For Thanksgiving it was just us, so we didn’t fix a turkey. Instead we had brown sugar balsamic pork tenderloin, balsamic and parmesan Brussels sprouts, and sweet potato casserole with candied pecans.. oh and some cranberry sauce for Morgan! The sweet potato casserole reminded me of my mom’s pumpkin pie cake, but I can’t wait to have the real thing we visit around the holidays!
I’ve got a few pictures from the farmers market recently- I loved all the Christmas-y floral arrangements. I’d never seen cotton stems used in arrangements, but it looked really pretty. Also there were oranges and clementine’s everywhere – I guess they followed us back from Spain!
The Osnabrück Weihnachtsmarkt opened on November 25 and we went down there for the first time on the 27th. We had grillschinken mit brot (so sliced ham on a roll with cabbage and sauce on top) for dinner, drank some glühwein and feuerzangenbowle, and had some mutzen for dessert. Glühwein is hot mulled wine with spices in it (red is more common but you can get white too) and feuerzangenbowle is an alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine- both are pretty tasty but can seriously ruin your gloves if you aren’t careful and spill on them! Glühwein is served in normal coffee mugs, but feuerzangenbowle is served in clay mugs (I’ve got some pictures below). I love walking around looking at the stands that sell geschenke (gifts). There are stands for children’s toys, stuffed animals, smokers/Christmas pyramids/wooden ornaments, Christmas village houses, star paper lanterns, candy/cookie stands, etc. It is really beautiful to walk around. I know most people prefer to travel in the summer since the weather is pleasant for walking around outside all day, but I think people should consider visiting Germany in December. Yes it is cold, but as long as you are properly dressed it isn’t that bad and the chance to see the Christmas markets and some is really special.
We had breakfast at La Canasta at Plaza de la Constitucion then toured the Málaga Cathedral (called La Manquita (the One-Armed Lady by the locals). The altar piece and choir stalls were really impressive. The ceiling detail was also beautiful, but sadly the ceiling adornments are falling off so they have huge nets strung up to catch the pieces. Next we headed to Castillo de Gibralfaro which sits up on a hill overlooking Málaga. It was originally built in the 10th century and then expanded by Yusef 1 (Sultan of Granada- the same guy who expanded Alhambra around this time) at the beginning of the 14th century as a fortress and royal residence. It is famous for its three-month siege by the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella –which was the first conflict in which gunpowder was used by both sides. Next we headed farther up the hill/mountain (this walk was really painful!) to the Alcazaba – a palatial fortification built in the early 11th century. The one in Málaga is the best preserved alcazaba (citadel) in Spain. The view from up there was really beautiful and that was the main thing to see- the walls surrounding the alcazaba were just about all that was left. When we got back down to the bottom of the mountain (near the entrance to Castillo de Gibralfaro) we passed the Roman theatre which dates from the 1st century BC. Way before Málaga was part of the Roman Empire it was founded by the Phoenicians in 770BC, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. Other claims to fame – Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas were born here.
We ate lunch sitting outside by the theater, watching a couple kids throw oranges repeated up at an orange tree trying to knock more down. By the end of lunch there were probably 20 oranges on the ground and they had annoyed several people passing by who they nearly hit with flying oranges. It was pretty funny! After lunch we walked around the shopping area a little more and ate some ice cream sitting on a bench in Plaza de la Constitucion. After that we ran home to change into something warmer before it got dark and then checked out Iglesia de Los Martires – which is one of the four churches built by the Catholic Monarchs in the walled perimeter of the city after conquering Spain in 1487. We had some time to kill before the place we were eating dinner was going to open, so we walked around a little more down by the water and then grabbed a drink at La Tranca before getting dinner at Tepito. Tepito is a restaurant owned by a family from Mexico and it was amazing! We haven’t found a good Mexican place in Osnabrück, so it was a real treat to have some delicious Mexican food! As you can see from the picture, the restaurant is literally 12 feet wide- only the kitchen is inside.. it is all outdoor seating so I was glad we had changed first. I guess they can get away with it since the “summer” season lasts about 8 months in Málaga!
