jueves, 26 de febrero de 2015

Portugal is so fetch

So this past weekend, our school took a trip to Portugal. During the trip, I had an idea to write the blog post about this trip using quotes from Mean Girls! So, without further ado, I’ll start with the most famous quote of them all!

“On Wednesdays, we wear pink.” If you've never been to Portugal or seen any pictures from this beautiful country, then you wouldn’t know that the buildings are all very colorful. The color scheme focuses around pastel colors, including yellows, pinks, greens, and more. Many of them are varying shades of pink, which is pretty amazing, if you ask Regina George. It’s a very different way to design buildings, but I think it’s very unique and kind of beautiful.

“Everyone in Africa can read Swedish.” The Portuguese language varies between Portugal, Brazil, and the other Portuguese speaking countries. Our tour guide said that Brazilian Portuguese is a bit easier to understand for Spanish speakers than that of Portugal because the put more emphasis on their vocals, whereas those of Portugal are more closed with their vocals. It’s kind of like how British English is more proper than that of the United States or Spanish from Spain is more proper and has the “Spanish lisp” that isn’t found in that of Latin American Spanish. To all my friends in the Midwest, imagine someone speaking a mix of Spanish, French, and German with a thick Upper accent, and that’s basically Portuguese…at least by my observations!

“I want to lose three pounds.” Friday night, we all decided to head out from our hotel and try to find some good food to try. We ended up splitting up into a couple groups, and one group of us went to an Argentinean Steakhouse. None of us had ever been to one before, so we had no idea what was in store! I was a little leery, with my only exposure to them being from what I’d seen in Bridesmaids, and that ended in a pretty shitty situation, if you know what I mean! Well, they set down a little wooden block with a green end and a red end, and they came around every few minutes with a new kind of meat for the table. They’d shave off some sirloin, then drop off some marinated chicken, followed by some pork and then more steak, a few more I can’t even remember, and even grilled pineapple. Everything was A-MA-ZING! To top it off, there was a musician from Brazil playing live music, and he was having conversations with our table and invited several people to come up from the table and play his guitar and sing songs. It was a ridiculous and fun time. It was Andrew’s 21st birthday, who is another one of the students, so we sang happy birthday to him, and then the entire restaurant sang him happy birthday to him in Portuguese. What a great and memorable experience!

“It’s like I have ESPN or something. My breasts can always tell when it’s going to rain. Well… they can tell when it’s raining.” There are several amazingly beautiful sites to see in Portugal. One of my most favorite was definitely the Torre do Belém,” which was constructed in 1514 as a military tower fitted with artillery to sink enemy ships before they could get to shore. However, the tower itself isn’t what was amazingly beautiful to me.

What was very serene and gorgeous is that there were a very wide set of stairs made of marble that the waves crash up and over, and then reseeded down back into the ocean. These weren’t next to the tower originally, but after a large earthquake and the water receding back a few hundred meters, the tower that was once out in the water became a tower right on the coast, so the steps were added later. The water flowing down the steps is mesmerizing and one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and serene things I’ve ever seen. It was definitely a place I could spend hours just taking in the surroundings, maybe with a good book in one hand and a nice glass of wine in the other!

“I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school. I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.” El Monasterio de los Jerónimos de Santa María de Belém is an old monastery from the Order of Saint Jerome. It’s an impressive complex, which began construction in 1514. Since it was built at the same time as the Torre de Belém, it is of a similar style. Originally, monks lived there.
At one point, they were not receiving enough donations from people to pay for their essentials, so they started baking pastries of their own creation, called Pastéis de Belém. They’re custard in a fluffy pastry and are oh, so tasty! There is a famous bakery located right outside the old Monastery that still has the monk’s original recipe and, on average, sells over 30,000 of the pastries each day. Talk about an insane operation!

One other neat fact is that the tomb for Luis de Camões is inside the church, who is a famous Portuguese writer. Today, Portugal’s equivalence of the State’s Independence Day is the 10th of June, to celebrate the day Luis de Camões died. Any diplomat who comes to visit Portugal must visit his tomb and leave flowers as a sign of respect. Pretty cool, huh?

