, this was one of those moments for me, as a soccer player, that will never be forgotten. We were two of 47,000 to see possibly the best player ever put two more HUGE notches in his belt. Wowwwie.

So there you have it! After the adrenaline high of the game wore off, I realized 1. Just how tired I was, and 2. That I needed to be up at 6 to catch a plane directly back to work. Sleep was not hard to find that night, ending an incredible weekend.

Thanks for reading! I am heading to Porto, Portugal with my roommate for Christmas (should be an adventure, I believe his parents and grandparents speak neither English nor Spanish), on Wednesday. However, Tuesday night, keep an eye out for an installment about the Christmas preparations and traditions I have seen here in Barcelona. Many more interesting times!

As always, I hope you and yours are well, especially in light of the senseless violence that seems to recur all to frequently in our great country. Know that if you are reading this, I am thankful to have your support. I hope you have a great holiday season!

Hasta Luego!

Posted by dclift 19:24 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Flamenco and Tapas Part 1

overcast 12 °C

Hello again everyone! Sorry it has been so long, I have gotten extremely busy recently planning and going on trips! We had another Thursday off last week, so everyone took advantage of the 'puente' (bridge), and took Friday off to do some traveling! I had planned to fly out Wednesday night to Sevilla and then spend the weekend adventuring with my friend Ross from Madrid. Here we go!

After skipping out of work a little early to catch my flight, I arrived at the airport thinking I was ready for my first experience with RyanAir. This is a discount airline from the UK which usually offers the cheapest flights when it flies between your destinations. As a result of their stinginess at the front line, they must charge you for every single mistake you make along the way. For example, if US residents don't get their boarding passes stamped before entering the gate, you will be charged E40. If your suitcase doesn't fit into the metal gauge they walk around with during boarding, you pay E50 extra. And they don't mess around. Nevertheless, if you can successfully navigate through their traps, you can generally get a good price. Once you have boarded the plane the adventures are not over, however. I had been told beforehand that they try to sell you things. But that would be an understatement. After being offered the latest designer perfume over the intercom I started keeping a list of things they were trying to sell me. 8 lines in, and I realized this was basically SkyMall over the intercom. Ridiculously annoying, although I almost jumped on the smokeless cigarettes. You know, since you can't smoke real ones on the airplane. Otherwise I thought they seats were actually a bit further apart from eachother than on the Vueling flight I went on earlier in the year; that is to say, I only left a small dent in the plastic in the seat in front of me with my knees upon exiting the plane. Oh and to top it all off, we almost died on the landing. We came in fine, but upon touching the rear wheels down the plane started to get sideways. It righted itself with a jerk when the front wheel touched, and there was a smattering of applause and lots of sighs. Kind of reminded me of landing in a heavy wind, except when we debarked it was dead calm. Who knows. Luckily I have two more flights with them in the next two weeks. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Thursday was outstanding, as Ross and I took two "free" tours to get a better feeling for the city. I have been on a bunch of "free" tours in which you pay the guide at the end however much you think it was worth, and they tend to be quite good. The first tour took us by the Cathedral, Torre do Oro, Tobacco Factory and Plaza de España. The Plaza de España was one of the more spectacular things on the whole trip. It was built in preparation for the 1929 World's Fair, and had the theme of asking forgiveness of South American and the introduction of their culture into the main stream, in acknowledgement of the injustices meted out by Spain during the conquest of the Americas. Ironically, the stock market crash of that year rendered the World's Fair largely unattended and Spain having to burden the debt. Regardless, the building, which is semi-circular and reaches out as if to hug South America, is stunning. Each major city in Spain is given a small booth along the wall with an ornate map of the area on the ground and a picture dipicting part of that city's history on the wall behind. Here is Barcelona and Castillon's.