We did a calculation on the plan home Saturday – we’re pretty sure Morgan ate about 150 olives while we were in Spain. Most places (bar or restaurant) give you a bowl of olives when you order and we’re guessing each time you get 15ish. Since I’m not an olive fan that means Morgan at them all! You’d probably think Morgan would need a break from olives, but no, he has already bought a spoonful from our farmers market.
On Thursday we left the mountains of Granada for the beaches of the Mediterranean coast where Málaga is. On the way out of town we drove by the Monasterio de la Cartuja. Sadly we didn’t get to go in since it wasn’t open yet. The sacristy here is supposed to be really beautiful, I was sad to miss it! The highway we were driving south on goes right by the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountains so it was a really pretty drive all the way down to the coast. We pulled over at a few vista points plus stopped at a few beach side restaurants (we were pretty hungry by this point) but they were all either closed or were really, really expensive. Once we made it to a larger city we found a place to eat and then took our first walk on the beach and stuck our feet in the Mediterranean for the first time. Though it was sunny and fairly warm out (low 70’s) the water was already pretty chilly. We always manage to visit places where I need to stick my feet in the water when it is already cold – my first time in San Francisco it was May a couple years ago and the Pacific was still cold then we visited South Africa this June and since that is their winter the Indian Ocean was cold as well. I’m thinking Morgan needs to make it up to me with a trip to Italy or Greece in the summer!
We drove a little further to Playa Benajarafe in Velez Málaga – from what I’ve read this is where all the locals from Málaga go when they want to get out of the city and go to the beach. Even though it was a beautiful day to sit out in the sun, we pretty much had the beach to ourselves. After skipping rocks (well Morgan skipped and I tried) and walking around the beach for a while we got back on the road to Málaga.
Once we dropped our stuff at our apartment we headed towards city center. We walked around Plaza de la Merced the main square in Málaga (also the home where Picasso was born looks out on this square). Next we visited Iglesia de Santiogo (which is near Plaza de la Merced) which was founded in 1490 and has a detailed baroque interior. Pablo Picasso was baptized here and his baptismal certificate is on display. Next we walked down Calle Marques de Larios, the main shopping street, and looked in a few of the stores (and noted where all the fabulous looking ice cream places were!) before going to dinner at El Mesón de Cervantes. Morgan found out about it on TripAdvisor and it turned out to be the best meal we had the entire trip! We ordered shrimp, spicy potato, mushroom, squid & spinach, and chicken with sweet potatoe tapas. Then our server suggested one more – a pork dish with pineapple chutney and roasted pumpkin – which turned out to be our favorite (so we ordered a second one later). All the food was soooo good. We finished things off with some chocolate mousse- which also was really amazing. If you ever end up in Málaga we would definitely recommend eating here.
We had to be at Alhambra at 7:30 am (which is pitch black this time of year and was really, really cold) in order to pick up our tickets and be in line for the Nasrid Palace before our 8:30 time slot (the number of people allowed into the Nasrid Palace is very limited so you have to go in during your time slot or you miss out!). We spent 5 hours at Alhambra, but you could easily spend the entire day.
Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex originally built in 889 for the last Muslim emirs (royalty) in Spain and its court of the Nasrid dynasty. After the Reconquista in 1492 some portions were used for Christian rulers and in 1527 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperer built a palace here within the Nasrid fortifications. The complex is divided into four main components: Alcazaba (the 13th century fortress), Palacios Nazaries (Royal Nasrid Palaces), the Generalife (the sultan’s summer palace and gardens), and the Palace of Charles V. The inside of the Nasrid Palaces are decorated with columns, muqarnas (which is architectural ornamentation that look similar to stalactites that can be in the domes of many of the rooms in the Nasrid Palaces), painted tiles, arabesques, and calligraphy. Arabesques (per Wikipedia) are surface decorations based on rhythmic linear patters or scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils, or plain lines. These were often around windows (there are examples in the pictures below, they are just beautiful!). The Alcazaba served a military function – this is where the sultan would plan defensive strategy during war time and was a small city where the royal guards who patrolled the city lived. From the walls of the Alcazaba were beautiful views of Granada. The Palace of Charles V looks pretty different from the rest of the complex since it was built in a Roman style. Its addition to the previously Muslim complex was to symbolize the triumph of Christianity over Islam. Inside there is a large open round space that we could see, but the inside is not still intact (it actually wasn’t finished until the 1900’s during restoration of the complex) and is currently where two museums are located. The Generalife was built between the 12th and 14th centuries as a place of rest for the Royals. It was designed as a rural villa in the vicinity of the Alhambra, with decorative gardens, fruit and vegetable patches, courts and other structures. The Generalife may be my favorite part of the entire complex. There is a lot more detail I could go into on Alhambra, but this post would be 10 pages long.. sooo I’ll let the pictures do the talking and you can always read up on the history more on the internet. Here is a good website I found: http://www.alhambra-patronato.es.