“She doesn’t even go here!” Just up the coast from the Torre de Belém, there’s a monument called "Padrão dos Descobrimentos" that’s designed to look like one of the old, Portuguese ships that was used during their conquests.

Between the two sides, it has 33 statues of people who were influential to the history of Portugal and its infamous navigating throughout the world. In front of the monument, there’s a map of the world made from tiles on the ground that has years with when Portuguese ships first landed at specific areas of the world during their explorations.

“But you’re, like, really pretty… So you agree? You think you’re really pretty?”
Probably one of the most beautiful palaces on the Earth is the Palacio do Pena located on a hill overlooking Sintra. It is very colorful palace that has a long and interesting history. Tradition states that, after a vision of the Virgin Mary at the location, a chapel was constructed and dedicated to Our Lady of Pena. In 1493, King Manuel I ordered the construction of a monastery at the site, which was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome. The monastery could house up to a maximum of 18 monks. During the 18th century, the monastery was severely damaged after being struck by lightning and then an earthquake in 1755.

It remained essentially empty for decades until King Ferdinand II acquired the monastery in 1838 and built the castle between 1842 and 1854. The castle is of a Romanticism architectural design, though it incorporates styles from many different backgrounds and has significance from a multitude of religions, which was the desire of the King to represent the different religions living together in harmony; this is something I appreciate dearly and think is fantastic. The palace remained in the royal family’s possession for years until being purchased by the Portuguese state in 1889 and classified as a national monument and then transformed into a museum in 1910.

As if the palace isn’t beautiful enough, the kitchen is to die for. Like I literally want a replica of this kitchen in my house one day. It’s so amazing and cool! What’s more, King Ferdinand II also purchased the land around the castle and turned it all into a park, which houses trees that are native to all of the different continents of the world as a symbol of the world living in harmony. Seriously, this palace is amazing!

“Happy hour is from four to six!” While in Sintra, I stumbled into a small shop with a large selection of wines and liqueurs, and even various homemade jams! A very popular (and delicious) drink to try is this cherry liqueur that is served in a shot glass made of chocolate! What an amazing idea! A relative of mine suggested I try some Port while in Europe, and they also had a few Ports that I could taste. I know a decent amount about different characteristics and varieties of wine, but nothing about Ports. One of the shop owners explained some of the characteristics of different kinds of Ports to me, and after I tried a few of the different varieties, I found one I really liked. So, naturally, I had to buy a bottle for myself! I got a 10 year old bottle of aged Tawny Port that’s matured in oak casts in lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia and features intense, mellow flavors. Yummm! There’s none for Gretchen Wieners, though…

“I can’t go to Taco Bell. I’m on an all-carb diet. God, Karen, you’re so stupid!” On our way back to Lisbon, we stopped in Cascais for a late lunch. Being a city on the cost of the Atlantic Ocean, fresh seafood is abundant, so, even though I’m not an extreme fanatic of seafood, I figured I had to get it. And boy, am I glad I did! I got this squid dish that was fresh squid sautéed in olive oil with garlic, potatoes, and some herbs. Literally, so much better than Kalteen bars! Phenomenal! I’m just hoping I like the rest of seafood like I liked that and that it’s bearable in the United States compared to what I can get here!

“One time, she punched me in the face. It was awesome.” On our way back from Cascais, our bus driver suggested we stop at the Boca do Inferno, aka Hell’s Mouth. It’s a chasm located on the seaside cliffs, and as the waves rush toward the cliffs, they enter into the chasm and violently lash around the rocks. It’s quite the sight to see, though I would never want to find myself in the chasm, because you’d surely die within a minute or two!

