The Return of the Culver Adventures

Boom!  Two years later, my cousin Dani is back and ready to take on Europe again.  This time we were much more wiser and prepared. Last time we basically went around Europe for 6 weeks, hitting London, Austria, and Greece…and so much more.  I thought we did a great job then, but I think I can say we topped that trip.

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So young and naive of what we could accomplish together

This time around we decided to hit Malaga, Northern Spain/Southern France, Barcelona, Ibiza, and Italy.  We thought it would be a tamer trip, which at some points it was…but we still managed to get into some trouble together.

We first started with some good ‘ol American sport-A Unicaja basketball game!  There was just as much crowd yelling as a futbol game and popcorn!

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We pampered ourselves at the hammam, or tradition Turkish baths, including a 30 minute massage!  While I was working, Dani went to the beach, shopping, wandered around eating all the cheese pizza in Malaga.  We did many day trips on the weekends, to Nerja, where we saw the famous cuevas, or caves, and lounge at the beach.  We even managed to score tickets to see the caminito del rey, which was this old hiking trail that the government basically HAD to rebuild because too many people were trespassing.

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Yep paid 8 euros for this gem

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Before we all learned that Cris is afraid of heights.

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In the background is el churro

 

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Cris really had a good time.

Dani was even able to meet up with her bestie Grace, and we had a blast!  Grace came down to Malaga, and then we headed off to celebrate Dani’s birthday in Ibiza and Barcelona!  We only had 1.5 days in Ibiza so this was the plan:

  1.  Find a bar to take celebratory drinks
  2. Go to the airbnb (best deal ever-right on the beach!)
  3. Get supplies and the tickets to da club
  4. Live it up!
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My friend Michaela joined us to make us the AWESOME 4!

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It’s not a trip to Malaga without copious amounts of patatas bravas

We did Ibiza how Ibiza should be done, and then as all the famous people do we took the 30 minute ferry to the next island, Formentera, where soak up the rays as we nursed our hangovers.  Now this is the island that Beyonce and Jay-Z go to-so you know it is legit.  Some suggestions for next time:  bring your driver’s license-you can rent a moped or car which is the best way to get around the island.  We ended up just taxi-ing it which was expensive, but worth it.  It is the same in Palma Mallorca, it’s so much easier to rent a car to see the whole island.

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This is not a joke-the beaches and water are THAT beautiful.

Then as quick as we came, we were off to Barcelona!  We had a ton of site-seeing to do and to celebrate Dani’s birthday!  Oh, and Michaela and I had a date night with our BFF, Adele.  We, of course, saw the Sagrada Familia and even splurged a little to climb the towers (which I highly recommend!).  McGrimmley’s, I know you are reading this, a reminder:  McGrimmley family reunion Barcelona 2025 to finally see the church complete.  We also did a tour of the old Gothic Quarter where we were staying.  And yes, there was plenty of time for some famous Catalan cava and the purrrrrron (Dani had a taste of this back at the romería during her first visit).

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Waiting anxiously for this beautiful place to be finished.

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On top of the Sagrada Familia!

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Birthday pizza for the birthday girl

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Birthday cava

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Happy Birthday to me!!!!

Just in case we hadn’t already done enough, we had out BIG trip to Italy planned.  As in we had out meal times figured out so we could eat as much, pizza, pasta, and gelato as possible.  This wasn’t my first time to Rome and Naples, I was lucky enough to go my first year.  Which meant that it was a do-over for all the things that didn’t happen the first time (AKA getting pizza at the same place Julia Roberts ate at in Eat. Pray. Love. in Naples).  We had about 4 days in Italy which meant that we had to be pretty go about scheduling our tours, trains, etc.  As always, I suggest booking tickets to see the important sites a head of time.  We also did the Rome pass, again, which is such a money and time saver.  You are able to enter 2 museums (there are SO many and the Colosseum and Palatine Hill count only as 1), and you get to jump the line at those sites!  It’s worth it just for the Colosseum.

This time around, we did tour with Viator tour company (I’ve used them many a time before!) for The Vatican.  It was more expensive than the tour The Vatican offers, but it was a group tour with a guide who literally knew EVERYTHING about The Vatican.  The tour was 3.5 hours, which might be too much for some, but the place is JUST that big.  Some quick facts we learned:

  • Papa Fran doesn’t live in the papal quarters, he lives in the visitors apartment (which, to be honest, has to be very luxurious as well).  That is because Papa Fran believes in living simply.
  • The Vatican museums extend over 9 miles. It is believed that it would take you 4 years to complete the circuit even if you spend merely 1 minute admiring each painting! (hence why the tour is so long)
  • Michelangelo was chosen to paint the Sistine Chapel because the painter Rapael wanted him to fail at it.  Remember, Michelangelo wasn’t a painter at this time, so Rapael wanted to tarnish his name for revenge.  hahahahah that obviously blew up in Rapael’s face.  Michelangelo also got his revenge by painting famous people of the time in “hell” in parts of the ceiling.
  • You aren’t suppose to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel because a company in Japan paid for the copyright, and are the “only” ones who can come and take pictures.

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Dani got to be the flag holder!  What an honor!

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We also made the rounds to see the other sites of Rome:  The Spanish steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Borghese Gallery, the Colosseum, and Palatine Hill.  We took a surprise tour of the Pantheon-literally we were walking up to it and a guy asked us if we wanted a tour, and he literally brought us to the tour!

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Still one of my favorite places in the world.  All that was missing was pizza.

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Ruins around Palatine Hill

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Our awesome Pantheon guide who told us that the Margarita pizza was invented when Queen Margarita visited Naples for the first time and they created a pizza to represent the flag (green spices for green, tomato sauce for red, and mozzarella cheese for white).  THANK GOD THIS HAPPENED.

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Trevi Fountain

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Of course we drank beer casually by all the fountains just as Italians do.

In between you can trust us that we ate until we were past full.  We came up with our eating schedule: pizza and beer, pasta and wine, gelato, repeat.  I have to admit that we didn’t really research places to eat, we walked around looking at peoples plates and decided based on that.  It worked out pretty good, I don’t think there was a terrible plate we had.

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Then we were off to Naples to stuff our faces with the most delicious pizza!  Just as I did last time, we booked our train tickets on ItaliaRail and was able to search for the cheapest tickets.  We stayed at the sister hostel of the one in Rome, La Controra Hostel Naples, which I recommend if you can’t find a decent airbnb.  Now what is the first thing you do in Naples?  YOU EAT PIZZA!

Just as Julia Roberts did in Eat. Pray. Love. we went to the same pizza place, waited a a ridiculous amount of time to devour the BEST pizza on our lives.  This place is called Pizzeria Da Michele, and it is the oldest pizza place in Naples.  You have to get there at like 6 PM to not have to wait, but it’s probably the most authentic Italian place you can go-the waiters refuse to speak to you in English.  And they only serve 2 types of pizza, Margarita, and Margarita with EXTRA MOZZARELLA!  I’m seriously getting hungry just thinking about this pizza.

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Literally the menu

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I literally could eat this for the rest of my life.

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And yes, the pizza is THAT big.  

Ok, so I had to go get a snack because those pictures made me so hungry.  The next day we were up early to head to another one of my favorite sites:  POMPEII!!!!!!  We took the commuter train and in 30 minutes we were there!  We decided this time to take the tour that is offered at the ticket building, and it was pretty reasonable!  Instead of walking around like “what is this old ruins?” the tour guide could tell you that it was an old butcher’s shop.  Of course when we went, there were like a million other people, but we did get a little taste of Ancient Rome when a guy started singing Opera in the theater.  We also got to see that there brothel during that time too.

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The pictures were of what you could order.

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Since it was very rare that the common folk could read back in the day, things were advertised through symbols.  This symbol here just happens to advertise that the Brothel is down the street.

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The ceiling in the Roman baths

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These stones can be found all over the bigger avenues of Pompeii.  Since there was no proper sewer system, people just threw it into the streets.  So people could cross the streets using these stones and not have to worry about stepping in anything.  The space between them allowed for carts to pass by in both directions.

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Again, the ash covered bodies with other artifacts.

After we got our dose of history at Pompeii, we headed back to Naples to eat at the 2nd oldest pizza place, and it was just as good!  Then we took a tour of the underground Naples [insert creepy music].  Basically these underground tunnels were discovered when the city was trying to build the metro, and is now why the Naples metro is soooooo far underground.  Basically what they discovered were old Roman ruins that Modern Naples built on top of- A part of the tour is actually going into people’s house that they discovered ruins (usually in the basement)!  Later in time, the underground tunnels were used as a water system, and men had to literally risk their lives to make sure the water supply was functioning.  Finally the last time the tunnels were used was during World War II were people would take refuge from the air bombings.  Some people even moved their beds down there to stay for periods of time!  Now the underground city is used for tours, but also for science experiments mostly dealing with plant growth underground.

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This wasn’t creepy at all.

