Author Archives: daniellenanni

One Last Look Around

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Temple Spain’s Picos de Europa trip

Two weeks before leaving the program, Temple Univesity students take one final excursion to the Picos de Europa mountains for the weekend. On the trip, we visited villages, ate like kings and queens, and saw some breathtaking views.

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The first stop on the excursion was the municipality of Cabrales, an area famous for its cheese with the same name.

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We took a walking tour of the town and local trails which included caves where the Cabrales cheese is aged.

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It wouldn’t be Asturias without rolling green pastures, snow covered mountains or some sort of livestock.

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En route to the caves.

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Temple students and other tour groups take a look at the wheels of Cabrales cheese, a very rich variety of blue cheese, being cured in a real, natural cave. The milk form the cheese must come from specific herds of cows only found in Asturias.

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On our way up the mountain, we stopped at a monastery that has a crucifix made with pieces from the true cross.

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A view from one of the peaks.

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Temple students on top of the world.

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Student Julia celebrating the monumental climb (cable car ride).

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Student Jacob in mid-back-flip at the top of the mountain.

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We had perfect weather throughout the excursion.

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Near Llastres, another view of the Picos de Europa mountain range. Exemplifying Asturias’ diverse range of terrain, to the left side is the ocean.

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Neighbor to the North

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Gijón is a coastal city just a twenty minute bus ride away from Oviedo. Known for its sidra and its beaches, Gijón is a popular destination in Asturias for weekend trips. Throughout the semester, Temple students took day trips to the neighboring city.

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When there’s a break in the rainy weather, Asturians rush to the beach to soak up some sun.

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It addition to its shores, the city is filled with scenic parks and recreational areas.

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Students from Temple University and other exchange students for La Casa de Las Lenguas (the language program for foreigners that Temple University is partnered with), pose for a group photo with the Temple flag.

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Student Jon shows off his cherry and white pride on the northern Spanish coast.

Orientation and the Golden Fleece (Part one)

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On arriving in Madrid and understanding Spain’s visual language

(Our orientation excursions to Segovia, Ávila and Toledo will be featured in part two)

 

From the moment I arrived at the Madrid airport, I was welcomed into Spain by a sensory overload.

Spain provides sensory experiences for learners of all varieties. For the auditory learners, the streets are filled with dialogue. In Madrid, you can visit any café or bar in a residential neighborhood, and find yourself immersed in the chatter of familiar and not so familiar Castilian phonetics. This total language immersion is equally inspiring as it is overwhelming, and serves as a constant reminder of where I am and why I am here. For the kinesthetic learners, Spain offers the opportunity to touch and interact with history. From major metropolitan areas to medieval hill towns, travelers are invited to explore every landmark, museum, cobble stone alley, or plaza. The opportunity to visit works of art or historical sites, that I had only ever read about in textbooks, provides unforgettable impressions and lessons. And finally, for the visual learners like myself, orientation in Madrid provided an introduction to Spain’s visual language.

Our guide, Gerardo or “Jerry”, took us through museums, palaces, and historic towns. Along the way, he engaged all of us in the tangible history embedded in each stop. We visited the Museo del Prado where Jerry highlighted the works of Spanish master painters. Together, we analyzed works of art and looked for symbolism that linked the piece to its historical context. At the Royal Palace of Madrid, Jerry introduced the symbolism of the golden fleece in heraldry of the Spanish monarchy. While being overwhelmed with ornate decorations and the immense collection of precious objects, our orientation group looked for the symbol of the golden fleece in every room. Each time we found it, we were able to piece together an understanding of the golden fleece in relation to the history of the palace and Spain.

The pure excitement and sensory overload that came with our orientation in Madrid may make my description a little underwhelming. In fact, the iconography of the golden fleece probably seems like a minor detail to most; however, I like to think of it in relationship to my upcoming five months in Spain. Learning about the symbolism of Spain’s visual language was an effort to build a greater understanding or view the bigger picture. Through all sensory experiences, I hope to piece together a comprehensive knowledge of Spanish culture, Spanish history, and most importantly, Spanish language.

 

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Students Lilli, Natasha and Haley

 

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Puerta del Sol, a major plaza in Madrid.

 

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Students Lilli, Natasha and Haley

 

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Plaza de Armeria, courtyard of the Royal Palace, Madrid.

 

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Royal Palace of Madrid, the largest palace in Europe based off of square footage, has over 3,400 rooms. Photos were not permitted past the grand staircase.

 

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Jaime Duran (far left), program director, standing with orientation students at the grand stair case in the main entrance of the Royal Palace.

 

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Jerry, our orientation guide, explaining the symbols of the heraldry.

 

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Temple students Evelyn, Haley, Lilli, Elaina and Olivia outside of the Royal Palace.

 

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View of the Gran Via at night.

 

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Calle Alcalá decorated for the holiday season.

 

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Cybele Palace, the Town Hall of Madrid.

 

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Orientation group at El Escorial, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, outside of Madrid. The Escorial once functioned as a monastery and a royal palace. The structure is the greatest example of Spanish renaissance architecture.

 

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The architectural layout imitates a gridiron in reference to the martyrdom of San Lorenzo, its patron saint.

 

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Photos were not permitted inside of the Escorial; however, I managed to get one shot of renaissance fresco paintings at the main staircase.