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In the afternoon tour, I had a crazy thing happen: I got to talking to a kid from the US and found out that not only did he go to the University of Vermont, but he knows several of my friends from high school. Never thought I'd meet someone in Sevilla from my old stomping grounds. Alex was traveling alone, so he tagged along with Ross and I for the rest of the weekend. Then we were three. This tour took us through the Jewish quarter of the city, with tiny winding streets and fascinating stories about the history of the area. For example there were two streets located fairly close to one another, one called 'Vida' (Life) and the other 'Muerte' (Death). The story is that during the inquisition, when the town was raided, if you could make it to Vida, you would live, as the end of the street opened up like a river delta. Death, unfortunately, was shaped like a funnel and siphoned doomed people to their deaths. Also, as Sevilla was at one point the preeminent port town of Spain, stories abound about the relationship between Chris Columbus, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Apparently Chris and Isabella had a bit of a connection, so when he decided to reach for the Americas, the king was more than happy to lend him some ships and send him on his merry way. This didn't stop artists from the time period from taking notice, and so in many depictions of the three, we can see Columbus symbolically passing is grace, as in the mural of Barcelona from Plaza de España in which he leans forward to shake the hand of the queen.

That night, the three of us went on a hoste-sponsored Tapas tour, in which we had a Sevillan guy take us to his three favorite tapas places in the city. We were promised 'all you can eat' and the three of us were worried, but needlessly so. By the end we were stuffed with delicious tapas and exhausted from the full day. By the way, our hostel was great. Called Oasis Backpackers Palace, it was really one of the nicest I have stayed in. Besides the ever-unknowns that come with sharing a room with 13 other people, there were tons of activities and everyone was really great and helpful.

On to Friday. In the morning, Ross and I went to the Cathedral while Alex went on the tour we had done the day before. The cathedral in Sevilla is the third largest Cathedral in the world, behind St. Peter's in Rome and one in Brazil. It is, however, the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, which is kind of a strange delineation since it started not as Gothic but as a Muslim Temple. Still is is absolutely massive.

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I am starting to mix up all of the churches I have seen, but there are several interesting points here. The first is that Christopher Columbus is (apparently) interred within the church. Held aloft by four somber bearers, his casket certainly demands attention within the sanctuary and is a bit of an odd contrast to the glimmering sliver and gold-gilded ornaments around him.

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Another interesting note about the cathedral is the tower outside the front, now called 'La Giralda' (The Turner) for the large wind vane at the top. Two-thirds of the tower was built under Muslim direction, though, and as a result of 5 daily prayer sessions that required a holy person at the top of the tower (60 m high) even in the scorching summer sun (sometimes 115 degrees), the tower was built with no stairs, only ramps to the top, allowing the priests to ride to the top mounted on a donkey. It also, we found, provided a great way for tourists to climb up with strollers in tow. Who saw that coming?! Also, the view from the top was outstanding and the hazy day made for some really interesting textures in the photos of the city.

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That afternoon we ate more incredible tapas and adventured around the city a bit more. You'll have to check out my Flickr account (http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasclift, but check it out tomorrow evening after I write part two and upload the pics!) to see pictures of some of the things we saw, since if I detail everything we'll be here all night! That evening we added another to the clan, an awesome girl from Salt Lake City named Rebecca. She (like Alex) teaches English at a public school in northwestern Spain (he's in north-central Spain), so they did all of the difficult speaking for Ross and me. That night the four of us went to take in a flamenco show. Unfortunately I did not bring my camera along, so you'll have to take my word that it was outsanding. Of course I am no connoiseur, but the fire and passion was palpable in the room as the red and black clad woman stomped and whirled around the stage in rhythm to her male vocal and guitar accompaniment. I will try to snag some photos from my friends to share with you!

Whew, that was a long one and I only got through two days! I will try to update the rest of my journey tomorrow night, so stay tuned! Until then, espero que te vaya bien, y hasta luego!

Posted by dclift 22:07 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Not independent yet...

rain 9 °C

Hi again everyone! Hope everyone is well and has fully recovered from the Thanksgiving gluttony! This week was a big week here in Barcelona so I will recap the political situation post-election with some things that I have noticed.

But first, last Thursday was Thanksgiving in the US and I spent the end of last week explaining to coworkers and friends that Thanksgiving doesn't have any commercial significance (aside from buying extra food and Black Friday, which actually happens over here too even though Thursday isn't a holiday... Tells you something about how American commercialism has permeated through the world). Then, on Saturday, I was invited to a friend's house about a half hour outside of Barcelona for his annual Thanksgiving dinner. Each guest was asked to bring something, and we used an online pot-luck database to announce what we would bring (yes those exist, to my surprise). I originally signed up for apple and grape juice, but saw that no one had signed up to bring green beans. As they are a staple in my family's Thanksgiving dinner, I signed up to bring them. Saturday morning, after spending the week stressing about how to cook such a vegetable, I surprised myself by steaming up some decently tasty garlic parsley green beans.

