Happiness cannot thrive within the prison of obligation.
Live wild, life free, live as master of your own fate.
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie
My Independent Adventure
This weekend I decided to do something completely on my own. Although both of my parents explicitly told me they would prefer I don’t travel alone, I decided to make the decision to do it anyway (sorry mom and dad). This adventure was only for the day and in the nearby city of Córdoba, I had a cell phone in case of emergency, and it’s a place I really wanted to go. So I did. Many of my friends had already visited this old city or had other plans for the weekend so I decided to spend the day with myself and go explore Córdoba myself.
Without a plan, a bus ticket, nor an itinerary, I hopped on a city bus to the bus station to see if I could indeed go to the beautiful city I had been dying to go to since I got here. There was room on the bus, so I purchased a ticket to and return (the first and last busses of the day) Córdoba for the day and I was on my way!
When I arrived in the middle of the city, I had no map and no plan. I knew that the city was famous for it’s old beautiful Mosque and had an Alcázar that was supposed to be beautiful, so I figured that since these two places were popular among tourists, that they would be in the city center and there would be signs pointing them out. I was right. I walked past the train station and into a lovely park. Something I noticed right away about this city was that it smelled completely different from Granada. The city smelled so much more humid. Maybe it was just the day I chose to go, but the air was thicker. And it smelled like flowers. everywhere. It was a strong floral smell even in the middle of the city center where there were none. It was so amazing.
I found the Alcázar and it was so incredibly beautiful. The old chapel inside had intricate mozaic walls but the mozaic was made of stone. The stones were arranged on the walls to create images of Jesus, or Adam and Eve, or even just beautiful geometric patterns that filled an entire wall. What perplexed me the most was that they were able to obtain stones that looked similar enough to create symmetry for the images that they wanted to create. Think about it. If you want to make Jesus’s body, you need a ton of similar looking stones to accomplish that. Let alone the whole background of the image. I wonder if they wore down the stones somehow to create this sameness or if they just scavenged really hard.
The Alcázar had a beautiful section of Arab Baths and a collection of origional furniture. One of the most beautiful things I saw was the tower inside the building. I climbed a never ending spiral staircase (that we all know mom would never be able to climb without passing out from the height) and finally made it to the top where I could see all of Córdoba. It was incredibly beautiful. From the top I was able to head back down a set of stairs to the Gardens of the Alcázar. The smell of flowers was overwhelming. There were fountains and statues of Christopher Columbus and the King and Queen everywhere. I could have passed hours in these gardens. I sat on a rock and just admired the beauty that was before me. The Alcázar and its gardens are so incredibly old–far older than what I could ever find in America. I still can’t believe I was there.
Next, I went to the Mesquita (Mosque) that was so huge it was impossible to miss. On the outside it was adorned with blue and red and gold that clearly boasts its Islamic history. The Islamic Mosque was converted into a Christian Cathedral and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful creations of Moorish architecture constructed in Southern Spain. The Mosque has 900 thick (marble?) columns that hold beautiful arches of white and red. The whole interior was decorated with white and gold, but especially beautiful was the altar. The whole altar was white and gold and incredibly detailed. The bright white and gold was contrasted by the dark black mahogany altar piece and the two red and gold organs that flanked the altar on each side. I spent almost two hours in this beautiful monument and if I had the time, I probably would have spent more, just standing and admiring the beauty of it.
After walking around to the other side of the Mosque, I found an incredibly long bridge that was reserved for foot traffic. On the bridge (that allowed persons to cross the Guadaquivir River) there was a little old man playing the accordion. Coupled with the sound of the rushing water below and the birds chirping above me, it really hit me in that moment that I’m in Spain. I’m in Europe. I’m in Córdoba traveling and exploring the world on my own. I’m independent and liberated and free and happy.
On one side of the bridge was a large stone gate, on the other was a museum called “Living Al-Andalus” (in Spanish of course) with the Calahorra tower attached to it. I paid the entrance fee (2 Euro for students to visit both places. I love Spain) and listened to the audio-visual tour and learned about the history of Andalucía. When I climbed to the top of the tower the weather was even more beautiful than when I had climbed the other towers earlier and I could see even farther. The cool thing about this tower was that I could see the mosque and the Alcázar from the top, giving me a completely different perspective from before.
My bus leaving Córdoba was at 7:30 pm and I really enjoyed the bus ride home! I got to watch the sun set over the rolling hills and empty fields of Córdoba. When the sun had set but it was still just barely light enough to see, I enjoyed the views of the mountains and valleys and little villages that we drove past. I finally arrived home around 11pm (after taking the city bus back to my host family’s home) and spontaneously decided that the next morning I wanted to go to the beach. It was going to be another early morning for me!
The beach I went to was in a little village outside of Granada called Nerja. The bus ride there took 2 hours and 15 minutes, which may seem like a lot–but it wasn’t. The bus rides alone are just as much a part of the adventure of the day as the destination. The towering snow-capped mountains, the crystal blue rivers that flow beneath us, the gigantic bridges that connect the roads from one mountain to the next, the little cities that scale down into the valleys below, the warm sun toasting your face…it is a part of the experience. The views are so beautiful, and coupled with good music or good friends (or strangers) to talk to (I know…don’t talk to strangers), the bus ride becomes a part of the journey just as memorable as the destination.
The whole little pueblo was adorable. The winding streets created intricate patterns that linked little shops and terrace restaurants. There were potted plants decorating the walls and the air smelled like salt water and seafood. There were little fountains everywhere with agua potable (drinkable water) that I could fill up my bottle with. It was chilled and refreshing on such a hot and sunny day.
Before heading down to the sand, I stood at the edge of the Balcón de Europa (balcony of Europe) where, if you squinted really hard, you were supposed to be able to see Africa on the horizon. Maybe I didn’t eat enough carrots as a child, but I couldn’t see it. So I enjoyed the warm breeze a moment more before heading down to the sand.
The beach was small and crowded with many different types of people. There were Spaniards, Americans, Germans, French people, and others in between. There were toddlers running around naked and splashing in the sand, women sunbathing (topless..which I later learned is also the spanish term for “without a shirt”. interesting), kids making sand castles, adolescents playing paddle ball or volleyball, girls soaking up the sun or enjoying the waves. It was beautiful.
What I liked the most about Nerja were the caves that I could explore. I had to wade my way through the frigid water to get there but I made my way between giant rocks to these really interesting caves that I enjoyed spending my time in. At the end of the day, only one side of me got burned and I was sleepy from the sun and exploring.
AND! I can now say that I swam in the Mediterranean Sea!
Overall, I think this was probably one of my favorite weekends that I have spent in Spain so far! I was independent and I explored new places and really took advantage of the whole weekend!