Naples was good to us, it probably helped that the pizza is amazing.  I don’t think we could have done any better on the trip.  Except for another trip to Da’ Michele for more of that heavenly pizza.  As always it was a blast showing Dani one of my favorite countries and sharing the history that I love so much.  Having her come and visit again was the highlight of my year!  And yes, we already have plans for ROUND 3- Oktoberfest!!!!!

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Once we were back in Malaga, it was time for Dani to head back to the States, and then it was time for me to head back to MN for the summer!  After only have two weeks in MN last summer, I was ready to take advantage that I was going to be there until October!  Y’all have to wait just a tad bit longer for those adventures!

Hasta Luego!

Reunited

I’m lucky that I still have my tías from the beginning of my time here in Spain.  My friends Allison, Christine, and Michaela are all still kicking it in Spain with me!  Although we live in different parts of Spain, we were able to all meet up in Barcelona for a weekend.

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Here is us our first time in Barcelona 4 years ago!  MB you were missed!

The first time we went to Barcelona, it was crazy fun.  I do have to say this time around we were much more relaxed.  Our main priority, of course, was food.  And oh boy did we sure eat our weight, plus more in different foods.  When I arrived and met up with Christine, we went straight for food.  We stopped for an all you can eat sushi buffet that was only 10 euros.  10 EUROS-we literally made like bandits there.

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It was a beautiful day to stuff our faces with sushi

We then took some time to explore, and stumbled upon many cute little shops.  Including one that sold wine.  Literally wine by the growler (our growler cost 8 euros!).  Could we have found any better place to start our amazing weekend?

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With my basic Catalan (with a lot of help from Christine), basically the place is called “Organic and Orgasmic” and is eco-friendly wine.

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Heaven

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My personal tour guide

Once Michaela arrived, we all set out to get a real Catalan experience, which meant more food and drinks.  The next day we got to complete our group with the arrival of Allison!  We did some sight-seeing, including well planned snack stops and delicious Peruvian food.  We took a stroll around the Arc of Triumph (inside joke), attempted to get some cava, and a lot of laughs.

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Together foreverrr

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Of course we did some shopping

 

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Wouldn’t be a trip to Barcelona without a stop at the Sagrada Familia

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A delicious stop at the Moritz bewery

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Of course we had to stop at an American style dinner

Just as quick as we arrived, it was time for me to head back to the daily grind.  I have been very busy with my private classes.  Literally, during the week all I do is teach and plan.  Which I love, my students are amazing and so passionate about learning.  So that leaves the weekends for me to explore.

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Color Run San Valentin

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I don’t think Cris really knew how colorful we would get.

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A friend of mine ran a half marathon, so I was there to cheer her on!  Sign translation:  Run!  Donald Trump is behind you!

I’m lucky enough to have awesome parents of my younger students, who are always open to fun activities and crafts for various holidays.  I, of course, planned Valentine’s day heart-shaped pizzas and leprechaun masks for St. Patrick’s Day.  Easter projects were the typical egg hunt and dying easter eggs! Future projects include Mother’s Day vases, and many birthday celebrations in May!  I’ve also been working hard to create more fun “games” to use in my classes.  Some new additions have been “verb twister” and Parcheesi with sentence making.  I love that the kids don’t see how they are actually doing all the work-and I’m just relaxing!

I have also had time for weekend adventures of exploring in Almería and Malaga.  We have learned about the old grape farms, which Cris’ family use to own one of the bigger ones.  We went to a basketball game in Malaga…where 4 of the starters are Americans.  We have also taken advantage of the free museums on Sunday afternoons as well as Sunday fundays with friends.

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Those use to be volcanoes

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Malaga Market

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Then, before I knew it, it was Semana Santa!  If you haven’t already read my other posts about previous semana santa, click here.  This was the first year I had stayed in Malaga for semana santa, and I have to say I totally understand why everyone leaves the city for the week.  It is literally impossible to do anything when there are processions all day and all night!  My friend Christine came to visit, so once again we were pampering ourselves and stuffing our faces.

Of course we saw many processions, even Antonio’s (but sadly he was wearing a hood, so we didn’t know which one was him).  There are many “important” processions, but one of the more special ones is called  el rico.  Many, many, many years ago, an epidemic hit Spain, especially Malaga.  The King of Spain decided to cancel semana santa because there weren’t enough people to carry out all the tronos.  Well, the prisoners at the local jail  said that they would carry the tronos, but they were told no.  So, the prisoners escaped and took out all the tronos and put on semana santa.  Once they were finished, on their own, they returned themselves to the jail.  The King was so moved by their actions that he pardoned a prisoner and freed him/her.  So now every year the Kind of Spain pardons a prisoner, and he/she walks with the trono and then is “freed” at the end of the procession.

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I saw many other processions, the exiting of the Christ, as well “dancing” Virgins.  Yes, that is correct.  DANCING Virgins.  I wish it was actually dancing.  On the main street, alameda principal, is where all the processions pass through-very much like a fashion show.  While we were watching the virgin of el rico, the Virgin of paloma of a different procession and the virgin of el rico just happened to cross paths, and the men carrying them walked forward and then backwards “dancing.”

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Dancing on the streets of Malaga

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Cris and I then headed to his pueblo to finish the week.  While there I’m pretty sure I ate double my body weight in special Spanish desserts, leche frita, roscos, and arroz con leche.  We also watched the processions there, which were much smaller, and of course shorter.

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In two weeks my cousin Dani will arrive and we will continue our tour of Europe!  Get ready for more Culver Family adventures in Ibiza, Barcelona, and Italy!!  Until then, hasta luego!

Feliz Navidad!

This year Christmas was going to be a very different for me.  The last three years I have been lucky enough to go on two week long trips that include many different countries.  This year, I was able to have a family Christmas with my boyfriend and his family, but also able to travel to a new city!  Cris and I decided that for New Years we would explore Berlin!  I have to admit I was pretty excited, not only to finally visit one of my bucket list cities, but also because some of my friends would also be there for the New Year!

After hosting a very successful Thanksgiving, it was time to prepare for Christmas!

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One of the first signs of Christmas in Malaga, is when the main shopping street, Calle Larios sets up its annual Christmas lights.  It’s a big event when they turn the lights on, usually there is a concert among other things.   The whole month of December this street is always packed from about 7 PM to 11 PM when the lights are on.

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This year I got a little crafty and played Santa’s little helper!

Now in Spain, Christmas Eve is known as noche buena.  Families usually spend the day together preparing a special dinner.  I have to be honest, I did miss my family’s traditions of putting the Christmas tree up, Christmas music, and Christmas cookies-I did break down one weekend and spend 5 euros on 9 ounces of real JIF peanut butter to make Peanut butter blossoms.  However, spending time with Cris’ family and attempting to help cook (let’s be real, I was just eating olives the whole time) was pretty good too.

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gambas on gambas…this was just round one!

Things get interesting after dinner, instead of watching White Christmas, like my family does, all the young people go out and meet up with friends!  I had difficulty explaining that in the U.S., this wouldn’t happen, not because my friends would be with their families, but literally EVERYTHING is closed Christmas Eve.  There wouldn’t be a place to meet!

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This isn’t from noche buena, but the same idea:  friends coming together to celebrate good times together.

Then BOOM!  We were on our way to Berlin!  I literally couldn’t handle my excitement.  I was SO ready to explore this city full of history!  We were very surprised when we met up with the gal we were renting her flat from (Airbnb y’all is a great option!).  She worked in a very hipster area…see for yourself:

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This was the hallway to the art gallery.

It got even better more interesting when we arrived to the neighborhood.  It was the area of East Berlin where families of the communist politicians and other political supporters lived. So the apartments were very nice, but there were also very dated.  As our host explained to us, “Basically my neighbors are all old Nazi’s.”  -Now I should say she was joking, but really they were supporters of the Nazi party and then of the communist regime later on.

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I died laughing at the walkers being locked up with bike locks in the basement.

One thing I have to say is OH LORD I have forgotten was real cold is.  Thank goodness I quickly remembered how to layer clothes…but still being outside all day in the cold sucks.  We quickly located a great restaurant with AH-mazing German food.  As you can see below, we made off like bandits!

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Since we really only had 3 full days, we had to make the most of it.  So our first full day we woke up early to head to the suburb town of Potsdam.  This town is famous for all the beautiful palaces the old German kings built during the 19th Century.  The most famous palace is the Sanssouci Palace that was built by Frederick the Great to spend his summers.  The palace is based off of the French style, Rococo.  Frederick the Great loved everything french, he actually spoke better French than he did German!  Even the name of the palace means “care-free” in French.  What makes Potsdam so famous is that the town is covered in palaces.

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I was freezing.  Literally.

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The “small” backyard…literally it about about 2 km of backyard to the next palace.

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Cris quickly learned that you need to carb up to be outside in the cold ALL DAY.

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Our new house, ha.

