Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chiiicoos, bienvenidos a Segovia

Quick explanation of the title: the program director, Michael (or as we call him, Miguel), is a ridiculous, ridiculous man. He means well but is mostly useless and also has gorilla arms, which is weird. Sometimes he wears purple pants and tells us to say "gracias" a thousand times to everyone we interact with, though actually Madrileños find that to be excessive and insincere. But mostly he just sends us four million emails a day (not an exaggeration) and tries to get our attention when we're in a group by putting four fingers up to his face and whispering, "Chiiicooosss...chiiicooss..." It's 100% ineffective because I inevitably start laughing. Miguel also selected all the trips we go on this semester, which are all to cities that are, we're not going to Granada, Barcelona, or Sevilla. My host mom says the program is stealing my money.

Anyway, the most recent money-stealing expedition was to Segovia, which was kind of exactly like Toledo, except it had a cooler castle and no marzipan-making nuns. Also, there were much fewer bathrooms, which resulted in me having to unceremoniously sprint down a hill and into a ditch to berate myself for having drank a cup of tea, 16 oz of water, and a medium-sized Dunkin Donuts iced coffee (yeaaah, they have that here) before arriving in Segovia.

Kat ever so kindly took pictures of me as I sprinted off into the wilderness
So I guess you could say the trip did not get off to the best of starts...also because we had to tour YET ANOTHER CHURCH. I swear, if I have to see another giant and horrifically bloody statue of Jesus on the cross... I mean, I appreciate the architecture. I really do. But every church/cathedral we go to, we hear EXACTLY the same stuff. I could pretty much give a tour by now. "This church is in the shape of a latin cross. It was built over the course of a few centuries and has both baroque and gothic architecture. There is some marble. There is some gold. There is the nave. There is the transept. There are some arches. There is an altarpiece. BLAH BLAH BLAH."

Speaking of altarpieces...
(Iglesia de la Vera Cruz)
Thankfully, things got a little more interesting when we hopped back on the bus and drove to the famous Roman aqueduct. Constructed in the 1st century AD using no mortar--just perfectly shaped bricks stacked on top of each other--it's the best-preserved Roman aqueduct in Europe today.

It's really hard to photograph something so massive...
Remus & Romulus statue

Streets of Toledo Segovia

The most interesting part of the morning was when we all almost stepped on this dead pigeon lying in the street. It looked so peaceful, I had to take a picture of it. And of course, blog said picture.

The next stop was La Sinagoga Mayor, which, like every synagogue we've been to, was converted into a Catholic church after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, so there are like three hidden stars of David and then four thousand crucifix statues and paintings of Mary. They are also kind of cheaply remodeled, because after the Jews were expelled, Spain's economy tanked (go figure).

La Sinagoga Mayor

After the synagogue tour, we went to a museum about Sephardic Jews, which was pretty rad. It was very technologically interactive and in one room there was a motion sensor connected to a projection of an ancient Hebrew text, so you could stand in front of the screen and frantically wave your arms around to turn the pages. Miguel sneaked up on me when I was messing around with it and asked me how much of the Hebrew I could read. He looked puzzled when I said, "Ni una palabra" (not a word). I guess there are more redheaded, freckled Jews than I was aware of...

Flowers outside the museum
Kat & me & a pretty wall
[photo cred: Kat]

After the synagogue, we went back to what we do best: CATHEDRALS! Though this one was actually really gorgeous. I wish I could fully capture in photos how high the ceiling was and how incredibly ornate it was inside.

Outside of the cathedral
I could totally design something like this.
So much more bright than most cathedrals
And then there was a terrifying full-size statue of dead Jesus :(
By the time we finished touring the cathedral, we were all about to die of hunger. None of us are used to 3 pm lunches yet. Thankfully, lunch was at a very fancy kosher restaurant called El Fogón Sefardí. For those of you who are so uncultured as to not know what kind of food sephardic jews eat, I will tell you: AMAZING FOOD. Beautiful food. Maybe-the-best-I-have-eaten-in-my-life food. But in more technical's similar to Moroccan food in its mix of sweet and savory flavors (ie, raisins + nuts, rice and meat + mango sauce).

All 40-something of us ate at one loooong table

Kosher wine & some awkward translations
Phyllo dough stuffed with chicken and raisins, served on top of fried veggies
Lamb & rice wrapped in zucchini, served with mango sauce & chives
The next course was salmon, which I forgot to take a picture of because I literally inhaled it. Salmon is my favorite fish and this was the best I've ever had. It was cut into chunks instead of just a whole fillet, which I loved.

Me & Sami

I also forgot to take a picture of the dessert: apple strudel (I guess there are some sephardic Germans as well?) I ate literally all of every course and looked about 7 months pregnant when I left the restaurant. Thank god I was wearing a loose-fitting dress.

We walked off that ginormous meal on our way to Alcázar, Segovia's castle. A friend told me it was considered as a model for Hogwarts, but they decided the walls were too yellow. (Also, it is cloudy in Spain like one day a year, so it would not make a very convincing Scottish castle.)

El Alcázar
My new house!

Lost my leg in the battle of Hogwarts.

Just some medieval casual wear
Royal thrones
These don't look uncomfortable or anything
Spectacular views.
The king's bed
El grupo!
[photo cred: Aubrey]

Unphotoshopped. The sky is INSANELY blue here.
So, you know, just a day in the life--chillin' in medieval castles, eating 4-star sephardic cuisine...3 excursions down, 3 to go!

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