Sunday, January 08, 2006

A level up

School tomorrow, that phrase will never work its way into my top ten favorites. The ninth has finally come, after a relaxing vacation break. I really like Salamanca and my experience has been all I have expected it to be, and little more. But, I know that salanca has a culture that is really all its own. I kinda feel drivern to explore in all the cracks and crevices of the country before I leave. And as it continued not to snow and just be cold, my desire to find a warmer climate was exponencially growing inside me day by day. So I found a warm climate, a couple of beautiful cities, a great experience of the Andalusian culture and a lot of fun in the two southern cities of Cordoba and Cadíz. My first plan was to go to the north to San Sebastian, Bilbao and Santander. But my mind changed when I saw on the news that the Basque Country near the coast was flooded due to some heavy rains. So south I went.
On the third at six in the morning I departed first to Madrid and then to Cordoba by train. I arrived at about 3 pm. On my map I saw that it was only about a 15 minute walk straight to my hostel so I thought that I would tour the Plaza de Toros to see their stadium because I heard it was pretty big. And it was but it doesn´t hold a flame to Madrid´s. After waliking about 6 km I reached the Plaza de Tendillas, but not before first passing along the river that borders the alacazar de los Reys Cristianos, their Roman Bridge, and the all famous Mezquita Moorish Mosque, I dropped my bags at went exploring. I plotted out a well organzized yet busy tour route that took a litttle more time to complete then I thought so I had to cut a few corners here and there to fit in some things that I didn´t want to miss. I saved the Mezquita, the Alcazár, and the east side of town for the second day. I was really happy with Cordoba and its appearance. Although it had some of its rougher looking barrios I was sufficiently content. The abundance of the bustling orange trees were a nice greeting when I got off the train and imediately put a smile on my face. I read a little flyer that it is in the running to be elected into the hall of really cool places to visit around the world.
The Mezquita was exceptional(check out the picks) and the Alcazar was really....really old with a beautiful garden amoungst its walls. The botanical gardens were´t in bloom and closed along with the zoo they have here, but I don´t think it was anything special so I didn´t feel bad passing it up. The view from the Roman bridge into Cordoba, splitting the Mezquita, on the right, and the Castle(Alcazár on the left)was awesome. At the Far end of the bridge there is a great wide tower that guards the entrance into Cordoba from the sotheast. I could picture riding up to this castle on my horse about 5 or 6 hundred years ago and having to pass through this giant gate. It was like I took a trip into the past. That will always be the image I have in my mind when I think of Cordoba.
Next, I hopped a four hour bus to Cadíz. One of the oldest cities in Spain. Packed with a vibrant beach scenery and also the greenery typical of Andalucia. I was there from the 5th until the morning of the 10th. It was definately not enough time to see all that I could have seen. In fact, the place I was saving to see last was the view from a tower called "el torre tavira". The tower itself isn´t anything too special but offers a view of the entire historic part of Old Cadíz. Unfortunately I arrived at 6:03 and of course it was closed up and locked tight at six sharp. What a bummer. But don´t feel too bad because I bought a post card with the same view, so I´m content.
As I was standing on the beach looking due west over the Atlantic I couldn´t help to think if the earth was actually round or flat and what Cristopher Columbus was thinking when he departed to America as he left from this very same port. When you´re looking out over the vastness of the ocean it´s sort of dificult to comprehend that all you guys in good ´ole America are, in all actuality, just around the corner. After pondering on these issues while watching the sun set for about fifteen minutes I returned back to my hostel because it was begining to get a little chily.
The hostel, Casa Caracol, was my home for those two days. I think half the experience of traveling is in the people you meet. There was a great mix from all over the place: two Austrailians, three Americans including myself, three French, one from Scotland, two from England about three or four others I don´t remember and the owner who spoke about 4 or 5 diferent languages and I have no idea where he was from. They all turned out to be really nice and friendly. Spansih was the language that we would all use and we all seemed to understand each other just fine. The second night we were all there was the holiday of the Three Kings(los Reyes Magos) and the streets were very lively. So we all went out and had a great night.The next day I boarded my bus and off to Salamanca I went to start the next trimester.
Well, Today was the first day all went well as it is always pretty easy. I am a little discontent with my placement exam that has put me back into the advanced level. I went to my directors office and talked about it with her for a while and eventually decided that Superior was the place for me and if it doesn´t work out I can always change back. This of course means that my nose will be in the books a lot more, but that´s ok, I think that is just what I need. I am feeling pretty confident with my spanish now and it is kind of humbling to see the new group of students standing in my shoes of a month ago. Well, I guess we´ll give superior a go and see where that takes me. A little nervious though. I hope everyone had a great Cristmas and New Years. Don´t worry, I´m halfway done you guys, I´ll bee home soon.