However, Potsdam isn’t just famous for it’s palaces, it is also famous for a bridge.  I don’t know if you have seen the new Tom Hanks film, Bride of Spies, BUT YOU SHOULD SEE IT.  Potsdam makes an appearance!  That is because this bridge, Glienicke Bridge, is where the exchanges of many spies during the Cold War.  One of the most famous exchanges, what Tom Hank’s film is based on, is the exchange of the Russian spy, Rudolf Abel (caught in the US) for the US spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers.  The bridge was the the boundary of East Berlin and West Berlin, and once the Berlin Wall was constructed it was off-limits to everyone except military personnel.

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The bridge from what would have been the East German side.

Now, I should explain the map of Germany during the Cold War.  It’s a bit confusing because there is West Germany, East Germany, then West Berlin and East Berlin.

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This is the map of Germany after World War II.  West Germany was occupied by the Allies (US, Britain, and France).  While East Germany was occupied by the Soviets.  Now do you see the little color in East Germany?  That’s Berlin…

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Looking closer we can see that the capital of Berlin is also split up in to West Berlin (the Allies) and East Germany (Soviet Union).  The white line between the two areas is what would later be the Berlin Wall which was built to keep the EAST BERLINERS IN EAST BERLIN!

Yes, that last sentence is correct, the Berlin Wall was built to keep the population of East Berlin in East Berlin.  West Berliners could enter and leave East Berlin as they wanted and with the correct documentation.  The Soviet party reasoned that the Wall was needed to protect it’s people from the “fascists” who were preventing the creation of the socialist state. Construction of the Wall started in August of 1961, but it was earlier that summer that it was eluded that a wall was going to be build.  During a press conference, a reporter asked the First Secretary, Walter Ulbricht, what they were going to do about all the East Berliner’s immigrating to West Berlin or outside of Germany-his response was “We are not going to build a wall.”  um, who said anything about a wall? So the Berlin Wall was built and it became more and more difficult to cross the border.

It wasn’t until the 9th of November, during a press conference, that the press secretary accidentally let it slip that the border was going to be open.  Say what?  Now, none of this information was to be publicized until the FOLLOWING DAY…but no one informed the press secretary of this.  So once his announcement became public, East Berliners began lining up at various check-points to be allowed to cross.  However, no one informed the check-point guards, and when the crowd kept growing and growing, the guards just let the people through!  Slowly the Wall came down and East and West Germany began reuniting, Germany became officially reunited on October 3, 1990.

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One of the last remaining original parts of the Berlin Wall.

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The famous Check Point Charlie, which now is just a major tourist trap.  The only thing “original” here is the frame of the sign on the left.  The picture is of a real American guard who did his duty there back during the war.

One thing that I have to admit is that the Germans aren’t trying to hide their past.  They are very willing to talk about it, and even admit to what had happened.  This can be seen in the East Side Gallery, located by the river, which is an international memorial for freedom that has been created using the old Berlin Wall.  It’s about 1 km long section of the wall that has been painted by many different international artists with the common theme of “freedom.”

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As always, we did a walking tour of Berlin with the Sandeman’s tour company.  I have done many tours with this company all over Europe, and I have never been disappointed.  Berlin is full of historical sights-most importantly the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his youngest son, Blanket, out the window.  You don’t remember?  Here is a little refresher:

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Third row from the bottom, and the second window from the right is the window where this famous event took place.

On a more serious note, this tour was awesome.  Not only because it was full of amazing sights, but also our tour guide was AH-mazing.  He had so much knowledge about Berlin and it’s history, and he has a talent of story-telling.  The next stop on the tour was the Holocaust Memorial, or the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  As you walk though the memorial the cement blocks are at all different heights.  At one point, I was surrounded by the cement blocks, which were all taller than me.IMG_0924

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Then we were off to the place I had been itching to see:  The sight of Hitler’s underground bunker, or the  Führerbunker.  Honestly, before I describe it, I should show you what the sight looks like now.

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Yep, its now an apartment complex and a little park where dogs do their daily business.  I can’t help but laugh at that the irony of this.  For those who don’t know, Hitler and his wife Eva committed suicide in the bunker before the end of the war.  They were cremated in the garden above ground. Now why was this bunker so important?  The last six months of Hitler’s life were in this bunker.  In January of 1945, he went underground, and ran most of his operations from the bunker.  It’s well known that at this point of the war, the Soviets were closing in on Berlin, but also Hitler was loosing it-mentally.  He believed his own Nazi’s were trying to kill him, but this could have also been from the cocaine eye drops he was using.  Once the Soviets invaded, they made sure to destroy all the Nazi landmarks they could, which included the bunker.  However, it wasn’t until the construction of residential buildings (a scheme to make the landmark anonymous) that the remains of the bunker were destroyed or filled in.

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This was the headquarters of the Soviet Party after World War II

With the same tour company, we also went on a tour that was about the Third Reich in Berlin.  We saw many sights of important events, such as the Reichstag, the Propaganda building, and the old Jewish neighborhood.  I have to toot my own horn because we did this tour in Spanish (We did all the other tours in English, so I had to give Cris a break), and I was able to follow along pretty easily.

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Hey Merkel!

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The propaganda building for the Nazi Party.

I’m really glad we went on the Third Reich tour, not only because I learned a lot, but we got to see the old Jewish neighborhood.  Without the tour, I don’t believe we would’ve made the journey out there.  First off, the neighborhood is also the same neighborhood of Albert Einstein’s flat on Haberlandstraße.  More importantly, the people of the neighborhood have placed signs that have different “laws” that were made to persecute Jews during the rise of the Third Reich.  The government didn’t pay for these, the people of this neighborhood did.  Which is another sign that the German people are willing to talk about this dark time in history.

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On the backside of this picture is the law, in German.  The law states that Jews have to turn in all electronics.

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This law was that Jews can only sit on the benches painted yellow.

We also did the Sachsenhausen Concentration camp tour with Sandeman’s tour group too.  If you can’t tell by now, this company is truly that great!  The camp is located just 25 minutes outside of Berlin.  Like the camp of Dachau, it is just outside the little town.  One of the first things we were told was that the houses that surrounding the camp were built for the Nazi’s and their families.  Could you imagine living in a house that a Nazi had lived in?  Even closer to the camp, but still enough distance to make it seem like there were two different worlds (that of the camp and that of the Nazi’s), was the housing for the Nazi guards.

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This building was the Administration building for ALL of the concentration camps in Germany, Poland, and in Hungary.  Here is where the decisions of how much food was to be given to the prisoners, what jobs were available, etc.

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Just as in other camps, the phrase “Work will set you free” is on the front gate.

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The Watchtower at the entrance of the camp.  The design of the camp was a fan like shape, so all of the camp could be seen from this watchtower.

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Signs by the wall saying that the wires are electric.

Now, I should explain that Sachsenhausen was not the original “concentration camp” in the town of Oranienburg.  Before this camp, there was a factory that the Nazi Party used before the war for political prisoners.  Where was this factory located?  Right in the middle of the town.  Towns people passed it daily on their way to work or to the supermarket.  The idea behind these factory prisons was that the hard labor would help the prisoner to change.  So many prisoners that were sent to the factory were released after some time, after they had been “rehabilitated.”  Once the Nazi party came to full power (and there were more “prisoners” to be “rehabilitated”), Hitler then decided to stop using old factories and breweries for the prisoners, and had the camps constructed.

Most of the original barracks were torn down after the war, but new ones to represent the old ones have been built.  These are what house the 17 museums in the whole camp.  Yes, there are about 17 different museums and exhibits, which means you could spend ALL day there.  I’m so glad we went with the tour because it would have been very overwhelming to try to see everything and also learn about the camp.  The barracks were like the other barracks in other concentration camps:  bunks that were originally built for 3 people, but when the camp was over crowded anywhere from 9-12 people would share the bunk.  Of course, you would want to be at the top where there was a lesser chance of catching TB or other diseases.  There were also separate rooms for washing and toilets.

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Imagine anywhere from 200-300 people in this one room.

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Washroom

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Toilets 

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Where each barrack would have been located there is an outline of it with rocks filled in the middle.

Sachsenhausen was one of the few camps that would “lend” their prisoners to outside companies for labor.  Of course, there was enough money involved that was very profitable to the Nazi’s.  The prisoners were also used to create fake British pound notes.  The operation was called Operation Bernhard, and the plan was to over-inflate the British and American economies by introducing millions of fake notes into their economies.  They were actually successful in introducing a million fake British 5, 10, 20, and 50 pound notes into circulation.  It wasn’t until the British note changed after the war that all the fake notes were found.

There were also many famous political prisoners that were held here in separate barracks that were similar to a prison cell.  However, this didn’t mean they were treated better, if anything they were treated worse than others.  Outside of this barrack were three wooden posts standing in the ground.  This was a new torture method the Nazi’s used.  They would tie the hands of the prisoner on the back top of the post, just high enough that the prisoner would have to stand tip-toe.  The prisoner would have to stand for hours, and with the position of their arms, if they were to lose balance or not be able to stand their shoulders would be pulled of their sockets.  Pretty painful-if you scroll down to the second picture you can see it for yourself.

