So I fled from Jaén to Úbeda. My very first impression of Úbeda was unremarkable, but after spending some time in the old part of the city and in its little sister city, Baeza, I was in love! Both cities are UNESCO world heritage sites and are considered to be many of the best-preserved examples of Renaissance architecture in all of Spain, and actually in all of Europe, rivaled only by two towns in Italy whose names I can’t remember right now. Despite the best attempts of UCLA Prof. Barry Sanders, I don’t know too much about architecture, but it honestly doesn’t take much to realize the value of these two cities. Walking down the street is like walking back in time, if you can block out all the Fiats and Volkswagens smooshed into the teeny tiny streets. It also doesn’t help that there is a Guardia Civil training academy in Baeza (the Guardia Civil is a Spanish police force whose jurisdiction seems similar to that of the highway patrol at home, but national), and at 5pm the entire city is overrun by oddly militarily uniformed men and women, who basically make the city feel like a war-era film set. What war I don’t know, but definitely one that happened in the past, and definitely one in which Baeza was occupied by a bunch of well behaved soldiers in funny green hats.
But honestly, the cities are beautiful, and the people who live there know it. The air of superiority is palpable, but it’s easy to stomach because I think that’s what keeps these cities looking so nice. The people here are really, REALLY proud of their World Heritage status and they do their best to keep these places looking pretty. People dress nicely here, the restaurants are all classy looking, and they dress their babies like dolls. I kind of love it. I really feel like I am playing dress-up with my whole life, if that makes any sense at all. I feel like I am playing house here; I can go to a cute little market, drink coffee at a cute little café, blah blah blah. Everything is cute, and right now, it’s great. The people here are also SO NICE! I think that the level of tourism here is perfect and it creates an environment in which the local people are cool with it and want to encourage it. It’s not touristy like Barcelona or Granada where there are foreigners overrunning the bars and clubs and getting in the way of things. I think tourism here is viewed as something that is good for the city and good for the economy, and there aren’t too many visitors here at one time, so I never feel like I need to really hide the fact that I am a foreigner. I am actually really comfortable asking people for help here, so when I’m at the market or at a store buying sheets, I’ll ask the cashier or the salesperson how to say things in Spanish, and they are so nice about helping me! It’s fantastic. Today I learned how to say “persimmon” and “chard.” I forget both of them. Poco a poco, as they say.
I’ve also met a lot of other auxiliaries here which is really, really nice, for reasons that I’ll get into later. It’s not the best thing for my Spanish, but it is the best thing for my sanity, since the level of lonliness in my little itty bitty town was a bit much to handle at first, and would have been a bit much for the full eight months. Baeza, and the apartment and friends and cuteness that I have here are going to keep me sane. More to come on that later.