Picture Stories of Northern Spain
Hola! My name is Sunny, and I’m majoring in Spanish at Colby College. This is my first time in a Spanish-speaking country. I’m currently studying abroad with PRESHCO and will be updating the fun times that I SPAINed here! Bievenidos!
“Can I REALLY speak Spanish?”
After learning Spanish on and off for almost 6 years, I finally embark on my journey to a Spanish-speaking country! I was excited to finally put this language skill through a test trial to see how well do I REALLY speak Spanish, but at the same time, the thought of waking up to “hola” and going to sleep with “buenas noches” also made me nervous. But alas, that was me when I just go to Spain. Now, after about 3 weeks of language immersion, help from my lovely companions, PRESHCO staff, compañeros de Universidad de Córdoba (UCO) and of course, a little bit of vino - I’ve moved past the nervous stage a fair bit.
Before arriving in Cordoba on Sep. 07, our 2-week orientation trip took us to 10 provincias and pueblos (provinces and villages) in 4 comunidades autónomas (autonomous community, equivalent of a US State IMO). From Madrid, where we landed, we went up north to Ávila, Salamanca, Peñafiel, Burgos, Bilbao, and finally a little village next to Santander that even not many Spaniards have heard of - Comillas (see map).
I love taking pictures because they help me remember the details of my journeys. I took a ton of pictures, needless to say - but instead of uploading all of my pictures and retelling every detail - I’ll share with you one picture from each the first three places we visited. If you’d like to hear more about a certain place, feel free to drop a comment!
El Cielo de Salamanca.
This painting is located in a museum in Universidad de Salamanca (USAL). Its name literally translates as “the Sky of Salamanca”, because:
It is painted on a ceiling;
It depicts many of the 12 star signs as well as other constellations.
Our tour guide also pointed us to details such as a person blowing wind at the bottom of the painting (which, sadly, wasn’t captured in this picture), as well as the sun and other celestial elements. Note, this was our second day in Spain and I still had trouble understanding full-on Spanish, but I was able to capture certain keywords like “viento” “sol”, along with the help of the painting and body gestures - I was able to notice things I wouldn’t have noticed if I were just wandering around USAL by myself. I also wouldn’t have paid so much attention to this picture at first, because before editing, this photo was a little blurry, dark, and the colors were so much less vibrant, and I was about to delete it. Thankfully, Sergio - one of the UCO students that accompanied our trip - told me that he LOVES this painting, and I decided to save this picture with some photoshop. So here you have it, the salvation of a photo with the combined effort of technology and paying attention to others.
A street view of Burgos.
I was conflicted between sharing a random street view of Burgos and a panoramic view of the whole city from the highest point next to the Burgos Castle. Ultimately, my heart went for this picture. A new notebook I just bought says “Busca la felicidad en las pequeñas cosas”, which means “Look for happiness in the little things”. That is something I’ve learnt over the past summer and a quote I try to keep living by. It is easy to marvel at the magnificent beauty from a bird’s eye view of the whole city, but the little things tend to go unnoticed. Like this little alley right here that you could find almost in every corner in Burgos. Doesn’t it remind you of Diagon Alley that Harry Potter went to? While I was exploring the city with my PRESHCO companions, I was taken away by the simple beauty of this view, not from a bird’s eye view but that of a normal person; not an image you would normally find on Google when you look up Burgos, but instead one that you wouldn’t notice unless you are standing in this very alley in Burgos yourself, holding up the camera. Perhaps years later, I could make a postcard series out of these pictures and come back with them to find those places again. How they will have changed.
My lunch in San Sebastian - tapas.
Comida, because WHEN IN SPAIN? While in Bilbao, we took a day trip to San Sebastian - an island city not as famous as Madrid or Barcelona, but is the next most expensive city next to those two. My impression of Spain so far was that Catholicism has a heavy influence on the people, and it is evident in the huge luxurious cathedrals we encounter in almost every ciudad and pueblo, as well as the significance of number 3 in San Sebastian, which alludes to the holy trinity and a lot of other holy religious symbols in Christianity. In San Sebastian, there are 3 mountains, 3 statues, 3… almost everything.
But the story behind this picture was quite an adventure. Hunting for food wasn’t easy in prehistoric society, nor is it any easier in modern society if you decide to go off on your own track to hunt for lunch in a foreign country. Yes, I’m talking about myself. I considered going to the Michelin restaurant Bodegón Alejandro, but I wanted to spend my PRESHCO cultural funds on something other than food. Tapa restaurants are usually cheaper, so I wandered to one called Beti Jai Berria. Yet, spoiler alert, I spent more money over here than I would have at Alejandro’s (26.62 euros), because I put too much on my plate (literally). For those that do not know, tapas is like a Spanish word for finger food/bites/snacks, and you would ask for a plate at a restaurant, grab what you want from the counter top, eat (usually standing up) while socializing, and then pay what you grabbed. See, here’s when you could easily overpay - there’s no price marked on the tapas, or I just didn’t see it. I also overestimated the expand-ability of my stomach and grabbed waaaaaay more food than necessary. In the end, I left around 40% of my food on the plate. I hate wasting food, but here in Spain, takeout doesn’t seem to be a thing. I’ve never seen anyone walk out of a restaurant with a takeout bag.
But ending on a happier note, I was especially excited after this lunch adventure, because I was finally capable of surviving out in a Spanish-speaking country by myself!