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Those are the poles to the left.  In front is where another barrack for political prisoner would have stood.

One of the more famous prisoners at the camp would be Georg Elser.  Now, I know you are all thinking, WHO IS THIS PERSON?  Well, he could have been the man who could have ended World War II even before it started, he could have stopped Hitler from gaining any power, basically he would have been a world hero.  But HOW AMY?  HOW?  He was the one who tried to kill Hitler during on of his speeches at a beer hall in Munich.  Yes, the key word was “tried.”

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Georg Elser

Georg knew that on November 8 and 9, the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch (where Hitler attempted a coup that failed back in 1923), Hitler would give a speech.  So in 1938, he traveled to Munich to the Bürgerbräukeller beer hall, where the rally would take place, to check out the area.  He decided the best option would be to place a bomb right behind the speaker podium.  So, over the next year he spent his time gathering materials, making the bomb, and traveling to Munich to set up the bomb.  November 8, 1939 arrived and Elser was ready, the bomb was ready, and Hitler had NO idea.  However, unknown to Elser, Hitler had originally cancelled his speech so he could plan the war against France.  He, however, changed his mind and decided to attend.  Due to heavy fog, Hitler wouldn’t have been able to fly back to Berlin, so instead he decided to take his private train at 9:30. That meant that Hitler had to cut his normal speech time from 2 hours (8:30 PM-10:30 PM), to one hour (8 PM-9 PM), so Hitler could catch his train.  Hitler gave his address and left the building by 9:07 PM….13 minutes before Elser’s bomb was to explode.  By the time the bomb exploded, Hitler and his squad had safely left the area.  However, the bomb killed 7 people and injured 63 people.  Of course, when Hitler was told the news of the attempt on his life, he took it as a sign that “Providence” wanted him to “reach his goal.” What was his goal?  To exterminate all those who were not of the “Aryan race.”

Elser was apprehended by boarder guards when he was trying to cross the Swiss border.  When he was told to empty his pockets they found wire cutters, sketches of the explosive, and other bomb making materials, making him one of many suspects of the bombing.  However, it wasn’t until the Gestapo interviewed many, many people and it was slowly put together that Elser made the bomb that he was tortured until he confessed.  BUT EVEN AFTER HE CONFESSED AND DREW SPECIFIC DRAWINGS OF THE BOMB THE GESTAPO DIDN’T BELIEVE HE WAS THE ONLY CULPRIT.  It wasn’t until after 1 year of torture at the headquarters that he was sent to Sachsenhausen as a protective prisoner.  He was later sent to Dachau where he was executed on April 9, 1945-4 weeks before the end of the war in Europe.

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Near the sight of Hitler’s bunker is a statue in memory of Elser.

ANYWAYS back to Sachsenhausen, as the tour continued we saw the main museum where many of the artifacts of the camp.  Our tour guide told us to look for a piece of wood that looks like it is used to measure height. As I was walking through the museum, I was racking my brain of why in the world we needed to look at this.  If it was just to measure height, then why was it so important?

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Here it is.  

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If you look closely you can see that there is space between the two wood poles.  You can see behind there is some wood on the back, but only on the bottom part of the measuring stick.  On the upper region there is no wood.  Why, you might ask?  Well first we need to back up and explain some history.

Towards the end of the war, the Soviets were slowly making their way across the frontier, and surrounding Berlin.  That meant there were many POW’s from each side.  At this point in the war, both sides (the Germans and the Soviets) were lacking able men to continue the fighting.  This meant the boys as young as 7 were being pulled to the front lines.  In early 1945, 13,000 Soviet POW’s arrived to Sachsenhausen, when the camp was at it’s highest number of prisoners.  Now, I should explain that Sachsenhausen was not a Death camp like Auschwitz.  However, the Nazi guards are invented a new way to execute prisoners more effectively.  If you haven’t realized it now, this new method involved the measuring stick above.

The POW’s were lead to a special area (called Station Z) away from the camp, where the Nazi’s had created a building that looked like a doctor’s office.  The POW’s were led in one-by-one where a “doctor” (a Nazi officer or fellow prisoner) would start the examination.  Lastly, the POW’s were measured for new uniforms (the POW’s were told that they would return to the front lines as Nazis).  When the POW was lined up with measuring stick, a Nazi officer in a room behind the stick would fire a bullet through a hole in the wall and through the space between the stick, killing the POW instantly.  The body would quickly be removed and the room would be cleaned, and another POW would be led in and the process would start again.  Over 10,000 of the Soviet POW’s were killed in this method.

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Here is the foundation of the examination room (the L shape room), you can see in the back right corner another room.  That corner room is where the Nazi officer would wait to fire the bullet into the back of the neck of the POW.  You can see that the walls in both rooms have double walls of bricks to keep out the sound.

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Here is the other area where prisoners were executed.  The bodies were later brought to the same building where the POW’s were executed and cremated there.

The building of the main museum was the kitchen for the camp.  In the basement of the museum you can see the kitchen area.  When the Soviets had control after the War, they used the camp as a political prison.  The kitchen was used as a cell, and you can see the paintings of the prisoners.  Some are quite amusing.

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The last stop of the tour was the infirmary and “morgue.”  I put the morgue in quotations because there were many experiments that went on in Sachsenhausen, and they would occur in the infirmary.  One of the bigger experiments including the use of mustard gas.  After WWI, the Germans were afraid of the use of mustard gas during WWII again.  So many prisoners were used to see the effects of the gas in different forms of contact.  Even one Nazi doctor experimented with different forms of cocaine, with hopes of increasing stamina and endurance, which would later be used by Nazi pilots or soldiers.

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The infirmary.  Many prisoners would “hide” here to get out of a day or two of work.  Sometimes this would save the prisoner from working in unbearable conditions, consequently saving their life as well.

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The autopsy room.  This is the only building that is in it’s original form.

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The morgue below the autopsy room.

One thing that was very surprising was the amount of memorials within the camp.  Of course there was one main memorial that can be seen from every part of the camp (It was built to “outshine” the main watch tower).  There were also many personal memorials that the public have left as well, for the Soviet POW’s, for the political prisoners in the separate political prisoner barracks, and to all the prisoners who passed through the gates of the camp.  I did find the main memorial very interesting.  Here is a picture of it:

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Notice that all the triangles are red?  Well, there was a ranking system within the prisoners.  When each prisoner arrived to the camp they were given a colored triangle to represent why they were sent to the camp.  Yellow was for Jewish prisoners, pink for homosexual prisoners, red for “communists” (anyone against the Nazi party), and purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Now this memorial is called “Liberation,” and is in memory of the political prisoners that spent time in Sachsenhausen.  There is some controversy…Originally the camp was to hold just political prisoners, however as the war continued more and more prisoners were put in the camp.  This memorial ignores all the other prisoners who wore the other colored triangles.

I honestly could have spent two full days at Sachsenhausen, but a las we didn’t have time.  Although I enjoyed every part of the trip, the best part was being able to meet up with my friends Choshi and Eric.  We only got to spend New Year’s Eve with them, but it was so much fun.  We met for dinner and rang in the New Year at their Airbnb.  It was a great way to end our amazing trip.  However, I don’t suggest catching a plane on January 1st…let’s just say it was a rough flight for the both of us.

I am already itching to go back to Berlin because I know there is so much more to be seen!  However, I think it will be in Spring or early Summer when it isn’t SO cold!  Until then, stay warm!  HASTA LUEGO!

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Smiling faces!

El Otoño

Just as summer was crazy, this fall has kept me busy.  I made the last minute decision to stay in Malaga and start with my residency process.  This means that at the moment I am legal to stay in Spain, but job wise I’m still illegal to work.  *insert thumbs down*  So I have been busy with my private English classes.  I have to admit that this has been a difficult change for me.  Although I love my students and that I am in charge of planning my own classes, it has been chaotic making a normal schedule.  It’s also been difficult to balance my schedule and have it coincide with Cris’ schedule.  I’ve also come to realize how much I do enjoy working in a classroom.  Which means I have been looking at different certification programs here in Spain, such as the CELTA certification and more Spanish classes.

Don’t fret, though, I have had plenty of time for some fun!

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Signing the pareja de hecho document! This process was actually quite easy compared to the following steps.

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Halloween

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Birthday beers!

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Maybe if we put all of our money together we could rent a small row boat here in Marbella.

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Tapas on top of more tapas

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One of my favorite Thanksgiving activities. This one was done by my little nugget Alejandro who loves macaroni, so it only makes sense his pet turkey would too.

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Prince William and Harry were a hit.

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Don’t worry Cris’ American lessons have continued.

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Da feast. NOM.

I even found some time to hop on over to La Palma the capital of Mallorca, one of the Balearic islands (think of Ibiza).

