Okay, as we know, the fate of the bull is usually predetermined. From the moment the sizeable, fierce creature enters the ring, we *think* we can anticipate what will happen next and how he will meet his demise. We predict three rounds, tercios as they are called, of an elegant dance between man and beast. We surmise that the torero or matador, as he is often referred to, will be the last one standing in the ring, claiming one, if not both of the bull's orejas (ears) if not his rabo (tail) as well as his reward for displaying skill and dexterity. But, as it turns out, just this once, we were WRONG. At yesterday's corrida, it did happen - a bull was spared!- and our students were there to see it. This event happens only once every few years, as one host father proudly told me. And while such an occurence certainly does not change the controversial nature of this tradition, it did give provide us with ample topics for conversation!
As the local fiestas of San Juan and San Pedro continue, the plaza awaits us. In the picture, you can see the inside of León’s own Plaza de Toros where we will be meeting with students just before six for the much-anticipated corrida. Today’s bull fight brings both a strong sense of history and culture mixed with conflicting emotions of what is right and wrong. Students will be encouraged to speak about their experience in class tomorrow and they will no doubt have much to share with all of you back home upon their return.
Quite the contrast to the more urbanized León, the former gold mines of Las Médulas provided students with beautiful scenery and a glimpse into Spain’s Roman past. Although our time there was brief, we definitely got our exercise in as we followed the well-trodden paths into the hills and through the caves!
*Note the faces of the eager explorers upon arrival (and before the heat of the day kicked in)!
Yesterday’s optional excursion for the students led us a bit further along the well-known “Camino de Santiago” (see the picture of the turned seashell) and into the heard of Ponferrada, a former Roman city and the site of a 13th century Templar castle. Although the Templars eventually disappeared from here, their influence was still very much visible throughout the castle and its surrounding areas, with many “T” (la tau) prominently displayed.
Wanting to ensure that everyone was prepared for the anticipated heat and sun of today's excursion...
Ron made the most of our time on the bus and happily modeled for the students the do's and don'ts of proper sunscreen application.
As the festivities for the fiestas of San Juan and San Pedro continue throughout the city, program participants had yesterday (Friday) off from class and activities to spend with their host families. Today, we went to the small town of Ponferrada to see a Templar castle and later traveled onto Las Médulas, a site as well known for its gold mines (formerly the MOST important in the Roman Empire) as it is for its beautiful vistas, or views. Sunday will bring the controversial yet traditional corrida de toros, or bull fight. Please check in again soon as pictures will be updated as our internet connection allows!
León’s annual fiestas of San Juan and San Pedro officially began Thursday night with a full fireworks display (impressive enough to rival our own 4th of July celebrations!) and a traditional hoguera, or bonfire, into which pieces of paper with resolutions, wishes and/or aspirations written upon them were thrown. After, a free concert was given in the nearby plaza by popular Spanish musician, Melendi.
On Wednesday night, we were treated to a wonderful performance by the Orquesta Sinfónica Superior de Música de Salamanca, directed by Javier Castro and accompanied by Spanish guitarist, Hugo Geller, and singer, Caridad Vega. The concert was held at the state of the art auditorium just outside the city center and one of our host mothers was able to get tickets for all students and staff who wanted to attend.
Another local specialty was offered to us today at our usual restaurant, el rabo de toro, or as it is known in English - bull's tail! And as you can see from the photos, it was accompanied with french fries and lots of smiles. :)
Two Spanish specialties - revuelto de morcilla y patatas fritas (scambled eggs with blood(!) sausage and french fries) and conejo al ajillo (rabbit with garlic), also served with french fries.
Our last stop on Friday’s excursion, and perhaps the one most enjoyed by the students, was at El Alcázar, a 12th century castle located in the west end of Segovia. Here, the students could view both armor and tapestries alike and a few brave individuals even ventured to climb up the castle’s tower that was originally used as a prison!