“There are two kinds of evil people in this world: those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don’t try to stop it.” While looking across the Tagus River, one can see Christ the King in Almada. It has open arms, resembling the Corcovado monument in Rio de Janeiro, though slightly smaller, and was built after World War II as a memorial of thanksgiving since Portugal was spared from the destruction and horrors that were a part of World War II. I’ve always wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro SPECIFICALLY to see the Corcovado monument, so I guess this will keep me at bay…for now.

“Get in loser. We’re going shopping.” On our last day in Lisbon, we were walking down to Praça do Rossio (Rossio Square) and encountered an open market full of various goods, most of which were handmade and very interesting. I never knew this, but the majority of the cork in the world comes from Portugal and south-western Spain, and as such, cork is one of the main exports in Portugal. There are literally cork shoes, purses, wallets, hats, postcards…you name it, they’ve probably got it! Apparently cork is flame and water resistant and very durable. I literally had no idea about any of this. I really wanted to buy a cork wallet because they were pretty cool, but couldn’t find one I absolutely loved and that fit my style, so I figured I’d probably have to just try Sears.

“That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of secrets.” In the middle of Praça do Rossio (Rossio Square), the main plaza of Lisbon, a monument currently stands that spells out <3LOVE that people can buy a lock with a heart tag attached to it that they can write on and then lock it onto the monument. People are supposed to write someone or something they deeply care about and want to keep in their heart as the monument is for raising money for an cause called "Give More Heart - Daniela Movement," whose goal is to raise money for children with heart problems in Mozambique. Naturally, I chose to write SigEp on one so it could join the monument as SigEp has been monumental into the development of me as a young gentleman.

“You can’t sit with us!” Besides a six hour, cramped bus ride each way, crappy WiFi at the hotel that wasn’t even free, and people constantly trying to get us to buy spices they were saying was pot, it was a very fun and enjoyable trip. Abrigado, Portugal. Abrigado. (Abrigado means thank you...) Or, as Cady would say, jambo.

miércoles, 25 de febrero de 2015

Carnaval de Cádiz

Carnival, also known as Mardis Gras in the States, is a fantastical time when people dress up like they’re little kids enjoying Halloween in the States, binge drink alcohol, listen to live bands that march through the crowds, and basically have a grand time. So, naturally, seeing as there was a large Carnival celebration just a short 80 minute train ride away, what young group of students wouldn’t want to join the party?! On Saturday, February 14th, instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day, or Single’s Awareness Day as I like to call it, a group of us threw on our costumes and headed to Cadiz bright and early.

When we got into Cadiz, it was still fairly early in the morning. And, of course, like the majority of Spain, most of the restaurants weren’t opening in a few hours until the early afternoon. After walking through the city a bunch trying to find some food, we found ourselves by the beach, which kept us busy for a while. We just walked down beach-side street enjoying the view. After finally finding a restaurant that was partially open (they couldn’t cook food, but they could pull together cold-meat sandwiches, etc.), we got some lunch, or as I like to say, we created a base. Then we found a grocery store to get some snacks and, of course, like any classy, poor college student, a box of wine for each person. Who doesn’t love a good, 80 cent box of dry, red wine?! Boxes of wine in hand, we made our ways to the beach!

The last time I had a beach day was when I lived in LA, so obviously it was a much needed afternoon. Listening to the waves crashing up against the beach and then receding back again and again is definitely one of my peace zones.

After a few hours of beach time and everyone finishing their boxes of wine, we started seeing people dressed up in ridiculous costumes. I’m talking about everything from Waldos to bears to Duff guys to flamencos, and based on the fact that we each only had one box of wine per person, we were pretty sure they were real people in costumes and not just figments of our wine-infiltrated minds. So, naturally, we decided to follow the costumed people because they were probably headed to the good parties.

And, while it may have been a little creepy and stalkerish of us, it definitely worked, because we found ourselves in the midst of a celebration in full-swing with dozens of people filing into the centers every minute. What was an empty plaza in front of a grandeur building not 6 hours ago was full of people enjoying an adult beverage or 6 and singing along to a music blaring from speakers and playing from bands marching through the crowds.

