Wabash Blogs Immersion 2009: Spain - The Baroque Era


March 18, 2009

The Last Day

Saturday, March 14th

Today was the final day of our trip, and I think all of us will be sad to leave this incredible country tomorrow morning. We were fortunate enough to have the liberty to research and explore on our own today, and while some students chose to go to Segovia and others to Toledo, I chose to visit Alcala – the home of Cervantes and the cornerstone city of much historically significant Spanish literature. Yet while I had this history in mind, I had realized long before that this trip, while focused on the historical era of the Baroque, was inevitably about much more than just that. It is impossible to visit any place and look at a specific time period as disconnected with the history behind it and, more significantly, the present that has resulted from it. Alcala was no different than Madrid in this regard, and while our visit gave us a better image of the era we are studying, it also gave us an insight into the present people and culture of the town.

Our first destination in Alcala was the University, where Juan de la Cruz, Lope de Vega, Quevedo and many more significant figures once all studied during the Golden age, and we headed there directly after satiating our ever-growing desire for greasy American food at a Domino’s we had surprisingly encountered on the way. The main building was situated behind a picturesque courtyard, and though the structure was relatively simple the façade was ornately decorated with spires and arches in typical Baroque fashion. We then headed to the Plaza de Cervantes, which was a beautiful square lined by gnarled and exotic trees. In the middle of the Plaza was a statue of Cervantes and all around current students of the University were lounging around and studying. We then headed down a cobblestone street lined by cafés packed with people until we reached la Casa de Cervantes, where the legendary writer himself once lived. Inside, we were given a view of how he lived, but more interestingly a view of some manuscripts from his magnum opus - “Don Quixote.” These manuscripts came from all over the world, from Portugal to London, and the diversity of their origins attributed to our sense of just how significant Cervantes’s book was during his time, and ever since. After leaving the house, we spent some time wandering through the city while admiring the beautiful architecture and watching the people. We left Alcala just in time to get back to Madrid to do some last minute shopping and take a much needed siesta.

-Royal Gearhart '09

March 17, 2009

Exploring outside Madrid

Saturday , March 14th

Well, we knew this amazing adventure had to end sometime, but I cannot believe how quick it flew by. Each and every day was spent learning and exploring the depths of Madrid such as the astonishing Museo del Prado and the breathtaking Palacio Real. With nearly the entire trip being spent in Madrid, a few compañeros and I wanted to see what the outskirts of Madrid had to offer, so we hopped on the train and traveled to nearby Alcalá de Henares.
Before getting into the details of the mini-trip, I want to comment on the weather…amazing!! Spring was in the air as the sun was shining brightly all week, with temperatures peaking in the low 70s every day. We were not disappointed today as temperatures in Alcalá reached 27° C, which is roughly 80° F. The warm, dry weather has definitely added a little something extra to this already magnificent experience, and we all are greatly appreciative of that.
Alcalá is probably most famous for being the home of arguably one of the most influential authors of the Spanish Golden Age, Miguel de Cervantes. The author of the famous book Don Quijote de la Mancha lived near the center of town, and it was a really neat experience being able to see his home. We were able to take a tour of the house, which was a smaller two-story home that had an open courtyard in the center. It was quite an experience getting to see how people lived during the Spanish Golden Age, but one thing is for sure, I am not jealous of them. As you can imagine, the dark rooms and awful stench would have gotten old quickly. Aside from Cervantes, the rest our trip was spent walking through a few parks and visiting the historical plazas located throughout the city (with a lot of laughs mixed in of course).
For dinner tonight, many of us went out to a popular Spanish tapas bar, El Buscón. The word buscón, or “swindler” in English, has historical significance in Spanish literature as it was the title of a popular Baroque piece written by Francisco de Quevedo. This book tells the story of the life of a Spanish pícaro who makes his living freeloading and taking advantage of his fellow peers’ kindness. The funny thing is that, while at dinner, one of the members of our group assumed the role of el pícaro and made off with the leftover chorizo from the neighboring table-a perfect example of one of the many memorable laughs shared while on our trip.
-Mitch Miles '09

