The Spanish Surprise

There is something about Europe. Every time I have returned more alive, happier and somewhat unwillingly. It introduces me to aspects of life that I thought didn’t exist!

Travelling to Spain, earlier this month, was no exception either. I experienced a bit of anxiousness and wanted to unwrap the wonders I would soon witness. And even with my basic research and preparation in place, the Mediterranean country took me by surprise in a number of ways. For these and more, I will be returning to Spain sooner than I know it.

Valencia’s cheerful marathon

The concluding marathon.

‘Running has become fashionable these days,’ Juan, my host in Valencia, informed me. That was only a precursor to what I saw the following morning.

As I stepped out from the car, I saw hundreds of runners and a smaller percentage of people cheering for them. This 5K run visually explained what Juan meant the previous night. Even though most European cities have adopted a healthy lifestyle, in Valencia, these Sunday marathons have encouraged the people to come out of their homes and add vigour to the otherwise silent city.

Friendlier than Italians

Looking at Segovia, seamlessly.

Don’t hate me for this, but I thought the residents here were warmer and friendlier than Italians. And I compare them with Italians, because I have not known anyone else more enterprising, social and polite. (Hmmm, may be barring the people of Himachal and Uttarakhand in India).

High-speed connectivity

AVE journeys.

Forever impressed by the cleanliness and punctuality of train journeys in Europe, travelling across Spain with AVE, operated by Renfe, was an excellent experience. Spain’s high-speed trains impressed me by the distances it minimised. The longest journey I did was from Valencia to Córdoba, covering a distance of 523 kms all in 3.5 hrs and the shortest Segovia to Madrid, a distance of 90 kms in 30 mins — an incredible feat!

Breaking bread

The finer things in life- bread and wine.

Bread is not my favourite accompaniment and you almost never serve olive oil to a Bengali! But as I’ve recently learnt, the two taste delicious together; also kills starvation and starts interesting conversations. Nothing like breaking bread with a group of strangers.

Flamenco isn’t rocket science

Posing with our flamenco teacher, Victor.

At some point in our lives, we’ve done some random dance moves, in an attempt to mirror flamenco. Mine were finally put to rest in Seville. A quick lesson in the rhythmic dance form made me realise it wasn’t impossible to learn it. Driven by passion and edgy storytelling, I wish I had more time, better footwear and accessibility to pursue it further. It also reminded me how good it felt to laugh at myself!

That place called Córdoba

Córdoba, you beauty!

Reaching Córdoba post sunset did not deter my infatuation with it. The next morning, I grew to fall in love with it. From the illuminating dinner conversations in a bodega to the elusive sunlit walk in the alleys, to the rain-soaked farewell from the town, I felt Córdoba escaped me even before I touched it. It reinstated my feelings of calling an alien place home, where sunshine and rain are found in equal measures. Just like real life, like real relationships.

The magnificent Moorish architecture

My favourite ceiling in the Palace of Peter I, at Royal Alcazar, Seville.

Andalucía flaunts Moorish architecture in most historical sites. The Mezquita (Cathedral-Mosque) of Córdoba and the Palace of Peter I in the Royal Alcazar of Seville standout in my memory. I was smitten by the latter. The intricate inlay work, diversification of motifs and geometric patterns and use of courtyards and fountains are key features of this Islamic architectural style.

Originally published at www.travellingidesofmarch.com on October 16, 2015.

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