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See that letter A?-that’s where I was.

During the summer is when the islands are hopping, everyone from the Biebs to Rhianna vacation there.  However in the fall it’s a bit more quieter…but there was still plenty of party left for us.  I would like to say we took the time to really learn the history about the different sights, but we didn’t.  We took the time to see the Cathedral and the historic center, but we also made time to take a day trip out to Porto Cristo.  Here we saw some sweet caves and got to take a little boat ride on the underground lake.

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Literally you can see the Balearic Sea from any part of the island. We estimated it probably could take about 2 hours to drive the width of the island.

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Inside the caves

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As the tour guide describe this part of the flag: the Bacon or the Spanish flag…depending on the way you look at it.

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Just creeping, I mean waiting, for Rafael Nadal to come home.

Walking around the historical center was beautiful.  Of course the Cathedral is one of the center points.

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But the streets were also beautiful too!

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This one was just funny.

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Look a little familiar to one famous Gaudí in Barcelona? Well, one of his students designed this building.

However, one downside to visiting La Palma is that it is expensive.  Literally, the most money I have spent in Spain for anything.  I have to admit…we did eat Burger King three times on the trip…

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Evidence A: Two “tapas” costed triple the beer…this is most likely a crime in Andalucía.

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But I mean, look at that view.

Then, just in an instant, it’s Christmas time!  Up next is celebrating Nochebuena Spanish style!  Hasta Luego!

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A little sneak peek to prove that Spain loves Christmas just as much as Americans do!

Un Veranito de Calor Part 3 (POR FIN)

Here it is my friends, the last of summer.  As I am sitting here writing this, summer is slowly getting away from us…it’s one of those rare rainy and icky days in Malaga.  QUE TRISTE! Anyways, I’m just going to try to soak the last bit of sun while writing about my month of August.

Life can't always be beaches and sunshine!

Life can’t always be beaches and sunshine!

Like I mentioned in my last post, August brings vacation time for a lot of Spaniards.  For me it was two more weeks of classes, and then I was free!  Free to celebrate the feria, or fair, of Malaga!  Now up until this point I had only been to the feria in Sevilla, and only for 45 minutes because we didn’t know anyone who had a private casita.  Malaga’s feria is the opposite, there are no private casitas, and there are two spots to party:  the city-center AND the feria real.  Which always means double the party.  HA, I wish.  It just meant that literally everywhere in Malaga was crazy crowded.

The first weekend of feria, Cris had some of his friends come visit.  It was “opening weekend,” so we knew things would get crazy…however we really didn’t understand.  Friday night was when feria “opened,” so pretty much anywhere that had a view of the fireworks was packed.

Feria isn't feria until you stop at el pimpi for some sweet wine!

Feria isn’t feria until you stop at el pimpi for some sweet wine!

The next day we all made sure to get enough sleep so we could brave the city-center for lunch. It was crazy.  Calle Larios, the main shopping street was pack with venders of random feria things, people botellon-ing -drinking in the street publicly (remember there are no rules during feria), and the restaurants and cafes little casitas.  There were people dancing (click to see a video) in the middle of the street, it was a little over-whelming, but also so exciting at the same time.

Little did we know what was awaiting in Plaza de constitucion.

Little did we know what was awaiting in Plaza de constitucion

Once we got to Plaza de Constitucíon, we finally understood what this week was going to be like:  No rules, complete chaos.  In the center of the plaza was a huge casita, and next to it one of the cafes had their own casita fully equipped with two bars and live music.  Basically we just spent the afternoon going from bar to bar, enjoying the tapas and the drink deals.

We quickly found a spot to enjoy some delicious tapas and drinks!

We quickly found a spot to enjoy some delicious tapas and drinks!

Later, once we had a our fill of fun, we came back to relax and prepare ourselves for parte dos de feria: feria real. Yes, there are two parts to feria here.  The second part is outside the city center, and is more of what we consider a fair.  It has the rides, food stands, and of course the casitas.  Now here in Malaga it’s many bars and restaurants that have casitas, so basically its just an outdoor club.

More tapas and more drinks.

More tapas and more drinks.

Luckily for us, we live pretty close to the feria real.  However, no Spaniard goes there until midnight or even 2 in the morning!  Again, remember there are no rules during feria and many people are on vacation.  So no pasa nada!  Basically every one dances (again click the link for a little glimpse) the night away and enjoys the different bars.  I have to say my favorite memory was spending time with my girlfriends and we literally walked in to a giant dance party with a band singing a song about Cartojal, the wine spritzer drink of feria. Click here to see the video, and look below to see that the band was not in the street, no, they were hanging out of a bar window.

“Te quiero Cartojal”

The week of feria pretty much continued the same.  Many of my friends from last year were returning back from their summers at home, so it just more reason to celebrate!

Dancing Queens

Dancing Queens

One of many nights out at the feria real.

One of many nights out at the feria real.

Then as quick as it started, fería ended and it was time for us to head over to the US!  It was Cris’ first time in America, so you know it had to be perfect and very American.

And it did get pretty seriously...not even 24 hours and I had him dressed like a real Minnesotan.

And it did get pretty seriously…not even 24 hours and I had him dressed like a real Minnesotan.

He also learned very quickly that food is two times the size in America.

He also learned very quickly that food is two times the size in America.

When we arrived my parents asked Cris what were the three things he wanted to do.  His response was: 1.  Drive an American truck, 2. Watch a baseball game, and 3.  Cut the grass with a real mower. I have to admit, those were very much doable.

Checked number 1 off. Cris got to drive the biggest truck I've ever seen.

Checked number 1 off. Cris got to drive the biggest truck I’ve ever seen.

Not only did he study the game of Baseball, but he also sat through the game asking many questions.

Not only did he study the game of Baseball, but he also sat through the game asking many questions.

When you ask Cris what was his favorite part of America, his answer: Cutting the grass.

When you ask Cris what was his favorite part of America, his answer: Cutting the grass.

We easily crossed off Cris’ to-do list, we still had a full list of activities.  The last weeks of August and the beginning of September are, in my opinion, the best time of summer.  We had the chance to go to a Twins game, spend the day in Mall of America, go paddle boarding on Lake Waconia, and even time for a day of breweries.  More importantly, he got to try the food from the family restaurant, Culver’s.  There was also time for Cris to see what my daily life is like, meeting my friends, seeing the places around Waconia and Minneapolis.  We also had time to hop over to Chicago!

We also had plenty of time to catch up with some of my friends!

We also had plenty of time to catch up with some of my friends!

Cris had the first hand experience of Brunch...not once but twice.

Cris had the first hand experience of Brunch…not once but twice.

We rode bikes around Lake Calhoun before we stuffed our faces with some delicious fish tacos!

We rode bikes around Lake Calhoun before we stuffed our faces with some delicious fish tacos!

He also learned about how great Minnesotan beer is!

He also learned about how great Minnesotan beer is!

Lunch at the family business. He approved!

Lunch at the family business. He approved!

There was even time for a quick round of golf.

There was even time for a quick round of golf.

While in Chicago we literally were on the go for the full three days.  We made a stop in the Sears Tower, yes I know it’s now the Willis Tower, but for me it will always be the Sears Tower.  It was my first time going to the tower as well!  I have to admit the scariest part was the elevator going up and down.  The building is so tall that the elevator doesn’t count the floors 1, 2, 3…its more like 4, 8, 12.  Oh, and the elevator was so fast going up…my ears popped!  The views were surprisingly really nice, we could see a lot from the top.  We were told that on a really nice day you can see all the way across Lake Michigan!

On the inside he is crying from the height.

On the inside he is crying from the height.

I’m also really lucky to have family and friends who live in the city so we got to try some new (new to me) restaurants!  All of them were soooo good!  It was also so great to catch up with some great people!

We also made time to go to my favorite museum, The Field Museum located in the Museum Campus.  We literally got there when they opened, and we left at 3 PM, and we still didn’t see everything!  We also made a stop at the art museum on Michigan Ave, where again we managed to spend 5 hours walking around.  Now, one thing I forgot about America is that the museums cost money…so how did we manage to go to all of these places without spending the big bucks?  We did a combination ticket that we bought when we were at Willis Tower.  I highly suggest taking advantage of this to save more money for all the delicious food you will eat.

I had to really beg to get this photo.

I had to really beg to get this photo.

Crossed of eating from a food truck! The owner is from Costa Rica, so Cris enjoyed speaking some Spanish with him!

Crossed of eating from a food truck! The owner is from Costa Rica, so Cris enjoyed speaking some Spanish with him!

Typical Bean pic

Typical Bean pic

Had a great time catching up with these dolls!

Had a great time catching up with these dolls!

It wouldn't be a visit to the Field Museum without a selfie with Sue!

It wouldn’t be a visit to the Field Museum without a selfie with Sue!