We drove back to our apartment from Alhambra to park our car and then walked into town to do a little more sightseeing. We ate a late lunch and then visited the Monastery of San Jerónimo. It has a beautiful two-tiered cloister and a very ornately frescoed church. We couldn’t get over the altarpiece! Next we ran (in the rain) to the Cathedral which was finished in 1563. Size wise it seemed just as big as the Cathedral in Seville, but from what I’ve read it must be a bit smaller. The aisles were fairly plain (all white with huge columns and arches), but the nave and some of the chapels were really beautifully done. I really like the blue ceiling with gold stars in the nave dome.
Next we ran (literally) around the Cathedral in the pouring down rain to get to the entrance of the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel). The Catholic Monarchs Fernando and Isabel commissioned it after the fall of Moorish Granada as their own mausoleum. The King and Queen have amazing carved Carrera marble sarcophagi and there is a museum that contains Isabel’s crown and scepter, her ornate jewelry chest, Fernando’s sword, and an impressive art collection. Sadly you aren’t allowed to take pictures in here, so you’ll have to look it up online! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Chapel_of_Granada
At this point we are soaked (my Toms are totally soaked through) so we went in a little café and ordered some café con leche and churros con chocolate (which was amazing). We walked around town a little more looking in some of the stores to give me and Morgan a break – this whole area had huge marble or granite tiles that I keep slipping on! Without Morgan’s help I probably would have broken something. At this point it is getting dark, so we start walking back towards our place (it takes about 40 min to walk there – though the listing said it was a “short 15 min walk” – yeah right!) and stop at a restaurant the apartment owner had suggested. Bodegas Espadafor was a place “locals” go and turned out to be really good and very reasonably priced. With each round of wine the owner brought us a tapa that paired with it – he was really nice and helpful!
We woke up early to get on the road to Córdoba, which is about an hour and a half from Seville. Similar to the drive between Malaga and Seville with its olive trees, the drive between Seville and Córdoba was full of orange trees – the groves would stretch out as far as we could see on either side of the road. About half way to Córdoba we spotted an old fortress on the top of a mountain so we made a little detour to check it out. It turned out to be Castillo de Almodóvar – an Arab fortress built around 740 (though it was in ruins by the late 1800’s and was restored by Earl XII Torralva beginning in 1901). Almodóvar was important to the defense of Córdoba due to its strategic location on a hill next to the river Guadalquivir. When we stopped it wasn’t open yet and we needed to get on to Córdoba, but it is supposedly really interesting inside. Here is the link if you want to read more about it: http://castillodealmodovar.com/el-castillo/.
Córdoba is actually a pretty interesting city – it was a Roman city in ancient times and then during the Middle Ages it became the capital of an Islamic Caliphate (kingdom) which covered almost all of current day Spain and part of Northern Africa. In the 10th century Córdoba was the most populous city in the world and it was considered the intellectual center of Europe (it had many libraries, universities and medical schools).
When we got to Córdoba we went to the Great Mosque of Córdoba (in Spanish La Mezquita) first since it was going to require the greatest about of time and we were hoping to beat the bus loads of people that visit it. It was a medieval Islamic mosque from 784 until 1236 when Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile (the Reconquista) and the mosque was converted to a Catholic church. Even with looking at pictures taken by Antje (our German teacher and friend) when she visited; we still weren’t prepared for how expansive (about 250,000 square feet) and impressive the inside is (especially all the red and white voussoirs). The most notable feature is probably the prayer hall with its 856 columns made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite. These materials were made from pieces of the Roman temple which was on the site previously as well as other Roman buildings that had been destroyed. After the Reconquista a Renaissance cathedral nave was added to the middle of the structure (which we agreed ends up looking kind of funny since the two styles are so different!).
