Friday, May 13, 2011

Holy Week

In Spain, Holy Week means a ten-day break from classes as well as processions all week, leading up to Easter Sunday.  Although I spent a large portion of my Holy Week attempting to do homework, I did manage to get out of Burgos for awhile.

On Saturday, the 16th I went to Bilbao with my friend, Yana, who is from California.  After the two-hour bus ride we walked along the river in the sunshine to our destination:  the Guggenheim Museum.  The Guggenheim was amazing, with sculptures and statues outside and really interesting contemporary art inside.  Apart from being a really cool museum, the Guggenheim is worth seeing just for its architecture. The building's architect designed it so it would evoke the image of a boat, and he designed the curves to seem random.  After the Guggenheim we took the tram to the old part of town (el Casco Viejo), had lunch, and wandered around a bit.

The Guggenheim Museum!

Sculpture outside the Guggenheim

"Puppy" statue--the colors are real flowers

Aside from sightseeing, being in Bilbao felt like coming full-circle.  I flew into Bilbao in August when I came to Spain and had a minor meltdown in the bus station there, after missing my bus to Burgos.  I was scared and clueless and suffering from a language barrier.  Going back to that same place in a different context made me realize how far I've come since then.  I sat there and told myself, "I've got this now." And I do.

The bus station where I cried on my first day in Spain.

Yana and I also visited Asturias, a region in northern Spain known for its natural beauty.  We took a five-hour bus ride the morning of Holy Thursday and arrived in Gijón, a port city, at about eleven.  I loved Gijón.  The first thing we did was look for a place to sleep.  We settled on Hostal Manjón and went out to explore the town.  In the Plaza Mayor (Main Square) we found an open-air market with artisan and organic products.  I was in heaven. I bought a honey/hazelnut spread and Yana bought some pastries made with walnuts and spelt wheat.  In Asturias spelt wheat is gaining popularity as a "health" food, so all the artisans use it in their products.  Content with our purchases, we headed to the beach...

The bus station in Gijón

The artisan market!
 The beach in Gijón was beautiful.  It was a little chilly out, but we took our shoes off and walked along the shoreline for 45 minutes.  We saw surfers and an old couple holding hands while walking in the surf, and then headed to lunch.  For lunch we ate fabada (a traditional Asturian dish made with white beans and meat) and fish soup.  To drink, we tried sidra, an Asturian apple cider.  It was kind of strong and not sweet at all, so not really my cup of tea.

The beach :)

Yana at the beach

An old couple holding hands at the beach

In the afternoon we wandered around and at dusk we saw a Holy Week procession.  After the procession we bought pizza; it was supposed to be for breakfast the next day but we couldn't wait and ate it for supper instead.

Friday morning we took the bus to Oviedo, only half an hour away.  We saw the cathedral and an archeological museum, and decided to look for lunch.  Also, it turns out that Oviedo has a lot of statues. As we wandered around, we came across an exposition where they had 40 types of Asturian cheese, along with wine, cider, salad, and bread made from spelt wheat.  Yana loves cheese, so she wanted to do that before lunch.  After some convincing, I agreed to try the cheese expo, thinking that we'd just grab lunch afterwards.

We paid our euros and walked into a big room with a long table covered with plates of cheese.  Trying the different types was exciting but scary for me--I hate blue cheese and was always worried about eating some by accident.  After about twenty types of cheese, we were both looking forward to the end.  Forty kinds of cheese is a lot.  Dessert was cheesecake :) We left the cheese expo in a cheese-induced stupor, but completely content. Lunch never happened.

The bus ride to Oviedo

The cathedral


Thinking fisherman..

Thinking fisherwoman..

We spent the afternoon hanging out in a park, watching a male peacock trying to court a female, and then got on the bus back to Burgos.  We got back at 11 p.m., just in time to see the end of the Good Friday procession.

Statues in the park


On Easter Sunday I was at home with Antonio, María, and the kids.  We had my favorite food for lunch:  arroz a la cubana (Cuban rice).  It is white rice, tomato sauce, a fried egg, and fried banana, all together on a plate.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is absolutely delicious.

Staying in Spain for Holy Week (as opposed to traveling Europe) was a hard decision for me. I wanted to travel somewhere else in Europe, like Germany or maybe Budapest, but in the end I am glad to have stayed here, relaxed a little, and traveled as well.

I am always glad to see new places and try new foods.

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