Once upon a time, in a sleepy white town not so different from Grazalema, where we are currently staying, there lived a boy and a girl. But, of course, it was more complicated than that. The girl was Christian, the boy Muslim and together they were forbidden to love each other. When has that ever stopped anyone though? The pair had to be together, so they devised a system to meet each other: the girl would listen for the boy’s song and she would know to meet him.
Our tour guide, Matias, told us this story high above the village in the Grazalema National Park. He then said that, according to legend, if you listen close enough, you can still here the faint sounds of the boy’s chords for his love. Matias did not know it, but this story would become an important metaphor for our day: the relationship between struggle and peace.
We struggled to get out of bed on Day 9 of our journey in Grazalema. Guided by Matias, we drove ten minutes partially up the mountain to the entrance of the park. From here we consulted a map and were told that the first 45 minutes would be “strenuous” and uphill. As it turns out, this was an extremely accurate description. Along the very steep hill, we stopped to catch our breath and hear what Matias had to say about the National Park, including an anecdote about the family of Euphorbia plants that was used in order to terminate bovine pregnancies.
After what seemed like forever, we reached the highest point to which we would climb. And it was breathtaking. We could see for miles in every direction. For a moment, everyone was silent, in a deafening way that was so necessary. For the first time all day, we were reminded of the peacefulness of the White Hill Towns. Matias began to lead us around the mountain, in a generally downward direction, which was definitely more appreciated. We continued this way for about two more hours before we stopped to snack on fruits, nuts and crackers.
In total, we hiked for about four and a half hours and 9.5 miles, only stopping for a brief snack, a ten minute sit in the shade, one round of First Aid and one tumble courtesy of the steep downward final stretch. Around three in the afternoon, we, the Honors Spain DOC, made our way back to our hotel where we caught up on reading, eating, cleaning and sleeping. My slow gait up the flight of stairs to the shower illustrated just how real the struggle was.
Honestly, our discussion for today was a little lax, but we made the period of 1008-1031 in Spain as interesting as we could, given our tired minds and bodies. This was a time of conflict between, as our day was, too, struggle and peace. For one, all three religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) lived together in Spain with relatively little conflict, though the entire era was generally unstable, as regimes changed all the time. Like the early eleventh century in Spain, we are constantly changing, too, as we are off to Seville tomorrow. But not before we finally get to rest our weary heads.
Emma Politi – Health Science