Granada is the kind of place that leaves an everlasting impression on you. In the months leading up to my departure, whenever I would tell someone that I was going to Granada, their faces would light up with excitement. These kinds of responses made me feel incredibly excited to be going to a place that everyone spoke of with so much love. I also could not wait to begin learning Spanish at the Centro de Lenguas Modernas at the University of Granada.
From the first short but busy week that I have spent in Granada, it is hard to believe how one could not fall in love with Granada. It is a truly beautiful city, full of special people, an incredible history and a wonderful rich culture.
Hayley and I arrived in Granada a day early, just in time for The Three Wise Men Parade (Cabalgata de Reyes). This is a parade mainly for the children, but both adults and children take to the streets to enjoy the spectacular display of lights, colour and music. They try to catch the sweets and toys which are thrown from the many carriages in the parade. The parade symbolises the coming of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem, and it is a very special night for Spanish children. Interestingly as well, Christmas gifts are exchanged on the 6th of January in Spain, Epiphany Day.
Our Intensive Spanish in Granada program officially began on the 6th of January. That afternoon we all went to the families we would be staying with for the next month whilst we are in Granada. A quick taxi trip and I was there! I am staying with a lovely family in an apartment very close to the Centro de Lenguas Modernas. I am so glad that we have the opportunity to stay with a family during our stay in Granada.
January 7: Carmen, my señora that I am staying with, walked me to the Centro de Lenguas Modernas for orientation. It is not just us Australians in our group, we are also with other people from America, Canada and the UK, which is pretty cool. Orientation went for a couple of hours; we were given our student cards, explained more about our program and taken on a tour through both buildings we would be having our Spanish classes in for the coming month. After orientation we all went home for lunch. Later that day we had our first walking tour of Granada. It was so nice to finally explore the city. Our profesora, Maria, took us on the tour which led us through the streets of Granada where she explained a bit about the three cultures of Granada - Jewish, Muslim and Christian in the time of medieval Granada. Whilst I could write pages and pages of all the interesting stories Maria told us, one which really stood out to me was the story of some Jewish families who were expelled from Granada in 1492. When the Jewish people were kicked out of their city they were not allowed to take anything of monetary value and had to sell everything they owned, including their homes. However, for some they always hoped that one-day they would be able to return. For this reason some families have kept the keys of these homes, passing them down for generations.
January 8- We all woke early to take our Spanish level tests so that we would be able to be put into the correct Spanish class. The test was made up of 3 parts - grammar, writing and oral. I was so nervous for the oral test since I find speaking in Spanish the hardest. The level test lasted for approximately 2 hours. Once it was all over, a few of us went to get some tapas at one of the local restaurants. Tapas is a great concept. If you order a drink, you get a plate or sometimes more of free food. Perfect for a student traveller and perfect for someone who just loves food!
January 9-10: It was an early start today as we were off on a trip to Sevilla, a city 3 hours away from Granada. I was so excited to see Sevilla as I had heard so many good things about it. Once we all had a bit of a rest, Maria who took us on the day trip and explained a bit about the history of Seville to us, as well as the rivalry between Sevilla and Granada. First we strolled around the city until we reached the Catedral de Sevilla (Cathedral of Seville). Built in a gothic style, the architecture of the cathedral is magnificent. The interior is very grand, with different chapels all around with the most beautiful designs. It was quite humbling to be in a place so beautiful, with so much history. Connected to the cathedral is the Giralda, which is a bell tower. We all ventured up the 34 levels on ramps (thank goodness) and 17 stairs until we reached the top and it was definitely worth it! The tower allowed you to see the whole city of Seville and it was simply breathtaking. It's really in those moments that you have to pinch yourself and ask "wow am I really here right now?"
After the cathedral, we had a short break for some lunch. A small group of us discovered a Mexican restaurant very close to the cathedral which had some of the best enchiladas I have ever eaten. After lunch we went to see the Alcázar de Sevilla, the royal palace of Seville. It was originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings. The architecture and interior design is incredible. The detail that went into constructing the palace is evident in the detail designs on archways and the beautiful range of tiles, which fill every room. The gardens of the palace though are what really took my breath away. They were as grand as they were beautiful, and the kind of place where you could spend hours simply sitting and doing nothing but enjoying the sounds of nature that surround you.
The following day a few of us took the bus to Italica, which are Roman ruins just outside of Sevilla. They were incredible. It was like taking a step back in time, with the enormous amphitheater and beautiful mosaic tiles. It was amazing how well preserved some of the ruins where.
All in all, these first few days of the Intensive Spanish program have been wonderful. We are just in the beginning of our Spanish classes, and they are a very enjoyable and an interesting 4 hours. We get to learn with students from all around the world and our teachers are very good at what they do. Look out for our next blog post! We are only just getting started here in Granada and I am so excited for what will come next!