After Chicago, things got even crazier!  My Spanish friend, Cristina, came to MN for the weekend.  She is currently teaching Spanish in St. Louis.  Even though she has been in the U.S. since August, I still had to impress her as well.  So of course that meant a day of breweries!  We participated in the Rails and Ales that an amazing local company, named Get Knit Events, puts on in Minneapolis and St. Paul.  They team up with local microbreweries and create a day of fun, beer, food, and music.  It was so much fun!  The next day was Cris’ birthday, so that called for another celebratory brunch at a local restaurant, The Local.

The whole gang was there!

The whole gang was there!

During these two weeks is also the Great Minnesota Get Together, or the Minnesota State Fair.  Now, I may be biased but I believe Minnesota has THE best fair.  Our fair is known for crazy food combinations that are always on a stick.  Literally ANYTHING on a stick.  Fried candy bars on a stick?  YES.  Deep-fried apple pies on a stick?  OH YES. Here is a link to the food for this past year, and just let your mouth water.

At this point in the trip I realized that I really enjoyed sharing my stomping grounds with Cris and Cristina.  However, what I loved more was seeing their reaction to everything.  Especially, while we were at the State Fair.  Only because we have some weird traditions, such as, the Dairy Princesses who are elected and then have a butter head made for them.  Yes, a huge block of butter, and a sculptor carves their face into it.  Who wouldn’t want that?

There were no words for this.

There were no words for this.

They also learned that all you do is eat at the State Fair. Literally.

They also learned that all you do is eat at the State Fair. Literally.

This was before we ate our own weight in Sweet Martha's cookies.

This was before we ate our own weight in Sweet Martha’s cookies.

Then as quick as we arrived to Minnesota, we were on our way back to Malaga.  But our vacation was not just quite finished.  After a few days attempting to recuperate in Malaga, we headed to Cris’ hometown Dalías, Almería.  During the second week of September is their fería.  Yes, I said it.  ANOTHER FERÍA.  Now, this feria is very different from Malaga’s fería…very, very, very different.  Remember how I said there were no rules during fería?  Well, in an even smaller pueblo like Dalías, it is literally a free-for-all during this time.  Also, the celebration is surrounding by the town’s santo, or saint:  la cristo de la luz, or the Christ of the Light.  It gets better, every night of the fería there are town dances, very similar to the baile primavera, at the town’s casino. I have to say for about a week straight, it was sleep all day and party ALL night until 8-9 in the morning.  UFF!

Now the fería began with the Women’s Association luncheon where all the ladies of Dalías bring a food to share.  I went with Cris’ mom and made some good of chocolate chunk cheesecake brownies to blow the minds of these ladies.  AND THEY DID.  I also became a socialite and MET THE MAYOR OF THE TOWN.  Of course I had no idea who it was, and when he kept pronouncing my name wrong I told him “Es Amy como Amy Winehouse,” “It’s Amy, like Amy Winehouse.”  I know I made a great impression on him.

The spread.  These ladies know how to cook, and more importantly how to eat.

The spread. These ladies know how to cook, and more importantly how to eat.

I obviously dressed up for this historical occasion.

I obviously dressed up for this historical occasion.

Remember how I said that there were even less rules during fería in this town.  Here is a perfect example:  the first afternoon of fería there was a foam party in the town square.  It wasn’t just in the town square, it was EVERYWHERE in the city.  Every afternoon there was some crazy activity.  The next day it was a motorcycle race.  Not just any normal race.  This race included having to maneuver around cones, eat a pastry, smoke a cigarette to pop a balloon, and then take shots, and repeat it again.  Like I said, NO RULES DURING FERÍA! It gets even crazier, every afternoon there are tracas, which I cannot even begin to translate into English, but are for the kids.  It is a string of firecrackers that are holding prizes.  They hang the string up, the kids stand underneath it (again, there are fireworks on said string), and then they set off the fireworks to release the prizes!  Those weren’t the only fireworks, each night there was a fireworks show and then a huge firework, which in Spanish is bomba, that scare the living daylights out of me.  Each night these shows got bigger and bigger, all leading up to Sunday night.  Which I will explain more a little later (hahaha, you have to continue reading!).

SHOT SHOT SHOT SHOT SHOT EVERYBODY!

SHOT SHOT SHOT SHOT SHOT EVERYBODY!

Town foam party!

Town foam party!

Once you thought it couldn’t get more crazy, there is a running of the bulls.  Now, before you think that I even attempted to participate in this, it isn’t a real running with the bulls.  The bulls are wooden and attached to the bulls are big fireworks, or cohetes. A brave soul then pushes said bull, laden with fireworks, all around the town square and people run after it.  It’s only tradition that Cris runs in this with all his guy friends after we have all properly botellon-ed, or pregamed in public.  The ending?  Click here to see a video that his friend took while running around…also Cris totally got burned in his armpit, such a brave man, hahaha.

Little do these guys know what is awaiting them in the town square.

Little do these guys know what is awaiting them in the town square.  Also it is tradition to wear vaqueros, una camiseta blanca, y un pañuelo rojo (jeans, white t-shirt, and a red bandana).

The bull.  It is seriously covered in fireworks.

The bull. It is seriously covered in fireworks.

In between each bull (there are SIX of them) we would find the guys again and assess the damage.

In between each bull (there are SIX of them) we would find the guys again and assess the damage.

There are many more traditions during this week.  It’s very common that people from the surrounding pueblos will make a pilgrimage to come visit the cristo during the week.  If you are serious about this, you do this walk every day during fería.  The walk, if down there and back, is about 18 km or about 11ish miles.  We cheated and just did the way up (we hitched a ride down the mountain).

The view from the top of the mountain.  We still had about 5 km to go from here.

The view from the top of the mountain. We still had about 5 km to go from here.

We weren't the only ones

We weren’t the only ones

We finished!  Of course we celebrated with beers and tapas after.

We finished! Of course we celebrated with beers and tapas after.

Unlike the fería in Sevilla, there is only one afternoon that everyone puts on the traditional Spanish flamenco dress, only for the carrozas.  There is a little parade where everyone is on themed trailers and pass throughout the whole town.  There even minions there!

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The second biggest part of the fería are the bailes each night.  The town’s casino holds a dance that you have to either have to have a casino card or pay for a ticket.  Remember how I said that during the last dance it was quite formal?  Well, these dances are even more formal, like all the guys have to wear full suits. What happens at these dances?  There is a formal dinner, but we just went for the dances.  Which means we arrived there at 2-3 IN THE MORNING!  When did we leave?  around 7-8 in the morning.  We literally danced until the sun came up.  We would then continue the party by stopping and getting churros and cola caos, hot chocolate.  Then around 9-10 we would pass out, and sleep until 4 PM, eat lunch and get ready to party again until sun up.  Saturday we didn’t go to the dance, but instead went to the biggest botellon in history.  It was HUGE, there had to be at least 600 people there.  So by Sunday, I was dead, literally dead.

Thursday night's attire.

Thursday night’s attire.

The ladies

The ladies

That is the sun RISING, and we were still going strong.

That is the sun RISING, and we were still going strong.

Still looking good on our way to churros!

Still looking good on our way to churros!

The Friday night crew!

The Friday night crew!

Keeping hydrated with gin and tonics and fueled with sandwiches is a must to survive these dances.

Keeping hydrated with gin and tonics and fueled with sandwiches is a must to survive these dances.

The selfie that broke the internet. HA!

The selfie that broke the internet. HA!

Just a third of the botellon of the year.

Just a third of the botellon of the year.

Then Sunday arrived, the day that the Christ is taken out for his procession.  The morning started with a special mass in the Church, where the Christ was taken off his little stage and put on his trono, or platform, for the procession later on in the day.  Now, this procession is a little different.  It isn’t the brotherhood, or hermandad, that carries the trono throughout the town.  People get there super early to tie their bandana, or pañuelo, onto the trono, and if there is still room they get the honor to carry the Christ during the procession.  Back to the special service, during this service there is NO ROOM for anything.  People come from all over to be at this service.  The priest says a special prayer for the Christ, and we watch the Christ be lowered on to his trono.  After He is successfully positioned there, everyone sings a song about Dalías, and I mean everyone knows the song.  Click here for a video of the song.  During this whole service, people are yelling out “viva el cristo de la luz!” (Live the Christ of the light!) to which the crowd answers back, “Viva!” (Live!).  You can watch it here.

A full house

Later that evening, we all return again, but this time it’s to watch the Christ be turned (click here for a video), and then taken out of the church.  Again, the Church is packed, people are yelling “Viva el cristo de la luz!“, and the men are waiting to take their place under the trono.  We were standing in the middle aisle of the church, and I thought nothing of it.  Oh man was I wrong.  We were the first to exit the church, before the Christ, BUTTTTT we had to walk backwards.  Then when the Christ is on the outside steps of the church, there is a HUGE fireworks show.  Then they brought out the big guns.  I mentioned earlier about bombas, or huge a** fireworks that were set off after the fireworks show?  Well instead of one, they had to section of them set up in the square.  One section for when the Christ left the church, and one for when he returned.  Now these are normal 4th of July fireworks.  These are bottle rockets set off to feel the heat and feel the reverberations on your body.  I’m not going to try to explain it, just click here for a Youtube video I found.  Anyways, so after having my ear drums obliterated, the procession continues around the town.

