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Published: June 24th 2010
At the top of the castle, looking down on the town.
After spending the night in an overpriced Barcelona hostel and having sent out a million couch requests, I took the bus to Zaragoza without being sure I would have a host. I just hoped at least for a cheaper hostel and a less crowded city. The bus was pretty nice, although there were some rules that I thought were kind of weird... you can't eat and you can't take off your shoes (which I did anyway). I had forgotten to bring my book up above, so I ended up taking a 2-hour nap, which was super nice. When I woke up the landscape was dramatically different - in Catalunya it was mostly green with little villages and stuff, but in Aragon it was all kind of unforgiving. There were cliffs and weird little hills and huge empty spaces. When I got off the bus in Zaragoza, one of the people I had sent a couch request to, Javi, met me at the bus station! I congratulated him for recognizing me so easily, but he assured me that it was not difficult, as I was probably the only 6-foot tall, pale, red-haired Irishman in the whole station. It turned out that he wouldn't be able to host me that night, since his parents were staying with him, but he could host me the next night, and he recommended me to a hostel that was only 18 euro, compared with 25 in Barcelona. We went to the main square, where there were two pretty cool Mudejar cathedrals, which means that they were constructed during the (somewhat brief) period of Spanish history when the Christian and Muslim kingdoms peacefully co-existed. The Christians commissioned some churches to be built by Muslim architects, who built them as an interesting mix between church and mosque. They were really awesome, and I'm really excited to go south to Andalucia later where there's a ton of Muslim architecture. After that Javi had to go meet his parents, and I looked through my guidebook and the internet for a cheaper hostel and found that 18 euros was the best price, so I went to the one he had recommended, which turned out to be super nice... way nicer than any in Barcelona! The guy at the reception desk actually spoke to me in Spanish, whereas the people at all the hostels in Barcelona immediately switched to English even though I started in Spanish, and everything was really clean! The showers were really big, and there were blowdryers kept in the bathroom, which I guess I didn't need, but it seemed super nice of them to just put them there! There were a bunch of families there, too... I guess with a hostel that nice and cheap there's no reason there wouldn't be families staying there. It was a really nice change from the hostels in Barcelona that just felt like I was back with all the frat boys in Morris Hall.
I walked around that evening and most of the next day, exploring, and it was incredibly windy! Sunday felt exactly like a Georgia day in early November - it was really cold... so much so that it made being outside not very much fun. There was a free museum there that, surprisingly, had all of Goya's caprichos, which were these really disturbing etchings he made of goblins, monsters, torture, and early 19th-century Spanish debauchery. After that I went to an all-business 40-minute mass in a cathedral and then walked around the city a bunch. Javi met me that evening and we went to his house and then out to dinner, where we hung out for a long time, talking entirely in Spanish (Javi doesn't speak English!). The next day he showed me around different parts of the city and we pretty much just hung out, not really doing anything particularly interesting to blog about, but having fun nonetheless.
On Tuesday evening he had to leave to go to his parents', so I left that afternoon to go to Valderrobres, a town a few hours south of Zaragoza. The bus ride was, again, pretty incredible - I tried to read a little bit, but the view from the window was just too distracting! There are a ton of windmills in Spain, and those are really cool to look at. Javi was telling me that 50% of Spanish electricity is generated by wind power! After a connection in the weirdest bus station in the world that seemed to be just a vacant garage that they decided to put buses in, I got to Valderrobres and found my host's house and was surprised to find that, for some reason, about a million British people are staying in Valderrobres this summer, and there was a touring British band staying with her. It was a little disappointing because Mertxe was the only one who spoke Spanish, so I couldn't really practice unless it was just the two of us talking. I went with the Palace of Justice (the name of the band) to Morella, a nearby town, the next day, which was once more an awesome drive there. In the town we saw the castle, which was cool, but not incredible - it was more of a no-frills castle for defense. We also saw the town's cathedral, which had a statue of Saint Christopher with an inexplicable firetruck placed at his feet. After having lunch we came back to Valderrobres and consorted with the British population, who were preparing for a concert in Valderrobres that night. Apparently most of the Brits there were also with bands, and there was one British guy who lived there permanently who managed a pizzeria, so they wanted to put on a concert there, which was entertaining (although none of the bands were particularly good).
Today the Palace of Justice and I went to a nearby lake and swam around for a while, and then we came back home and I got on a bus to Alcaniz, where I'm staying tonight (I'm typing this on the bus and I'll just post it whenever I find internet). Tomorrow I'm taking some more buses to Cuenca, west of here in La Mancha, where I'll stay the weekend. It looks like a pretty cool town - it's famous for its "hanging houses" built over cliffs, and there's also a pretty cool-sounding abstract art museum there that I'll go to. After the weekend I think I'll take a long, long bus ride all the way south to Granada, so I'm excited for all those things!
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