When we finished up in the Mosque we walked around the old Jewish quarter and ate lunch sitting out in the sun (though when we got the bill we found out they charge 20% extra for sitting outside…). Next we walked down to the river, seeing the Albolafia mill, the Roman Bridge, the Tower of Calahorra and the Puerta del Puente. Again, we were so lucky the weather was so nice.. the sky was so blue! When we finished up with our wandering around Córdoba we got back in the car to drive to Granada. After 40 (stressful) minutes of extra driving around Granada in rush hour traffic trying to find the apartment we rented, we finally found it and got checked in. We didn’t do much sight-seeing this night, we just walked towards city center and grabbed dinner before heading back to our place to get to bed early…we had to wake up pretty early the next morning to go to Alhambra!
We grabbed breakfast at a restaurant at the Plaza de la Encarnación (Morgan had serrano ham on his breakfast sandwich!) and then headed over to Casa de Pilatos – a really beautiful 16th century mansion. It is full of azulejos (Moorish tiles), decorated coffered ceilings, Roman and Greek statues, lots of arches and two gardens. The bottom level we were free to walk around on our own, but the upstairs we had to see with a tour group and they didn’t allow pictures. Unlike the downstairs, the upstairs is still completely furnished and the walls are covered with big tapestries and paintings, rather than the tiles that are on the first floor.
We walked over to Plaza de España which is a huge complex that was built for the world fair held in Seville in 1929 and is located in Maria Luisa Park. It is mainly made of red bricks, but there are colorful painted ceramic tiles used all over it. We walked through the park and then followed the River Guadalquivir up to the Isabell II bridge (the bridge that goes over to Triana) passing Torre del Oro (a military watchtower that was built in the 13th century). Before crossing the bridge we ate a huge lunch at a pub (we wanted a break from tapas) and went on a tour of the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla. Real Maestranza was completed in 1765 and is the oldest bullring in the world. We did the guided tour which was pretty interesting, but I will admit I was glad we missed bull fighting season.
When we finished up at the bullring we walked across the bridge to Triana – a neighborhood across the river that is famous for its pottery and tile industry. I even talked Morgan into picking up a ceramic dish from Ceramica Santa Ana. J There were also lots of interesting buildings on that side of the town – most of them involving lots of tile! Before walking back across the river we stopped and had some sangria on the rooftop bar of a little building right on the water. It was a little pricy, but totally worth the view as the sun was setting.
We wandered around the shopping district to kill some time until the restaurant we wanted to eat at (another one the apartment owners recommended) opened – restaurants open pretty late in Spain. Most weren’t open before 7, some not until 8 pm. It was another tapas place, but what made it interesting was they had stadium seating in the back. I didn’t think I was graceful enough to eat sitting back there and thankfully we got a regular table! After dinner we bought some roasted chestnuts (there were guys selling these on every corner) and walked around a little more near where we had eaten dinner. We even ran across an area of wedding dress shops surrounding a church – pretty convenient I’d say!
We started off the day going to mass at Cathedral de Sevilla and looked around the church a little, but we were pretty hungry by this point (and the ushers didn’t want people taking pictures until the Church opened up to visitors that afternoon) so we headed to Barrio Santa Cruz; which is the old Jewish quarter with Moorish architecture and very narrow cobblestone streets. We ate breakfast here in the Plaza de los Venerables, in front of the Hospital de Venerables Sacerdotes and La Hosteria Del Laurel – which is where José Zorrilla stayed in 1844 while writing the play Don Juan Tenorio. We walked around Santa Cruz a little more and then got in line to see Reales Alcázares (Royal Palace). The Royal Alcazars of Sevilla was built in the 14th century, but has Moorish/Muslim and Christian details since later inhabitants made their own additions. The Spanish royal family uses this has their home when in Seville, making it the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe! The architecture, colorful tile work, intricate carved ceilings, etc were unlike anything we’d ever seen (here and on the rest of our trip) before. Hence all the pictures you’ll see below.. I’ve had the hardest time narrowing down the almost 2,000 pictures we took!
