Adventures in Granada

Outdoor adventures await in Granada, Spain. Granada is the capital city inside the province of Granada and within Andalucia. The name Granada comes from Arabic and means “hill of strangers.” Sierra National Park in Granada offers hiking trails with beautiful vistas, skiing, and camping. Granada, Spain is rich in history and culture, promising substantial research opportunities for any college student looking to study abroad. The culture in Granada is inviting. Granda is known for giving out free tapas in certain bars. Tapas come free with beer in Granada. If thats not enough, Granada has world famous beer spas where you can bathe in Spanish beer. The opportunities to explore Spanish history and culture are everywhere in Granada. The historical, architectural, and cultural impacts of the different people groups who ruled Spain is exciting and unique. The ancient Iberians, Muslims, and Christian rulers all left their architectural mark in Granada. The Alhambra palace is an incredible piece of Muslim architecture. The Alhambra is a UNESCO world heritage site and is a must see for anyone visiting or moving to Granada. Spelunking in Cogollos, hot air ballooning, and island tours of the city of Nerja are just a few of the exciting excursions available. These expeditions leave from Granada. The snow capped mountains in Sierra National Park are captivating and hold the southernmost ski resort in Europe. Inside the Sierra National Park there are hiking, mountain biking, and skiing trails. You can go from the skiing slopes of the Sierra to swimming at the coast in the same day. There are villages in the Sierra Nevada like La Calahorra. In La Calahorra there is a castle called Castillo de La Calahorra and the visiting hours are 10AM – 1PM and 4PM to 6PM. This Castle has a simple design and a Renaissance colonnaded courtyard. The old Arabic quarter of Granada was taken over by the Moors in the 8th century. Some of the buildings from that time period are still standing today. One of these structures is the El Banuelo, an 8th century Muslim bath house. Although it no longer functions as a bath house, El Banuelo is open to visitors and tourists. Sacremonte, Granada was where Roma people settled in into cave homes built into the rock. Sacremonte is famous for its dance clubs where Moorish dances are still performed today. Granada is also home to many street artists, one who is known as El Nino. El Nino’s real name is Paul Ruiz, and his artwork is famous worldwide. The street art scene is an important part of modern culture in Spain. The urban areas in Granada are rich with art. There is also a huge bazaar in Alcaiceria that offers many different products including rugs, ceramics, and fabrics. If you want something a little lighter, try out the teahouse scene. Snacks, tea, and mellow vibes make teahouses in Granada a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of street life in Spain. Because of the geography, culture, history, art, and food there are lots of opportunities for adventure in and around Granada. There is something for everyone. Something amazing is waiting for you just around the corner in Granada.

Chris Chaplow, “Andalucia.com,” Andalucia.com, 11/22/2021, Andalucia.com.

The Fallas Festival

One of the largest spectacles of art takes place in the main square of Valencia, the Plaza Ayuntamiento. This display of art and tradition is called the Fallas Festival and it takes place during the first 19 days of March. The history of this annual festival dates back to the Middle Ages, when carpenters would burn their remaining wood planks to celebrate the spring and pay tribute to San José, the patron saint of carpenters. This tradition grew to become a key part of the culture of Valencia and now displays pyrotechnic shows and beautiful wooden works of art for anyone in the city to enjoy. Not around for the festival? No problem! You can still explore The Museo Fallero de València throughout the year to experience the rich history of the Fallas Festival whenever you come to visit.

Explore the Art of Valencia

What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of Spain than to explore the art that tells the storied history of Valencia. In Valencia you can find a wide variety of art throughout the city by wandering the many museums this city holds or even discovering the local works of street art as you walk through the neighborhoods. No matter which way you go about exploring the art of Valencia, you can be sure to find whatever it is you are looking for through the vast displays of art in the city. 

L’Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, also known as the IVAM, is one of the most well known art museums in Spain and for good reason! The IVAM is the perfect spot for those interested in modern art. It carries a constantly changing selection of exhibitions you can see throughout the year. For example it currently houses exhibits such as “Julio González and the avant-gardes” which displays the unique sculptures created by Julio González, and “An exercise in violence” by Guillermo Ros, depicting systemic violence through an artistic means. But the rotating exhibits are not all that the IVAM has to offer. It contains a permanent collection of 11,322 artworks in various mediums. The IVAM also has exhibits on music, theater, cinema and much more so you are guaranteed to find something here to spark your interest.

