Sightseeing three Spanish cities in one day during a pandemic? Done! And most of that by walking. This is how six young Macedonians spent an incredible week in Spain in late August 2021.
We started our journey by flying to Madrid from Sofia. We were supposed to eventually arrive in Castrillo de la Vega for our youth exchange titled “Newsfakers”. It was a long and tiring travel, but the sight of Madrid’s cheerful and vibrant streets and squares was definitely worth it. Of course the first thing we tried to leave our luggage in one of the “Locker in the city” through Madrid’s central area, but, believe it or not, there was no space left. All lockers were taken! But that didn’t discourage us – we didn’t hesitate for a moment to continue wandering the streets, strolling our suitcases behind, with little or no sleep at all, and by this time starving for a tortilla or churros. And we even managed to take quite a few great photos: explorer look in front of Plaza Mayor – great!; weird tired look waiting for the bus on Plaza Castilla – ok!; looking relieved while drinking beer or “una copa de cerveza” – and getting a free “tapa” – amazing!
Our bus arrived at 17 and we headed to our hostel in Castrillo de la Vega, a small village 160 km from Madrid. It was a bus full of young people from six different countries, all impatiently waiting to get to know each other better and have fun together. The activities during the sessions were great, but the trips were even better. That is why I’m focusing on them here. 😉
On our second day, we paid a visit to the village (our hostel was half an hour walking from it). On our way, we were greeted by never-ending vineyards – a landmark of the Ribera del Duero wine region. We picked some grapes to try – tiny but sweet. In the village, we bought some drinks (never enough for the parties that lasted all night long), crisps and hygiene products in the local market and then sat in a small restaurant to have a burger because we would miss dinnertime in the hostel and would be starving by the time we arrive back at the hostel.
On our third day of the exchange, the organizers took us to Burgos – the former capital of Spain, and also the Spanish gastronomy capital. Burgos – an ancient city with narrow cobblestone streets and grand churches and cathedrals. For us it was simply charming! It is true that smaller cities have the charm and magic that metropolises lose due to their being huge and cosmopolitan. But there’s an important lesson we learned this day – spontaneity is the key to joy! We didn’t have a plan for the day because we relied on the organizers. But when they left us to wander around on our own, we spontaneously divided into smaller groups, each with a different agenda for a couple of hours to spend in enchanting Burgos. With two of my fellow Macedonians, we joined two Latvians and headed for the nearby museums. First on our list was the Museum of Burgos – a captivating collection of paintings and artifacts. We spent more than an hour inside, even though we didn’t intend to. And can you believe we paid just one Euro for entrance?! Unbelievable! Then we whetted our appetite with some “platos y platillos” in Boca: our choice ranged from shrimps, fish, and chicken, to vegetarian dishes and local sweets. In the end, we quickly shopped some stylish sweaters and blazers in the fancy Zara shop. The day was long, but there was still some energy left for dancing before going to sleep.
The project activities finished on the 30th, but our journey was not over. That morning started early, and our bus was already waiting for us outside the hostel. It took us to Madrid, back to where it all started from. We had a couple of hours to spend in Madrid before taking the train to Barcelona. Yes, a train trip from Madrid to Barcelona! Don’t be jealous! Some ten kilometers of walking and we ended up drinking sangria in Patio de Leones – yes, please! A most fruity, sweet sangria! The afternoon train ride was the most peaceful time we had in the last couple of days. We all fell asleep at some point. And we woke up in Barca! Again, the first thing we wanted to do was get rid of our (now much heavier) luggage. We took it to our hostel, Casa de Gracia, where we would stay for the night. You guess that it is the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia that we went to see first: the most iconic of Gaudi’s creations. We were astonished by its massiveness and beauty. Out of this world gorgeous! But yes, it was still under reconstruction. We strolled the streets – our favorite activity by now, ha ha (we must have walked more than 15 km a day!) – and ended up in Platja de Barceloneta – one of the most popular and most beautiful beaches in Barcelona. Vamos a la playa! Sunbathing all day long, swimming in the waters of the Balearic Sea, and enjoying the sight of beautiful Spanish people – that was a perfect end of our 10-day journey to Spain.
So, if you happen to get the opportunity to go on an Erasmus+ project in Spain – do not think twice. Grab the chance, pack your suitcase (better go light, remember how much we walked), and get ready for the adventure of your life. In fact, if you get the opportunity to go on exchange anywhere on the beautiful Earth – go for it! It will shape your life in the most positive way.