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.