March 14, 2009

Yo Soy Juan Carlos II

Friday, March 13th
This week has been full of new experiences, but today was especially interesting. I got a first hand glimpse into the history of the Spanish monarchy we’ve been learning about in class. If I were to imagine a royal palace in Madrid, what I saw this morning certainly fit the bill.
The Palacio Real de Madrid is located across from the national opera hall and the city’s main cathedral near the plaza de España in downtown Madrid. It’s a fantastic sight, with some architectural elements echoing those we saw in the Escorial. Composed mostly of locally obtained granite on the outside, the palace is an impressive place for important events and diplomatic events. It was particularly interesting to note that what was built to be the home of King Felipe V in the 18th century no longer houses the king and queen of Spain. 
Our tour guide very interestingly stated his opinion on the matter when referring to current King, Juan Carlos I (I know, I have a royal name!). His basic view is that all the politicians in the democratic government hold only their own party views as important and not the general well being of Spain as a whole, even President Zapatero. King Carlos I is a man who respects the Republic and his objection of using the palace on a regular basis aside from very important State events demonstrates the function of the contemporary monarchs.
Later at night, I got a good glimpse into some of the culture and pastimes of Spanish people. We enjoyed some of the best pastries in Madrid and walked around the busy Puerta del Sol. We then found a nice spot to enjoy some drinks and play pichilonga, a Spanish card game. After I got dinner in the Plaza Mayor with some of the guys, we met up with Professor Jaén-Portillo to see a Tablao Flamenco performance. The dancers were amazing and engaged the audience with some really fun beats. They ended with a funny chant and accompanying rhythms made with handclaps and foot stomping.           
This whole trip has offered some amazing opportunities to see all sorts of things I haven’t seen before. Aside from the awesome opportunities to see many of the things we talked about in class, I was most excited to see Velazquez and el Greco paintings in person. We were fortunate enough to be able to walk inside 17th century monuments and even see a Spanish play written by a golden age playwright, Lope de Vega. There’s no price you could put on this kind of learning. 
-Juan Carlos Venis ‘09

The Royal Palace

Friday, March 13
Friday marked the seventh full day of this incredible immersion trip. During the week, I had the opportunity to tour Madrid on several occasions, make a day trip to Barcelona, visit El Escorial, walk through the Prado Museum, and see where the renowned Spanish playwright Lope de Vega lived, among a myriad of other experiences. Today, however, was unique in the fact that I was able to see the official residence of the current King of Spain, Juan Carlos I. I figure the Oriental Palace, as it is also called, was going to be elegant, but in order to truly understand just how over-the-top this place is, one must see it firsthand. The tour started with a walk up the marble staircase to the second floor. The stairs are unlike traditional ones because they were constructed with less distance between them in order to accommodate the need for royalty to walk straight ahead without looking down. Once reaching the top of the stairs, I was taken aback by the massive fresco above (A fresco is essentially a ceiling painting). If I remember correctly, there was a fresco in almost every room we saw and an Italian painted each. We walked through various halls, dining rooms, throne rooms, silver and yellow rooms, a string instrument room, and even a cinema room. When done with the official tour, we also had the opportunity to visit the armory (No, it did not have a 24-hour computer lab).  We were able to see around 15 rooms and although they were only a mere fraction of the more than 2000 total rooms, they sure did make you wonder how a Palace as big as this one could have so much luxury packed into each one. The exquisite detail, excessive decorations, and entertaining tour guide made the tour something I will surely remember for the rest of my life.
After the Royal Palace, Drs. Jaén-Portillo and Rogers, Jorge, Michael, Mitch, and I had lunch at a suggested fried bacalao (cod) restaurant. Like the previous Spanish dining experiences from earlier in the week, I was not disappointed as the food was top notch. Then, following the Spanish tradition, I took my siesta (nap) for the day. Well rested, I then took in the extensive shopping opportunities Madrid has to offer. Later, some of us met up to have some sweets and go to a chocolate shop where we sipped on chocolate and played Spanish card games. Dinner for me was a salami bocadillo (sandwich) and then it was off to bed in order to prepare to do it all over again the next day.

