The Grand Finale…Sleepless in Madrid – The six-week program students departed Salamanca on August 12th – a bit sad to leave our host University but also excited to explore the big city. Madrid, the capital of Spain since 1561, is a city that never sleeps. It is a modern, cosmopolitan city that fiercely preserves its traditions.
Among the most well-known landmarks are: the Royal Palace, the Prado Museum, the Retiro Park, and the Plaza Mayor. Some students went souvenir shopping at the famous “Rastro” street market, while others decided to attend a bullfight.
Our arrival in Madrid coincided with the arrival of organizers and participants for “World Youth Day”, an event organized by the Catholic Church and celebrated every three years in a different country. This event includes leadership workshops, networking seminars, and a special mass celebrated by the Pope. According to the WYD website, more than 1 million youth from 193 countries participated this year. The city was buzzing with energy and it was fascinating to be a part of it all.
One of the program days was spent in Toledo, a short train ride from Madrid. Toledo, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, is a majestic city full of churches and other religious centers. It was once the capital of the Spanish Empire, and the region where Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures coexisted for many years. It is also known for its sword-making and steel-working, specifically the Damascene steel, an elegant metal-working technique. Despite the intense heat (nearly 100 degrees) the students enjoyed spending the day walking the winding streets and visiting monuments.
“Casa Patas” Restaurant and Flamenco House hosted our final program event. We saw a spectacular flamenco show, a genre of music and dance unique to Spain. The singing, guitar playing, hand clapping, and energetic dancing create a very dramatic, exciting show. The students were seated so close to the stage that the dancers almost stepped on their tables!