This year, Easter has been very different for me as I have spent it not only away from home but also in a different country! This is because working in an office means that unlike when I am at university, I do not get a three week Easter holiday during which I can go home. I actually only have four days this year. However, before you start to feel sorry for me I am going to tell you all about the productive way in which I spent my four day holiday and also a bit about the fascinating cultural experience that staying in Spain for Easter has been!
In Spain, one whole week is dedicated to reflecting on the days around the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ due to Roman Catholicism being the main religion of the Spanish population. Therefore, from Sunday 1st April until Sunday 5th April, Sevilla has been filled with religious processions to mark each of the days of the Holy Week. It also just so happens that Sevilla is well known for it's Semana Santa processions so I was in the right place to get a really insightful experience of this important week in Spain.
When I first stepped out into the streets of Sevilla last Sunday, I did not quite know what to think as the narrow cobbled streets of Santa Cruz and La Alfalfa were completely packed with people who were crowded on the pavements to watch the processions. In fact, some areas such as the main avenida in front of the cathedral were completely blocked as a result of the crowds so it was therefore impossible to get to certain parts of the city centre. However, once I had watched a few processions I realized why all of these people were filling the streets and started to really take an interest in the meanings behind them. Although I was working on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I made sure to be a part of the crowds in the city centre as the long lines of people proceeding through the streets carrying crosses and candles followed by statues of the virgin Mary and Jesus Christ was something new to me that I had never seen anywhere else before. The continuous drum beat and the sound of the accompanying brass bands really enhanced the atmosphere making everybody reflect on the sacrifice that makes Easter so important today.
After a few days in Sevilla, I decided to use the second part of Semana Santa to travel to some more places as I had the four days off and could therefore make use of the time to do this. I therefore visited Faro, Portugal and the city of Granada in Andalucia. It was extremely exciting to go to Portugal as I had never been there before Thursday and therefore experienced another new country. I was very relieved that people were happy to communicate with me in Spanish though as I definitely can't speak Portuguese :) I only spent one day in Portugal as I visited the city and island of Faro which are only two hours drive from Sevilla. I then spent Friday working on my dissertation in Sevilla as the deadline is getting much closer now. I then went to Granada to see the Alhambra Palace and Albaicin which was a fantastic experience! I felt very rewarded at the end as I decided to do the tour of the Alhambra in Spanish and surprised myself by seeing how much more of the language I can understand than I thought I could. I always think that finding ways to improve my Spanish whilst sightseeing is a good thing to do as it is enjoyable and very effective too!
As I am away from home this Easter I decided that keeping busy would be the best way to spend the four days holiday as although it is very interesting to see Easter in another country, it is strange not being at home. However, it has been very educational and interesting and a week that I certainly won't forget as I have experienced a cultural event in Spain and also visited more new places which is always a good thing to do!
I have already put some photos of Semana Santa in Sevilla on the 'Photos-Sevilla/Andalucia' page of the blog and am in the process of adding some from Portugal and Granada so please take a look at those!
I will be back soon with more news from Spain! However, in the meantime have a good Easter!