Week 4 - Siete de Julio… San Fermin!
*Warning - This blog is very long *
So this past week was a recovery week from Valencia for the most part until Thursday.On Thursday we had our city excursion again.We went to the Jewish Cemetery on the outskirts of town.What happened is that there was a large Jewish presence in Segovia and then there was a change in power and the Christians ended up digging up the graves because they were Jewish.We went and could see the dug up graves because they were in stone and it was possible to see the imprints that the bodies had made.It was really interesting to see.Also, there were these cave like dwellings where Gypsies used to live.We were able to go inside and sit for awhile.Because of the location, these caves were the same temperature all year long.They are somewhat cool in the summer and a little warm in the winter if the door was closed.It was also possible to see the little hole in the wall where they would put icons or gods.One thing I did like about this excursion was the fact that is was on a hill outside of the main city walls so I had a great view of the cathedral and Alcazar.This town is just so gorgeous both during the day and at night.Later that night, I had the opportunity to take a dance class at the school.It was the first week and it goes for 3 weeks total.I really enjoy dancing and being able to learn a new dance in a foreign country just sounded exciting to me.The class ended up being Belly Dancing.It is taught by a local girl who is about my age and she is very nice.She has taken classes for 6 years and she is really good.The class as a whole was really fun and interesting and I am looking forward to going back and learning some more.After class, I was talking to her and we set up an "intercambio" with another one of the students here.An "intercambio" is basically where you get together with a local who is studying English and hang out, go to coffee or walk around the town.The idea is that the local speaks in English and we speak in Spanish so we can help each other improve our speaking skills.I am looking forward to meeting up with her, it should be fun and she is full of energy.
This Friday we had to have class which is not normal but we had to make up the day we missed due to the holiday of San Juan Bautista.I had my grammar class in the morning but for my European Union class, all of the students in the program had a city excursion.We went to the cathedral and the Alcazar.First we went to the cathedral.For being in a relatively small town, it was gorgeous inside.The ceilings were high and vaulted and it has several capillas, small rooms, filled with artwork.The cathedral was more beautiful than I had expected.It was relatively small but there was a lot of artwork and gold.We were able to enter the chapel which was an amazing experience.There was a large piece of artwork at the front that was bright with gold cherubs with a cupola.It is just so hard to describe but I was really glad I was able to see it.Outside the cathedral near the top, there is a statue of a saint with a book.The book is open and has one page flipped up.The legend is that if you look at it while you walk by it, the page looks like it is turning.If the page does not turn, then the world is supposed to end.We ended up all linking arms, as in the picture, to not run into anything and walking sideways to see the page turn.It did look like it was turning which was really cool.From the cathedral we walked to the other side of the town to go to the Alcazar.The Alcazar is a castle and it has actually been a model for a Disney castle which is cool.The castle itself was absolutely gorgeous.Unlike the castles I visited on my first excursion which were more fortresses than anything, this was a true castle.It housed kings and queens for many years.They had armor on display as well as the thrones.As we walked through each room basically had a theme.There was one room where all the people did not have eyes.There are a few theories but the most believed theory is that it is the room devoted to a saint who was a martyr.She is the patron saint of sight.When she was tortured they took out her eyes and for this reason no one in the artwork has eyes.The sight of it pretty much creeped me out, it looked like something from a horror movie.After walking through the castle we were able to climb the tower.There were not too many stairs, only about 150 so that was not too bad but the view from the top was worth it.Because the Alcazar is at the edge of town, we had a bird's eye view of the entire town with an amazing sight of the cathedral.We took a group picture up there and I could have stayed there for most of the day but I had to go home for lunch.
The excursion that was planned for Saturday was to go to Salamanca, a renaissance town, and Avila which is known for Saint Teresa, whose finger is on display in a church.I actually ended up not going.I had an opportunity to go with another family to Pamplona, in northern Spain near France, for the festival of San Fermin.San Fermin is the festival of the Running of the Bulls.The running of the bulls actually originated in Cuellar, where one of the castles was near Segovia, but San Fermin was made popular by Hemingway in "The Sun Also Rises".I was not sure if I was going to go because my professors were saying that is was dangerous and I really wanted to go to Salamanca but if I ever was going to go to it I had the best situation possible.The family I was going with was driving so I would not have to worry about getting there, we had a house once we got there and because my friend and I wanted to go to Salamanca so bad they said they would take us there one day and show us around.So needless to say we left Friday night and arrived around midnight.This festival is absolutely crazy and I do not believe that I can fully portray the ambiance or feeling there.There are not words to describe it.People are out all night and sleep during the day.When we got there we went to the Plaza Mayor and walked around, shopped and listened to a concert.The concert was fun because the group reminded me of ABBA which was entertaining.Each street we went on was absolutely packed.We had to make a chain of people to make sure not to lose anyone.There are random bands marching through the streets or on corners, people chanting different things that are associated with San Fermin, and random groups having parades in the middle of the night.The actual running of the bulls takes place at 8 in the morning.I did not run first of all, because I am not that stupid.Of the people that get killed during the Bull Run, 90% are foreigners and 90% of foreigners that get killed are from the United States.I believe that the first person that died from an injury from running with the bulls was from California.Second of all, women are not allowed to run.There is a specific technique used to run successfully and the reason a lot of people get injured or killed is because they don't know this technique and just run for adrenaline purposes.There are a lot of rules associated the running, that have to be followed before you are allowed to run.I actually did not see the actual running either because the bulls can go a little crazy and run up and possibly injure people on the sidelines.I stood about 100 feet back and watched in on TV and saw people's reactions in front of me that were watching it.That was good enough of an experience for me.I did see some pictures later that were taken during the running and you could see people getting flipped and cornered by the bulls.On Saturday, we went traditional.For the festival, everyone is supposed to wear all white with a red handkerchief around the neck and a red sash around the waist.My friend and I knew this so we went and bought some cheap white clothes so we wouldn't be worried if they got ruined.This was a good idea because by the end of the day, I had a lot of different stuff spilt on my skirt due to other people throwing stuff or dropping something on me.The crazy thing is that this festival is for everyone.There were old people, children and teenagers, there was something for everyone and everyone was dressed in red and white which was a sight for itself.Saturday was the busiest day of it all and then it pretty much died down after that because the last day was Monday but it pretty much ended on Sunday.On Sunday we walked around the town to see the sights of Pamplona before going home.Another thing about this festival is that because so many people want to come there is not enough space to hold everyone so people just sleep wherever they can.There were people sleeping in the park, under bridges and we even saw people sleeping in a jungle gym. We were lucky to be able to have a house.The drive was about 5 hours, more or less, and it was a beautiful drive.It was through the countryside and we drove through small towns that were really old.At some points, I didn't feel like I was in Spain at all.When we were getting close to Segovia the sun was setting.It was close to one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.The sun set over the country side with brilliant colors and then we arrived in Segovia where we got an overview of the whole town which I keep realizing is a gorgeous place.The family then took us near the hospital in town which is on the outskirts on a hill to see another overview of the town.We could see the aqueduct, cathedral and castle all at once, all lit up.That is now on my list of favorite spots in the city.We got home fairly late on Sunday and we had class in the morning so Monday was not going to be the greatest day.I had a hard time getting through my first class but it will all be fine.It all was an experience of a lifetime and I know that I will never ever experience anything like it in my life.It is so unique and filled with tradition, there is nothing like it in the United States.I hope I have done a good job of trying to portray it but like I said before it is absolutely indescribable.It is something I will never forget.