I had decided to dress up as a pilot because I already had a nice suit and basically just needed a pilot’s hat, and I had people right and left asking me where our plane was going, etc. I even had three young ladies who were dressed as flight attendants come up to me and say they were my flight crew as they asked to take a picture with me.

What a good time. I only have two regrets from the trip. One is that I wished my puppy, Korra, could have been with me to play on the beach like the other dogs we saw. The second is I wish we would have booked our train back a little later in the evening and because we had to miss out on the true party. Ahh well, it’s probably for the best that we weren’t there when the night got truly crazy! But, don’t worry, the party still continued on the train ride home! An older gentleman broke out his kazoo and was playing a melody as his wife and a couple of their friends joined along. What a perfect example of Carnival: it doesn’t matter what age you are, anyone can be a child again and enjoy life!

La falta de conexión

As I left the Chicago O’Hare Airport, I knew that would be one of the last times I would be able to access most of the functions of my cell phone. Until I could get a Spanish phone or plan, I would be restricted to WiFi. I figured free WiFi would be fairly easy to find: cafes, bars, my school, at my Señora’s house… Well, I was wrong. My Señora is the ONLY host mom who doesn’t have WiFi in her house. Claro que sí. Indeed, we had access to WiFi at the school, but that is a 20 minute walk from my apartment. Most restaurants and cafes don’t have free WiFi, though a few do. The closest free WiFi my roommates and I could encounter was a 6 minute walk to the local McDonalds at the train station... McGreat. THANKFULLY, we didn’t have to buy anything when we wanted to use it! Boy, that would have been counter-productive to wanting to be healthier! We later found out that our Señora’s daughter, who lived two flights down, has WiFi, and her children, Andrea and Victor, invited us over and gave us the password. Unfortunately, the signal doesn’t reach up to our apartment, but if we stand by the door, we can get enough of a signal to connect and send out a message!

While this was better than walking to McDonald’s, I’m not always at my house or the school, so a phone plan is essential for, not just access to social media, but safety in general. In accordance with Murphy’s Law, all things that can go wrong will. For me, this means my phone decided that it wasn’t going to maintain a battery life that was worth anything. Literally, after a full charge (that would take 6-8 hours), it would die within 4-5 hours. Not very functional or safe, eh? Well, because of Customs, I couldn’t exactly have a new phone shipped to me. I would have to fill out a ridiculous amount of paperwork and pay tons of fees and taxes in order to get any kind of technology shipped to me in Seville. Fortunately, I remembered I had a couple friends who are from the Netherlands and were flying from Chicago to the Netherlands on January 18th. If I could get my new phone to them, they could bring it with them, and I could go visit them and get my new phone. What a fool proof plan, right?! I wouldn’t have been able to mail my phone to them though, but then my sister Nikki pointed out that my other sister, Kim, was flying to Costa Rica on the 18th for vacation with her family! Fool proof, I tell you!

So, Kim took it with her to Chicago and they dropped it off at the hotel my friends were staying at, my friends then took it with them to the Netherlands, I planned a trip to Amsterdam (see previous post about Amsterdam), and my friend Kevin came into the city to pass it off to me. At last, I could connect with people again as I upgraded from my old Droid DNA to a Motorola Droid Turbo! Surprisingly, phone plans can be fairly cheap in Europe. I have 100 minutes/texts within Spain and 1.6GB of data for only €20 a month. I know most of you are probably thinking, “how on Earth does he survive with barely any minutes or texts?!,” but most Europeans use WhatsApp to connect with one another, and, thanks to Facebook Messenger, I can easily message (and even call!) anyone who doesn’t have WhatsApp, which just runs off my data plan. If I’m just sending messages, it’s not a very data-intensive process, though, since we don’t have WiFi in our house, I definitely have to ration my usage so I don’t burn through it all quickly! There’s definitely no streaming of YouTube videos, downloading of apps, streaming Pandora, or any other intensive data operations going on unless I’ve found WiFi! If only SnapChat was less data-intensive, I’d be set!

