Costa del Sol and Sevilla

Here I (we) are on the beach in Costa del Sol, the southern part of Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea. I mean we, because my newly adopted students from West Palm Beach, Florida are crowded in around me in an unairconditioned internet café watching me type. We can see the beach from the internet café here, and after a swim earlier in the Mediterranean and some delicious buffet dinner at the Hotel de Rodeo involving some fried local fish and tortilla (our idea of a quiche or potato pie), we all walked around on the boardwalk. We are in the village of Marbella, and it is a summer getaway for much of Spain. It is 7 hours south of Madrid, which seems like a lot for a weekend - imagine having a summer condo on the beach in Maryland, which would be the equivalent. With bullet trains the trip is much shorter, and Spaniards´ vacations are usually three or four weeks, not one like ours.

Yesterday, we spent the day in Cordoba, where we saw the gorgeous Mezquita-Cathedral there, which was originally built as a mosque in 750, after many Muslims were killed in Damascus and fled to Andalusia in southern Spain. There, religious tolerance was allowed for Muslims (obviously), Christians and Jews; but in 1250 when the Christians invaded, as a kick in the face to the Muslims, the Christians there built a chapel literally in the middle of the mosque. In the red and white arches (typically Muslim architecture), small monuments were built to different saints; and right in the middle of the mosque, where Muslim worship would occur five times a day, a gigantic chapel, complete with stained glass windows was built. It was incredible, moving and historical to see, for sure. This example of blending of culture was seen over and over again as we traveled through souther Spain.

In Seville, after seeing a Flemenco Dancing show (incredible!), and after a 6:30am run along the Guadalaquivir River watching all the party-goers going home after a night of celebrating Spain´s 3-0 victory over Russia in the World Cup semi-finals, we headed to the Sevilla Cathedral, where we saw Christopher Columbus´ grave (a history teacher´s dream come true!) and climbed the tower of the church. The interesting thing - this belfry tower was originally built as a minaret when the building was a mosque years before. The original waiting area for the mosque (I forget the word now) has become an orange-grove reception area. The view from the top - about 25 stories up - was magnificent. Afterwards, we saw the Royal Palace in Sevilla, where the King and Queen stays when visiting Sevilla. It is simply gorgeous, and again an example of the melding of culture and relgion. It was administered to be built by Christians, so there is clearly Christian influence in the art and architecture, but Muslim Moors were hired to build the palace. Therefore, it has influences from both religions, and is absolutely beautiful. Truly, Sevilla is one of the prettiest places I have ever seen in the world.

Tomorrow, we head to the Strait of Gibraltar and Morocco for a day of fun and adventure - and I will blog about it asap! Until then...thanks for reading!

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