As a part of the Sol program, we do a weekly guided cultural activity with our program director, German, and the rest of the students in the program (roughly twenty). For the first week, German took us around El Realejo. El Realejo is the barrio (neighborhood) around our school CLM. Realejo translates to royalty in Spanish and the neighborhood is a “royal” neighborhood because it is the old barrio of the nobles and princes of Granada. Indeed, there are many mansions and palaces near the school. We also toured a small cathedral nearby, an old sixteenth century, hotel-style building for passing princes, and Plaza Nueva, one of the main squares in Granada. Afterwards, we went to the Moorish streets just east of El Realejo. German explained how the Jews and Arabs were persecuted under King Fernando and Queen Isabelle (a marriage which also represented the union of Spain into one powerful country from two separate states). Granada was the sight of the final battle for Spain, and much of the history, especially of Moorish influence, is still easily seen in the art here. The “Teterías” are just a small example of this. They are the Arabic tea houses that are all located on two or three streets, known as the Teterías. There are also TONS of little shops and stands full of curiositos (little trinkets) of Morocco and Northern Africa. There are deep purple and gold carpets, incense, colorful little lamps, paintings, gold sculptures, silver art – everything you could imagine! We went into a popular tetería and had tea and cookies. It was very fun because everything was authentic to Morocco. The rooms were dark and lit by lamps, the tea was this specialty traditional Moroccan tea, the cookies were made with figs, almonds, and nuts that were also traditional to Morocco, and we even sat on small gold and royal green pillows around the table. It was a wonderful experience and I cannot wait to return later with some friends, perhaps after school since it is so nearby to our classes.
The second cultural activity we did was last Wednesday evening when we went out for tapas. Tapas are small appetizers that are given with drinks here at the bars. I should preface: there is an endless amount of bars here in Granada! It is part of the culture to go out and drink wine or coffee with friends between lunch and dinner and also after dinner. People of all ages are always going out and socializing deep into the night. Because you usually don’t have dinner until around 8 or 9 PM, there are people out until around 3 AM every night. It is not late or unusual here to meet with friends at midnight for drinks and tapas – not just young people, but adults and even seniors are out very late. That is something I’m still getting used to, because when it’s ten-o-clock, I knock out. Nonetheless, I’m pushing myself to stay out because I don’t want to miss out on this pivotal part of Granada culture. But back to tapas! Tapas are a tradition of all of Spain, but Granada is special because tapas are FREE here. That’s right, with the purchase of any non-water or tea drink, you get the choice of a tapa. The traditional tapas of Granada are typically some type of bread with smoked or aged ham, or perhaps cheese and grapes. [Side-note: one of my favorite sayings here is “Uvas y queso, saben a beso!” meaning grapes and cheese taste like kisses, but it sounds much better in Spanish!] Usually, the best bars are known for one or two tapas, so people go from bar to bar and enjoy a glass of wine with a different tapa. This is called “ir a marcha,” which is like American bar-hopping, but the main difference is that Spaniards slowly drink their wine or beer, enjoy a tapa, talk with friends, and casually move to the next bar. Although drinking wine and beer is typical for lunch and dinner (and also in-between) with friends, it is socially unacceptable to drink too much = in public. It is not common to over drink when you go en marcha. Of course, there are still a lot of bars and clubs here that are for the college students, but I am merely trying to separate the college bar scene and the Spanish culture bar scene.
It was very fun going out for tapas with everyone in Sol. I drank a “Tinto de Verano,” a very popular drink in Granada that is a mix of Sangria wine and lemonade soda. I also tried two different tapas, one of smoked ham on a tostada (bread) and another of fried fish. Both were absolutely delicious! I cannot wait to try all of the different tapas offered here in Granada. One thing is for sure, it will be a wonderful semester here in Spain!