It is kind of sad how connected we are to technology, and I’ve definitely learned to live without being constantly connected, but I miss being able to just hop on my phone and use it whenever I want without having to turn off and on my data and not having the ability to call home because it’s an international call. What’s even more ridiculous is that, if I travel two hours west to Portugal, my phone doesn’t work anymore because I’m in another country. Imagine if you lived in Wisconsin and if you went to Iowa or Illinois your phone wouldn’t work anymore because you were in another country. How ridiculous is that?! I just can’t believe there isn’t a European Union plan, since everything else is so inter-connected and there are no “borders” anymore. Alas, I’ll hop off my soap-box. If anyone wants to be able to message me on WhatsApp, my Spanish number is +34 666 77 20 37 (+34 is the country code)!

jueves, 12 de febrero de 2015

Lessons learned in Amsterdam

So this past weekend, my roommate Kevin Rawding and I went to Amsterdam. Here's a list of lessons learned from our trip in hopes of helping others desiring to travel to Amsterdam!

1) After being in high 50s to low 60s for a couple weeks, 30s feels wicked cold, even if you came from single digits in the States barely 3 weeks ago. Literally, we got off our flight, there was a minuscule amount of snow on the ground, it was 34 degrees out, and we were like "Where did we go..." I've just gotta say, I can't imagine being back in the Midwest right now! Bless all you brave souls who are roughing it!

2) If a guy stops you at the tram station saying he's got a group ticket you can share with him and it will cost you 12.50€ instead of 20€, he's probably just scamming you. I'm pretty sure they don't even exist, but the personnel may never come to verify that we have tickets, so it could be okay, and the random guy could give you some good tips about Amsterdam's public transportation, so that could be good... And you technically could save like 8€, sooo...

3) HotWire.com is a great website for saving money without giving up some travel luxuries. We snatched a room at the NH Amsterdam Zuid, a 4-star hotel, for 3 nights for 2 of us for a total of just over 100€. Honestly, you can't beat that! It was cheaper than most hostels, extremely nice, and refreshing, especially since we got it for literally less than half the normal price!

4) If you don't know what the smell of marijuana wreaks like, go to Amsterdam. In 5 minutes of walking down the street, you're guaranteed to smell it AT LEAST once. I'm pretty proud to say that I've never smoked a cigarette, cigar, or weed before, and I'm glad I could walk by countless coffee bars and not even try a brownie. I'm a happy and relaxed enough person as it is; I don't need drugs to help me get high, because life gets me high! (If you're in for more corny puns, keep reading!)

5) Try the beer. All the beer. Literally. Our first night there, we got a beer we'd never heard of before, Grolsch. It has 11.6% alcohol content. Woosh, it was like drinking a mixer! But sooo good! (Well, I thought it was good. Kevin was so-so with it.) You definitely wouldn't need to drink a ton of them to get you going, not to mention it would fill you up before to many. Anyway, I only didn't really like one of the beers we had, which was Brand bier. Otherwise, deine Bier war sehr gut! (Their beer was very good...which was German, not Dutch...)

6) The Weasley's cousins were vacationing in Amsterdam this weekend too. No, seriously, they were. A family of British gingers boarded a tram before us, and I'm convinced they're relatives. Not that that really means much for anyone wanting to visit Amsterdam, but, I mean, how cool is that?!

7) If you come across a kabob place that's a hole-in-the-wall joint, give it a chance.
It could turn out to be the best kabobs you've had in a long while! I was a little leery, figuring I'd probably get food poisoning like in Bridesmaids, but there was definitely no problems there!

8) So Amsterdam has pee stations that are literally out on the sidewalk where a guy can walk up to it, whip it out, drain it, and go on his merry way, no urge to pee on a building in sight! Now, if course this would probably never fly in the States because people would probably consider it exposing yourself in public, but seriously, the half-circle that wraps around you pretty much covers up everything, so I think it's a phenomenal idea. Probably the only downfall is it restricts women from being able to use them... Otherwise, it's probably the best thing since sliced bread!