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The Christ leaving the church.

The Christ leaving the church.

Just like this fería, the procession isn’t like a normal procession either.  In each neighborhood of the town, there are individual groups of fireworks that the people of Dalías bought.  So this procession turned out to be pretty long because every 20 minutes they stopped to watch these.  And the people carrying the Christ DON’T put him down!  That is almost 5 hours!  There were also some neighborhoods that have traditions.  This neighborhood sings songs to the Christ and then throws flowers on to him (click here to see it).  Another tradition of the town is to but candles and walk the procession route dropping wax to accompany the Christ during the procession.  Once the procession finished, the Christ returns to the Church, the second set of bombas are set off, Christ is put back on His stage, and people then can wait to kiss the trono.  Then, it is time for the last baile, where people can finish the fería in style.

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After a month of what seemed like never ending adventure, my summer came to an end.  I have quickly started my private classes once again, and Cris went back to work.  Summer at first was very stressful and high anxiety at first, but by the end of it I don’t think I would change anything (well, I could have had more time at the beach, ha).  Now, as I’m getting back into the swing of things, I keep finding myself dreaming of the beach and the care-free summer days.  But alas, I have new adventures awaiting me this year!  Until then –hasta luego!

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way.” -Dr. Seuss

Un Veranito de Calor Part 2

After spending 2 painful weeks of sending my CV out, meeting with academies, and being offered summer camp counselor positions, I decided that I was just going to continue with private English classes.  Since I have zero work permission here in Spain, many academies and summer camps won’t hire you.  If they do offer you a job, it’s usually for 5 euros an hour which is impossible to live on.  Some of my friends were lucky and able to find summer camps outside of Spain, but I really wanted a Spanish summer.

Many of my students wanted to continue with me through the summer, so I only had to find a few extra classes.  Since school was over, many of the parents requested that English classes be fun and exciting.  I was lucky enough to find a family that wanted me to be with their children every day for 2 hours.  So that meant I had to make sure they didn’t get bored with the activities or with me.  Each day had a special theme, cooking, adventure, pool, and one day where they got to be the teachers and teach me English.  THEY LOVED IT.

Yes we did bake brownies at 10 ing the morning...

Yes we did bake brownies at 10 ing the morning…

We made codes on candies and we had to take turns solving the riddle.

We made codes on candies and we had to take turns solving the riddle.

Go Fish game within the card game of Go Fish. I got desperate sometimes.

Go Fish game within the card game of Go Fish. I got desperate sometimes.

While I wasn’t in my classes I was definitely enjoying a real summer.  That means beach, beach, and more beach.  Also it meant more time for travels and visitors!  I, of course, did my annual trip back to Bollullos, where I spent my first year here in Spain.  I brought Cris along so he could finally witness how beautiful my little county town is.  There was also a weekend in Cris’ town, Dalías, for the “spring dance,” baile primavera, even though it was June. I quickly learned that these dances are not just casual, they are SUPER classy.  And, of course, the party lasts until 7 in the morning.

Spending the morning with my Spanish moms in Bollullos.

Spending the morning with my Spanish moms in Bollullos.

We clean up pretty good.

We clean up pretty good.

The dance was held in the town's Casino.

The dance was held in the town’s Casino.

As I stated before, I spent a lot of time at the beach during the summer, I basically lived in my swimsuit.

Punta Umbria beach in Huelva

Punta Umbria beach in Huelva

The beach in Cabo de Gata

The beach in Cabo de Gata

the sunset in Marbella

the sunset in Marbella

an occupational hazard of the beach: Jellyfish stings. Marbella has a million of them.

an occupational hazard of the beach: Jellyfish stings. Marbella has a million of them.

More of Cabo de Gata

More of Cabo de Gata

the beach in Pedregalejo

the beach in Pedregalejo

I also had the opportunity to travel around the south of Spain.  First my Aunt Heide and Uncle Tom were in town, so we went to meet them in Cordoba.

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We did many day trips, such as Torremolinos and Marbella , for the beach.  A night in Mijas with Cris’ family, which is know for it’s streets with candles at night.

Still think its a safety hazard to have all these candles in the street.

Still think its a safety hazard to have all these candles in the street.

On our way back from Merida, we also stopped in the pueblo of Osuna. Its famous for a commander who sailed the first Spanish ship into the San Fransico Bay.  Nowadays, it’s even more famous because the WHOLE CAST OF GAME OF THRONES was there for a few weeks for shooting.  The church there is the fictional town of Dorne in the TV show.

I was hoping the cute Prince of Dorne would open up for me.

I was hoping the cute Prince of Dorne would open up for me.

Probably the most important stop was while we were visiting Bollullos and Huelva.  We stopped in the city of Rocío, home of the Saint Rocío, and the celebration of the Saint in May or June.  Saint Rocío is also the patron saint of the province of Huelva.

Finally got to meet the Rocío. No words.

Finally got to meet the Rocío. No words.

There was even time for a Daddy Yankee concert with Cris’ friends.  I have to admit it was the longest concert of my life…it started around 6 and went until 7 in the morning.  Click here for some videos.

It was more of a little music fest...but it was a long night.

It was more of a little music fest…but it was a long night.

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There was even some time to explore more of the amazing museums that Malaga has.  As well as, take advantage of Cultural Sundays were many of these are free.  Now as most of you know, Malaga is the birth city of the famous painter Picasso, but it is also home to many fabulous art museums.  Two newer ones are the CAC, centro de arte contemporáneo, and the Centre Pompidu Málaga, which is even more contemporary.

These are done by the same guy who did the election poster for Obama's '08 election.

These are done by the same guy who did the election poster for Obama’s ’08 election.

There was an exhibit about the Chinese Zodiac. We all happen to be snakes.

There was an exhibit about the Chinese Zodiac. We all happen to be snakes.

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The Pompidou was different. Still thinking about a few of the pieces I saw.

The Pompidou was different. Still thinking about a few of the pieces I saw.

Like this one. Yes, that painting is painted upside-down.

Like this one. Yes, that painting is painted upside-down.

Then, since the teaching program I worked for placed me outside of Andalucía, in Extremadura. Now, this was a surprise to me and everyone else in the program…but I was told it was because I had been in the same province 3 years and after that you need to leave the province.  I took a weekend trip to explore the new city I was placed in, Mérida.  First things first, where in the world is Extremadura?

Andalucía is the southern province. Look to Portugal and right above Andalucía to the left. The dark greenish blue is the province of Extremadura.

Andalucía is the southern province. Look to Portugal and right above Andalucía to the left. The dark greenish blue is the province of Extremadura.  The capital is Mérida.

The most direct way to get to Mérida is to go towards Sevilla, and then head north for two hours.  So in total, one-way was 5 hours, so in one weekend that would be 10 hours of traveling.  Strike one against Mérida. We arrived pretty late on Friday after stopping for dinner in a small town, so it wasn’t until Saturday we got to walk around.  My first impressions of Mérida were that it isn’t a super small town, but it also isn’t as big as one would think a capital would be.  Mérida is special because it use to be the old Roman capital back in the day.  So there are old Roman ruins everywhere.  However, it was the middle of June, so the weather was unbearable.  Why?  Because Mérida is land-locked, there is no beach, no wind, just heat.  Strike number 2 against Mérida.

Just a Roman temple in the middle of a city.

Just a Roman temple in the middle of a city.

These are the ruins of an old Roman temple, that is under an old Catholic church, which are now under a monastery.

These are the ruins of an old Roman temple, that is under an old Catholic church, which are now under a monastery.

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The old Roman aqueducts that was used to transport water back int he day.

The old Roman aqueducts that was used to transport water back int he day.

There is even a huge Roman History museum full of real artifacts!

There is even a huge Roman History museum full of real artifacts!

However, a positive note of Mérida is that because the roman ruins, there is tourism side that helps Mérida have a city life feel to it.  There are many delicious restaurants, like entrecanas, shops, and of course jamon. Extremadura is the province that makes the most delicious jamon of all of Spain.  Mérida is also the home to Nico Jimenez’s restaurant…now who is Nico you ask? Well Nico is the the man who holds the Guinness World Record in 2008 for the long slice of jamon. 13 meters and 25 centimeters to be exact.  He is known as the Maestro Cortador, or the master cutter.  Anyways, his restaurant is super nice, crowded because its popular (we saw and met a famous worker’s party politician there) but also has delicious food.  And they sell jamon platters in an XXL size.

Look at that slice.

Look at that slice.

Look at that platter of heaven.

Look at that platter of heaven.

