George A. is currently a junior at SYA France and a Campus Storyteller. He comes to SYA from Brooklyn Friends School.
After a long and difficult lead-up to the end of the first semester, I was happy to catch a break and have the opportunity to travel around Andalucía with my parents. It was a region of Spain I’d never been to before, so seeing it for the first time was magical. We didn’t see everything on our trip, but we did hit three key spots–Granada, Córdoba, and Sevilla.
Our first stop was Granada, where we spent the longest part of our trip. We were blown away by the enormous Alhambra towering over everything we could see. It was mostly simplistic and imposing on the outside, but upon walking in the next day we understood that its outside appearance was no proper indication of what lay inside. Ornately decorated rooms came one after the other; tiled hallways led down windowed walkways and lavish gardens. My personal favorite spot was the throne room. It was not only decorated floor to ceiling with patterns and text, but also boasted a carved wooden ceiling that made use of eight thousand small tiles to represent the stars in the night sky. We quickly sank into a rhythm of daily discoveries that made each part of the Granada experience fresh and fun. One of the last things we did before leaving was to go to the misa del gallo (known in English as midnight mass) on Christmas Eve to hear the music and get a glimpse into the culture. By the time we boarded the train for Córdoba, we were energized and excited to see more of Andalucía.
Córdoba was equally jaw-dropping, but for different reasons. Upon arriving there, we disembarked from the car and noticed that Córdoba’s old district stretched far beyond the tiny boundaries of Granada’s. Córdoba’s been a big city for a long time; at one point in history it boasted an enormous population of over 1 million. As a result, the old district is packed with relics from across time: old streets, fortifications, temples, palaces, and the famous Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba.We ended up seeing the mezquita first, it was a beautiful collision of several cultures building on top of each other: the old Visigothic cathedral buried below, the mosque built on top, and the cathedral punching a hole right through the center of the mosque as if to further rub in the victory of the Catholic Kings over the Islamic Empire. After leaving the mosque we continued around Córdoba for a bit, visiting other beautiful sites like the Viena Palaces and the newly opened tour of churches. That combined with delicious food and fantastic views made the city unforgettable.
Sevilla was the shortest leg of the trip. We only stayed one night, but since our tickets back to Zaragoza were early the next morning we could only really take advantage of the day we got there. We went to the Cathedrals of Sevilla and the Divine Savior. The Cathedral of Sevilla in particular is hard to put into words; it’s filled with artifacts and altars from across Spanish history, things of serious significance. The modern tomb of Columbus, for example, can be found to the right of the entrance. Another part of the cathedral, called the retablo (a part of Catholic church construction that is unique to Spain), is breathtakingly ornate and demonstrates the power and wealth of the Spanish in the late 1400s. After thoroughly exploring the cathedral and having a light lunch, we made our way to the Alcázar de los Reyes and walked around the gardens before heading back to the hotel for the final leg home.
All in all, I’d say our trip around the south of Spain was a blast. As someone who’d never been before, it allowed me to finally understand the Andalucía everyone was talking about and put words to the places I had only ever heard in conversation. It was a trip I’d definitely recommend to any future SYA student considering it, especially if you don’t get the chance to go on the Andalucía academic trip!
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- SYA Spain