When I was 18 my parents sent me to a summer English camp in Spain. Hot, sunny summer in Blanes, Costa Brava.
You see in terms of learning investment it was a huge waste of money, right? After all these years I can’t even remember how our classes looked like (was I skipping them on a daily basis? I can’t even remember that). Therefore, I don’t think I learned a lot of English there. But I do remember rocky beaches where we would go every morning and sunbathe, get sunburned, experience Sangria for the first time in our life.
During the nights our counselors would take us to a REAL disco. At that point I wasn’t aware of how much of a touristic place they were taking us to. However, there were sights and I should have noticed them (too much guiri Caucasian girls and too much Latino guys trying hard to hook up on them).
I clearly remember there was one rule we were supposed to follow: do not go out of the disco with a localboy (meaning any other than Polish) no matter how hard he insists and how charming and cute he might be.
Two long weeks of going out every single night taught me a lot about life and people, and how things in pubs/discos work. As a life lesson, this summer English course was a great investment!
We got back to Poland by bus, with a one day stop in Venice. I was supposed to fall in love with the city. But I didn’t.
For starters, after 2 weeks in Costa Brava I was broke and I couldn’t afford anything. So we just wandered around the city visiting every single corner, every tiny canal and every single touristic street and gift shop.
And since I am getting more honest with you guys, I kind of hated Venice.
The whole city was pretty dirty and stunk awfully disgusting. You know that kind of stink you smell when you get in a popular pub’s ladies bathroom at 1am on a Saturday night? Bingo! Not to mention the mob. Millions of tourists everywhere! There were queues of 20 km to get to every single museum, church or any other touristically wise important places.
Actually, the queues didn’t matter that much. I simply couldn’t focus on “enjoying” the city because of the horrible smell!! I do remember the stinky smell pretty well until this very moment.
Let’s move in time to 2016. This week I got another chance to enjoy a Venice-like town. We went on a hiking trip to Castilla and Leon in Spain. And before starting our hike we briefly visited a place we stumbled over while driving to the start point of our hike route. Orbaneja del Castillo, a tiny treasure hidden between cliffs and rock walls that surround the village.
I will confess: the idea of water running through streets in a tiny town gave me a smelly Venice flashback. But thank God, I couldn’t be more wrong.
Orbaneja del Castillo comes out to be thousand times more amazing and worth visiting than stupid Venice.
A fresh, cold healthy natural campestral air fills the place. I found myself breathing unconsciously in ujjayi way (yea, that’s right, I am hooked on yoga!), inhaling and exhaling deeply, trying to keep as much of the fresh air inside of my lungs and belly as possible. Because I wasn’t going to get any of that in Madrid, that’s for sure.
When we got out of the car an impressive natural waterfall welcomed us. It looked as if the village was constructed above the waterfall, on a tiny cliff. The water was falling down hard from the cliff making me feel as if I were in an alluring virgin place.
We climbed up to the village, chasing ghosts of history through stony old alleys and canals filled with cold brooks surrounded by charming little medieval rural cottages with their wooden balconies.
My imagination took me to the past immediately. For a brief moment I could picture myself being a female Spanish warrior whose job was keeping the village safe from invaders. There is no doubt I would look like Khaleesi, the Mother Of Dragons from Game of Thrones. Damn it, the hot, shinning rays of sun speared my imaginary bubble just when I was about to throw myself into Khal Drogo’s muscular arms.
Once I set my mind back to 2016 I kept wandering, I realized there were still residents living in the village. To be more accurate, there are 50 of them, average age of 90 (guessing on my own observation). And they all looked happy and healthy! I wanna be like them when I am 95!
We climbed up to the upper parts of the village, above the water cave (which is the most touristic spot in there, but it was closed last week. So no cave visiting for me!
A 30 minute walk became a biology and geography lesson, stunning views of the canyon and its monumental rocks, vultures flying above my head, deer randomly running between shrubs and the calm sound of waterfalls could still be heard everywhere.
And do you know what the best part of my trip was? On our way back to the car we were offered some typical cheese that local vendors were selling at a tiny farmers’ market just above the waterfall. I am not a huge fan of cheese. But I surely am a fan of homemade goat and sheep cheeses aged in a local cave! Especially when these are free samples.
There was nothing free in Venice, not even a toilet.