As a side note, an alcázar is a type of castle in either Spain or Portugal built by kings to live in. It is derived from an Arabic word (القصر), meaning “fort, castle or palace”. Since we saw a few of these, thought that information might help! Another side note, the Cathedral and the Reales Alcázares are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
After seeing the inside of the Reales Alcázares and the gardens we ate lunch and then went back to see the Church and go up in the Giralda Tower. The Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (the full name) is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third largest cathedral in the world (behind St. Paul’s in London and St. Peter’s in Rome). Construction started in 1402 (there was a mosque here previously that had been converted to a church but it was badly damaged in an earthquake) and ended in 1506.. just 5 years later the dome collapsed and they had to rebuild it! The cathedral as 80 chapels and this is where Christopher Columbus is buried. One thing we noticed during mass that morning was that there weren’t many seats – maybe enough pews to seat 200 people (max) and there are huge amounts of open room on either side of the alter running the length of the church.. maybe they bring out folding chairs (or something similar) around Easter/Christmas, etc? Otherwise I guess a lot of people stand! Our one complaint – they charge 8 euros per person to see the church.. this seems a little high to us! Especially since the Church already takes a chunk of Morgan’s pay check each month here in Germany…
Next we walked up to the top of the Giralda tower – which is the bell tower of the Cathedral. Previously it was the minaret (construction finished in 1198) of the mosque that stood on the site during Muslim rule and was converted to a bell tower after the Reconquista. It is actually pretty easy to walk up to the top of it because you walk up gradually rising ramps instead of steps (unlike, for instance, the Cologne Cathedral which almost killed us.. right Kelly and Austin?). It was built with ramps because the Moors used to charge up the ramps on horseback to call people to prayer- which I thought was pretty interesting. Too bad you can’t still ride a horse up to the top! From the top (37 ramps up) there were some really pretty views of the city- totally worth it.
When we finished up here we did some people watching sitting by the fountain in the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes which borders the Cathedral, the Reales Alcázares, and the Archbishop’s Palace. From here we grabbed some sangria and then dinner before going to Aire Baños Árabes. It was totally relaxing – they have thermal baths, hammam (a steam bath, similar to a Turkish bath, but with essential oils infused in the steam .. so it smells awesome!) and jacuzzi’s plus you can have a massage, facial, etc. They also had a relaxation room where the stone benches were heated so you could sit or lay on them and they provided hot tea, cold fruit tea, water, etc. Everything was lit with candle light in these huge Arabic style lanterns… it was really beautiful. I was a little worried before we booked (Europeans are totally fine with being naked around each other in saunas (I’ve saw enough naked 70 year old German women to last me a life time when we went to the pool for my birthday – I got out of the shower room as quick as I could!) so I thought we might run into that here. Thankfully they require swimsuits and give you these water shoes to wear the whole time so you don’t slip on the floors. I would totally recommend doing this if you ever end up in Spain (I think they have these in most large cities)!
Morgan had a week of vacation on the calendar for mid-November (he is only allowed to carry over a few days of vacation so he had to use up some days) and we were lucky to find some great deals on Ryan Air from our local airport to Spain (it was only 80 euros for both of our round trip tickets!). From FMO they fly to Barcelona and Málaga, however all the Barcelona flights were full for the time period we wanted to go… so Malaga it was; which turned out to be amazing. Málaga is on the southern cost of Spain (right on the Mediterranean) and it was a great starting/ending point for (what turned into) our road trip around Andalusia. At first we had thought about just staying in one spot, but after looking into the area I figured we had to see more than just Málaga. We were so lucky- the weather was beautiful while we were there. Other than one afternoon of rain the weather was perfect – sunny and mid 70’s during the day. It was a welcome break from cold/foggy/rainy Germany.