-Andy Leshovsky ‘09

Analyzing Baroque and Improving My Spanish

Today was very interesting. We started the day off by taking a tour of the historical literary locations in Madrid including places where theatre and competing concepts in literature were an important part of Spanish culture during the Baroque period. 
Later in the day we took the metro to El Museo del Americas (Museum of the Americas). This museum holds a bunch of artwork and various artifacts from Spain’s exploration of the Americas throughout history. It was really cool seeing certain paintings in the gallery that we analyzed in class. It still blows me away that we are seeing works of art that were created a few hundred years ago. The museum not only gave us a good sense of the perspective on the Americas from the Spanish point of view but also exposed us to the native cultures in the Americas. The gallery displayed native tools, weapons, clothes and shelter.  
After the museum, I went out on my own to explore the city and buy a gift for my girlfriend back home. It was a great experience for me. For someone who needs to improve their Spanish, Spain is an invaluable experience. I feel that my Spanish has become at least 100% better since we came to Madrid just from being exposed to the native speakers.
-Eric Woolf ‘09

March 13, 2009

A Walking Tour and Museum of the Americas

Thursday, March 12th

Today was the sixth day most interesting day during this immersion trip. Our adventure began with another quick tour of Madrid by Professor Jaen-Portillo. First we went to the site of one of the first Corral de Comedias, a type of theatre between buildings during Spain’s Golden Age. Then, we went to the Teatro del Principe (theater of the prince) where the people of the noble classes attended.  The theater has changed its name to el Teatro Espanol (Spanish Theater). Then we went to San Esteban Church were the great Lope de Vega was buried. Dr. Jaen-Portillo informed us that the remains of de Vega were lost, mixed with other corpses. Following that we went to the mentidero or gossip corner. The mentidero was a place where people went to enhance or destroy people’s reputation. Lope de Vega used this place to gossip about theatre and his rivals.

Afterwards, we went to the Quevedo house, Trinitarias Church, and Lope de Vega House Museum. We learned that Quevedo actually sold his house to a rival writer, Luis Gongora. Soon after buying the house, Gongora kicked Quevedo out. The twist is that after the death of Gongora the house became the Museum of Quevedo. Lope de Vega’s house really impressed me. It was very interesting to find out that he wrote a 3,000 verse poem in one night.
The highlight of my day was visiting the Museum of the Americas. This museum had paintings, tools, and clothing pertaining to people of the Americas. There were paintings of Cortez’s encounter with the Aztecs. More specifically, I viewed a painting which consisted of Spaniards and two indigenous men. The description of the image said that the two indigenous men were spies but who really knows. In the museum there were also letters, pens, and accessories of Christopher Columbus. This was a great experience considering the importance of his voyage to the Americas in 1492. I was astonished at the great accuracy of the Spanish maps considering the lack of technology they had to use.  I also got to see clothing of Aztecs, Incas, and Central American groups.  One of my favorite pieces was a painting about the Caste system in Latin-American that portrayed the racial and social segregation based on a person’s color of skin. The virgin de Guadalupe is in the middle top of the image with the different classes in a hierarchy of status and rights.
Its one thing to learn about topics in the Baroque in class, but it’s completely different to visit the places and study the objects that we have read about throughout the semester.
-Anthony Benitez ‘09

March 12, 2009

La Biblioteca e el Teatro


Wednesday, March 11th
Today we had the rare opportunity to visit the National Library and see its museum thanks to Professor Jaen-Portillo. The Library had holdings that were hand written including an early hand written copy of Mio Cid, a famous Spanish poem. The library is the center of all intellectual learning in Madrid and houses an extensive collection from all periods of Spanish history. It was truly amazing to see all these works together in one place. What an experience it would be great to be able to spend an entire day browsing the shelves of the library. Regrettably we had to leave after only an hour to catch a play.
The play we went to see was called “La Noche de San Juan” or The Night of San Juan. La noche de San Juan is a festival that is celebrated at the spring solstice. The play is about two friends who agree to marry the other’s sister so that neither will have to pay the marriage price, turning marriage into a business transaction. The two women, Blanca y Leonor, however are in love with other men and do not wish to marry the men they have been promised to. After much complaining and a little sneaking around both women who had yet to meet end up in the house of Don Pedro, Blanca’s love. In the end the women are allowed to marry their respective lovers and Love wins over business. It is an exciting and humorous play from the Baroque period that was well performed. 
There is nothing quite like visiting another country and to be able to do it with this class and study Spain from the Baroque period is a once in a lifetime experience. Keep reading to see where our adventures in Madrid take us next.
-Brent Graham ‘09

March 11, 2009

What a Morning...

