Saturday, March 31, 2012

La mezquita – Catedral de Cordoba

As I mentioned in the post on Cordoba, the city was known for tolerance and respect, with Jews, Christians and Muslims living side by side. And that the Mezquita is evidence of that. Originally a mosque (the third biggest in the world), now a cathedral. In 1236 at the reconquista, they decided to build the Christian cathedral inside the mosque instead of tearing it down, appreciating what a great piece of architecture it was.

The building of the mosque started in year 785 and it was considered the most important sanctuary of Western Islam when Cordoba was the capital of Al-Andalus. It was inspired by the Mosque of Damascus with the traditional distribution of sahn (courtyard) and zullah (hall of prayer).

Here, the sahn, a peaceful oasis filled with orange trees and water fountains:

And a sneak peak to the zullah:

Apparently there is quite a strong Hispanic-Roman influence to the construction, not only from the materials used, but also the overlapping arches and the alternating brick and stone (red and beige) in the cross section of the arches that were modeled on the Hispanic-roman tradition. There is a total of 1300 arches. 

Apart from the beige/red arches, there are so many beautiful details. Here, the entrance to the Mihrab: 

Some other more adorned arches...

Then came 1236 and King Ferdinand III reconquered Cordoba. The reforms of the Cathedral were motivated by the need to restore the cult that had been interrupted by Islamic domination.

So, in the middle of the mosque, the cathedral was constructed. It was a very strange feeling, having walked through all those arches, to step into the cathedral, which is SO beautiful and so different. 

It really feels a little surrealistic that these two are under the same roof. Both so magnificent, yet so different.
A must see cultural attraction when visiting Cordoba!

Friday, March 30, 2012

General strike Spain 29.03.2012

I wasn't sure to include this on my blog or not, I tend to be quite positive on here. Write about the fabulous things I love about Barcelona. Good things, fun things, beautiful things. Barcelona was not beautiful yesterday. Barcelona was not good nor fun. Barcelona was downright scary.

Yesterday was quite a horrible day in Barcelona. It was the day of the general strike, all over Spain, against the government’s labour reform and also marking that 100 days have passed since the new prime minister got elected and promised he would make sure the sky high unemployment rates would go down. That has not happened, the unemployment rate is increasing progressively. And it’s bad. BAD. The unemployment rate for young people is close to 50%. That is a number so high I can’t really wrap my head around it. 

So, people felt the need to go on a strike. It started as a slow and somehow peaceful manifestation with thousands filling the streets of the city centre, but then – as always (?) there are some people who don’t understand the difference between a peaceful strike to manifest your opinion, and pure violence and vandalism… It got out of hand. The police ended up using tear gas and shooting rubber bullets. Stones and other objects were sent flying through the air. Containers were set on fire. Shop windows were broken. A Starbucks was set on fire. What good is it going to do for the unemployment rate to vandalize people’s businesses? What fault does the owner of the shops and restaurants have of the politics in this country going bad? Why should they be affected like this? I think it’s sad that these things get so very much out of hand. 

Yes, the political and economic situation in Spain is very bad, unbearable for many. It brings out desperation but what happened here yesterday has nothing to do with that. It’s just an excuse for these people to act out. And it is scary. 

According to the newspaper El mundo the labour union estimated that 800 000 people were out in the streets of Barcelona yesterday to claim the withdrawal of the labour reform. And a total of 10 million all over Spain. The police in Barcelona says it’s closer to 80 000 than 800 000 though. There are lots of different numbers circulating the web and I don’t know what’s true, I just know that there were a lot of people and that it turned ugly.

Today things are back to normal. But the city is full of scars, in grafittied windows and buildings, broken shop windows and left overs from the burnt containers. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


Cordoba is a fairly big city in Andalucía (more or less 330 000 inhabitants), and is the capital of the province of Cordoba. 

