This Friday after a hard day at work, our group took a trip to the Oratorio de Santa Cueva, one of Cádiz's most beautiful religious buildings. The church looks rather unassuming from the outside, and even a trip down into the underground feels much more sombre, sober than most Catholic churches. The cave is split into two sections - an underground chapel plain in decoration, and an upper chapel that is a sheer masterpiece of early 18th century architecture. Worshippers believe that the plainer surroundings of underground church are an opportunity to cleanse oneself of one's sins before entering the breathtaking surroundings of the upper chapel. It was particularly rewarding to hear the audible gasps of students as they entered.
Our coordinator Víctor provided us with a real insight into the history and architectural styles featured in the chapel. A particular highlight was the ceiling, which is hand-painted to give the illusion of three dimensions. The chapel also features three frescoes by arguably Spain's most important painter, Francisco de Goya, including a depiction of the Last Supper. As we explored the chapel, we also enjoyed the sounds of Las siete palabras, an orchestral piece penned by Austrian master Franz Joseph Haydn specifically for this very church.
Soon it was time to head back and relax with their host families to get ready for trip to Ronda, a beautiful mountainous city in the Málaga province, most famous for its iconic bridge spanning the El Tajo gorge.
As soon as the group arrived in Ronda it was time to take a tour led by a local guide. She showed us the Alameda, a beautiful park running through the centre of the city before we stopped off at the famous baroque Plaza de Toros, one of Spain's largest and most historic centres of the age-old pastime of bullfighting.
We soon took a trip to Ronda's iconic puente nuevo, one of Spain's most emblematic structures. It gave us a chance to take some snaps and stare down into the Tajo gorge! After we shook off the vertigo by heading over the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, where our tour guide explained to us the Arabic history of the city of Ronda, including its conquering by the Berbers in 713 AD and its recapture by Christian Spain in 1485. We even had the chance to sample some of the local specialities, including yemas del tajo, a kind of cooked and sweetened egg yolk eaten as a sweet.
After heading back to Cádiz students had the chance to spend time with their host families in the evening before getting some much-needed rest on what was our hottest day so far! Keep following the blog for updates on another surfing trip and a special life flamenco performance...
Paul Hyland recently graduated with a PhD in Spanish and Latin American literature from the University of Cambridge. He also holds a first class degree in Spanish and German, as well as an MPhil in European Literature from the same institution.