Tag Archives: Andalucía

La Romería

10 Oct

Maybe you’ve heard that religion isn’t as strong as it used to be in Spain. And ok, maybe Saturday at the club is more crowded than Sunday morning mass. But one thing is for certain when it comes to religion: these Spaniards take it very, very seriously. Example numero uno: La Romería

A romería is basically a religious pilgrimage that consists of a trip to a certain sanctuary or hermitage. These pilgrimages come in all shapes and sizes (as do their pilgrims) and usually last about a day. Some romerías are more famous than others – such as Nuestra Señora del Rocio and Virgen de la Cabeza, which are both in Andalucía.

However, this past Sunday took us to a little place called Cabra. (For you Spanish-speakers: yes, the city is named “Goat.”) Located only 8 kilometers from Lucena, the charming white-washed town is surrounded by – you guessed it – olive trees and mountains. And right atop the tallest peak around lies the Santuario de la Virgen de la Sierra — The Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Mountain. The sanctuary is supposedly on the spot where the Virgin Mary herself appeared in the cave some hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

The statue of the Virgin lives up on the altar of the sanctuary’s church for nearly the entire year with the exception of September when she makes her big appearance in town for the fair.

And how, you might ask, does a Virgin get from the top of a mountain to the center of town? Well, let me just tell you that she does not have a drivers license nor would she fit behind the wheel of a car, for that matter. She, of course, is carried down from the top of the mountain on the shoulders of her faithful citizens in Cabra.

For nearly a month she enjoys her place in the city and makes an appearance at the fair being held in her honor before it is time yet again for her to return to her place overlooking the city. That’s where the romería comes into play. They same faithful (and strong, I might add) citizens carry the Virgin back up the mountain to her rightful home.

Not wanting to miss a good opportunity for a little fiesta (we’re talking about Spain, after all) people from all over come to bring the Virgin back to the top of the mountain. Some walk on foot, some ride horses and others still take the winding road by car.

Wanting to get the full effect we found ourselves hiking – rather, struggling – up the side of the mountain for what may have been 2.5 of the roughest hours of my life. And I wasn’t even carrying a Virgin! But atop the hill we were rewarded with stunning views of the province of Córdoba, a visit to the Virgin Mary and a heaping plate of paella prepared by the good people of Cabra. All in all, a good Sunday.

Today’s Wordmontaña (n.): mountain; as in “I’m exhausted after hiking straight up the montaña to see the Virgin Mary.”


¡Feliz día de Andalucía!

6 Mar

Happy Andalucía Day, among many other things! This past Monday — February 28th — marked the annual holiday selected to honor the most populous (and best!) autonomous community of Spain: Andalucía!

Located in the very south of Spain, Andalucía runs along the coast of the Mediterranean, dipping down to Morocco to form the straight of Gibraltar and curving up along the Atlantic Ocean to touch the southern boarder of Portugal. It is the second largest autonomous community in Spain and is made up of eight provinces: Sevilla, Granada, Cordoba, Cádiz, Malaga, Huelva, Almeria and my own Jaén.

Together they form a landscape that is as diverse as it is beautiful — including many mountain ranges, the river valley of the Guadalquivir, the tranquil coastline along the Medditeranean, the windy waters of the Atlantic, the deserts of Almeria and finally the sweeping hills dotted in olive and citrus trees.

Historians believe that Andalucia was the spot of the first inhabitants in Europe and the autonomous community got its name from the Arabic name Al-Andalus, which is what the territory was called during Muslim rule from 711-1492. The Muslim influence can still be seen in much of the architecture in Andalucia – especially in Granada, which was the last Muslim stronghold to fall to the Christian reconquest.

The area has a lot to offer and I have only just barely begun to explore all the cities and countrysides. But ironically, to celebrate the Día de Andalucía, we headed away from the region to do some longer trips in central Spain. What else is one to do with a 4-day weekend?

My Lesson of the Day: The Andalucían town of Cádiz is believed to be the oldest city in Western Europe that has been continually inhabited. It was officially founded in 1104 B.C. but the Greeks believe it was founded by Hercules himself.



Halloween in España

3 Nov

Nothing to me says fall more than Halloween. From the moment the leaves start to change, you can find candy in the stores, scary movies on TV and carved pumpkins on doorsteps. And for as long as I can remember (with maybe the exception of 7th grade when I was “too cool” to dress up) I have always worn a costume for Halloween. While I might have to take a second to thank Athens, Ohio for perpetuating my love for Halloween, I wasn’t about to let Spain stop me from enjoying this holiday. Albeit if I had to adjust a few of my own traditions.

To say that Spain doesn’t celebrate Halloween would be a lie, because the holiday has clearly made it’s way to the Iberian Peninsula. But Halloween is more of a new installment here in Andalucia. The Spanish aren’t shy when it comes to having fun, so the younger generation has adopted the holiday and I have been told that it appears a little stronger with each year. Halloween also coincides with the Spanish all saints day (todos los santos) on Novermber 1st, which is considered a national holiday from work and school.

But the appearance of Halloween in Andalucia has come with a few adjustments. For example, I didn’t see a single carved pumpkin nor a single trick-or-treater, although they do exist. I also had a hard time finding Halloween candy, which is apparently only in big chain stores like the Corte Ingles.

Finally, the biggest difference for me was that everyone dresses up in costumes de miedo (scary).  While in the U.S. you can see many scary costumes, we also have our fair share of princesses, super heroes, and funny costumes. Unfortunately for me, I was in the U.S. mode of thinking when Lauren and I purchased the perfect hippie costumes, so we had to improvise. A few minutes and a box of paints later, we were transformed into the perfect “dead hippies.”

As we were staying in Granada, we also helped our hosts out with some last minute costumes, which you can see here:

After getting dressed up, we headed out to the streets of Granada to enjoy the nightlife. I would say that a little less than half of the people at the bars were dressed up. But I enjoyed Halloween just the same. While it was a far cry from OU, Granada proved to be a fun place to celebrate Halloween.

My Lesson of the Day: Sometimes compromise is a good thing. Dressing up de miedo was a lot more fun than I’d imagined.

Hola Jaén

19 Sep

On friday’s train ride from Sevilla to Jaén, I started to get a little nervous. We crossed the countryside, passing one olive grove after another and then – out of almost nothing – rose the mountains and the city of Jaén Capital.

Even though I have looked at many pictures of the city, I have to say I was blown away with how pretty the city actually is. It’s surrounded by the mountains on one side and the sweeping valleys of olive trees on the other. While about 116,000 residents makes it big enough to be the largest city in the region, it’s still small enough to be quaint and comforting.

The most surprising thing for me were the views. Every street corner that you turn seems to offer an amazing view –  whether it be of the Santa Catalina castle that perches high atop the mountain, or the olive groves that surround the city. And then there’s the beautiful old town with narrow cobblestone streets, monumental churches and welcoming plazas tucked away between the buildings.

One of the best parts is that I feel like everything is within walking distance. And even though people have criticized the nightlife, we still found plenty to do by just wandering around the old town and hopping from plaza to tapas bars. I still have a lot to explore around the city, but I think I’m really going to like it here!

My Lesson of the Day: While a picture may be worth a thousand words, nothing compares to actually being here.