Spain and Spanish cities are generally harboring a lot of history and Cordoba is no exception. In ancient times it was a Roman and Iberian city, before becoming the capital of the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba, who ruled Al-Andalus (Moorish Iberia, as mentioned here) in the middle ages, from 929-1031.

It is said that in the 10th and 11th century, Cordoba was the most populous city in the world! And was considered in this period to be the intellectual centre of Europe, a great cultural, political, financial and economic centre. 

Cordoba was known for tolerance and respect, with Jews, Christians and Muslims living side by side. The city is full of monuments and architectural gems telling the long history of the city, la Mezquita-Catedral being the number one attraction. Originally an enormous mosque (third biggest in the world), before- in 1236 when the mosque was turned back into a Christian church at the reconquista, a beautiful cathedral was built in the middle of the mosque instead of tearing it down. Yes, you read correctly, the Cathedral of Cordoba is located inside a huge mosque! 

Apart from the Mezquita, there are lots to see in Cordoba. The Jewish area (Judería) is a beautiful part of town with narrow cobbled streets running around whitewashed houses with flowerpots hanging on the walls.

There is an alcazar (fort/castle). A bull ring, and a Museo Taurino. A roman bridge with views to the Mezquita:

...and a lot more... A beautiful city!

More about the Mezquita-Catedral soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Barcelona Marathon

Today was the 34th edition of Barcelona Marathon and it felt just like any other big fiesta in the city. Soooo much people everywhere, an incredibly positive energy and lots of emotion and happiness all around!

The route of the 42 km. covers the city’s most important sights, such as la Pedrera, Casa Battló and Sagrada familia, (Gaudí’s work), Torre Agbar, Camp Nou (Barca’s football stadium), Forum, Arc de Triomf, Las Ramblas and Colon. There was about 20 000 participants, and roughly 50% foreigners. I guess this is a very cool way to see a new city as a tourist, if you are into running marathons!

And to make it all more festive and entertaining (which I guess come in handy when you’re running and running on asphalt for hours…) they had arranged for entertainment 53 places along the way of the 42 km! That’s a lot of entertainment! All sorts of different percussion groups, bands, dance ensembles, and more.

Another perfect sunny day in lovely Barcelona!

P.S. Tomorrow more from Andalucía!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jerez de la Frontera

This is where we slept the first night, and the hotel alone is worth a post. See, things didn’t go exactly as planned and we arrived a lot later than we were supposed to and we didn’t get to see all that much of Jerez.

But first things first, Jerez de la Frontera is famous for the Sherry, Brandy and wine produced there, flamenco and the beautiful Andalusian horses. One of the big wine producers in Jerez is Osborne, the very same company responsible for all the big bull-silhouettes along the roads of Spain. On the website of Osborne  you can actually see a map of all of the remaining bulls, there are almost 100 of them scattered around most parts of Spain.

The name “Jerez” comes from Sherry, the strong wine who originated here, and “de la Frontera” refers to the border between the Moorish and Christian regions from the time the Moors ruled here.

Back to the hotel, cause I am actually going to make this post about the hotel. It’s the most beautiful hotel room I have ever slept in. Previously a house palace from the 19th century, now a small 1-star hotel (still can’t believe it.) I usually don’t care too much about hotel rooms and I normally don't bother taking pictures, in the end they are more or less the same. But this one was outstanding. Apparently they have 1 room with Moorish décor, and that’s the one we got. How lucky! It took my breath away and I just wanted to move in…  Have a look and let me know if you agree!

Love all the arcs, the lamps, the tiles and all the details. We had to move on early the next day due to a booking in another city so we didn’t get to see much of Jerez, but that just gives me the perfect excuse to come back some time, and I will make sure to stay at the same hotel!

This beauty of a room can be found at Nuevo Hotel C/Caballeros 23 in the old town of Jerez de la Frontera.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My trip to Andalucía

Where to start? I have had the most fantastic trip! I’ve seen so many gorgeous places, cities, buildings and plazas, and I have several hundred photos to prove it. 