Wednesday, March 11th
Today was a very long and tiring day. We went to el Museo del Prado, which happens to be one of the best museums in the world. Works that we got to see varied from Francisco Goya, Diego Velazquez, and El Greco. Of course, the most breath-taking piece was Las Meninas by Velazquez. One of the Baroque painting qualities that you can see in the Velazquez’s painting is his ability to differentiate between dark and light values. The fact that he plays with the viewer by making the viewer part of the painting and pointing the attention to the audience creates the illusion that Velazquez is painting you. The illusion the painting creates has led it to be known as one of the best paintings of Western Europe.
As our tour guide noted, some of the best painters are from Europe.  It is an amazing feeling to stand a few inches from world masterpieces and admire every inch of paint on the canvas. You read and learn about it in class but it is not the same feeling you get from viewing artwork in a textbook. One of my favorite things about Spain is that artwork does not stay indoors , muralists paint murals on buildings, sculptures can be seen while walking around Madrid, and let’s not forget about the beautiful water fountains.  Art can be seen everywhere.
To finish our morning excursion we went to see a memorial monument of the bombings that killed 191 victims at the Atocha train station in Madrid. Today is the 5th year anniversary of the terrorist attack that occurred on March 11, 2004. Towards the entrance of the monument is a list of the victims of the bombings. The monument itself is a glass cylinder above ground that you can see into from the basement floor. Inside the structure, there are many personal messages in tons of different languages that spoke of unity, strength, and hope against terrorism.
-Miguel Aguilar ‘10

Living the Life in Madrid!

Tuesday March 10th
Today was the fourth day of our fabulous immersion trip to Madrid, the city that never goes to sleep – or at least so it appears to me.  Every day brings something new; every day presents us with a new learning opportunity, new Spanish dish to try, or new Spanish word to learn. !Viva la Espana!
We commenced our day with a trip to the royal palace outside of Madrid, El Escorial. It used to be a seat of the Spanish kings of whom the famous resident was Felipe II. Not only was el Escorial a royal palace, but also a university and a monastery. Today it remains a university and a monastery with 20 monks. Our group entering this square-sized monumental building and touring through its chambers could feel the chill of an austere “sanctuary”. King Felipe II spent a lot of time in this place planning a pious death. His chambers, as one would expect, were not excessively decorated but rather simple in design where he could be awaiting God’s calling in peace. We toured el Escorial with a guide who has lived in Madrid for 40 years and who is a very lively and happily proud Spaniard. He threw in some philosophical tidbits while he was telling us about the toured places. He said at one point,” We all are Don Quixotes, and perhaps also Sancho Panzas. “ One could tell that he is a lover of life, and most importantly – a lover of Spain, which we all are becoming.
After having a delicious three-course lunch accompanied by wine, we came back to our hostel. I and a couple of my friends decided to take a nap in a very picturesque municipal park. Andy even took a pillow, which turned out that he never used, as we never took the nap. First, we rented a boat and paddled in it for 45 minutes in the park pond located in front of an interesting baroque obelisk. We bumped with our boat into a boat of Italian students and made some nice friendships with the natives of Milan. After meeting new friends, we set off into the unknown of the park. We wanted to wander aimlessly and thus let fate bring interesting places on our way. It was worth it! We encountered a small street with cute little stores. An owner of one of them told us about the story of how the Ministry of Spanish Education allowed them to have their little bookstores in proximity of the park. She even gave each of us a copy of the official document signed by the government officials allowing the creation of this little shopping district. We then took a random bus and explored more of the unknown parts of the city. Academic, cultural, social, geographical, linguistic are the aspects of Madrid I have explored today to name a few.
-Michael Opieczonek ‘09

