Jake German ’11 – This semester I am studying in Granada, located in the southern region of Spain. This territory is known as Andalucía. My program has visited the three main cities of Andalucía: Sevilla, Cordoba, and of course Granada.
Each city demonstrates the influence of eight hundred years of Arabic culture intertwined with the natural beauty of mountainous southern Spain as well as contemporary Christian culture. The Cathedral of Sevilla is the third largest cathedral in the entire world after St. Peter’s in the Vatican and St. Paul’s in London. It can also claim (with some argument) the remains of Christopher Columbus. Seville also has an amazing minaret, which was subsequently converted to a Christian bell tower to stand beside the cathedral.
Cordoba is home to one of the most famous mosques in the entire world. It reflects the dichotomy of Moorish architecture and Christian iconography. After the fall of the Muslim empire in Spain, the mosque was converted to a cathedral; this was a common practice in the fifteenth century during the Reconquista. Red and white stones were used to make the horseshoe arches that still stand today in rows throughout the church.
Granada, my city, is the location of one of the last great Moorish palaces in all of Spain. The Alhambra (the Red in Arabic) is a palace with beautiful gardens inside a great fortress. It contains centuries of different Arabic and Islamic art and architecture, all containing influences from the twenty successive Caliphs who called this magnificent palace home. The palace is located on top of a hill overlooking the city. Granada also boasts the last place in Spain where you receive free tapas with a drink. Tapas are Spanish hors d’oeuvres. Some examples include tuna in a tomato sauce on bread, tortilla Española (potato omelet), quiche sandwich with red peppers, and my personal favorite calamari with a vegetable tomato sauce. Olive oil is used on EVERYTHING here which makes the cuisine healthier.
Being in a town the size of Granada (230,000 inhabitants) gives you the big city experience without the big city hassle. I could walk anywhere in the city; I don’t because they have an efficient public transportation system, but I could do so. Moreover, the monuments to Isabel Católica, the plaza de toros, and the museums around the city are never crowded. Spaniards enjoy the art of conversation, and the cafes and tapas bars provide opportunities for people to talk and enjoy a glass of sherry. All in all, I am having a great time. In two weeks, I will travel across the Mediterranean Sea to Morocco on the coast of the African continent for five days. I can’t wait!