Inside the Bombas Gens Centre d’Art

Another museum to visit is the Bombas Gens Centre d’Art. Located on the outskirts of the city, this museum contains more than just art, it holds a fascinating look into the history of Valencia as well. The building was originally a factory built in the 1930s to manufacture small machinery, and included a shelter for air raids during the time of the Spanish Civil War that can now be toured by the public. The Bombas Gens Centre d’Art now displays art from artists nationally and internationally. It contains a rotating display of art in each of its galleries throughout the year, so no matter what time you come to visit you are sure to find a fascinating exhibit. It also hosts a variety of activities for anyone to experience and enjoy. Currently, the Bombas Gens Centre d’Art is displaying an event titled “Factory Games: An Historical-Art Approach To The Situation Of Children’s Rights,” which gives a detailed look into the children working in factories in Valencia from the past. But that is not all it has to offer! You can also experience the current, local music by attending the Bombas Dj Sessions. This activity is open to the public to enjoy and partake in an experimental project hosted by the Bombas Gens Centre d’Art.

For a more historical look into the art of Valencia, check out the Museo de Bellas Artes de València. This museum contains the fine art of many Valencian artists. For example, there is an entire room dedicated to the art of the famous painter Joaquín Sorolla. The Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia also boasts the title of the second largest art gallery in Spain, giving you plenty of options to explore the art within its walls.

Street art of Moses by Hyuro

However, museums are not the only locations to explore art in the city of Valencia. You can find a much more unique side of the artistic experience just through roaming the city of Valencia on your own. Experience the walls of Valencia treated as their own canvas as you walk through the neighborhoods and see the street art done by locals. One of the neighborhoods most well-known for its brilliant street art is El Carmen. The large murals take up space on the sides of old buildings, combining the new and modern culture with the historical past. You can see the works of famous local artists such as Hyuro, who is known for her mural of Moses, which is one of the most popular works of street art in Valencia. One of the best parts about coming to see the street art in the city is the constantly changing murals. You never know what art you will get to enjoy on your visit to Valencia!

A Quick Look at Historical Seville

Alcázar Palace in Sevilla

Sevilla is a city rich in history. It is located on the Guadalquivir River and was originally an Iberian town in the 2nd century BCE. From the 5th through the 8th century CE, it was ruled by the Visigoths. After the Visigoths, Sevilla was ruled by the Moors until the 13th century. After the Moors, Ferdinand III led the Spanish Christians to take Sevilla back from the Muslims. Much later, in 1808, Sevilla was captured by the French and the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. Under the Muslims, Sevilla was a center for culture, as well as a commercial center in the area. Once the Spanish Christians took over, Sevilla once again was a center for culture, as it became the center of trade between Spain and its American colonies. Even though Sevilla has had many different people controlling it, that led to the astounding culture it has today.

One of the biggest historical tourist centers is the Alcázar Palace. This is one of the oldest royal palaces in Europe that is still in use. The Alcázar Palace is just a fortified palace and is located on Plaze del Triunfo. The History of the Alcázar Palace can be broken into five distinct eras. Beginning in the Moorish era, it was built in 712, but was added to in the 12th century for Almohad Caliphate. Following the Moorish era was the Gothic era. The main difference between the eras is architectural changes. Many pieces are added, and each piece represents the era in which it was added. The biggest gothic piece is the vault room. Large, gothic vaulted ceilings and the Sevillano yellow are major gothic features. The next era was the Mudéjar era. The major piece added here was the Mudéjar architecture in King Peter’s Palace. This is the heart of the Alcazar, and the best example of Mudéjar architecture still intact.  Polylobate arches, sebqa stucco, blue Arabic lettering and Christian words all brought together here. More Mudéjar architecture is the Maidens’ courtyard. There are large marble columns with stucco arches, many sculptures of knights and coats of arms. The walkways are higher up than the gardens in the courtyard to make it easier to pick the fruits. The Alcázar Palace, much like the rest of Sevilla, has had a rich history and many different rulers and types of people living there. Sevilla has a rich history, and if you look carefully, you can see each layer of culture and architecture shining through.

The City of Culture of Galicia

Cidade da Cultura de Galicia

Calling all modern architecture enthusiasts and those who enjoy funny looking buildings! Come to the Cidade da Cultura de Galicia (City of Culture of Galicia), a cultural center in Santiago de Compostela. These buildings are supposed to represent rolling hills, and it is clear why once you look at the pictures. Not even are any two windows the same at this unique cultural center. There are six buildings that go in three pairs: the Museum of Galician History and the International Art Center; the Music Theater and Center for Cultural Innovation; and the Galician Library and Periodicals Archive

The City of Culture of Galicia came to be in 1999, when American architect Peter Eisenman entered a contest put on by the Parliament of Galicia for the purpose of finding the best design for a new cultural center. Many other prominent architects participated, but in the end, Eisenman’s design was chosen for its most pleasing visuals and how they fit in with the landscape. Up until 2013, Eisenman and his team of architects worked on this project and completed all but two buildings. 

