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Showing posts from June, 2014

Photo Post: Moulay Idriss, Morocco’s Spiritual Birthplace

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As I explored Spain’s neighbor to the south, Morocco, during Semana Santa last year (Easter break), one of the spots on my hitlist was ruined Roman city of Volubilis. I thought it was such a fascinating place not only because of the cool monuments and half-standing houses, but also because it seemed so out of place outside mainland Europe—and yet, there the Roman ruins were, a silent reminder of the reach of the Roman Empire. Although Volubilis has long since drifted into oblivion, its community continues to this day a hop, skip, and a jump away in the town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, situated atop two hills.

Trivia buffs might like to learn that Moulay Idriss is home to Morocco’s only circular minaret, a stout tower decorated in green and white mosaics that spell out pixelated Arabic script. But the real reason this town’s on the map goes back to the year 788 CE, when a man fleeing Arabia with a bounty on his head named Idriss (who also happened to be a great-grandson of Muhammad) cam…

Teruel, Spain: An Architecture-Lover’s Dream

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Perhaps the highlight of my late winter trip around Aragón, a landlocked region in east-central Spain, was the lonely, oft-forgotten city of Teruel. Although it’s the capital city of the province of the same name, Teruel is home to a mere 35,000 people—as much as the mid-sized town of Úbeda, where I lived two years ago—and is one of the remotest corners of the country; Teruel doesn’t even a direct train connection with Madrid. The area was so isolated up until recently that a group called Teruel Existe (“Teruel Exists”) was formed to bring attention to the neglected province. Due to their efforts, a new highway now links Zaragoza with Valencia, passing through Teruel.

So how did I come to love this scarcely heard-of outpost in the middle-of-nowhere Spain? Well, for one, several of the city’s monuments form the core of the Mudéjar Architecture of Aragón World Heritage Site; basically, in Teruel there’s a priceless collection of unique medieval architecture lying in plain sight! My inne…

Zaragoza, Spain: The Aragonese Metropolis

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As February was making way for March to arrive, I was taking a much-needed break out east from cold and rainy Galicia to…cold and windyAragón. I wasn’t able to escape winter but I relished the chance to break free from two months of non-stop rain (literally; it had rained every single day) and to explore another part of Spain just as unique as Galicia.

My first stop was the regional capital, Zaragoza. Pronounced “thah-rah-GOE-thah” [θa.ɾaˈɣo.θa], it’s been an major city in the area ever since Roman times, and today more than half of Aragón’s population calls Zaragoza home, making it Spain’s fifth biggest city. Sitting along the banks of the Ebro River, Zaragoza finds itself in a strategic location halfway between Madrid and Barcelona with a high-speed train station and an airport to serve its more than 700,000 residents. Most of them are local Aragonese who fled the countryside to find work in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but quite a few are immigrants from Morocco, Sub-Saharan Africa, China, a…

How to Ride the Train in Spain

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One of my favorite things about living in Spain—apart from speaking Spanish, eating good food, and seeing layers of centuries-old history around me—is riding the train around the country. Although the network may not be nearly as comprehensive as France’s, for example, it reaches nearly all corners of the country, making it possible to explore Spain solely by public transportation.

It’s super easy to take advantage of Spain’s extensive network of regional and long-distance trains, but it can be a little dizzying or confusing the first time you arrive if you don’t know what the heck you’re doing (hello, Trevor from 2012!).

In this blog post I’d like to share nearly everything I know about Spanish trains, divided into the following categories: the main divisions of the network (e.g., commuter vs. cross-country), big stations and regional hubs, where you can cross into France and Portugal, the current state of the high-speed network, a breakdown of the various fares you can buy, how to a…