At this time last year I was spending the all month of August by myself in Spain. This wasn’t planned at all, at least until June.
It all started back in September 2014, when I wanted to take a French course in uni, but it was impossible due to some classes clashing with it. So, unable not to overload my life, I chose a Spanish course, the most basic one which could exist. I had never taken a class of Spanish at school and my knowledge was limited to “Hola”, “Buenos dias” and “Adios”. I might have thought to know a little bit more, just because we Italians tend to just ad an ‘-S’ at the end of Italian words, thinking that we are then actually speaking Spanish. My fellow Italians, I’m terribly sorry to tell that’s not true, adding an ‘-s’ is not enough. So I spent the all academic year spending four hours per week learning this new language and I ended up having a B1 level by the end of May.
And here it comes the choice: I worked the all month of June and put some money in the bank, but unable to save some money and not be broke all the time, I decided to spend a whole month in Spain, with the excuse to improve my knowledge before leaving for England, and risking to completely forgetting Spanish.
Everything was pretty quick and I had no idea where to go. I firstly wanted to stay in Madrid, but when I saw the prices I said no. So I simply looked up some schools around Spain and I chose the cheapest one with the best reviews, which it happened to be in Córdoba. Now, I don’t remember if I actually had heard of the city before, but anyway I didn’t know a lot about it. Truth to be told, I didn’t know anything about it.
But what it may sound as the worst planned vacation ever, actually ended up being the best one I’ve done so far, at least the best one I planned by myself.
The school I chose is called “Academia Hispanica”: it is also an English school and was actually the first English school which opened in Córdoba. I went there every morning from Monday to Friday for my Spanish classes. But this school was not as usual as it might seem. The teachers were amazing and they usually came with us to do the most touristy stuff, like visiting the Cathedral and the Alcázar or telling us the legends which took place in the most ancient buildings. But also having breakfast together during the morning break eating a tostada or churros, or having a beer together after the Friday class, or going out together at night to eat something typical or to go to the cinema de verano were the rule. So they were not only my teachers, but they became friends as well, my first Spanish friends, and they of course were indispensable to learn more about the Spanish culture.
THE PEOPLE (AND A CAT)
In the month spent there I haven’t met anybody who hasn’t been nice with me. As I already said, starting from the teachers. But also the few international students who attended the school soon became my Spanish family: an Japanese English teacher who wanted to learn a new language, an American old lady who had just spent 3 years volunteering in Africa, an English-Japanese girl who wanted to learn Spanish to communicate better with her Spanish-French boyfriend, an English businessman who spent his one week of vacation to refresh his Spanish, four American air force cadets who were there to perfect their Spanish before spending four months on exchange in the Murcia air force base, etc. This multicultural mix became my everyday world for four weeks, and it was normal for us (at least the young ones) to meet in the afternoons or at evenings to go out together.
I also learned to love cats: I’m totally a dog person, but my amazing flatmate, a girl from Madrid who decided to move south, had the most adorable grey cat, called Pikachu. He used to walk from her balcony to mine, come into my bedroom and climb onto my bed. I think I vacuumed my room and washed my sheets at least 10 times in four weeks, because his hairs were everywhere. But he was too cute to get angry.
Córdoba is an amazing city. The arabic heritage, the mudejar architecture, the ceramics painted with portraits of saints or Jesus Christ on the white walls of the houses, the Roman ruins and the azulejos with their geometric patterns which decor the walls. It’s pretty much always hot, even if the worst is in August, especially if you’re in the middle of a heat wave as I was: the temperature never got below 40°C during the all month. Only at night the climate was actually bearable: and it’s for this reason that the siesta is a tradition that you quickly learn to keep up in Córdoba, because the only thing which you’ll be able to do during the hottest hours of the day is to sleep. As I said the city is also full of history: for centuries capital of Al-Andalus under the Moors domination, becoming also one of the most populated cities in the world, it was conquered back by the Christian kings in 1236. It was such a strategic place, that the kings used to spend long periods in the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, where Isabella and Ferdinando gave Cristoforo Colombo the money to travel to India (while he actually discovered a new continent). The arabic culture left in Córdoba wonderful colours and the amazing baths: you can visit the ancient ones during the day and relax in the new ones at night, sipping some peppermint tea.
Being in the middle of Andalucia, despite the 40° and more constant everyday, which made me sleepy all the time, I couldn’t stop myself from visiting other places during weekends. In only three weekends I had there I visited Sevilla, Cádiz, Granada, Málaga and Gibraltar. I was surprised by the efficiency of the Spanish train system, so much better than the Italian one: trains were always on time and, most importantly, they were new and huge, with so much room for each passenger. The price though was a little bit higher than what I was used to, so I learned to travel bye bus. There is a bus service in Spain, called ALSA, which is very efficient and cheap, and it pretty much connects every Spanish city. So I might have spent about one hour more than taking the train, but I saved half the money I would have spent. And, traveling by bus the panoramas you see are absolutely priceless. I really hope I’ll be able to tell you more about these brief adventures, about the wonderful monuments I visited and the bike tour I took (because biking is always nice), before the memories start fading. I obviously fell in love with Spain and obviously decided I’ll live there some day, even if my list of to-live-there-places is becoming kinda long.
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