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Showing posts from December, 2013

Gathered Thoughts From a Trip to Italy

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Earlier this week I came back to Spain after spending ten days in its southern European counterpart to the east, the Republic of Italy. I am so grateful to have had both the means and the opportunity to travel around the central part of this country, a country I have dreamed about visiting ever since first studying Latin in 5th grade. I flew into beautiful Florence and spent three nights there, making a daytrip to nearby Siena on my way down to Rome. In my four nights in the capital, I hit up the Vatican City, many ruins, a dozen famous churches, and ancient alleyways. Heading south to Naples, I browsed this sketchy city’s significant archaeological museum, ate pizza, and daytripped to Mt. Vesuvius and the Roman ruins of Pompeii.

The trip was expensive and exhausting, but experiencing some of the art, architecture, history, ruins, and food that are so foundational to Western culture was everything I had hoped it would be as well as a peek into Italian culture. There was a lot to take …

22 Fun Facts About the Galician Language

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Galician is a Romance language (i.e., from Latin) spoken by about 3 million people in Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia. Although it’s most closely related to Portuguese—which is spoken south of the border—it shares many similarities with Castilian Spanish, including sounds and spelling.

If you’re planning on spending any time traveling or living in this unique corner of Spain, or walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route that ends here, even a tiny knowledge of Galician will help you get around and navigate menus, maps, etc. If you happen to speak Spanish, you’re already 80% of the way to understanding Galician, and I’m serious! Getting a grasp on the grammatical and phonological differences will turbo boost you up to 90%.

To whet your appetite (both literally and linguistically), here’s a little selection from the Galician Wikipedia’s article on empanada, or meat pie:
Unha empanada é unha preparación culinaria consistente nunha masa e un recheo que se frixe ou coce no for…

Photo Post: Meknes, Morocco’s Forgotten Imperial City

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Of the four major cities that have served as capitals in Morocco’s past—Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, and Rabat—Meknes seems to be the most-overlooked Imperial City for most people coming to visit the country. It’s a mere half-hour train ride from Fez, yet many people pass it over on their way to Casablanca and Marrakesh. Admittedly, there isn’t a lot to see here and the real treat here are the Roman ruins of Volubilis, a half-hour grand taxi drive outside of town. Even Sufyan, a native meknassi I met on the train and who kindly guided me toward my hotel, assured me his city isn’t worth visiting and recommended I check out Marrakesh and Essaouira instead.

I myself would have skipped Meknes had I not wanted to see the Volubilis ruins, which are difficult to get to except as a daytrip from town. Thankfully in my hotel’s lobby I happened to overhear that a group of three Americans were trying to organize an intercity taxi to visit Volubilis, and when I asked if I could join them, they graciou…

6 Things to Do in Ourense, Spain: Galicia’s Best-Kept Secret

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In early November my flatmate and I took a spur-of-the-moment weekend trip to the city of Ourense. Pronounced “oe-oo-REHN-say” [owˈɾɛn.se], it’s the capital of Galicia’s only province without coastline. However disappointing that may sound to you, it shouldn’t be, because Ourense province is actually one of the most beautiful parts of Spain and even has its own Grand Canyon, the Cañon do Sil. I had little to no expectations about Ourense capital when I came, but I was very, very impressed by this place that no one (apart from my bilingual coordinator who is from the province) ever says boo about when talking about Galicia.

Ourense seems like a city that tourism is just about to uncover, but which is still relatively anonymous. I can expect that the arrival of the AVE (high-speed long distance trains) will bring many visitors from Madrid on weekenders, but for now, it’s got very few visitors so you’ll feel like you have the entire city to yourself. So what to do when you’re there? I rec…