My Erasmus Experience – Post #7 – Segovia

The Erasmus scheme appears to have gathered considerable attention in various educational communities around the world, and it’s something that is especially obvious in Spain. Recently I have applied for a handful of cheap/free trips to various places that were being advertised on Facebook through student travel pages. A group called Smart Insiders advertised a free trip to a small town called Segovia, and after many frantic attempts to get a place I finally succeeded, and went with a group of friends.

Segovia is a small historic town about 2 hours outside of Madrid by coach. High up in the mountains the drive there offered countless breathtaking views and photo opportunities, not to mention it was freezing that day and the mountain tops had a healthy blanket of snow covering them. Famous for its yellow-orange coloured buildings, Segovia boasted a castle, a cathedral, an aqueduct, narrow winding streets and of course, tourists. With dogs. When we arrived it was freezing cold, as I mentioned, and we began following a guide around the town. I’m sure the information she was telling us was probably quite interesting, but we’d soon got bored with standing around on the edge of a group of around 30 straining our ears to hear her, and so left the group to explore by ourselves.

There was plenty to see in Segovia, the aqueduct was impressive to say the least, and the cathedral was awash with golden statues and structures, exquisite stained glass and ancient wooden pews. Being a modern student however, it soon got boring and we left to find a coffee shop for something to eat. There were plenty of shops and restaurants, but with it being a sunday most of them were closed. There was even a Burger King and McDonalds, cleverly disguised with subtle stone signs and hidden away behind the facade of a row of old buildings. They clearly make a huge effort to keep the historic look to the town, which is probably the main thing drawing people there. With no attractions as such, it wouldn’t exactly be a great trip for the whole family, but it was free so we couldn’t really complain.

After having a tiny cup of coffee and something that was labelled as a ‘Queso Snack’, (Basically just a baguette with melted cheese on top), we left for the coach. The organisers of the trip seemed desperate to make friends with everyone, with one man standing up the entire coach trip just to walk around and chat. We got the usual questions about being from the UK, and were even asked if we were going for tea and scones at one point, and a friend of mine was given the title of Milton Keynes for the majority of the trip, which was funny. We left Segovia around 4pm to travel to a famous castle nearby, which is the apparent resting place of a famous king, but I was too tired to really pay attention, and by the time we’d gotten there no-one wanted to cough up the €4 to enter, so the trip was ended early.

Overall I enjoyed my time as I managed to get some good photographs, and I’m glad there are groups organising such free trips, especially as we have to watch how much we spend out here. I’ll definitely attend some more, and attempt to go further afield in the future. If you’re thinking of going on an Erasmus trip soon, I’d definitely recommend travelling as much as you can. While I haven’t done much myself, my friends have and they say it’s probably one of the best things you can do. Travel in Europe, save for maybe France and Germany, is relatively cheap if you don’t mind taking budget flights and trains. Inter-railing is definitely on the cards for the future, but Segovia is a one-off.

The title of the featured image this week is ‘The Mountain’.

My Erasmus Experience – Post #6 – The Festive Period

Christmas and the festive period is probably my favourite time of year, as cliché as that might sound, it’s true. Summer is great and all, with the hot weather and holidays, but as I’ve got older I’ve found less excitement in being able to go outside in t-shirt and shorts. The transition between Autumn and Winter is a brilliant time for photography. It’s as if the whole colour palette of the world changes, bringing a blue hue to everything and being accompanied by deep oranges, yellows and golds. That’s what winter in the UK is like, but Spain was different. The day before I left to go home for Christmas, I was sitting outside on our balcony reading a book wearing a t-shirt, jeans and sunglasses. It felt like a slightly colder summers day, and didn’t give me ‘that Christmas feeling’ at all. Which was disappointing, as I’d hoped to be in a festive mood for my journey home. I didn’t even have ‘Driving Home For Christmas’ on my iPod.

The centre of Madrid had been decorated for Christmas in a truly outlandish manner. In truth it was pretty, especially in the late evening when the sun was setting and the lights came on. But something I hadn’t considered was just how religious this country is. Now I have nothing against religion at all, and I am in no way slating the Christian faith, but a person can only see so many fake plastic recreations of the nativity scene before believing their going a little mad. Everywhere we seemed to go there’d be another beautifully crafted, perfectly arranged recreation of Our Savior’s birth, set into huge glass cases or wooden houses. They looked wonderful and seemed to make a lot of people happy, but what annoyed me was that nearby to these displays would be a conveniently placed, brand new cigarette machine, or a pop-up bar or baked corn stand of some kind. Any excuse to make money of people during the festive period seems to have been put in motion.

The festive period is definitely a lot shorter in the UK. After Christmas it’s just a countdown until the New Year, and then after that it’s a slow trudge back to school, uni or work. In Madrid the celebrations keep on going for a while afterwards, with a festival called The Three Kings being one of the main highlights of the year. This article explains it very well. I’ve heard this festival is more beloved than Christmas, as it’s the Spanish time for giving gifts more so than the 25th of December. Not that festivities should be enveloped in the glory of the modern Capitalist world, but who doesn’t like opening presents under a tree that was more expensive than the neighbours’. So the decorations are still hanging and the parties are only getting better. As I write this I wonder if our town of Villaviciosa de Odon are having some kind of community wide celebrations, and if come this evening of the 5th of January, I’ll be watching a float go past in the street with three men dressed up as kings throwing sweets into the crowd. I doubt it. Clearly the only way to bring the masses together to celebrate an ancient tradition on a national scale is to give away free food.

The image with this weeks post is titled: “New Years Walk”

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