Castles, bike adventures and Hogwarts

The wish I made on my 6th birthday came true last weekend: I climbed the tower of a medieval castle. The only difference was that I wasn’t wearing a Cinderella dress as I’d thought I would be at 6, but the view from the tower more than made up for it. I could see every red tile rooftop in Trujillo as well as the surrounding farmland. For a second, I really felt like a medieval princess until I saw a supermarket and gas station at the edge of the city.

In addition to Trujillo, we also visited Merida and Cáceres–two other medieval cities in Extremadura, Spain. While exploring the medieval neighborhood in Cáceres, we stumbled upon a jazz concert. Our professor, who was our tour guide for the weekend, was less than impressed with it and hurriedly guided us to a different area. We were then stopped by a crowd watching a medieval reenactment, so we had to return to jazz concert, much to our professor’s dismay. As we wandered through the neighborhood the sun began to set, reflecting pink and gold light on the walls of the stone buildings. We stopped to listen to a band that I can best describe as a combination of a traditional flamenco group and an early 2000’s boy band. Nonetheless, our professor approved of it better than she did the jazz concert.

“Do you ever feel like we’re in a movie or something?” a friend from my program asked me last week. We were walking home along the Guadalquivir River at sunset, the palm trees and outlines of cathedrals silhouetted against the sky. It’s true–sometimes living in Sevilla doesn’t feel like real life. We’re surrounded by palaces and cathedrals, and my host family lives blocks away from where the Spanish Inquisition began. Although we’ve been here over a month, it still feels a bit surreal.

Plaza de Espana at sunset.
Plaza de España

But it is real life, and there are always little reminders of that. Sevilla has a bike rental program that some of my friends and I have started using. It’s convenient and it’s not. The first time I tried it, I got hopelessly lost in a maze of twisty cobblestone streets with identical balconies and flower boxes. While I love walking down these streets, the rental bikes don’t work great on cobblestones. They’re heavy and don’t absorb the impact of rough surfaces well, so it was a bit of an uncomfortable ride. Now that I know the area a bit better, I don’t get lost very often but there are still lots of obstacles to avoid. Seville is a very pedestrian-friendly city, so the sidewalks are always full of people, dogs, cats, kids…everything. And the bike paths are on the sidewalk, so dodging everything and everyone can be a little tricky.

I also began my integrated course at the University of Seville a couple weeks ago. Going to class in the old royal tobacco factory (Real Fábrica de Tobacos Sevilla) is pretty exciting–it reminds me of my favorite ballet, Carmen, and it holds a strong resemblance to Hogwarts. Unfortunately, I feel a little like a squib there–the professor talks extremely fast and I miss some words here and there, but I’m surviving. Luckily, I think it’s easier for an exchange student to survive an art history course in Spanish than it is for a squib to learn magic at Hogwarts.

Hasta luego,