Instead of having class on Fridays we take excursions around Spain to learn about its history and culture.Our first excursion was to a monastery, two castles, and a winery. First we went to the monastery Santa Maria La Real de Nieva which was constructed in the 15th century. Here we examined the Gothic architecture and compared it to the catholic images that were carved on the pillars surrounding the courtyard. The pillars had sculptures in relation to Spain such as the symbol of la autonomia of Castille y Leon and symbols of the catholic church such as Adam and Eve. Also a sculpture that looked surprisingly like Yoda and another that looked like people riding those snow creatures from Star Wars.
Next we visited the Castle Coca which was constructed in the mudejar style meaning that the architecture is Arabic and was designed by a Muslim artist or architect for Christian rulers. Though the castle was built for Christian rules it contains a lot of Muslim and Arabic influences such as geometry. This style of architecture can be found throughout Spain because of the conquista and Reconquista Spain has a lot of Muslim and Arabic influences.
This castle was built in the 15th century under the reign of Enrique IV, and was first used as a castle and later as a palace. I learned a lot of interesting (and some gruesome) things while on this excursion. For example although all the movies and books say that moats (un foso) contain water alas this is not true. Moats are not supposed to have water because this would make it easier for enemies to gain entrance to the Castle. Inside we wandered narrow corridors, up winding tower steps, and into many rooms of the castle such as the chapel. My favorite room was the Room of Secrets which had quite complex acoustics. There was a star carved on the floor with many points, and if one person were to stand on one point of the star and whisper into the wall the person standing on the opposite end of the point could hear their whispers through the wall. This room was used by the knights who would whisper secrets to one another. For my least favorite room there was a tie between the dungeon and the room above the dungeon. The room above the dungeon contained nothing but a hole in the middle which led down to the dungeon. The function of this hole was to throw enemies into the dungeon below. The hole was pretty small and if you didn’t fit? Welp, they would make you by cutting off a limb or your fat and then throw your skinnier self through the hole. The tour guide told us that there was no door to the dungeon so prisoners were thrown on top of dead and dying bodies. Since there was no door they would pour lime (which eats your skin by the way) down the hole to clean the blood. Super gruesome. It was creepy standing in the dungeon knowing that at some point in time people had been thrown down there.
The next castle, Castle de Cuellar, was completely different than the Castle of Coca. Where the Castle of Coca was red with many squares and rectangles, Castle de Cuellar was white with only circles. The castle was not mudejar style and its style contained only Christian influences. This castle served as a palace, military barracks, and now a high school. High school would have been so much better if it was in a castle!
Our final stop was La Bodega Marlaporte which is a winery and a vineyard. It was really hard to understand the owner because he talked so fast but I did learn a few things. 1: Red wine is better for you because the nutrients are in the skin. 2: white wine is cooked without the skin that’s why its white, Rosado (not sure the name in English) is pink because it’s cooked with the skin for five hours, and red wine is red because it’s cooked with the skin the whole time. 3: the wine is fermented for five years. 4: rose bushes are places at the end of each line of grapes because they are very fragile. If the roses die then the owner knows that something is wrong. 5: oak barrels are important for fermentation because it allows the perfect amount of oxygen and the water vapor flows out of the barrel during the aging process. All in all a very interesting and educational trip.