Showing posts from June, 2014

Photo Post: Moulay Idriss, Morocco’s Spiritual Birthplace

One of the two hills 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 the 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 Roman ruins seemed so out of place outside of Europe—and yet, there they 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. Circular minaret 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 als

Teruel, Spain: An Architecture-Lover’s Dream

Perhaps the highlight of my late winter trip around Aragón , a landlocked region in east-central Spain, was the lonely, forgotten city of Teruel.  Although it’s the capital city of the province of the same name, Teruel is home to merely 35,000 people 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. Thanks to their efforts, a highway now connects  Zaragoza  with Valencia  and passes through Teruel. Teruel Cathedral So how did I come to love this scarcely-heard-of outpost in 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.  Teruel has a priceless collection of unique medieval architecture lying in plain sight! My inner history and architecture nerds could barely contain them

Zaragoza, Spain: The Aragonese Metropolis

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 windy Aragón . 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. Pilar Basilica and the Ebro River at the blue hour My first stop was the regional capital, Zaragoza . Pronounced “thah-rah-GO-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 is about 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 Mo

How to Ride the Train in Spain

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. Although the network may not be nearly as comprehensive as France’s, it reaches nearly all corners of the country, making it possible to explore Spain solely by public transportation. (Source: Mikel Ortega ) 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.  You’ll learn about 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 actually buy a tic