March 10, 2009

The Art of Spain: Paintings and Music

Tuesday, March 10th
Today we went on a guided tour with Joaquan Hortal to the El Escorial. It was the residence of the King of Spain but functioned as a monastery and a school for boys. The building was very beautiful but very cold inside though; I advise taking a coat or jacket. Some of the painting and portraits were amazing. Yet others were a bit out of element. For example, there was a circle painting of Jesus and about 5-6 guys pulling on him. The painting was a square and outside of the square there were female angels killing what looked like rat demons. The place was nice and huge though. To see the things restored for the royal family was great. We could not take pictures once inside. Sorry guys no pictures. 
After lunch, I decided to explore more of Madrid on my own in search of hip hop influence in Spanish and baroque music. Still listening to my Ipod, I viewed Madrid in the form of music. Without the language completely tuned out, you see similarity in Spaniards and Americans. Professor Bost mentioned the same thing at lunch about the similarity. Talking to each other, hanging out with friends, the laughing, and enjoyment are the same; which makes you remember that we are all still human. Walking around the different stores, it seemed like being at a big city in the U.S.
I found the store FNAC, which is a music store.  I got two CDS that were hip hop based Spanish music and one CD of baroque music.  Mala Rodrigueg, known as the best rapper and female rapper in Spain music is so fast. I almost listened to the whole CD without noticing it.  The all male group Violadores Del Verso is a group of rappers too.  They are an okay group too but not as good as Mala in my opinion. In both, I can hear the hip hop influence in the beat. I can also tell that they are rapping even though I cannot understand what they are saying because of the style in which they are speaking and saying their words. The baroque music CD I bought comes from a guy named Gaspar Sanz (c. 1640-c. 1710) from the baroque period.  He brings a different form of music into this period that is unique compared to earlier baroque we studied earlier in class.
-Marquise Triplett ‘10

Monday, March 9th
Today we continued our exploration of Spain in which we broke into smaller groups and went to various locations. The group I traveled with stayed in Madrid and specifically looked at two locations, the Plaza del Toros and the Real Madrid Stadium. Unfortunately, we just missed the tour for the Plaza del Toros but spent a sufficient amount of time looking at its design and architecture from outside. The building itself did not exactly align with the characteristics of Baroque architecture but the practice of Bullfighting grew significantly during the Baroque period. Its cultural significance made it a very worthwhile place to observe. 
Next, our group decided to venture across town to the Real Madrid soccer team’s stadium. Since I had never been inside of a soccer stadium this was especially interesting to me. It was a great chance to see an amazing stadium as well as an opportunity to visit the home of one of the world’s greatest soccer teams. The tour of the stadium was very interesting with a great deal of historical information on the team (not all of which I was able to read due to limited Spanish knowledge) and had countless photos, trophies, and memorabilia. Even though the history and everything was interesting, the thing I enjoyed most in the tour was being in the stadium and going down to the field. My only regret is that I was unable to see a soccer game in action first hand and be part of the atmosphere of the game. I hope I will get a chance to come back and view a game first hand in the future. 
I am really enjoying my time in Madrid so far. It is unlike anything I have ever had the opportunity to experience and I am excited to see what is in store for the rest of the week. 
-Andy Goodpaster ‘10

An Excursion to Segovia

Monday, March 9th 
The chance to travel Spain, for many, is a once in a lifetime experience. Today Prof. Rogers, Prof. Bost, and the Morillo Family joined Juan Carlos, Michael, and I on an adventure to the historic town of Segovia. I did not know much about the city before Sunday night but now Segovia is easily my favorite location thus far on the trip. We travelled by high-speed train to Segovia which only took thirty minutes. We then took a bus to the downtown area where we encountered the famous aqueduct. I was told that this aqueduct was built 2000 years ago but the most impressive fact was that the Romans did not use any mortar in the construction of such an amazing architectural feat. The aqueduct was used until the 1950s and was only shut down due to water erosion.
We walked uptown as Dr. Morillo and Dr. Rogers explained to us different landmarks as well as the reason for their placement throughout the city. We talked about the architecture of different buildings along the winding road to the plaza. On the way to the plaza, we found a gem of a landmark, La Iglesia de San Martin. Even though the church was first constructed in the 11th century, many Baroque additions were made to the altar, which made for quite a discussion between the students and the professors. We then left San Martin and walked to the plaza in order to get some lunch. We sat on the plaza and enjoyed lunch while sun tanning (or rather being burnt) and experiencing the beautiful weather.
From lunch we walked to La Catedral de Segovia, which I have to admit is the most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen. The Baroque artwork displayed inside was breathtaking and so was the mere magnitude of the cathedral’s size. After La Catedral, we walked down to the Castle of Segovia, which was also breathtaking in size. The view from the Castle was also amazing because of how high above the plains we were. Dr. Rogers, Michael, Juan Carlos, and I decided to hike to John II’s tower, which gave us an even better view of the city and countryside.
The city of Segovia is a time capsule of many periods throughout history. The chance to experience such a wonderful city has been an experience of a lifetime and I am sure that there will be more to come in the following days.
-Nick Marzotto ‘11