Lets just dip into the background a little bit. Al-Andaluz was the name of the region of southern Spain (and Portugal) that was under Muslim govern from 711 to 1492, also known as Moorish Iberia, and covers most of the region that is now called Andalucía in the south of Spain. 

I find it truly fascinating to see the Arab influence in the architecture and culture, so different from Barcelona.  The beautiful arcs with carvings and inscriptions, the special lamps and furniture. The colours, the spices and all the teterías serving delicious tea in typical Arab teapots.

First of all, what and where is Andalucía you might wonder? Well, it's this orange zone here in southern Spain: 
And for those who thought Spain is Spain, I'll tell you it's not. There are huge differences depending on where in this country you are, and I find that so interesting. I know this is not unique for Spain, but I believe many people think there's just one Spain, and that's the one with the palmtrees and the sandy beaches. Now that I've been in Barcelona for a while I am getting to know it pretty well, it's interesting to go to the south and get a completely different Spain served. I love getting to know this country and am excited to learn and see more. I must say that I appreciate these differences more now than just after I got here. Yes, I did spend my first month in Málaga (in Andalucía) but I had no previous knowledge of the country and it's not until I have started seeing more places I can really start to compare.

Andalucía has the south coast of Spain, called Costa del Sol, the sun coast. And yeah, lots of beaches and palmtrees there. But go a little inland and you find the authentic Spain. Flamenco, tapas, bull-fights. It's all very present. I am not going to get into the discussion of the bull fights, I am a visitor to this country and not one to judge. I am just observing and taking in impressions. 

The bull itself has become a symbol of Spain. Many places along the roads in Spain there are big 14 meter high black silhouettes of a bull. Initially an advertisement campaign from 1956 for Osborne, makers of sherry, is now a popular national symbol of Spain, typical on souvenirs such as key rings, flags, magnets etc. I saw 3 different ones along the roads and I think they look cool. It symbolizes  strength and pride. 

Tons of pictures of beautiful places coming up next! 

Friday, March 16, 2012


I realize I should have asked you readers for tips, you know, special places a little out of the tourist path, but I didn't so now I just have to trust I'll find good places on my own. I am off to explore Andalucía until tuesday night! Have a great weekend!

One of the things on my list is this:

The great ALHAMBRA in Granada. Finally I'll see it too!

Follow-up on the Guapa-thing

A while back I wrote about what a shock it was for me to come to Málaga and be yelled after wherever I went. Guapa! Guapa! Guapaaaaa! At first I didn’t even know what it meant so I had to ask my teacher haha. So I learned it means pretty/beautiful, and it was completely normal for men to say that to most females. It felt like it was just the kind of thing they were supposed to do, no matter their age.  (I’ve had it said from 18-year olds and 70-year olds, call me weird but I am thinking it would be easier to “accept” if coming from someone closer to my age?) I found it rather uncomfortable to be honest. But when I got more facts on the table I realized it’s quite harmless, and it didn’t mean they wanted anything more than just saying Guapa. They left it at that. 

Here in Barcelona it’s quite different, it still happens from time to time, but here it’s not common, it’s not what every guy does and it certainly doesn’t happen x times PER DAY. I am still very much Norwegian and more comfortable like this. There are big differences in many things from Málaga to Barcelona and this is one of them.

But I have been observing this phenomenon bere in Bcn too and this is what I’ve found out:
  • Among friends, (although there’s not necessarily any big prettiness involved) it's completely normal to say “Hola guapa” when they meet. Or “Que tal, guapa?” It just hangs on automatically to hello and how are you.And it doesn't mean the friend fancies the other friend... It's just friendly.
  • On the radio! When people call in, the host often says “Adios guapa!” when they hang up. Now this is a weird one. How can a radio presenter use the word guapa to someone he has never seen?