9) While walking down the street, especially at night, you'll have several guys walk past you and say "cocaine?" loud enough so just you can hear it. I don't know about y'all, but cocaine isn't on my top infinity list of things to do or try, so I just take the "ignoring" approach, which works really well.

10) If you're going to visit Anne Frank's House, which everyone should, you DEFINITELY should purchase your tickets online, print them off, and bring them with you, even if it means you have to pay to use the computer and print out your tickets at the hotel. It is totally worth it so you don't have to stand in the cold and wait in-line to buy your tickets. Unfortunately, you can't take pictures inside, so you'll have to go check it out for yourself, but it's very interesting and amazing that 8 people lived in such a small space without going outside for over 4 years, especially since they had to keep extremely quiet so the workers below wouldn't hear them. Whoever snitched on them, causing them to be captured, taken to concentration camps, get sick, and have all but Anne's father die, with Anne dying about a month before she would have been liberated when she knew her mom and sister were dead and assuming her father was dead, leaving her all alone in the world with nothing to fight for... Woosh, let me wipe a tear away. Definitely worth the time and money to see their old home. Another part that is amazingly emotional is that Anne's father didn't want there to be furniture placed in there to allow people to see what it looked like because he wanted it to resemble all the belongings and people who were taken away from their homes without the ability to return. He was definitely right that it's more emotional that way! In 1967, Anne's father, Otto Frank, said, "To build a future, you have to know the past." WWII has always fascinated me and has been a huge learning point for me to be accepting of everyone, regardless of where they've come from. I also found it interesting that, after Anne's father Otto read her diary after the war, he realized he had no idea what was truly happening inside his daughter's mind throughout their time there and said "Most parents don't really know their children." It's probably very true; a lot of parents assume their children don't catch-on to certain issues or comments, but I bet most do. However, I think that notion applies with more than just parents and children, and is an issue with everyone between everyone else.

11) If you plan to go to Anne Frank's House, walk the extra 100 feet and check out the Homomonument. It was built in 1979 as a monument to all the gay men and women who were murdered in concentration camps alongside the Jews and who were and are still persecuted today. It is a giant triangle with 3 triangles at each point. One points towards Anne Frank's house and has "Naar Vriendschap Zulk een Mateloos Verlange" inscribed on it, which is a line of poetry from Jacob Israël de Haan, a Dutchgay poet, which translates to "Such an endless desire for friendship." One descends down into the canal and faces the National War Museum on Dam Square. The third faces COC Nederland, which is a Dutch gay rights group that was founded in 1946, which is the oldest gay rights group in the world. Together, they represent the past, present, and future of the fight for equality of the LGBT community. It's very cool to see, especially since Holland was the first country to legalize gay marriage back in 2001.

12) The Red Light District is a fun place to visit, and it can boost your self-esteem. Yeah, yeah, I know the ladies in the windows are just knocking on the windows, motioning for you to enter, etc., because they want your money, but hey, I imagine they would prefer to have attractive clients over the alternative, so I'm taking it as a booster. It's truthfully quite sad that those women resort to that occupation, but it's a personal choice they make for themselves, so... Oh, it's also really awkward when you see a girl in a window who looks like someone you know... I'm not going to say who, though... Also, steer clear of the blue lights, unless you're into that kind of thing!

13) While strolling down the Red Light District, check out the Old Sailor Bar. It's a bit of an older crowd, but it has a cool vibe and atmosphere. And, the fact that you can look out the window and see the tourists strolling down the street looking into the windows and see their reactions is pretty priceless. People watching is definitely a fun thing to do in Amsterdam, as it is a huge tourist city.

14) If you've got time and want to check out a cool place to eat, go to the Foodhallen. It's a neat place with a bunch of little restaurant stands that make amazing, homemade food. Seriously, your mouth will start salivating when you walk in there!