Life as a Madrileno

Sunday, March 8th
Madrid is awesome; there is so much to do and see! Yesterday we took the subway to various locations in and around the city. At a park there were different performers.  There were jugglers, comedians, tarot readers, and violinists, to name a few. The park, as well as most of Madrid, had gorgeous architectural designs which captivated a lot of us.  The food is also great! Yesterday, we had a three course meal at the Museo del Jamon for only 8,10 euro; that’s roughly about ten dollars. Today I and two other guys went into a local restaurant that was crowded with people. People were ordering left and right, waiters were screaming orders at the top of their lungs and we just stared, thinking “how in the world do we order!?” We finally managed to push our way into the crowd and order three Bocadillos de Calamar, which were absolutely delicious. 
As you walk around the streets, you cannot help but notice that Madrid is a busy place.  When you walk in the evening, there are hundreds of people shopping, eating, or having a good time at one of the local taverns.  Today as we were headed to Reina Sofia art museum, we came across a protest. There were hundreds and hundreds of mostly women protesting about domestic violence, abortion rights, oppression, and lesbian’s rights.  As they marched toward a busy street of Madrid, they were stopped by cops who barricaded the women from marching any further.  Despite this, the women continued their protest.  Unfortunately, we did not get to see the full unraveling of the event but it sure was an experience of a lifetime.
Later, we bumped into a couple of Professor Jaen-Portillo’s old friends. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza did'nt seem to mind hanging around with our group for a photo. There is so much to this city!  I cannot wait to continue exploring, experiencing its rich culture and beautiful architectural designs.  It is great living in the shoes of a Madrileno.

March 09, 2009

Saturday In The Park!

Since I am going first on this blog-athon, I will write about our first day (Saturday) to catch all of you up back in Wabash Land.

It didn’t take long after touching down Saturday morning for us fourteen Wabash Men and our professors to dive into Spain. After a brief lesson on the intricacies of the Metro system and finding the Hostal Persal, our base-camp for the week, we made our way out for lunch, which begins at 2 PM in this part of the world. Fortunately, we found a fantastic place just before rush hour. It was the Museo de Jamon, or Museum of Ham which may sound cheesy at first, but trust me, this ham was to DIE for. This is not the ham that came on the unidentifiable ham and cheese sandwiches that your high school served for lunch every Wednesday. These hams were cured and sliced by hand with the tender loving care that only a Spaniard can give a ham. The secret is in the age. They do not cook but age them with a brine solution over YEARS. The taste was very smooth and the hams aging along the walls gave off an alien ambiance to which we quickly took a liking. It was in this “Museo” that I discovered my dream to become a “Gastronomic Tourist.” Many of us, myself included, got our first experience with other Spanish favorites including Paella and its perfect complement; Ham and Melon. But that is enough about food for now.
To recover from the nine hour flight, we made our way to the Park for some easy strolling and dozing in the sun. It was a gorgeous day and all of the Spainiards were out to enjoy the warm weather. Wallys were to be found striding along the row boat pond, lying lazily among the hills of soft grass, and admiring the fountains and statues that comprised Madrid’s most beautiful Parque. 
After a restful siesta, several of us went to examine the night life of bustling Madrid. It was shortly after we found out about Michael Opieczonek’s fantastic, Polish inspired, techno dancing the we were literally squeezed out of the club by the swelling mass of people that packed inside. I might be bragging, but I think it was our fantastic dance skills that kept bringing in the party-seekers.
Tomorrow will surely bring more cultural experiences and I am anxious to see the baroque sights that we have been reading about for the last six weeks.
-Jacob Surface ‘11


March 05, 2009

Angel Sal de Rellán

Ph +34 91 369 46 43
Fax +34 91 369 19 52
Plaza del Angel, 12
28012 Madrid (Spain)