Three Weeks in Spain (and What it Taught Me About Life)
by Peter Psaltakis, WSA business development
My September was characterized by three weeks in three of Spain’s biggest cities: Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla. I witnessed the capital city’s lavishness, partied like a rock star on the beach, and sampled a taste of the country’s Moorish history. More importantly, I basked in the Mediterranean lifestyle and took away a few critical lessons from this Iberian adventure:
1)Life doesn’t need to move at breakneck speed.
Due to the geography of my immediate family, my life has centered around two very busy, hardworking, educated, and competitive cities: Washington, DC, and New York City. Although my family doesn’t necessarily embody the “hustle-bustle” mentality espoused by many residents of these places, the ideas of “power, bigger, better, and richer” are very prevalent as these masses attempt to climb up the social ladder into upper stratum through financial gain and material accumulation. Yet in Spain, I couldn’t feel any further removed from these attitudes: the Spanish people still take afternoon siestas, appear to be staunch believers in evening drinks and late, slow dinners, and are totally captivated on weekends by two obligatory, religious events: church and soccer. Yes, the country might be one of the least-employed in Western Europe, but judging from the number of jovial men hanging out in tavernas and outdoor cafes, it doesn’t seem like the issue’s that pressing (so long as German money keeps flowing into Spain’s coffers).
2) Why have it all at once when you can enjoy all the small things?
The dining culture of most western countries can be typified by the meal progression of appetizers to main course to dessert. This entails sampling merely three types of dishes. Spain’s famous for its tapas and through careful selection and meal curation, you can enjoy a similar quantity of food but with 3-4x the diversity. Savor the small things in life… like tapas.
3)There’s beauty in death
To the dismay of animal rights groups worldwide, bullfighting is an institutional pastime that still captures national attention and exudes excitement all across Spain. While in Sevilla, I attended my first (and last) bullfight to see what could be so exciting about the ceremonial slaughter of six healthy beasts by men in sparkly, frilly costumes and silly hats. I arrived midway through the first fight and perched myself amidst a crowd of old men shouting “ole” every time the matador swooped his cape and dodged goring by mere inches from a creature that must have weighted 10 times his weight. With each swoop and pass, the tiring bull blew by the dancing matador before the man plunged his sword into the bull’s heart and finished the match. Though not exactly pretty or for those with a weak stomach, the bullfight became almost a metaphor for how grace and tact could overcome brute force, and to the Spaniards, the match was an art.
4) Party like there’s no tomorrow
Spain knows how to get down and party. Complete with cheap drinks, melodic house music beats, and clubs that don’t stop until the wee hours of the morning, Spain’s big cities are a haven for party-goers. Coupled with cheap drink, warm weather, and aggressive dance floors, Spain’s party scene is filled with sex appeal. But if clubbing isn’t quite your cup of tea, seductive Flamenco shows and rambunctious chupito bars are also guaranteed to get your blood flowing.
If your life’s getting you down or you need to restore your faith in humanity, a trip to Spain is exactly what the doctor prescribed.
The trip to Budapest was amazing! I did not know what to expect from Budapest because my roommate just told me to go with her so I was up for anything, but it ended up being one of my favorite trips so far of my study abroad experience. The hostel we stayed at gave us an excellent taste of the Budapest night life while Bogi took us to places that I definitely would not have been able to get to on my own or had known about if not for her WSA tour. It was a great weekend and I highly recommend it.Mary Reagan, Saint Louis University ~ St. Louis University, Madrid, Spring 2015
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