~January 9, 2014~
I am slowly getting used to the apartment quirks - minus the cold. I don’t remember the last time I was warm longer than a moment in a metro station or a hot shower. Luckily, Nicole lent me a sleeping bag she brought to lay on top of my thin comforter which helped a lot. I attended another school sponsored tour this morning, this time a walking tour of the Barri Gòtic. Nicole and I left the apartment early to try and find coffee near the meeting spot. We walked through some plazas and down some cobblestone streets and found a generic bakery with…food and coffee. We walked around a bit more and met up with the group.
The tour was amazing. I am not a history buff by any means. Actually, I’m usually not a fan at all but this was incredible. For those interested, here is a very brief history lesson from what I can remember.
The region of Spain I am in is called Catalonia. Throughout history this area has always been very desirable due to its natural port and distance from other European powers. The Iberians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors all occupied the area for varying amounts of time.
In the early 4th century, a 13 year old girl, Saint Eulalia, stood up to the Romans for her beliefs in Christianity and it took the Romans 13 gruesome attempts to kill her. There were many references to Saint Eulalia, including 13 torches on the alter in the cathedral, 13 geese in the outdoor part of the cathedral and numerous small shrines tucked into various alleyways where other attempts to kill her had occurred.
Then the Frankish Empire took control and used the area as a buffer zone between the Moors and France. During the Middle Ages, the counts of Barcelona were established and maintained by the Frankish Empire. This is (I believe) where the story of the flag comes into play. There is some speculation but we were informed that after a very important battle where one of the counts had suffered life sustaining injuries, but had defeated the enemies, he asked his second in command to ensure his death would not have been for nothing. His number two stuck four fingers into his open wound and dragged his bloody fingers across the gold shield. This is why Spaniards do not consider their flag simply yellow and red, the colors of the flag represent the gold of the shield and the deep red of the counts blood.
After some time, there was a separation between Catalonia and France; however they remained on good terms. Because of this, there were a number of marriages between the different kingdoms which created unification and a larger kingdom. The best example of this is the marriage of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile which we have all learned about at some point in our lives. Ferdinand and Isabella were the ones who funded Christopher Columbus to sail to the Americas. We saw the very doorway he walked through when he returned from his expedition. During the Spanish Civil War, Francisco Franco along with the help of Hitler and Musulini, established a dictatorship. However, in the process, Spain witnessed firsthand the initial use of large scale bombings as well as civilian casualties. One of the greatest visible demonstrations of the destruction visible even to this day was at the small church tucked away in Plaça de Sant Felip Neri where they had been sheltering the children. They dropped a bomb in the center of the church and had tanks waiting outside to finish off any children who could and did indeed run out. The artillery marks on the stone are there as a testament to this tragic event.
There was also a tremendous amount of architectural history. The architecture in Barcelona is absolutely breathtaking but I don’t even know where to begin. I just hope if you are intrigued, you can find a way to visit the area yourself someday.
After the tour finished, Nicole and I strolled down a nearby street to get lunch and stopped in a little Irish Bar. With a full belly and new found energy, that afternoon I was able to finish unpacking my things. It was nice to have a little me time, organize my things and make my room feel a bit more like home.
We continue to learn things about the apartment. We have gotten a crash course on using the washing machine and location of the thermostat (CRITICAL). The thermostat had been set to 15°C (equivalent to approximately 50°F) – no wonder I was FREEZING! After we figured out the heat, I was glued to the radiators that were now cranking. I am not sure exactly what it was, maybe being cold, tired, and hungry, but I had not been feeling well. I went to the nearest market I could find to get some comforting food staples: salami, cheese, yogurt, oats, apples, soymilk, and PEANUT BUTTER!! I was the happiest person in the world when I saw that. However, it was a 300g jar for €6 which is about $8. Anybody who knows me really well understands my peanut butter addiction and sees the warning signs. It’s a good bet that I will be spending the majority of my ‘fun money’ on peanut butter unless some of you fine folks want to help a sister out ;).
*IMPORTANT: I gave you the address to my apartment on my first post in case you wanted to send me letters, pictures, or peanut butter if you really love me - However, you should send it to my program office instead otherwise I may never get it. And that's no bueno for anyone :)
So New Address (I think):
08010 Barcelona, Spain