The hills. I’m not sure how this is possible, but somehow you always have to walk UPHILL in Segovia. Even when returning from some place and going back the opposite direction, the ancient architects of Segovia managed to make it so that you would return walking uphill as well. Remember that story you’ve heard from every parent or grandparent in the world? About walking uphill both ways in the snow for five miles to school? Switch out snow for 95 degree weather, and that’s about how I feel! 🙂 I don’t mean to complain too much, though, because I absolutely love it here! My hips, however, have a different opinion.
This week I started to get into a routine with my classes. For Marian’s class (Spain & Its Role in the European Union), we’ve actually been taking mini field trips and walking around the town as she explains things about Segovia and Spain. It’s been great to explore the city more and hear some local stories.
Thursday night marked the beginning of a week-long festival in Segovia (it’s considered a vacation week). Thursday was the shortest night of the year, so they lit a huge bonfire outside of the cathedral. Apparently there is usually a tradition where people jump over the fire, but it didn’t end up happening this year for some reason. There are concerts in la plaza mayor (where the cathedral is located) basically all day everyday this week. We also saw a really neat show over by the aqueduct, which was almost like a Cirque Du Solei performance. Extremely impressive! After the performance and bonfire, the majority of our group went out to experience the Spanish night life and had a great time dancing and meeting locals.
Yesterday (Friday) we had our first excursion as a big group. We went on “la ruta de los castillos” (The Route of the Castles). Our first stop was a “claustro” (cloister / church) in Santa María, a small town in the province of Segovia. I love taking pictures of old churches, and this one was exceptionally beautiful!
Next stop was a castle in Coca, another small town in the province of Segovia. The castle dates back to the 15th century and belonged to the House of Alba. We received a tour and explored the castle for several hours, and actually learned a lot about its history, how to torture prisoners in the 15th century, defense tactics, and a cool room called “la salón de los secretos” (the chamber of secrets; you can whisper secrets on one side of the room and they travel through the walls to the other side).
Next, we stopped at a park to have lunch (that our madres packed for us) and more or less played on a playground for an hour. An interesting note on meals here – apparently Spanish mothers think Americans eat a ton or that we are constantly starving. The sandwich Nati packed to me was honestly half of an extremely large loaf of bread. Some madres packed 3-4 sandwiches for their students. Apparently, we need to eat more! After lunch, we went to visit a castle in Cuéllar, but we actually couldn’t go in because it doubles as a high school and classes were in session.
Our final stop was “una bodega” (a winery), called Malaparte. Unfortunately, I only got a few pictures here before my camera ran out of battery! The winery was really neat, and the owner took a lot of time to explain to us how they made the wine, the aging process, how to discern if a wine is high quality, etc. We tried two types of wine: Tinta (red wine) and Dulce (a sweet, dessert wine). Both were delicious!
Friday’s excursion was exhausting (especially after trying to stay up late like the Spaniards for the festival the night before!), but that evening was my host mother’s birthday. We went to dinner at the restaurant owned by her daughter and son-in-law, which is run by the two oldest grandsons. El Restaurante José is one of the fanciest restaurants in Segovia, and it’s located right around the corner from me in la plaza mayor. There was a whole parade of foods I didn’t eat (including an accidental tasting of baby eel, which closely resembles pasta), but Nati’s family is wonderful and so welcoming! I definitely enjoyed spending time with them.
So despite the constant uphill walking, my first week in Segovia was definitely a success! Again, I’ll post even more photos on Facebook. I’d love to hear from everyone at home, so send me an e-mail sometime soon!