About Me

My photo
"I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things." --Antoine de St-Exupery

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Homeland-->The End

Summer vacation has officially started! In reality, this whole semester has pretty much felt like a vacation with a little bit of schoolwork, which has suited me just fine. I didn't study even a fourth of what I normally do for Madison classes, but I still think I'll come out of this with similar grades. One of the reasons I didn't study as much as I should have for my final exams (which were yesterday and Wednesday) was because I was in Prague until Sunday night. I decided that since I'm Czech, learning about my history trumps studying for finals. And I am sooo glad I made that choice.

My friend Vanessa (I went to London with her as well) and I flew out on Thursday morning and were able to spend the majority of the afternoon meandering around the city. I could walk that city for days. The buildings are gorgeous. All of them. Their gymnasium even looks like the buildings in the picture.

 We got dinner at a nice pizzeria which was really good and very cheap, a college students dream. Walking back to our hostel, we saw a beautiful sunset which made me so excited for the next few nights. I have a slight obsession with sunsets and in Sevilla it's kind of hard to see them because of the buildings.

The next day we got a free tour where we saw pretty much all the main attractions of the Old Town and the New Town. The tour ended at Charles Bridge, aka where I spent the majority of my money. It is a pedestrian bridge only so, fittingly, it is were all the unique jewelry and art is sold. We probably spent a total of 2 or 3 hours on that bridge throughout the weekend. Specifically at one jewelry kiosk.

Astronomical Clock

Charles Bridge
The bridge leads to the side where the Prague Castle is along with Petrin Hill so we decided to go to the Castle first. My favorite part of that was the Cathedral which held one of my other obsessions: stain glass. It was amazing. I don't think I'll ever get sick of walking into churches throughout Europe since they're all so different and unique and have so much history. That night was another gorgeous sunset. Let's just say that by the end of the day I had filled my camera's memory card. We also stopped at the John Lennon wall which was really neat. The graffiti is all about the Beatles, loving life, etc. No one seems to have the guts to put anything bad on that wall.

View of the city walking up to the Castle

Inside the Cathedral

Part of the John Lennon Wall

Love love love

The next morning we went back to the Old Town Square and actually went inside all the buildings that we had seen on the tour, which consisted mostly of more beautiful churches. That afternoon we decided we wanted to go to the top of Petrin Hill which is the highest point in the city. We knew we would obviously have to walk up the hill, but we weren't expecting it to be quite the hike. We definitely weren't dressed properly (it was actually really really warm when we were there) and had bags full of souvenirs and gifts dragging us down. But, it was so worth it. The view of the city from the top of the mini Eiffel Tower was amazing. And there is a garden up there that apparently has thousands of different varieties of roses. Unfortunately they hadn't started blooming yet, so my next trip there will have to be when the are :)

St. James Cathedral

St. Nicholas Church, which houses one of the largest chandeliers in Prague

The start of our surprise hike

Loving being in nature again

View from the top of the tower :)

Part of the gardens which are probably starting to bloom now
Our last morning we spent just walking around the city. There was another marathon going on (we seem to find those in every city) which is always fun and exciting to see. Although I was in no way ready for the exams coming my way, I felt so content and happy leaving Prague. When we left Paris, I was sort of sad about it thinking things like "What if I never get to go back" etc. and although I love Prague just as much as Paris, I didn't feel or thing like that. The phrase "Don't be sad it's over. Be happy it happened" (which I have heard many many times from my mom) has never really set in with me. I've always enjoyed my experiences to different places and would never have chosen to not go, but I've always been a little down after big trips or even just stages in life. But leaving Prague, I was so happy and I think that mentality has finally set in without my forcing it which is really good seeing as though I go home soon.

I'm very excited to come home. Last night, we had a goodbye dinner and drinks event on a rooftop patio of a hotel where we had the Giralda as the backdrop of our pictures. It was a very fun night, but definitely bittersweet. I am glad that I'm staying extra time to go around the city, see my favorite places for a final time, and just relax instead of being all stressed about having to pack right now. Definitely a good choice.

Emily, myself, and Lydia with the Giralda in the background :)
My mom and sister come on Monday!!! In about 60 hours!!! I am ecstatic for everything that brings with it: them meeting my family, showing them the city, eating the food, and Italy! We're leaving on Tuesday for Cinque Terre, Florence, and Rome and then will be back for one final day in Sevilla before heading home on the 24th. Time really flies.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

La Feria

It's been quite the busy week in Sevilla. More tourists, no school, hardly any work, and Feria. To start the week off, my friend Spencer and I tried to go to a corrida, a bullfight, on Sunday. (Un)fortunately it was rained out. We ended up going the next night and it was definitely an interesting experience. I thought I was going to be completely repelled by it, as I'm sure thought most everyone who knows me, but I don't think that was the case completely.