15) Definitely make time to do a canal tour. Most leave Central Station and travel through the main canals of the city as well as the harbor. It gives some pretty neat history of how the city's changed over the last 800+ years, points out some historic spots, and, if nothing else, the boat driver maneuvering a large boat through the canals and at the corners is crazy to see!

16) Stroopwafels are probably the most addicting treat ever to come along this planet. Thanks a lot, Lindsay, for introducing them to us. I'm going to crave them for the rest of eternity now. Ironically, there is no chocolate in them, which is usually a prerequisite for me!

17) If you've got some extra time, check out the Amsterdam Museum. It covers how the city and the Netherlands has transformed over the years. It has a bunch of cool exhibits with a lot of infographics, short info blurbs, cool artwork, and short video clips throughout the entire museum. It's a pretty neat set-up for a museum, I do have to admit.

18) Don't be too worried about not being able to connect with people. Free WiFi can be found at countless bars, restaurants, museums, etc. It's pretty incredible how easy it was to stay connected. Even the train from Edinhoven to Amsterdam had free WiFi. Much more established than in Spain! We were even able to use our free WiFi to connect with my friend Kevin Liebrecht and hung out Sunday afternoon/evening with him and his Dutch and Polish friends!

19) On the back-side of the Rijksmuseum, there are large letters that spell out I amsterdam, which has become the city's slogan. It's a cool photo opp location. There was also a street performance that was happening when we were there, which was fairly entertaining.

20) De Dam, or Dam Square, is a cool place to check out. The architecture of the buildings on the square is pretty amazing to see. (As if the rest of the city's isn't?) It's close to the Centraal Station and the Red Light District, so it's definitely easy to see.

21) Bikes are everywhere. And I'm not talking about motorcycles, but pedal bikes. They literally strap those things to any permantly placed object. There are millions of bikes throughout the city. There's literally a bike ramp outside Centraal Station that holds 2,500 bikes. It's like a right of passage for every person to get one. And, often times, people will strap a bike to something and leave it there for whatever reason, so years later, it's just sitting there still. As such, the city goes around and "snatches" a group of bikes, which can tend to rub people the wrong way if their bike is snatched and they literally just put it there. But don't be too worried; you can buy a new one from a hobo for 10-20€. You may think I'm joking, but that's the truth. We literally had a hobo try to sell us one. Sure they probably stole it from someone, but a 10€ bike?! Hmm...

22) Don't risk getting caught not paying for public transit; it could cost you a 30€ fine, plus the cost of what your would have had to pay. We bought the 3 day pass, which allowed us access to the trams, metros, buses, and night buses, which unfortunately are NOT like the night bus in Harry Potter. It's very economical, and definitely worth it. We were definitely glad we bought them for the train ride back, because our tickets were checked 15 minutes before we got off! Oh, just keep in mind that the night buses only run every hour... So if you get there 5 minutes after the last one left, you have to wait 55 more minutes... Oh, and use Google Maps; it is surprisingly very accurate regarding the public transit system!

23) Peanut butter, apparently, is a liquid. Or at least TSA thinks it is. Y'all know how they have restrictions on how much "liquid" you can take on a plane with you? Well, "creams" and "pastes" and anything that is "spreadable" also apparently falls under that. So a sealed bottle of peanut butter that was bought 15 minutes ago that you have the receipt for is indeed considered a liquid. As such, if you try taking it with you on your carry-on, the TSA will snatch it and throw it away. And watch your soul die a little while they do it. Peanut butter will ruin the world, people. That's what I've learned.

miércoles, 11 de febrero de 2015

Los Reyes Católicos y su conquista sobre los musulmanes en España

El 30 de enero, los otros estudiantes y yo fuimos a Granada por el fin de la semana. Granada está en las montañas en el sur de España, y la ciudad es preciosa. El viernes, fuimos a la Alhambra, que fue hecho en 889 por los musulmanes. La fortificación del edificio es impresionante y el castillo es grandísimo.

