Thursday, April 2, 2009


Monday, 03/30/09
This weekend I went to Galicia which is directly West from Asturias. It's the "state" right above Portugal. We went specifically to visit Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña. The former is a widely-known in Europe as the destination for a religious pilgrimage through northern Spain and the latter is a big port town in the northwest. I have some pictures, but I didn't take many because I have a friend who takes really good pictures so I'm waiting for him to put those online so I can steal them and add them to this blog :). The trip went a bit like this: 7AM departure from Oviedo, a stop in Gijón to pick up some other students at Oviedo´s campus there. Then 5-6 hours travel time to Santiago. Free time to sit down for lunch. I went with some friends to a typical café. In Galicia the dialect spoken is known as Gallego (or in Gallego, they call it Galego), but they also speak Castillian (the proper name for Spanish from Spain, also known as Castellano in Spanish). So we didn´t really notice a difference when the waiters spoke with us--probably because they knew we were foreigners and stuck to the Castillian. However I listened to the news at the café and you can hear the difference and see it too in the spellings of the words (on the TV). For example, (this is probably more for my mom) they say maña instead of mañana, and jovés instead of jueves. I think that second one is correct... Anyways small differences here and there. My two belgian friends have a friend from their university in Brussels that is studying in Santiago, and he met up with us and gave us a nice city tour and showed us his apartment which was pretty very skinny and four stories tall. Not sure why but it was very nice I thought. He is currently taking classes in Gallego to help him understand the language because it is spoken in the classes at the university. The tour included going to the cathedral in Santiago, which, well, is the highlight of the town. We also visited parts of the university there: USC (Universidad de Santiago de Compostela), not USC California or USC South Carolina. Afterwards we met up with some other friends including 2 Americans (one from VT, she´s the only other Hokie at Oviedo), 2 Scots, a girl from Peru, my belgian friends, my German buddy, and a girl from France for dinner. I noticed that the menus had considerably more seafood items, which I guess is to be expected when two sides of the ¨state¨ face the Atlantic. Chipirones was unique to the menu. It´s basically specially fried calamari, and they have it here in Asturias too. I´m not a big fan though. As we walked through the town we noticed many seafood shops and many interesting items. I took a picture of one storefront showcasing a bunch of exotic seafoods.
Later that night all the students on the trip met up at the hotel for Sangría (mostly wine, sugar, fruit, juices) and then we went out on the town to check out the Santiago nightlife.

That night was the night Daylight Saving Time began (here in Spain at least) and because of this, I got one less hour of sleep. The next morning we met up at 9AM to travel to A Coruña. Upon arrival we went to the all-famous Tower of Hercules, but unfortunately the exterior was covered in scaffolding for renovations I assume. However we were still able to climb up to the top to take pictures of the sea and surrounding area. The tower itself is a couple kilometers from the actual downtown of A Coruña. Then we went into the town and had free time for lunch. I ate with a slightly different group this time-- a bunch of italians, a couple girls from France, my German buddy and my belgian friends.

One of the best parts of being in Oviedo I must say is meeting all the people from all over Europe, and then being able to converse with them in Spanish. Not having that normal language barrier is very nice and you can learn so much. Usually whenever I meet anyone for the first time they like to ask me about Obama and American politics in general. So I´ve gotten very good at explaining the current situation of the economy, what I think of Obama, what I think of Bush, and more. I also have learned to keep up on US politics because all the Europeans read up on it too and they like to ask me questions about current events. For example: ¨Matthew, what do you think of the Geithner plan?¨ At first I was baffled that so many Europeans follow the US so closely, but I realize it´s because what happens in the US affects what happens in their country as well.
I also learned not to talk politics with the Turkish. There´s a couple students here from Turkey and I was talking with one for a while when he then decided to tell me that he flat out hated the United States. However, he told me that he liked me, so I felt a bit safer after that. Talking with my host family I found out the Turkish are very heated when it comes to politics and current events. They share a border with Iraq so I guess between that and maybe differences in their culture, they can seem a bit raw and contemptuous. I don´t know if all Turkish students feel the same way as the one I talked to, because I´ve talked with a couple others that were much nicer (although I avoided the subject of politics so that probably helped).

But I digress! I had lunch with a very diverse group of Europeans, and I had a seafood paella which was quite good. Rice, scallops (I think,I don´t know what they´re called), Shrimp, some other shelled something or another and bread of course. As my mom knows, the shrimp come heads, legs and all and it´s up to you to pick them apart if you want to. After lunch was a guided tour of A Coruña, starting at the Plaza de María Pira, visiting many cathedrals / churches from different eras in the history of A Coruña. A very interesting city historically speaking: Being a major port city, they were often subject to occupation by other nations and pirates such as the famous Sir Francis Drake have ties to A Coruña. That´s one thing about Spain too: like the French, not very good fighters. Often many parts of Spain were subject to occupation by stronger neighbors, and I think they just got used to it. Of course there´s Philip II´s famous Spanish Armada, but even that was torn to pieces by the English, leaving Spain broke and ceding control of the Atlantic to the English. Following the failed Spanish campaign to England, the Armada limped back to A Coruña with Sir Francis Drake pestering them all the way. Also you can visit the house of Emilia Pardo-Bazán, the famous women´s rights activist and writer from ~1885 or so. Following the city tour we boarded the buses around 5 to head back to Oviedo. And for some reason on the way back the tour leaders put in a movie, The Patriot with Mel Gibson which is a movie about the American Revolution. Somewhat interesting to watch with Europeans because a couple times in the movie the colonists joke about the French and it seems that everyone agreed that the French acted in this manner. Everyone besides the French I´m sure.


  1. Matt,
    So what is your opinion of the Geithner plan? Enquiring minds want to know! Isn't that the normal conversation around American dinner tables? NOT!
    I think our culture is less involved in politics and world-wide affairs than most Europeans. We just live our fat, dumb, but happy lives of consumption and don't pay much attention to the world around us! Glad you are experiencing a different way of life and thinking - that's the best thing about travel. To know that our way isn't the ONLY way, and is probably not the best way.
    Your tour sounded fun. At first I thought that it was just a bunch of friends, but guess it was a guided tour of some sort? Sponsored by the school or was it a normal tour company? Looking forward to the pix.

  2. Here's the most recent pics>>

  3. Matt you aren't a picky eater anymore!!! I am so proud.

    I feel similarly in D.C. about politics because EVERYONE talks about politics ALL THE TIME and everyone wants to know your opinion on the current events. And even having never taken a political science class in my life, I still have to keep up (sometimes its nice, but can be annoying when you go to a party and everyone only wants to talk politics). Its interesting that you get to talk to people from all around Europe and you get to understand and see their views! That is such a valuable experience. I wonder how you are going to feel when you come home to Leesburg and probably Blacksburg to a lesser extent and you just see Americans not caring about anything political at all or even worse... ignorant people just spreading hate and prejudice wherever they go.