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12/15/2016

A Page Out of a Fairy Tale 

Once upon a time, amidst the rolling hills and vast valleys of the countryside, stood a castle perched on the highest point that the eye could see. Surrounding the castle stretched endless acres of pasture dotted with a mix of white little houses and white not-so-little sheep, filling the atmosphere with a chorus of jingling bells & “baas” as they waited to be shaved.

This fairy tale is being lived out today, in real life: in Aracena, Andalucía.

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Weeks ago, I had blindly signed up for a day trip to Aracena, not knowing exactly what I was in for. I wanted to take advantage of all the excursions offered by my study abroad program -- despite the early 9AM Saturday morning rendezvous. With the combination of clear skies and warm weather complementing the city’s natural and architectural beauty, Aracena truly blew us away.

What’s special about Aracena is its beauty both above ground and below. Upon arriving, we began our climb of one hundred meters to reach the highest point of the city where the centuries old castle stood. The hilly terrain was prime natural protection against invaders, therefore the castle was more symbolic versus active during its time. From such a high point, the eye was treated to a breathtaking vista of greenery dotted with picturesque clusters of white pueblos.  

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Once arriving back to city center, we began our descent down one hundred meters underneath the streets of Aracena. The rocky limestone terrain is highly susceptible to the forces of erosion, leaving a labyrinth of underground caves covering 1200 square kilometers. Our jaws remain dropped as we continued through each section of the caves, in awe of the complicated structures produced by simple a combination of water and sediment. The prohibition of photography enhanced our senses of observation, shifting our focus on taking in the artwork of stalagmites and stalactites through our natural lenses.

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Taking a trip to Aracena was like walking into the pages of a fairy tale. It was a journey that left my quads and glutes whining, but more importantly left my mind and heart overwhelmed with contentment from such a magical experience.  

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