In honor of #throwbackthursday….

Today was the day of our final reviews here in Spain, and in honor of Throwback Thursday, I thought I would look back at a few of the best moments here in Spain.

Spain, like Italy and Turkey is a country with layers of rich history. Heavy islamic and moorish influence in the south of Spain comes in sharp contrast to the grand european city ideals held her in Madrid, northern Spain. My two favorite memories of Spain come from two day trips, the first to the El Escorial palace just outside of Madrid, and the other our overnight to Granada.

El Escorial is a sweeping palatial complex. It is so incredibly massive, it takes at least 10 minutes to walk around the outside. Built by King Phillip II amidst the height of the protestant reformation, the king had hoped to use it to show his piety and the unwavering tradition of the Catholic church in Spain. It represents one end of the spectrum of architecture in the counter-reformation, the austere. On the other end is the vast rococo decoration of the Italianate and french cathedrals. King Phillip the II made the facade of the castle intentionally vague, with sparse decoration used only to call out entrance to the end of datums in the facade. This has a staggering effect on the user. The facade becomes monumental and overpowers the user. A large square in front of the main facade only serves to enhance this effect. The king couldn’t have picked a more credible setting for the palace either. White capped mountains surround the palace, making a literal connection between the King and the cathedrals of nature, the mountains. The only decoration of the palace can be found inside the equally immense cathedral, whose multi-tiered alter the king could lie in bed and gaze at. That is how great his piety was.

I am starting to think that maybe the reason I liked these two day trips so much was because of the mountains. Our trips to Granada and Cordoba each had an equally impressive mountain range, the Sierra Nevadas. At 11,400ft, the mountains can be seen from anywhere in the city of Granada. The architectural highlight of the trip was the Alhambra palace complex. We spent so much time in architectural history classes over the years learning about the court of lions, and the amazing moorish architecture it represented.

But my story from Granada isn’t about the architecture at all, it is about our random side adventure up a mountain. Not knowing what exactly to do with our free time, several of us looked around and pointed to a hill and said we were going to climb that. We realized very quickly that the hill was a lot farther away than we had thought… and it wasn’t exactly a typical ‘tourist’ destination. As we neared the top of the hill, the area became sketchier and sketchier, and then emerged into one of the most unexpected architectural communities we had seen on the trip. It was a hippie commune! Earth work houses, hobbit holes, and temporary slapped together structures littered the summit of the hill. And it is no wonder why, the view was incredible. It overlooked the sierra Nevada mountain range, the alhambra complex, and the city itself. One of the hippies had the right idea, they placed two arm chairs in front of their house. In effect, the whole landscape was their living room. It was incredible, and a memory that will stay with me forever.

It is hard to believe that our time abroad is at an end. Looking back on it all, it is a little emotional. We have all grown and changed so much, becoming such a tight knit group, it is strange to imagine that in a few days time, we will all be going our separate ways, and not spending every possible moment together. It has be real getting to know everyone, and being in so many incredible places. Thanks for the memories team. Until next time… Ciao.

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