Rivers and Roads, Grazalema and Aracena

Out of all the places I’ve called home, the one where I find the most peace is in the mountains. Perhaps it is because that is where I truly feel free. The quiet of the mountains removes you from the world for a brief moment and asks you to exist. Our lives are filled with chaos, a bombardment of noise. In the mountains, we remove ourselves from the daily grind and begin to experience a portion of the world that remains somewhat untouched.

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I was saddened at the thought that I would be missing out on fall in good ol’ Carolina. The leaves painted in an array of color, the sweet smell of fall air and the tranquil feeling that washes over you as you step out into nature.

When I chose to study in Sevilla I did not think I would have the chance to be in nature. What I didn’t realize was that the mountains were just a short bus ride away. Andalucía has many hidden gems- and the mountains are one of them. Grazalema was my first mountain trip, and it was a glorious one. Grazalema can simply be described as a scene straight out of Heidi.

A small, white-washed village nestled in between the mountains where goats wander around the grassy green hills, which are broken up by babbling brooks and abandoned roads. Although there is no great landmark to draw the masses to the city, the beauty of this town is something you must behold. The quiet nature, the pastry shops, and the idea that you are stepping back to a much simpler time where people appreciated the beauty of life. There aren’t many shops, but one thing you must do is try some pastries from the small confeccionarías and stop for a coffee at one of the quaint cafeterías.

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Aracena is very similar to the beautiful village of Grazalema. This village captured my heart immediately, mainly because of the hike we took to two small villages. We began in Linares de La Sierra Huelva where I had a delicious cup of café con leche in an old bullring that had been turned into a plaza. Once caffeinated, we began our four hour hike to Alajar.

I felt as if I had been picked up and transported to the lands of Rohan- yes, I did just make a Lord of the Rings reference. Green hills covered with stone-stacked walls guided me along the rocky path. We passed farm fields full of cows, goats or olive trees. Acorns crunched beneath my feet as I dodged loose stones and mud-filled holes.

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Half way through our hike we stumbled into a tranquil village void of life except for the little boy hacking at a board with a machete and a few men stuffed into a small room to work on a building. This village was my favorite part of the hike because I made a new friend. As we climbed the last hill into the village I spotted a donkey wandering around his owner’s farmland. Not expecting more than a glance, I clicked my tongue and watched as he meandered up to the stonewall. Slowly I reached out my hand and stroked his velvet nose. Like a small puppy he laid his head against the stones and pushed back his ears, expressing a feeling of “ah, that hit the spot.” My new friend was a great hit with our hiking group as we all gathered around to scratch his ears and capture a quick photo.

After saying our goodbyes to our new friend and gathering our strength we continued to Alajar where we had free time for lunch and exploration.

Although these small villages do not have many landmarks to see, or many things to eat, they are terrific for day trips. Aracena and Grazalema offer a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and give you a chance to move at your own pace. These villages have the perfect combination of breathtaking architecture and nature that will capture any mountain lover’s heart, as it did mine.

Olivia de Gracia is a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and an official API Student Blogger. Olivia is studying abroad with API in Seville, Spain.

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