Pleased, I arrived at the friend's house with my bowl of green beans, only to see two other huge bowls of green beans on the counter. Apparently people had the same thought as me but didn't bother to look at the Pot Luck website. So the majority of the beans went uneaten (I had bought 3 lbs), and I found myself bringing them home. Dinner was great, by the way. I was the only 20 something in the group of 11 kids between 2 & 7 and 11 adults from the US and all over Europe (Spain, France, Poland, Sweden), and it was the first time that I talked with the adults more than rolled around in the dirt outside with the kids. Not my choice, but the kids wanted nothing to do with me. Ugh I must be growing up. A strange feeling. But dinner was great and everyone had fascinating stories about how they came to be sitting eating Thanksgiving dinner two days after Thanksgiving in Bellaterra Spain.

Now, previously, a friend from work had invited me to a party the night after Thanksgiving. I will say right away that in hind sight, this was a silly idea. But in my blind disbelief over the lack of interest in my beans at the previous party, my brain wasn't operating at 100%. This coworker had mentioned to bring something to share with everyone, and I had just brought home 2.5 lbs of green beans!!!! Envisioning plates of salads and meats and small forks, I decided to bring the beans instead of resigning myself to them for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week. In case you weren't catching the foreshadowing, I'll give it to you straight. I was the life of the party. In every way I didn't want to be- the food that people brought included tortillas, chips, cheese and bread and pizza. All finger food, no vegetables. To say that my green beans stood out would be the understatement of the year. I kid you not when I say that people were taking pictures of the container of beans with their phones. And posing with them like they were cigarettes. Incredible. Once I got over the embarrassment, I found them to be a great introduction line. "So you know the beans, yeah I brought those". Proceed to explain why I'm not the strange American who usually takes cold green beans to the party. It was so successful that I'm already planning out how to bring a new batch to the next party this weekend. (PS, I think it safe to say that I will NEVER forget how to say 'green beans' in Spanish: judías verde.)

OK! Now that we have gotten that triviality out of the way, I'll see if I can salvage the intelligence of this post. If you ever frequent the large international news websites in the US (CNN, MSNBC) you are aware that there has been quite a bit of international exposure on the Catalonian election. I will recap and then add some of my own amateur analysis:

First, the structure of the governing body in Catalonia functions as 165 delegates. At election time, you vote for the party that you believe will do the best job. The delegates to this governing body are allocated to the parties based on proportions of votes received, and the leader of the Catalonian government comes from the party with the most delegates. In order to get major things done, a simple majority in the congress is necessary, which is the reason for calling this vote early in the first place. The leaders decided in September that by having this election (2 years) early that they could garner this simple majority by taking advantage of the groundswell of support for succession (20% of Catalonia's population came out for the pro-independence rally in September).

Unfortunately it was not to be; with six parties, getting 50% of the votes in one party is difficult to begin with, and the CiU (Convergence and Union) wasn't the only party pushing independence. In fact the CiU ended up retaining their overall lead in seats, (so the Catalonian leader remains the same) but lost seats overall and could not gain the simple majority. Meanwhile, another separatist party, called the ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) actually doubled their delegate count. Now, simple math after looking at the delegate count shows that if the pro-separatist parties join forces, they have a 2/3 majority. Hecho y hecho (done and done) right? No- the only reason the CiU picked up the independence flag in the first place is because of the popularity of the idea. In fact, they are almost complete ideological opposites to the ERC, so it remains to be seen whether the two parties can come to an agreement about how to work together to move forward.

Now, even if they did, the type of referendum they propose is actually illegal in Spain, according to the national constitution. So any approach to the central government will likely be rebuffed immediately. Eventually, Catalonia would have to either appeal to the overarching European organization and present their case for a referendum and independence (unlikely), or just try to break away and survive without the blessing of Spain and the EU (even more unlikely). Therefore, the time frame on any more action about this issue is years, not months.