With something for everyone, from a 1500 seat music theater to a library, the Cidade da Cultura de Galicia is something worth going to, and I hope you do!

For more information on Cidade da Cultura de Galicia, click here.

Segovia Cathedral, the last Gothic art piece

The Segovia Cathedral is an amazing place to visit when studying abroad in Spain. This cathedral is very rich in both art, and history. The history of this cathedral dates back to almost five hundred years ago during the commoners revolt. This revolt in turn led to the relocation and creation of the Segovia Cathedral as we see it today. Art is a major factor involved with this cathedral. Art can be seen both on the building’s architecture itself and on the inside where many paints, and stained glass are. The Segovia Cathedral makes for a very worthwhile place to visit when in Spain. 

Over half a century ago in the 1500s the Commoners Revolt took place in Spain. This revolt is the result of the accumulation of dis-satisfaction among the commoners in Spain. They were unhappy because their King, Charles the First became heir to the throne in 1519. Charles was not from Spain, nor did he speak any Spanish. To make things worse he was from France, and brought more French people into Spain to help with governing them. This did not bode well for the people so they revolted. This revolt caused the government under Charles to use the Segovia Cathedral’s previous Cathedral as a defensive position as well as to protect it. Unfortunately they failed as the cathedral was completely, and utterly destroyed. A few years later in 1525 an architect named Juan Gil Hontanan designed and started construction on the Segovia Cathedral as we know it today. This Cathedral took around fifty years to complete and was finished in 1577.

The architecture of the Segovia Cathedral is very unique because it was one of the last pieces of gothic architecture to be created in Spain. Gothic architecture originated in Europe in the 1100s to the 1500s. Their unique designs are the direct result of widespread improved engineering technology. These improved technological advancements are what makes gothic architecture so unique. Several distinct factors of gothic architecture include their massive height, buttressing and arches supporting them, and large open rooms with huge ceilings. 

The cathedral has two main entrances with huge, massive doors. The cathedral also has side chapels and ambulatories. An ambulatory is a walkway used for space/prayer. Keeping with the gothic themes the Segovia Cathedral also has many gargoyles on the outside. The bell tower on the outside stands about 100 meters above ground. This bell tower is still used to sound off chimes to let people know when church is starting. This bell tower is also climbable with a beautiful view at the top. In addition to the beautiful exterior gothic architecture, the Segovia Cathedral is also most known for its beautiful interior and designs/art. The inside houses many works of arts like paintings, stained glass, and most notably the altar with it’s Virgin Mary statue.  The Segovia Cathedral is definitely a historical landmark, as well as a work of art that no student nor professor should pass up. Studying abroad in Spain would be very worthwhile because of the opportunity to be able to visit such a place in person. The rich history offered at this landmark would no doubt be something remembered for the rest of your life.

The Legend of the Puente de San Martin

The Puente de San Martín, also known as San Martin’s Bridge, is a medieval bridge that crosses over the Tagus River just west of Toledo.  The bridge that is standing today was built in the 14th century and is characterized by five large arches across the bottom; however, the original bridge was built a century before.  The first bridge was destroyed in a battle between stepbrothers Don Pedro I and Don Enrique II. It is about 27 meters (roughly 88 feet) above the river and about 40 meters (131 feet) across.   

Although the bridge is architecturally stunning, the real attraction is the legend associated with it.   According to local stories, an engineer realized he had made a mistake in his calculations during the rebuilding process, and the arches could not support the weight of the bridge once the wooden scaffolding was removed.  Distraught, the man told his wife of his predicament.  His wife, who wanted him to avoid both punishment and shame, snuck out in a terrible storm to fix his problem.  She lit a fire underneath the scaffolding, causing it to burn away, and the bridge to collapse completely.  The next day, when the people of the town and the other engineers approached the bridge, they believed the storm had caused the fire that destroyed the scaffolding, and the bridge falling was just an accident.  The engineer who had made the mistake and his wife were never suspected of anything, and the collapsed bridge allowed the man to fix the problems with the original design.  

The bridge was made a historical site in 1921, both for its complex structure and its legendary significance.  Many tourists flock to the bridge to see its marvelous brickwork and to learn of the story of the engineer and his wife.  When in Toledo, or even Spain in general, the Puente de San Martín is definitely worth visiting. 

Hidden Gem: Old Town Santiago de Compostela

The city of Santiago de Compostela has its own hidden gem: Old Town. This is the center of the city where most (if not all) of the major historical events have occurred throughout history. Within the confines of this area lies several significant buildings, of varying architectural styles, resulting in a remarkably preserved and gem of a city that was named a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1985.

