La historia, Córdoba y kayaking


This is my third week here in Sevilla! The past two weeks have been flying by–I’m in the middle of a two-week intensive course where we meet three hours each day, and we already had our midterm last Friday. Although it definitely has been an “intensive” course, I’ve been enjoying learning Spain’s history as well as visiting Sevilla’s main historical attractions. My teacher, Ángel, has an obvious passion for all things Spanish, and I’m confident when my family visits me in March, I’ll be able to tell them everything they need to know about Sevilla.

Here are some of my favorite places we’ve visited so far:

La Muralla de la Macarena

For an assignment, we had to visit a few places during our free time, including La Muralla de la Macarena. This muralla (wall) once surrounded Sevilla and was used to keep out invaders. The Romans were the first to build city walls, but the muralla above was built after the Muslims took over Sevilla in the 1100s. Macarena refers to Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza, or Our Lady of Hope, a favorite saint here in Sevilla. She is depicted with teardrops on her face–always crying for Jesus Christ. And if you were wondering, yes, the song La Macarena refers to her.

La Giralda y la Catedral

La Giralda, which is a tower in the center of Sevilla, was built in three stages. Construction began in the 12th century during Moorish rule, and it was finished in the 16th century after the Catholics rose to power in the city. The cathedral (catedral) was added onto La Giralda in the 14th century, and it’s absolutely breathtaking inside. You can tell the architecture is from the Gothic era, because of the vidriera (stained glass) and because God is featured somehow in every detail (this is called teocentrismo, which roughly translates to “god-centered”).

From the plaza inside; the tower is La Giralda.
Inside the catedral; you can see the vidriera as well as the incredibly high ceiling.
Christopher Columbus’s tomb is inside the church. After he died even his body got to travel–he was temporarily buried in Valladolid, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba until he finally reached Sevilla, which is where he was from.
Gorgeous views from the top of La Giralda.
There are iron bars at the top of the tower–this is great for people who are scared of heights (me).

Although the day trips start at 10 a.m. (this is early for Spain!), I love that I finally can see history, rather than just learn about it in an American classroom.


We spent a lot time talking about the Spanish city of Córdoba in class. Luckily, our program CIEE offered us a free day excursion there last Saturday, so we got to spend a beautiful day exploring the town. One of the first periods of history we learned about in class was the Roman era. When the Romans took over in 2 BCE, they brought beautiful infrastructure to Spain. In fact, most of it is still standing and in use today. Check out the gallery to see the 2,000 year old Roman bridge that connects the Córdoba city center to a neighborhood.

My guide also mentioned that a few years ago El Río Guadalvivir (this is the same river as the one in Sevilla) was flooding. If you look at the black line on the tower in the picture below, you can see how high the water level was:

The flood affected a lot of people in the area, but it seems to be under control now.

After walking across the Roman bridge, I was welcomed by this gorgeous gate:

Shortly after, our groups began to tour La Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (Mosque-Cathedral). Why is it hyphenated? Well, in 711, Muslims took over a large area of what is now Spain. They made Córdoba their capital, and shortly after began to build a beautiful mosque. The mosque is very unique, and there are red and white striped arcos herraduras (horseshoe-shaped arcs) inside. You can see it below:

Before the Christians remodeled, the floor was dirt and Muslims used pillows/carpet to kneel and pray. I was slightly bitter the Christians changed it because the marble was pretty cold to walk on.
My roommate, Whitney, and friend, Kate.

In 711, it was solely a mosque and had even less light than it does today (it was pretty dark and cold inside). However, the Christians took over Córdoba in the 11th century and eventually put a cathedral in the dead center of the mosque. Our guide informed our group that the Christian king wasn’t so happy with this decision–there was plenty of space for a cathedral to be situated elsewhere.

Although I find it sad that the cathedral was built in the mosque, I have to admit it was majestic, and the detail was incredible:

A cross on the wall of the Mezquita.

After we got to tour this incredible building, our tour guide led us to a famous lane in the city:

The area is famous for its beautiful blue flower pots (they use a hose to water them) and the view of the tower.

As well as the Alcázar (palace) where the Royal Family lived:

Inside the palace!
Views from the Alcázar after climbing to the top. You really do feel like “king of the world” up there!

Los jardines (gardens) of the palace.

It was a perfect day to explore Córdoba, and I felt very lucky to have done so!

I’m still not adjusted to the time change, so I’ve been living by the phrase that my stepfather swears by: I’ll sleep when I’m dead. However, after catching up on some sleep, a group of CIEE girls and I went kayaking on Sunday on the Guadalvivir River in Sevilla through the Kayak Sevilla program. If you click on the link, it will bring you to more photos from our excursion!

Some of my friends getting ready to kayak!
This picture is from Kayak Sevilla’s Facebook page.

I somehow ended up in a two-person kayak with one of the guides, and he happened to be from Poland. My boyfriend’s parents are Polish immigrants, so I explained to the guide I knew the words “left” and “right” because I’ve heard them speak Polish in their home. It was fun because he directed me in Polish, and we switched off between speaking English and Spanish to each other because he has studied both languages. It was interesting to (somewhat) speak three languages with him. I’m fascinated by language here. Being immersed in a foreign language truly makes you notice how people communicate and the differences in communication between cultures.

Salud (cheers) to a great weekend!