What has been interesting, though, is the response by American journalism (CNN mostly). They either are pandering to the need for reader excitement or are being mislead, since they are certainly presenting this issue with the slant that action in Catalonia is imminent and could result in succession or a strong (possibly military?) response from Madrid. This, from what I can tell here, is a complete overreaction. The people I work with here seem to be inured with the talk of succession at this point. When I ask how likely I am to see action while I am here, the most common answer I get is an eye-roll and scoff. At this point I think, to some degree, this struggle will simply be used as a bargaining chip in Madrid to push for more respect for Catalonia. As in "if you can't ease the national burden on Catalonia we will push harder for independence. See how many people want it?" At any rate, I don't expect to hear much of this issue for a long time, if at all again this year. Fascinating couple of weeks, though!

Phew, another long entry, and without pictures this time... Sorry! I'll do better next time. Until then, take care!

Hasta Luego!

Posted by dclift 00:19 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Exciting times in Spain

semi-overcast 14 °C

Hi again everyone! Hope that all is well with you, it has been an exciting week here in Barcelona, so buckle up!

The situation here is a little confusing, so let me recap really fast. There are two main issues on the minds of Barcelonins right now, and both are extremely important. First, people are very unhappy about the austerity measures that have been placed on them by their government to climb out of this crisis. The majority of people feel that they are being punished for something that they didn't have a hand in causing. In many respects I understand their plight. The other important event that people are dealing with is the succession issue. There is an election this coming Sunday in which Catalonia will decide the party they want to lead them. So there have been two protests recently here: the first, on September 11 was a Catalonian demonstration for succession. The one this week was a protest against the austerity measures, so the people of Catalonia were very much standing with the rest of Spain and also people in Portugal, Italy, France and even some in Germany. I will talk first about Catalonian succession and the political situation here.

The election hullabaloo has settled down in the US at this point, but it is only heating up in Barcelona. (Bear with me a bit here, I am only now understanding all of the nuances of the US election process, and the Catalonian one is completely different, so I'll do it as much justice as I can). This doesn't, however, mean mudslinging runs rampant on television. In fact, along with the ability to purchase billboards, parties are given public space around the city on... wait for it... cardboard constructs around lampposts. Kid you not. The following poster shows the incumbent with the slogan: 'Make it possible'

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As was the original plan (these elections were moved up to take advantage of the groundswell of support for independence talks), succession leads the issues for people here. Which in reality is a problem, since there are many other issues at stake as well. We will see what happens. Let me take a stab at describing politics here. In Spain, there are many more than 2 parties. I think there are about 6 major parties, ranging in philosophy all over the spectrum. With so many options, however, the system is such that you don't vote for a particular person; instead, you vote for the party with the ideals most closely aligned with yours. It takes out the whole idea of a candidates 'likeability' from the equation, which I think is an important distinction with American politics. Here is a billboard that I see on my way to work promoting a different party. The slogan here is 'Catalonia yes, Spain too'.

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I will update the results of the election when we learn more, I'm sure that it will be the most talked-about topic at work this week!

OK, so now let's talk about the most recent strike. On the 14th of November there was a 'general strike' in Spain, which was called by the over-arching union in response to the austerity measures. The austerity measures are universal cuts coming down from the government to try to ease the debt crisis. Some of the things cut seem expendable, however cuts in education and harsher mortgage rules have really done bad things to the general feelings here. A measure was passed toward the end of this week to try to avoid the increasingly common theme of people committing suicide as their home is repossessed. Incredibly sad.

As such, as a part of the strike all businesses were supposed to be closed, and in the center of the city they were for the most part. Some restaurants and supermarkets remained open, but were taking a risk, since mobs roaming the city were more than willing to cause damage to your store if you dared to defy the strike. In the days leading up to the strike, I talked to my office mates about public transport (the metro was only running from 6:30-9:30 am and 4:30-8:30 pm anyway) and I got a range of answers from "nah you'll be fine" to "there will be a mob outside the metro station preventing you from entering". I had a couple of really important things to do at work, so I decided to try it and didn't have a single issue.