The important features of the town include the Santiago Cathedral, the Obradoiro, the Quintana, the Azabacheria, the Platerias, and a multitude of other buildings such as museums and old homes/businesses.

The Obradoiro, Quintana, Azabacheria, and Platerias are the four squares that are situated around the Cathedral. Each one faces a different architectural style of the city and Cathedral. These architectural styles include Romanesque. Baroque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Neoclassicist.

Plaza de Quintana

The Cathedral is the big form of Romanesque architecture in the city while the Baroque western façade of it is considered the be the “authentic symbol”. This side faces one side of Obradoiro square and is the side that has the incredible display during the St. James Festival.

Other fascinating architectural features of Old Town is the combination of influences from outside the region (as mentioned above) with the traditional Galician materials and galleries. Over time, dominant architectural styles have shown their influence and reach in cities all over Europe and the world that end up mixing with the styles of local areas, producing this amazing mix of fascinating and bold with old school and local.

The roads throughout this section of Santiago de Compostela are not made for cars, rather they are still very dependent upon walking around and it is more common to see cobblestone roads and paths than it is a vehicle while going through town. If you decide to visit Old Town, it is best to block off at least one day, if not two (or more!), in order for you to fit as much as possible in the time you have.

History and Economics

In addition to the history and culture covered by Thomas, there are some more interesting aspects of Bilbao, that make it an excellent choice for professors who teach the history of Spain or Spanish history. Bilbao had a noticeably controversial evolution in moving form an industrial city that was slowly falling apart and losing its appeal, as well as productivity. Instead of using the population of Bilbao’s money to try to reinvest into the industry, a decision was instead made to spend 228.3 million dollars on the creation of an art museum, which happened to be the aforementioned Guggenheim Museum.

Panorama of Guggenheim Museum in the Evening, Bilbao, Spain

 The reasoning behind this situation came from a desire to use innovation to fix the ongoing economic issues going on in Bilbao around the 1990s regarding their huge unemployment rate and uncertainty due to industry not providing enough for the city. With an unemployment rate of approximately 25 percent, accompanied with the floods that destroyed parts of the city as well as jobs in 1983, and a lack of efficient public transport, the city of Bilbao was left with little choice but to take a gamble to increase the quality of life and satisfaction of its citizens, as well as a solution to the economic problems present. Along with the development of the Guggenheim Museum, an airport was built, a brand-new subway line to help improve public transport, and leisure/business complexes were added to the city to help promote economic diversity. This was just the start of the plans the government of Bilbao had that led to the city being nicknamed “the city of services.” To put into perspective, about 67 percent of all economic activity that occurs in Bilbao can be attributed to the service sector, with only 24 percent coming from industry, despite Bilbao previously being an industrialized city.

Part of the draw that makes the history of Bilbao interesting, is that cities and mostly countries, will resort to far more drastic changes to their way of operating to fix economic decline or unemployment. It has been seen a multitude of times throughout history, that oligarchies, communism, fascism, and other methods or shifts of ideology have been used when a country is in rapid decline and needs a way to get back on its feet. While this is not a one-to-one comparison, since Bilbao is a city and not a country, I still think the risky decision to diversify the city to be a tourist attraction rather than a city of industry should be appreciated as being a rare choice (especially a successful one in terms of putting their bets on an art museum) in history. Bilbao has kept its ideals of providing a satisfying experience and healthy environment for its people form its transformation to a tourist city to current day. For example Bilbao’s implementation plan that spanned from 2011-2015 allocated 10 percent of the budget for promotion of programming, strengthening of business/public facility networks, and cultural events to encourage creativity and to help make all manner of artistic endeavors profitable. It would prove challenging to find a city with a more interesting history to choose for your study abroad program, especially when it comes to Spain.

Salmorejo: A cold soup with ancient roots

Salmorejo is a highly recommended cold tomato soup dish when on a trip to Cordoba, Spain.  Early versions of salmorejo trace back to before the main ingredient tomato was brought to Spain.  Before the arrival of tomatoes, salmorejo was made with all of the current ingredients except for tomato and was called “salmorejo blanco” due to its white color.  Only after Christopher Columbus brought tomatoes to Spain from Latin America is when the salmorejo became the dish as we know it today.  The ingredients for this famous soup are tomatoes, bread crumbs, olive oil, salt, vinegar, hard boiled egg, and garlic.  Not only is this a delicious soup to have, it is also a very healthy dish that is packed with antioxidants and vitamins.  Salmorejo is a delicious and healthy soup that is a “must have” when you’re hungry in Cordoba, Spain.

Salmorejo Dip Recipe