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Exploring Cities Around Toledo

Mark Thomas ’10 – After finishing up my third week in Spain, I can definitely say that I am having a fantastic time living, learning, and traveling here.  Also, I have quickly learned how easy it is to pick up drinking coffee in Europe, especially for someone who used to hate the taste.  Currently I am drinking only one cup a day, but who knows what the future will hold.

The first week of classes consisted of traveling around my host city of Toledo.  The historic and antiquated city of Toledo is drastically different from any city in the United States.  Even though it has a smaller population than my home town of Muncie, Indiana, the city sits upon a hill guarded by old stone walls and fortifications. Early on in my stay, the school took my fellow students and me on a tour of the city.  The highlight was when we drove up onto the neighboring mountain and took pictures of the city.  Toledo has so many unique aspects and sites to see, but even though I live here, I haven’t had the time to discover them all.

After the second week of classes, a couple of friends from school and me traveled south to the city of Granada.  There we were able to visit Granada’s main attraction, Alhambra.  Underlined by its artistic quality and grand size, the site is most famous for being the last Moorish stronghold in Spain before Christians from the north seized it.  Even though we were at the location quite early in the morning, we had to wait four hours to get into the palace area of Alhambra, which turned out to not be a problem.  The actual area around the palace was so large with its gardens, museums, and forts that we spent nearly five hours exploring the whole site.  Granada was also exceptional because of its cheap and quick kebab stands.  For around 3 euro, one can become quite stuffed, or allow half of it to fall onto the ground. 

The latest and definitely most entertaining trip I have taken during my stay in Spain was Barcelona.  The city of Barcelona is definitely one of the most fascinating cities I have ever visited.  The architecture, highlighted by famous Gaudi structures, displays a mixture of French, Spanish, and Mediterranean influence.  The only city in the United States similar to Barcelona would be New Orleans.  Also, in all of the large cities in Spain one would not see dozens of skyscrapers and cranes for construction. Instead one would observe a vast amount of original structures, many over hundreds of years old. 

My favorite and perhaps most interesting part of the Barcelona visit was having the opportunity to attend a FC Barcelona soccer match.  Though, this was no usual soccer match. This was a Barcelona vs. Espanyol derby.  Both teams reside in the city, but have totally different fan bases.  The majority of FC Barcelona fans are separatists, wanting to secede from Spain, while the Espanyol fans are said to be nationalists.  This created conflict that I was not expecting to see.  During the game the visiting fans of FC Barcelona starting hurling lit flares and bottles of unknown substances onto the stands were the supporters of Espanyol resided.  These acts created an uprising from many Espanyol fans which was quickly followed by riot police surrounding the Barcelona fans until the end of the game.  So with all of these visits I would definitely say that I have been able to experience much of Spain  . . .  and more.