 

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Exterior shot of El Escorial.

Even the Cows Have Names

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Saturdays in Oviedo

Like most of Spain, Oviedo is known for its extensive weekend markets. The series of markets throughout the city center reflect the Spanish cultural values of leisure, family and food. Throughout Spain, socializing revolves around food. Whether you stop with a co-worker for a pincho (pintxo or pinchu in Asturian), go out for drinks and share tapas, split cachopo (an enormous deep fried stuffed steak dish) with friends in Asturias, or cook dinner with your family, the value of people and food go hand in hand. In Oviedo, Asturians take pride in the freshness of their ingredients. As our program director Jaime Duran told us during orientation, “In Asturias, even the cows have names.”

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On the weekends, most Asturians make a trip to the El Fontan Market with their families.

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Outside of the food markets, there are flower and flea markets that stretch throughout the old city.

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In a small city like Oviedo, it’s common to catch up with family and friends at the market.

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On some weekends, the markets are accompanied by a parade of traditional Asturian performers.

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Oviedo is known for having sculptures everywhere. The two sculptures above represent a narrative about the adjacent fish market.

 

Impressions of Oviedo

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A small city tucked away in the Picos de Europa mountain range, Oviedo has a quiet charm that resonates through each of its streets. The city’s calmness is accompanied by fresh mountain air that make every stroll a refreshing one. In addition, Oviedo’s incessant power washing and sparkling streets make the city one of the cleanest destinations in Europe.

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A side street off of Calle Mon, a concentrated party street filled with bars and clubs. The morning after all the excitement, the streets are cleaned and washed of the events from the previous night.

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Though only a few pockets of the city contain graffiti, the street art in Oviedo as well as throughout Spain, is different from anything I’ve ever experienced.

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Most elderly women in Oviedo sport fur coats and small furry friends. For animal lovers, the city is littered with unleashed dogs that loyally follow their owners from a distance. The city notably has a large variety of designer pure bred dogs that would surprise any American that came to visit.

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Many of the buildings in the city center are colorful and range in architectural styles.

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In Plaza de Alfonso II is the site of Oviedo’s cathedral. A beautiful square used for festivals and events, which is especially beautiful when lit up at night.

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A street view near Oviedo’s shopping district.

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A view of Plaza Porlier. Oviedo has an abundance of plazas and sculptures.

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Oviedo Opera Theater

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Street view from outside the University of Oviedo

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Taken near the University of Oviedo

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Plaza de la Constitución which includes Oviedo’s City Hall.

 

 

 

Discover Spain: Orientation (Part two)

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The orientation program through Temple Spain has been an exciting introduction to the country. We continued to explore medieval hill towns outside of Madrid with Jaime Duran, our program director, and Gerardo (“Jerry”), our tour guide. Each site we visit feels like a new puzzle piece, given us to assemble a larger picture of Spain. Our next stop, Segovia, further builds our historical understanding of Spain through thousands of years of architecture.

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We arrived to Segovia in time to experience the dramatic light from the early morning sun and the chilly crisp air. The photo above, is one of our first impressions on the town.

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Directly in front of where the bus dropped us off, is an enormous Roman aqueduct, a famous icon of the city.

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This aqueduct is one of the best preserved aqueducts in the world, and dates back to 1st century A.D.

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Temple student Julia looking down a staircase.

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Temple Spain orientation group.

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Example of “Esgrafiado” decorative elements, a technique associated with the city.

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Temple Students in front of San Millán church.

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More examples of esgrafiado.

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Temple students in one of Segovia’s narrow streets.

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The city’s massive cathedral. At this site Jerry introduces elements of Gothic architecture to the group.

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Another view of the cathedral.

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The Alcázar of Segovia, a world heritage site.

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Temple students try “cochinillo” or roast suckling pig at a local restaurant. The meat is so tender, that a waiter cuts it with a plate. After he divides portions of the pig, he intentionally throws the plate on the ground and breaks it.

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Temple students seated at the table with our cochinillo appropriately positioned at the head of the table.

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The next city on our itinerary is Ávila, famous for its outstanding medieval walls. Featured above are Temple students Kayla P., Jon and Kayla H.

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Students eagerly hopped off the bus to get a view of the city, and of course, pose for photos.

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View of the medieval wall.

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The overwhelmingly ornate altar inside the cathedral.

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View of the cathedral’s organ pipes with a statue of Madonna and child.

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Detail of the cathedral’s pointed arches and ribbed vaulting.

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Chapel of the cathedral with a collection of El Greco paintings.

Orientation ended on a Sunday with our arrival in Oviedo. Our program began immediately on the following day. On the first day of the program, I attended a class on Spanish Society and Culture where the classroom quickly filled with students. The professor entered and set up the presentation. The first slide of the power point presentation read “Descubre España” which felt like an invitation or a title on a travel brochure. As the class continued and the professor gave an introduction to the course, I thought more about the phrase. “Discover Spain” should be interpreted more as a challenge than an invitation. We are a classroom of extranjeros, of foreigners and of navigators. We could spend the next five months in the capital of Asturias and seek refuge within our comfort zone, or we could push ourselves for exploration, discovery, and the occasional discomfort. We have already received the incredible opportunity of studying a language at its country of origin, but it’s our individual responsibility to take it to the next level.