The program has just completed our second trip of the spring semester! We spent a night in Toledo this weekend, and it was so refreshing. As I mentioned last semester, we had gone to El Escorial, Segovia, and Granada. This semester, we had the option of going to El Escorial again, we went to Toledo, and next month, we aregoing toBilbao. Toledo is only about an hour drive from Madrid, so we got there while the sun was still out, stayed a night, and returned the following evening.
As with all our tours, the group of students is divided up and put in different groups with different tour guides. I would consider this to be possibly the most beneficial part of the trips because it is intriguingto know the histories of the places we visit. Traveling with a tour guideallows forthe beauty of each individual citytomake more sense, andit is essential to know who really built each city and who was there before the Spanish arrived. To give a very brief background, Toledo is known as the “City of ThreeCultures” because of the influences from Muslims, Jews, and Christians that can be reflected in the city’s history. To highlight these three influences, our tour guides took us to see a mosque, a synagogue, and a Church. While visiting these three holy places, one could see how some churches, for example, had started out as mosques through the architectural structures inside and outside the buildings. In a way, I was reminded of home and how easily cultures can flow into one another within a city.
Aside from the nocturnal tour and the daytime tour we had, we were given a lot a free time to eat and to get lost in the hilly city. Getting lost in Toledo was much easier than getting lost in Madrid, and our tour guide told us that it is very seldom when one can look down a street in Toledo and see the end ofthat same street. There is almostalways an intersection,acorner to turn, or a dead end. The city was built this way as a clever defense mechanism againstintruding armies; if the armies would split up, they would most likely not be able to regroup as easily sincethe roads led to so many different places. Needless to say, my GPS was my best friend by the end of the night.
I am fortunate that most of my buddies from last semester decided to stay abroad for an entire year. I am not all that social, and sometimes it is hard for me to make friends. Three of us stayed in alovely hotel room together (with a balcony!), and they motivated me to go out Friday night and mingle with some of the other students. It felt amazing to be in the presence of people having such a good time, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are grateful to have been given such an opportunity. With our program size being maybe four times as big as it was last semester, it can be difficult to see everyone together. However, during this trip, we definitely did take over the City of Three Cultures.
Nicole Richards (Nico), student blogger primavera 2020