- Luna Anna Archey/Daily
By Luna Anna Archey, Staff Photographer
Published August 7, 2014
It isn't difficult to be completely blissful when you are touring around cities you’ve seen on postcards and calendars your whole life. That is why I am thankful to have spent the first six weeks of my two months overseas immersing myself in the culture of a smaller mountain city in the southern Spanish region of Andalucia hosted by a lovely Spanish family.
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Even though the city is roughly double the size, Granada reminded me of Ann Arbor in many ways. It is the site of a major university and therefore home to many young students – Spanish and international. With help from my 20-year-old host sister, I found it simple to assimilate as a visitor and feel more like one of the natives that call Granada home.
Although the ancient palace Alhambra brings many tourists to the city, I found the culture of southern Spain thriving with an active community of artisans, performers, and local business owners. Unlike other tourist-centric cities that I visited this summer, it was rare to come across someone that spoke English in Granada. Not only did this make me more appreciative during my later adventures in Italy when someone knew English, but it encouraged me even more learn Spanish. The Andalucian accent was not be the easiest to adapt to, but I was able to communicate more with universal body language.
Hailing from a country that isn’t even three centuries old makes it almost unfathomable to comprehend that the origins of Granada began over a thousand years ago. The history of Granada is rich with conflict and changing conquerors, leaving a mezcla (mixture) of cultural traditions with origins in Jewish, Arab, Gitano, and Spanish tradition. The combination of different cultures, and old and new influences in the city, were extremely interesting to me. It wasn’t uncommon to see a local market in front of a gothic Catholic cathedral, young bars overlooking a medieval fortress, and mopeds racing down centuries old cobblestone streets.
Being in one city for roughly two-thirds of my time in Europe helped me to see the later cities I visited as more than just a tourist. I am grateful to my host family for their unending generosity and enthusiasm as they talked to me about their home city Bilbao over never-ending delicious pizza. Thank you to every café owner, for your patience as I attempted to communicate in a foreign language, and to every guide that graciously taught us in slow, simple Spanish. Finally, I am thankful for every single one of the classmates that journeyed through this amazing adventure with me.