Conclusions: The word Guapa is a word for affection and endearment just as much as prettiness. It can be used as either. It creates a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I am starting to get used to it, it's having a nicer and nicer ring to it and is no longer a word that gives me the creeps! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My experience at Barcelona Beer Festival

The first edition of Barcelona Beer Festival was held this weekend, and on Sunday I passed by with some friends to have a look. There was a huge line outside…

… and there were rumors that the maximum capacity was 600 people, so we figured it was full. Still, we hung around waiting a little while deciding what to do. To our luck, shortly after they opened the doors and let a whole bunch in, us included.

We queued up to buy our tokens for the beers. For 5 euros you got a glass, the guide (of all the different beers) and three tokens. The beers cost between 2 and 5 tokens. The other options were to buy 7 tokens for another 5 euros or 15 tokens for 10 euros. 

Then we started studying the guide, deciding what beers we wanted to try. There were beers from lots of different countries (including a few from Norway I have never heard of!) Sounds like fun, right? Well, here’s when the big disappointment comes. After having decided we went on to the big display, the list of all the beers available to find out from what taps to get our beers…

… and found that almost all beers were sold out! We went through the list time after time, finding second, third, fourth…etc choices, but in the end we had to simply look at what was available and go for that. Thankfully we had just bought the start-pack with 3 tokens to begin with. 

I understand that it's the first time they arrange the festival, and they didn't know how it would be received. Maybe the beer festival was great on Friday, but if by Sunday afternoon almost all beers are sold out, that's no good. Just a few taps were open and all food was sold out too (there was supposed to be a variety of tapas). 

I don't care much for beer, I went there just to see what it was all about but my friends, beer-lovers, were quite dissapoited and I can understand that. Honestly I was more curious and attracted to the location, rather than the beers, and at least the location didn't dissapoint, hehe. Beautiful old convent from 1349!

We just stayed for one beer and then moved on, and I have a feeling it wasn't a place people stayed all day, due to the limited choice of beers (and no food).

Great potential, it just didn't turn out too great... 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Photo course, Castellers (human towers), spa and beer festival!

Another great weekend is over in Barcelona. It's been busy and fabulous!

I attended an intensive photo course and it was great. However after, I realize that I learned how to take pictures of the situations/setting we dealt with there and then, but not really how to apply it to other situations, lighting conditions etc. But I am happy with it and will probably look for another course soon to learn more. I love photography and I am so lucky to have such a photographable city on my doorstep.

Then on Sunday there was a big show of Castellers, the human towers I wrote about here
I enjoyed my first show at the Calçotada, but this was something else. More professional. More participants. More advanced. There were three teams taking turns to build different Castellers. (Castellers de Sants, Castellers de vila de Gracia, Castellers de Sant Cugat) and it was part of the Fiesta de Sant Medir from last weekend (The sweet party).  

The Castellers have won a piece of my heart, I think this is top entertainment, so different but still so fun and original. It’s absolutely nerve wrecking when you see the tower moving and shaking. It’s somehow moving to see the faces of the participants when they come down and it all went well. And it’s impressive to see the little kids climb their way to the top and then sliding back down on the other side of the tower. The team spirit is obvious. And again, Spain amazes me with it’s traditions. Like the Fiesta de Sant Medir, almost 200 years old but still very much alive, while this tradition of the Castellers dates back to 1770 when the first one was documented. The Catalans are proud of their traditions and culture and little by little I am let in on it. Loving it!

It's important to start with a good, strong base: 
A classic 6-level one:

Then a classic 7 levels:
And another 7-levels:
One with two persons in each level: 
Then there were two really impressive variations. One where they built two towers simultaneously: 

And one where, when the tower was complete...
...someone climbed up in the middle of the circles of people, while the ones around started going down... 

 Leaving a new tower in the middle, with a very proud little lady on the top smiling and waving to the public!

The little ones who climb all the way to the top, they are so cute, and some of them so small! Look at this one for instance! Climbing up 7 people and sliding down on the other side. Brave!

This post is already long so I'll come back to the beer festival in the next post!