I’m getting worried.


I have been told that the culture shock upon returning to America is stronger than the shock upon coming to Europe.  And I understand why.

Tour Eiffel


Just this week I saw the Mona Lisa, ate lunch under the Eiffel Tower, studied Las Meninas in person at the Museo del Prado, and am soon heading to Barcelona to walk among the architectural masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí.  On my walk to school in Madrid I pass a palace and the former hunting grounds of the Hapsburg dynasty.  On my walk to school at Marquette I pass Real Chili.  How will anything at home compare?


Familiar territory is comforting.  I will be glad to be back among people that speak my language—that should prevent 30 euro miscommunications at the dry cleaners.  And of course I miss friends and family. 


But unfamiliar territory is thrilling.  Wandering around foreign cities not knowing what I will stumble upon next is my favorite way to pass the time.  The long, complicated history of Europe intrigues me, and the culture agrees with me (though I am still too Type-A to siesta for 2 hours every day.) 


It was in talking to some Spaniards one night that I discovered a solution. These students were surprised that I had never been to Seattle or San Francisco or Yellowstone National Park.  I haven’t skied in Aspen and I have never taken a Greyhound bus.  There is so much of America that I have yet to experience.  And in Milwaukee, when I’m missing the warm mediterranean climate, I can always walk to the lake to visit my Spanish friend Santiago Calatrava.


I am back in Madrid after spending my long weekend in Toledo and Seville.  I traveled to Toledo by high speed train in 25 minutes, but the bus ride to Seville was 6 and a half hours.  The trip was well worth it, though.  Seville is exactly what comes to mind when I think of Spain.  Orange trees line the streets, buildings are painted in bright colors, people dance flamenco in the streets, and it was WARM.  

I’m sorry to everyone back in Wisconsin, this will make you incredibly jealous, but it was 72 degrees in Seville.  

The city is also very bike-friendly– we rented bikes and rode along the Guadalquivir River and through el Parque María Luisa and la Plaza de España.  Later on we also toured the Cathedral (the 3rd largest in the world and the supposed resting place of Christopher Columbus) and the Alcázar, a palace that King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía still use when they travel to Seville.  The accommodations there are likely better than those of our hostel, which was lacking one window pane and a decent shower.  Its redeeming feature was the rooftop terrace with a perfect view of the Cathedral tower, la Giralda.  And one bed cost only 11 euro per night!  Plenty of money left over for helado and sangria…cuando en Sevilla!