That evening, one of my coworkers was going with her boyfriend to the center of the city to take part in the demonstration march. I haven't yet heard a number, but one of the largest streets in the city was absolutely overflowing with people. I got to test my (miserable) election vocabulary in trying to figure out the political situation here. The demonstration march was peaceful, with music and clever signs. Here is one that got my attention:

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Obviously the media that you saw probably forgot to mention that there were peaceful demonstrations here last Wednesday. They were correct about non-peaceful ones too, though. Starting just at the end of the protest I attended, another protest began just a few blocks away. My roommate is an aspiring photographer who recently got his press affiliation certified. This means that he has an orange vest and armband and can get into all sorts of messy situations and expect immunity from the police. So he was at this other protest and caught some pretty wild photos of the violence between police and rioters. His website is www.tiagoreis.net. Have a look at all of the photos, but the ones labeled Barcelona General strike 2 were this week. The last general strike in May, I believe, was even more destructive and he got some great photos there too.

My night wasn't just over after my demonstration. Turns out that I locked myself out of my flat, and had to wait for my roommate to get home. I decided to walk around a little bit, and as I walked along Las Ramblas, I caught the following photo:

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I didn't realize at the time that the man was asleep with the fire raging behind him, but as soon as I lowered the camera a woman came and helped the elderly man out of the way of the fire. Police and fire units responded quickly to the scene and the fire was extinguished shortly.

Fascinating times here in Europe and in Spain and Catalonia in particular, so I will continue to update as interesting things happen. As always, I hope that everyone back home is doing well and have a great Thanksgiving! Eat lots of turkey for me!

Hasta Luego!

Posted by dclift 19:30 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Holy Toledo

rain 12 °C

Hi again everyone! As I said it got late on me the other night, so I'll pick up now telling about my little day trip to Toledo! Enjoy!

So last Saturday, I went with my friend Ross from Madrid to Toledo, a small town about twenty minutes by highspeed train south of Madrid. From the relatively new and regal-feeling Madrid, stepping off the train and toward the town felt like stepping back in time. The town of Toledo was actually the capital of Spain before it was moved in the 1500s to Madrid. As such, there is a royal palace, called the Alcazar, which dominates the skyline of Toledo. After the capital was moved to Madrid, the Alcazar was used as a military training facility for the King's army. As such, they had an armorer on site in the town to provide the army with weapons, and the biggest remaining vestige of this time in Toledo is actually the steel-workers that still ply their trade in the town. In each of the souvenir shops the number of knives and swords and even full suits of armor outweighed the number of postcards. I almost bought a suit of armor, and then realized I'd probably have to wear it on the flight home, which probably wouldn't be comfortable. Plus they were running around 3,000 Euros. Oh well.

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Today, the Alcazar is neither a royal palace nor a military training ground, instead housing now the national armament museum. Ross and I spent a hugely long time wandering around the halls looking at the impressive array of swords, guns, flags on display. There are a couple of photos on my flickr account, check it out! www.flickr.com/photos/douglasclift. (I also just got to post my photos from Tarragona as well, so certainly take a gander!)

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After the Alcazar, we were getting hungry, so we wandered around a bit to find a good place for eats. Finding only relatively expensive shops along the main drag, we ducked up a side-street and ended up in a small cafe where the staff were eating their own lunch. We ended up both ordering Sopa Castellano, which was a tomato based soup with chunks of meat and veggies sunk to the bottom and a soggy slice of bread floating on top. Delicious. After lunch, we headed to the Cathedral, which is one of the largest in Spain. At some point, I am going to stop going to Cathedrals, since they all seriously run together at some point, but this one was a hit. Each cathedral I see has its own individual tweaks, and the highlight of this one was a cavernous space in the ceiling behind the altar that sheds an ephemeral light down on a wall with stunning figures and brass-work. Unfortunately it was too dark for photos, so you'll have to take my word on its magnificence.

After the Cathedral, we were getting close to leaving time, and a slow drizzle had begun to fall, but we walked around the city a bit more, taking in the winding cobblestone streets and the sudden tranquility that arrived with the falling darkness and the drizzle. I got a few cool photos through the mist, too, so remember to take a look on flickr!

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That wraps up Toledo! Hope everyone is doing well back home! Look out this week for some more about Barcelona-- now that the US elections are over, the people of Catalonia are taking to the poles in what amounts to a huge referendum on independence. Will I be applying for a visa in a new country before I leave? Who knows?

Hasta luego!!

Posted by dclift 21:20 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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