To start, the ambiance of the bullring, I suppose you call it, is actually pretty neat. Everyone gets dressed up for the corrida and everyone is really friendly. You have to be since you are all sitting very close together. They sell candies and other things you would find at baseball games such as peanuts that most people take advantage of. When the fight actually starts, people would say "Bien" or clap when they liked something and they would whistle if they didn't like something. If they didn't like one of the toreros, when they left the ring no one would clap. That's the worst thing for a torero.

The ring

On the first day we went when it got rained out

It took us a while to figure out what they are looking for when they were cheering, and it's not that they like a good stab. I think it has a lot more to do with the actual art of it, which sounds really weird, I know. But the way that the torero uses the cape and tries to get the bull to circle him is sort of like a dance. The intense pauses where they are standing facing each other hold a lot of energy. And the crowd really hates when there is a "bad" kill, not a clean kill. I won't go into detail about that, but we saw one that was awful and I did tear up a little. Obviously I would never advocate for an activity that ends in the death of 6 bulls all for the sake of entertainment, but there seemed to be more going on than that.

So that was on Monday night. On Tuesday, we spent the whole day preparing for La Feria de Abril. This fair goes back to the 1800's. There are what's called casetas all over the fair grounds, which are private, but if you know someone you can get in (which we did). Usually the casetas have a private bar and a flamenco singer with a small stage for people to dance on and chairs and tables. Besides the casetas, there are actual fair type things such as Ferris wheels, rides, and the normal carnival type games. And, of course, the dresses.

Pili and I spent the day getting my and Paula's dresses ready. I was lucky enough to wear Pili's old one so I didn't have to spend over €150 on a dress. I picked up Paula from school and we went home and got ready. Paula had told me on the way home that she now had a boyfriend so she had to really make sure she looked her best :) They tried to teach me how to dance the Sevillano (although Paula doesn't know it yet either), but there was no way I was going to learn it in one day.

Pili doing my hair with one of Paula's friends in the background

All the kids

Paula and I at the fair :)
 After we were all ready to go, we met up with the normal group that I spend most of my Friday afternoon's with when I'm in town (Pili's mom friends who are hilarious and all their kids who are Paula's friends) and my friend Spencer. We walked to the fair grounds and found our way to a caseta. The flamenco singer was amazing, and she was also the mom of the baby we had babysat the night before. It was quite the show. Anyone can get up and dance on the stage so there was a pretty big variety of dancing going on.

Again, the ambiance of the place was amazing. When we were getting ready, I felt sort of like I was getting ready for Halloween or something, as do I think the little kids did, but when we were watching people dance, you could see the elegance in it and how this isn't a game of dress up. This is just their straight up culture. You can see the emotion in their face as they dance (Pili kept telling us that the Sevillano dance was an art of seduction, not "culo" which means ass) and it isn't an act that they put on for everyone; it's for themselves too and their culture in general. You can feel the intense energy that radiates from them and can't help but get caught up in the music and the dance itself. It was really an amazing hour and a half watching it all and soaking it in.

Maria Jose, the singer and our neighbor

Lots of dancing. And I love her dress.
The next stop was the actual fair part. Basically, think of any fair you've been to, add a couple extra Ferris wheels and everyone walking around in huge flamenco dresses and you have the fair section. It really was like walking around the fair/ride section of State Fair with rides that are a little more extreme. It was pretty odd to look up and see the bottoms of all these dresses. I was pretty worried the whole time about getting Pili's dirty since the ground was basically dust, but no one else seemed to give it a second thought.

All in all I think what these past few days have actually showed me is that I'm really accepting this culture as a different way of life, not worse or better than mine. Normally I would look at a bullfight and think something alone the lines of "How can they do that all for entertainment?! I'm so glad that isn't a part of our culture", but it is more than entertainment. As for Feria, I cannot think of anything we have in the States where people get dressed up like it's Halloween and that is the time when they feel the most elegant. Their respect for their culture by dancing and just being elegant in general is hard to compare with anything else. This whole realization in itself I think has been building the whole time I've been here, trying new things, accepting things that seem so weird to me, but I think this week was when it really solidified. I'm not judging their way of life anymore (because if there is anything I would judge, I think it would be the corrida!), and hopefully this trait will stay with me for the rest of my life to make me a very open minded and close to judgeless person.