When we landed in Málaga we picked up our rental car and got on the road to Seville, which was about a 2 hour drive. The couple we were renting from had warned us that driving in the old part of Seville is a bad idea, so they recommended we should park at the train station. We drove around the train station, but all the lots were pretty expensive (30 euros a day) and they had said it would be free, so to avoid missing our meeting time with them we just drove over to the apartment. Esshh, it was sooo stressful! We were driving down these tiny roads that are barely wide enough for one car… several times I thought we were going to hit parked cars or buildings. We did find a garage just two blocks from our apartment and we decided to leave the car there for our entire stay. The free parking near the train station was street parking and we were worried about the rental car being bumped into (in Spain they use their bumpers – literally- when parking) so we thought the garage was safer.
We had a really cute little apartment in a 16th century theater near the Plaza de la Encarnación. The owners were really helpful and gave us lots of good restaurant suggestions. The bed was up in a loft area, which was the only thing I wasn’t really a fan of – poor Morgan and to army crawl to get into bed and I was constantly afraid we’d fall over the edge. After getting checked in we walked to one of the dinner spots they recommended – El Rinconcillo- which was a great local place (no English menus here!). We tried the Coquinas de la Casa (what we thought would be a sampler because it was 13 euros turned out to be a huge plate of mussels), the Espinacas con garbanzos (which was cooked spinach with chick peas, garlic, and butter), and the Tortillas de chorizo (what I thought would be chorizo in a tortilla like what we are used to in the US turned out to be a chorizo omelet… yep tortilla in Spanish means omelet – who knew?)- everything was delicious! On the walk back to our apartment we grabbed some helados (ice cream); which turned out to be a common theme while we were in Spain…the ice cream down there was amazing!
Morgan picked up a new wetsuit and put it to use a few times in October. He was able to squeeze in a few windsurfing trips before the end of the season (no windsurfing is allowed on the Dümmer See from November 1st to March 31st).
Also in October I made a new friend – Jodi from South Dakota. She is married to Ben who is German (they both work for ZF and they have a little daughter named Ella) and we were introduced by one of Morgan’s work buddies. Morgan and I went to their house for dinner and then the next week she had me over to her house in Ankum for lunch. She had made a homemade pizza and then we went for a walk around town (well make that village). She took me to see the Artländer Dom which is the second largest in Lower Saxony (the first is the Dom in Osnabrueck).. which is pretty funny since Ankum is pretty tiny – approx. 7,000 people whereas Osnabruck has close to 175k. We grabbed some eis (icecream) and then walked through town and over to the lake. On the way back to her house we cut through the cemetery behind the church which was actually pretty interesting. In Germany the burial plots are maintained like little gardens and it isn’t an option. If you don’t have time, you pay for a company to do it. Also burial plots are rented for 20 or 30 years, not bought. When your lease is up, your family is asked if they want to renew or not. If they don’t your tombstone is removed from the spot and someone else can be buried on top of you. Interesting huh? I guess when land is more limited you have to come up with ideas like this. It probably sounds weird, but the cemeteries are really pretty to walk through.
November 1st we went with a big group to Bremen to the Freimarkt – which was pretty much a big fair that lasts for about a month. There are rides (small kids’ rides plus bigger roller coasters), food stands, beer stands, games, etc. We road one of the roller coasters (only one because it was 7euros per person!), did some people watching/walking around, and the boys played a shooting game. Then we made our way to the main event – the Oktoberfest tent. We had reserved 3 tables (10 people at each) in the private part of the tent. The tent itself was huge- it sits a couple thousand people plus there are bar areas and a huge stage with a live band. They actually had a lot of meal options – I went for the wurst salat (kind of like potato salad but with meat slices instead) and Morgan had some bratwurst, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut… plus we had a couple beers. And I say a couple because the drink sizes are HUGE (1 liter glasses) so you can’t really drink much more than that. We also tried these little Feigling’s shots. They come in 5 or 6 flavors – we had the original Feigling flavor on the train (yep here it is ok to drink on the train and we weren’t the only ones… there was a group of 40ish mom’s drinking champagne the whole way there!) and tried Apple pie while in the tent. They also have an “American Popcorn” flavor- who wants to come visit us and try it?! It was a really fun night with a few of Morgan’s work friends plus some of their family and friends!
Also in early November we got our first care package from back home! Thanks to Beth and Tyler we’ve now got lots of goodies from back home – including some Starbucks Peppermint Mocha packets and some pumpkin bread mix! Big thank you to them!! 🙂