On the 4th of December, somewhere between autumn depression and Christmas with New Year, I’m back to refreshing my blog. Thus, while writing my assignments and trying to prepare presentation, I have reminded that during last sunny and hot August I have visited Spain. Although it was only 10 days that time was very valuable as spent on learning Spanish language on a course. That course has taken place in Alicante and I had an opportunity to fly directly there, but I decided to visit Barcelona as well and kill two birds with one stone – two places in totally different regions and with different features and cultural aspects. Those differences were the most surprising for me. I wouldn’t have suspected that in whole country there are so many accents (I have been even more surprised when I have come to UK). Catalan language sounds more like French than Spanish but I managed to deal with that despite my very low language competences and complete lack of using English by Spanish people. One day my Spanish friend told me that the original Spanish language that is said to be the official one does not come from Madrid (as I thought) but from Castile (Valladolid and Palencia). When talking about cultural differences I guess that the most visible was for me two contrast attitudes to the Corrida. In Alicante one citizen and our language tutor in the same time has brought us to the Museum of Corrida and has spoken about it event with pride, about the cultural meaning, celebration and respecting bulls. However, in Barcelona there is a common conviction that Corrida and any events including fights with bulls are cruelty to animals and are not practiced there. Another difference is the splendor of modernistic-“gaudistic” Barcelona full of street art (and art in general), huge modern buildings, palaces, fountains, shopping centers contrasting with poverty and dirt of Alicante, where architecture is rather austere but sometimes in positive ways. Of course I don’t mean that Alicante is ugly. It has a beautiful castle, coast and old town are absolutely different than the rest of the city, and that rawness is interesting and charming in its way.
Unfortunately my first days in Barcelona have not been too lucky. The desire of adventure, meeting new people, saving money and positive previous experiences I decided to use Couchsurfing again. However, this time I had rather negative experiences and adventures ccause of two insane people, this is why I have wasted two days dealing with them and completely unnecessary things despite exploring the beauty of Barcelona. Fortunately I was meant to visit Barcelona again after my course and then I decided to stay in a cheap hostel.
If not the financial surprise from my aunt just before my trip I would have quite a disturbing problem. I didn’t check the prices of tickets for the transfer from Barcelona to Alicante and back and that cost about 100 euro. It’s a lot especially that on my way back in Valencia I have met two girls that have told me about Inter Rail ticket that allows travelling all around the Europe in comparable prices during a long period of time.
The week in Alicante was the time to fall In love with Spanish food, parades and fiestas, people and their style of living and beautiful white beaches that were perfect to spend time by the evenings or even to sleep there. However, I have heard from one tutor that once a man slept on the beach and the wind covered him with sand, so the tractor (or whatever is the name of that machine that smooths the sand) didn’t notice him and an accident happened. Though I still think that sleeping on the beach is awesome. That was as well the time to hate the heat, filthy salty water of the Mediterranean Sea, night traffic on the streets and leakiness of windows there. It was also the time to meet fantastic people from all around the Europe. I’m not a specialised in cuisine but Spanish food is stunning for me. First of all tapas, so different snacks like small sandwiches, baked potatoes with sauce (patatas bravas), salami chorizo, olives, cheese, tortilla, fried squids and so on serving cold or warm are very popular during the day when it’s too hot to have a full hot meal. Paella, so fried rice mixed with sea fruits, chicken or vegetables, or all together – delicious! Fantastic smoked Spanish hams like jamon Serrano or jamon Iberico. Typical Spanish candies – turrones – kind of a nougat, and finally chocolate con churros – typical Spanish breakfast, fried pieces of cake served with hot chocolate. It should be compulsory to try all of those dishes! 🙂 Despite exploring Spanish cuisine our international girlish team had also an opportunity to explore the night life. There is nothing such pleasurous as walking around the city by the night, when it’s warm but not too much and there are a lot of people on the streets and in the pubs. One night we managed to visit a very special, little pub in which every centimeter of the walls was covered with handwriting and pictures made by pen. Charming, middle-age Spanish woman was serving unusual mojito drink called ‘coscorron’, which means that the drink hits your head. It’s delicious, prepared in a pot with special chopped mint and squised juices, however the recipe is secret of course. My most amazing experience in Alicante was definitely watching the sunset from the Castle of Santa Barbara, placed on a high hill. The landscape was stunning – marina, the city, mountains and the sea. And finally one of the most characteristic signs that I will always connect with Spain is shopping center – El Corte Ingles (English court?), it’s literally everywhere!
After unfortunate events In Barcelona I had no motivation to go there again, but I haven’t seen that city at all and it was my big desire. I decided to make a stop in Valencia for one day and spend whole day on sightseeing and taking pictures. The most impressive was ‘Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias’ – City of the arts and sciences – a series of fantastic, futuristic buildings, like aquarium, planetarium, museum of science and museum of art. I just regret that I was too late to enter them and anyway I was out of money – reason to go back there. My second visit in Barcelona was very nice and I regret that I had so little time to spend there and again so little money – again it’s a reason to go there again as I haven’t managed to see all places that I wanted to. I was staying in a small, cheap hostel just next to Sagrada Familia called Ole Barcelona. They also have been giving leaflets about free walking and cycling tours, flamenco and tapas nights and so on and vouchers for dinner, all those events are taking place in Travel Bar. There I have met four Polish girls with whom I spent an evening on fountains show. I managed to see Park Guell and take a cycle tour around the Gaudi’s buildings. Barcelona is probably still the only one city (in Europe?) where free cycle tours take place. But still there are a lot of places in Barcelona for me to see like Old Town or Montjuic. And then was the end of my Spanish adventure and it was the time to go back to Poland.