La madura de los cielos es la misma madura que fue utilizada hace cientos de años pasados para construir el techo. Fueron hecho de cedro, y las termitas no les gustan a cedro, entonces esta no era un problema. Además, los musulmanes usaron yeso y azulejos para hacer un edificio guapísimo.

Lo que me parece es el más precioso de todo este castillo es la incorporación del agua en TODO el edificio. Desde que los musulmanes eran de África y no tenían mucho agua, se adoraban al agua. Hay fuentes y piscinas por todos partes del castillo, y son naturales y usan a la gravedad para funcionar. ¡Incluso algunos de sus fuentes de agua están diseñados para parecerse conchas! ¡Qué impresionante!

Los sultanes podrían tener a lo máximo cuatro esposas a un tiempo, pero podrían divorciarlas y casar con otras. Por eso, unos sultanes tenían 400 esposas durante su regla. Piensa en tener 400 mujeres chismosas; ¡obviamente este está donde el machismo se perfeccionó!

Fuera del castillo hay el Palacio de Generalife donde los sultanes podrían escapar a para relajarse por el día, ¡que fue probablemente una ocurrencia regular con todas sus esposas! Arriba de Generalife, había tierra para cazar, que era un pasatiempo muy popular.

Nuestra guía, Cristina, era muy inteligente y sabía mucha de la historia del castillo. Ella nos dije que en 1492, los cristianos conquistaron a Granada y la Alhambra, y hay un rumor que Ferdinand e Isabel dieron a Cristóbal Colón el permiso para ir a las Américas de un cuarto en la Alhambra.

Después, cuando los cristianos lo conquistaron, ellos también hicieron unos edificios, pero su arquitectura es un poco diferente. Por ejemplo, ellos usaron a latín en vez de airaba. También, los cristianos derribaron la mezquita y construyeron una iglesia en la misma locación de la mezquita para representar su dominación de los musulmanes. Realmente, es una lástima porque la mezquita probablemente era preciosa, si era algo como el resto del complejo.

Algo increíble es que Emperador Carlos V quería hacer Granada la capital de España, y empezó a hacer un edificio muy bonito en Alhambra ser el Palacio Royal. Antes de que podría terminarlo, se murió, y el próximo emperador, su hijo, Felipe II, decidió que quería hacer Madrid la capital debido a su ubicación central, y porque de eso, hoy Madrid es la capital de España. No fue sino hasta aproximadamente 45 años pasados que se agregaron un techo al edificio y se convirtieron el edificio en un edificio histórico para el turismo.

El sábado, andamos por la ciudad. Subimos mucho a encontrar a una visa preciosa de la ciudad y la Alhambra. En ruta, pasemos por Calle de los Tristes, que fue la calle para las procesiones de los funerales y está al lado de Río Genil.

Yo vi alguno grafiti por el lado de un edificio que dice “Revolución solo es hacer lo que tú sientes,” que creo es una frase muy perspicaz.

También, yo vi a un hombre hecho de madera que pienso es probablemente Pinocho después de que él creció. ¿Pensamientos?

Algo raro es que muchos gitanos viven en Granada y se venden cosas como paraguas por los calles. Ellos viven en cuevas por los lados de las montañas.

Fuimos a la Capilla Real de Granada, que es una iglesia grande y bella. Lo que es más interesante de esta iglesia es que es donde los cuerpos de Ferdinand e Isabel están, y se puede ver a sus ataúdes. El sentimiento en la iglesia era una sensación que no se puede describir con las palabras.

Por la tarde, tapeamos y bebimos mucho vino. ¡Qué diVINO era! Por la noche, fuimos a una discoteca muy alta en la ciudad que tiene una vista increíble de la Alhambra. En la discoteca, hay unas cuevas, como las unas donde viven los gitanos. Domingo, regresemos a Sevilla, y, lo que era una lástima era que fue el día solo sin lluvia. Claro, ¿verdad?

Por lo largo, era un viaje muy divertido y educacional.