Published: March 26th 2012March 18th 2012
Tuesday was probably my favorite Granada Seminar to date. Jose told us all about tapas and where to find some good tapas bars. If you don’t know, one of the most important things to know about Spain is tapas. It’s not just about people staying at bars and eating all the time. (Tapas are portions of food you get with a drink, like an appetizer, but smaller). Knowing about tapas means you know about Spanish culture. It’s centered on being social. The reason tapas are so important here is that is their time to socialize. In the US, we host parties or gatherings at our houses, but here, people meet up for tapas. And it’s not just about drinking either. Sure, they may drink just as much as we do, but whereas we down six cups in a half hour, they drink six over three or four hours. The story for how tapas started began with Alfonso X. He had an illness, and he was obliged to eat little sandwiches between the hours of meals with a little bit of wine. Later, he made a rule that no one should drink wine without accompanying it with something to eat. This is
just a nice story they like to tell, but tapas probably actually came from the farmers and workers, who carried a little food with them to eat and hold them over during their work until the meal time. Also, in the taverns, they would serve the wine with a piece of bread over the cup to keep out insects and dirt.
Jose gave us a list of good tapas bars in Granada, and a map so we could mark where some of the good ones are. The list has at least 20 different bars, so I have my work cut out for me to try them all. That’s one reason I’m glad I’m studying in Granada, and not another part of Spain. Granada is one of the only cities in Spain where the tapas are free. So you just get any drink, alcohol or pop, and they automatically give you a tapa. I’ve already been to a few tapas bars, and the tapas have all been great.
Now there’s one class that I hate this semester. It’s the one class that I was sure I would love, but unfortunately, the opposite has happened. I’m taking Arabic this semester,
and I was really excited about it. Our trip to Morocco inspired me to learn it. I think I was hooked when I saw the Arabic script. Well, I hate Arabic. Or rather, my professor is making me hate Arabic—along with him. I have never had a worse teacher. We don’t really have a textbook, just a notebook with photocopies sheets from a bunch of different Arabic textbooks. We have to learn a whole new alphabet, so it’s basically like we’re in first grade again. But he goes so fast, and there’s no structure to the lessons. He writes phrases on the board, and we have to copy them down and remember them. He throws out at least 20 words a lesson and we just have to write them all down and memorize them. Then later, he’ll say a word, then ask us what it means, saying it’s in our notebooks, but none of the students have it written down anywhere. This class is worse because it is from eight to ten at night. I always leave that class frustrated and discouraged. I can start to read the writing now, very slowly, but it’s like I physically cannot remember the
words. And it’s not just me; all the other students are struggling too, and half the time we don’t know what the heck he’s talking about. I’m very worried about our test, whenever that comes up. I need to find an Arabic book so I can try to learn this stuff on my own.
For our intercambio activity this month, we went to a movie. I was for seeing a Spanish movie, since you know, we’re in Spain, but Fatima said Spanish movies are horrible, and we need to watch an American one. I guess it didn’t make that big of a deal because all movies are dubbed into Spanish here, so either way we would be hearing Spanish. We went to Este es la Guerra
, or better known by you English speakers as This is War
with Reese Witherspoon. I thought it was pretty funny and cliché like all rom-coms. One thing I missed out on was the fact that one of the guys is British. Of course, I was hearing Spanish men talking the whole time and didn’t realize that one was British until they said it outright in the movie. That would have added a whole
new dimension of funny to the dialogue. It’s been difficult for me to watch dubbed movies because I know how the real actor sounds, and the lips don’t match up with what I’m hearing. I did get used to it by the end though, and was able to focus on the plot instead of the fact that Reese sounded weird.
Saturday we had a group excursion to the gypsy museum. It’s not so much a museum as a collection of caves that demonstrate the lifestyle of the gitanos in Granada. The gitanos mainly lived in the Sacromonte area because it’s on the outskirts of the city. We walked up there and had a tour guide to show us the replicas of cave life. The gitanos lived in caves because it was cheap; they could dig out the caves themselves, and it stayed warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. I couldn’t believe how small these caves were! A family of six or eight would sleep in a tiny cave with one bed for the parents and mats on the floor for the kids. The caves couldn’t be made too big or the mountain would become unstable. They
even had caves for their livestock, usually right next to the living cave to share the warmth from the animals in the winter. There were also caves that showed the different crafts of the gitanos. They did metalwork, weaving on looms, ceramics, and basket weaving.
After the excursion, Amber and I went to buy our bus tickets to Córdoba for the next day. We walked back down to Granada, and when we walked through a plaza, there was a kind of concert or festival going on. The plaza was full of people and at one end, there was a stage with a band playing tango. There was a big group of people gathered around the stage, and when we got closer, we saw several couples dancing the tango. There were older couples and young couples. It was incredible that all these people knew how to tango! We got some ice cream at an heladeria and stood and watched them for a half hour. I remember seeing this kind of thing in China—couples dancing together to music in the parks. It makes me sad that we don’t do that kind of thing in America. The only dancing people know now
isn’t even dancing, it’s basically sex with your clothes on. I only see older couples dancing sometimes at weddings, doing the merengue or two-step, but no young couples. I may just have to drag my boyfriend to some dance lessons to keep the tradition alive.
I could have watched tango all day, but Amber wasn’t as interested, so we moved on. We took the bus to the bus station to buy our tickets for the next morning. I looked at their schedules and prices, and it only costs 11 euros to go to the beach about an hour away! I’m definitely going to have to take advantage of that. I don’t have enough money for many more big trips, but I could swing a short day trip to the beach a few times.
We left for Córdoba on Sunday at 10 in the morning. This would be a nice late time to leave, but Amber and I had gone to Mae West club the night before, and we didn’t get to bed until 6 am. Not the smartest decision. Those Spaniards really party all night long! I like staying up late, but I also like to be awake
for more than half the next day. There’s too much stuff to do and nice weather to enjoy to spend the whole day sleeping and recovering from the night before. So I was miserable for the trip to Córdoba. I at least got to sleep for a couple hours on the bus to Córdoba, and then we ate our bocadillos in a plaza next to a church. After that I felt a little better, so we started exploring. Córdoba reminded me a lot of Granada, but it might be even prettier. We were in the old town, so there was less traffic, and that might have influenced my perception, but it seems like a quaint, quiet little city.
If you go to Córdoba, you have to visit the Mesquita, so that’s what we did. When Muslims invaded Córdoba, they began building a mosque in 785. It became an important sanctuary of Islam when Córdoba was the capital of their territory in Spain. Córdoba was reconquered by Ferdinand III in 1236, and in 1523, they began changing the mosque to a cathedral. They maintained the Islamic building, but added more Christian elements to it like the addition of the chapel,
choir, and the courtyard outside. The Mesquita is the largest Islamic monument in the Western world and the third largest mosque in the world.
After the Mesquita, we saw the old Roman Bridge and the Judería, which is a neighborhood of pretty, white houses. I wanted to see the royal stables because they have an equestrian show similar to the one at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna demonstrating classical dressage. But it was only open for a few hours in the morning and the show was already over when we got there. This was the site of Caesar’s cavalry and where one of the Islamic rulers kept his stables. Later, the Spanish Pureblood breed was created here. These are the Spanish horses you hear of as being some of the best horses in the world, the Andalusian.
We were only able to spend four or five hours in Córdoba, but I really enjoyed my time there. I hope I can go back and see more of the city. We made it back home Sunday night, and I had to do some studying. Our midterms are this week, and I’m hoping I do well.
There are more photos below