During our visit, there was the annual Roman theater festival.  Which means, very famous Spanish actors perform classic Roman plays, such as Medea.  I have to admit it was breath taking, to sit in an ancient Roman theater and watch a drama take place.  I do have to say that it was very difficult to understand everything in the old school Spanish.

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Even though I know I could have survived a year in Mérida, I just didn’t want to start over once again.  I am finally comfortable in Málaga, I have my “Spanish family,” my students, and even my cafe.  I felt there was no reason for me to start over again.  So, I rejected my position with the Language exchange program, and decided to just continue with private tutoring class until I have permission to legally work in Spain.

Another big part of my summer was continuing my adventures learning how to cook.  Now, I can cook for myself, but I found myself just cooking the same things with no desire to learn more.  I have also told many people how I don’t enjoy cooking and that even sometimes it even stresses me out.  So I took my copious amounts of free time and tried to learn some easy new dishes. Let’s just say that Pinterest was my best friend this summer.

First I had to master how to successfully cut jamon.

First I had to master how to successfully cut jamon.

We tired to make a gigantic tortilla, like they do in Cordoba...it as a fail.

We tired to make a gigantic tortilla, like they do in Cordoba…it as a fail.

I created a salmon, mozzarella, and spinach pizza.

I created a salmon, mozzarella, and spinach pizza.

We even went as far as to learn how to make our own sushi!

We even went as far as to learn how to make our own sushi!

Por fin, I found and created the best homemade mac and cheese!

Por fin, I found and created the best homemade mac and cheese!

Homemade egg muffins

Homemade egg muffins

Literally the best brownies ever: Chocolate chunk cheesecake brownies

Literally the best brownies ever: Chocolate chunk cheesecake brownies

Now this finally brings us to August.  Probably the craziest month of our whole summer.  This usually the month that people here in Spain have for vacation.  It’s also the month of Malaga’s fería, or fair.  One whole week of craziness.  August was also the month that Cris and I went to Minnesota for a two week vacation, and then after to his own pueblo for their fería.  WOOF, all of that needs it’s own post.  Hasta luego!

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Un Veranito de Calor Part 1

In Spain summer basically starts in May. Which in my opinion is the greatest month of the year.  IT’S MY BIRTHDAY MONTH, THAT’S WHY.  However, the month of May started what I would call, the craziest summer of my life.  I don’t think I stopped once to relax.  Wait, I STILL haven’t stopped!

The beginning of May was a puente, or a long weekend.  Cris and I went on a road trip to Cordoba, a little pueblo called Montemayor, Baeza, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Úbeda.  It was a nice little road trip that allowed me to see some parts of Andalucía that are more difficult to travel to with public transport. Our first stop was Cordoba, where we were lucky to have time to see las cruces de mayo, or the Crosses of May.  Which literally means that each neighborhood, barrio, makes their own cross full of flowers.  They then put the said cross in a plaza with a full bar and plenty of room to dance.  I have to say, my kind of party.  How did this little celebration start?  History has it that Emperor Constantine the first had a vision that if he built a cross to lead his armies in battle he would be victorious.  So he did it, and of course won.  When he returned back home he was baptized Christian, and had his mom go in search for the “true cross,” or the cross that Jesus was crucified on. When she arrived to Jerusalem, she found three old crosses.  To find which one was the “true” cross she laid each cross over a sick or dead person.  Those who were resurrected and healed were healed by the true cross.  That cross was then celebrated and made into relics.  Nowadays, the Spanish culture celebrate the finding of this cross and the handmade crosses represent the “True Cross.”

I have to admit that I had been to Cordoba before (shout out to Melissa, my travel buddy), but I didn’t really remember a lot of it.  So this time around, I made sure to pay attention…like the history of the Mezquita.

Inside the famous Mezquita in Cordoba.

Inside the famous Mezquita in Cordoba.

It's one of the few religious houses that has both the Muslim and Christianity religion sharing a space.

It’s one of the few religious houses that has both the Muslim and Christianity religion sharing a space.

Little tourists.

Little tourists.

One of the many crosses around the center of Cordoba.

One of the many crosses around the center of Cordoba.

One of the bars that is usually accompanying the cross.  Just spending an afternoon with about 100 of my closest friends.

One of the bars that is usually accompanying the cross. Just spending an afternoon with about 100 of my closest friends.

We also made sure to visit a new place, like the Alcazar.  It is another old Moorish castle that are located all over Andalucía.  This one is especially known for its gardens…where I just happen to use as a nice siesta spot.  Hey now, I was battling a terrible cold and it was FREAKIN’ hot that weekend.

Just hanging out by my new pool.

Just hanging out by my new pool.

The beginning of May also is the beginning of a unique celebration in Cordoba:  Los patios.  Now in the south of Spain, it get’s pretty toasty during the summer.  So many of these older houses have very large patios where families can spend time in the shade and cooler temperatures.  These patios also act as an air conditioner for the other rooms in the house.  Also, because many families spend time in these, they would decorate these areas with bright flowers, antique furniture, fountains, and other decorations.  However, it wasn’t until 1921 that some of these houses began competing for the most beautiful patio.  Neighbors will come together to decorate a patio, and open it to the public to come in and look.  Now, there are normally two weeks for this competition, but there are always 6 patios that are open year around.  Click here for more information about the Patios of Cordoba.

Many times the owner of the house is the one who decorates the patio.  Sometimes its the whole neighborhood that puts in time or money to care for the patio.

Many times the owner of the house is the one who decorates the patio. Sometimes its the whole neighborhood that puts in time or money to care for the patio.

Traditional white houses with colorful accents.

Traditional white houses with colorful accents.

Finally our trip was complete with an amazing bowl of Salmajero.  Which is basically a cold tomato soup made with a mixture of tomatoes, olive oil, bread crumbs, and topped with a fried egg.  It’s always refreshing in the hot weather.

This is what heaven is like.  Salmarejo and beautiful patios.

This is what heaven is like. Salmarejo and beautiful patios.

Once we were back on the road we made a pit stop in a small pueblo outside of Cordoba, Montemayor.  This town is known for its agriculture. We were able to take a little walk through a friends’ farm, or cortijo.  The view of the picture below is from the highest point of the city, where there the church is located.

Literally olives for days.

Literally olives for days.

The next stop are two famous cities in Jaen, Baeza and Úbeda.  Both cities are UNESCO World Heritage Cities for their Renaissance architecture.  Basically each city is like a fairytale.

This is one of many churches in Úbeda.

This is one of many churches in Úbeda.

We caught the end of a wedding in the beautiful church in Baeza.

We caught the end of a wedding in the beautiful church in Baeza.

Up next was starting the week long celebration of my birth!  It was such a great week hanging out with the people who mean the most to me here.  I was also lucky that a few of my private tutoring students also celebrated their birthdays too!

Birthday crowns for birthday girls!

Birthday crowns for birthday girls!

Birthday cupcakes with my students!

Birthday cupcakes with my students!

During this time all my coworkers were talking about Operation Bikini...which obviously was not a priority for me.

During this time all my coworkers were talking about Operation Bikini…which obviously was not a priority for me.

Spent the night celebrating my day of birth out with great friends and then a little brunch the morning after.

Spent the night celebrating my day of birth out with great friends and then a little brunch the morning after.

birthday celebrations in Nerja

birthday celebrations in Nerja

The birthday celebrations continued with visits from besties!

The birthday celebrations continued with visits from besties!

Then as quickly as the year started, it finished.  I have to admit that I was happy to finish the school year, my school really didn’t include or treat me like I was a part of their family.  Once school was finished for everyone, it was time to start saying good byes to my friends who were returning back to their home countries for the summer.  Luckily I have a great crew here who love to create fun and adventurous games.  To end our year together my friend Leila planned a scavenger hunt of Malaga.  In groups, we had to take pictures in front of places, do little activities like buying a certain Spanish candy or getting a drink at a specific bar.  We had a great time running around Malaga being the weirdo giris asking tourists for pictures.  We of course ended the night at the one bar that we always, ALWAYS ended up at.

This was the "take a picture with the most sunburnt tourist you can find."  What did we tell these guys? "We need a picture with very handsome men."

This was the “take a picture with the most sunburnt tourist you can find.” What did we tell these guys? “We need a picture with very handsome men.”

During this time, I have to admit it was pretty stressful for me.  I finally decided to stay the summer in Malaga, so I was struggling to find a good paying job.  Unfortunately many English summer camps here don’t pay that great, even less if you have to be paid under the table.  I couldn’t find an apartment that would only rent to me for 3 months.  Why did I only need a 3 month contract?  Well, the program I was working for, the North American Language Exchange, has a little rule that after three years in one province, you have to leave said province.  So I was accepted for a fourth year, but in the province of Extremadura…yeah the no mans land of Spain.  So I had a lot of decisions a head of me…but more about that and the rest of my summer adventures in part 2!  Until then, hasta luego!

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“Travel, like dreams, is a door that opens from the real world into a world that is yet to be discovered” – Guy de Maupassant