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Seville: the Andalusite emerald

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I must admit that, before I going to Seville, I had zero knowledge of the place or whereabouts. Adding insult to injury, I could only grasp only the most-Italianised of Spanish dialogue. Nevertheless, this city situated in the Southern Part of Spain, in the Andalusian region, has become an absolute favourite of mine. As this is being written less than a full 24 hours after arriving back in Malta, here is a subsequent list of what I consider to be the pros and cons of Seville:

 

Pros:

A city calm like none other

When I first took my first steps in the city, I was struck by a certain positive atmosphere which was unusual for any city its size. While Seville lacks the numbers in population and area to compete with the biggest international cities such as London or NYC, it still had every right to be considered as a metropolis. Being an avid city lover, this populated yet soothing, calm atmosphere soon grew on me.

Yes, the occasional traffic jam, the rare sound of an ambulance siren in the distance, the numerous buildings of different shapes and sizes engulfing surroundings, and the sheer size of the city as depicted in the map in your pocket all act as a reminder that Seville does house a large, densely packed population. Yet the large collection of narrow, clean streets, the slow pace at which the whole city seems to be moving, even the sheer amount of greenery that surrounds the city and the nearby lake eases any possible tension that might arise.

 

Attractions are a-plenty…

If the scenery and the usual stroll through the city is not enough for you, Seville has plenty of places for you to visit:

From the Real Alcazar Castle, which together with its enclosed gardens introduces the beholder to the world of Spanish nobility, to the glamorous Seville Cathedral, making any other churches in its vicinity look like bland Lego blocks next to artistic masterpieces, the monuments and places of interest which fill up the central part of Seville are a must-see. A personal recommendation of mine is the Plaza de Espana, with its optional 40-minute canoe ride in its enclosed pond a relaxing, yet enthralling way to pass the time.

 

Cheap or average prices all round…

For one of the most important cities in the Iberian peninsula, let alone in Andalusia, I half-expected the pricing to be sky-high… So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon 2.5 litre bottles of soft drinks for less than a euro each… Or large bottles of water for 36 cents (Yes, €0.36 for a 2 litre, cold bottle of water. No, it’s not tap water, in case you’re wondering.)

Food is not that expensive either… However, my personal opinion is to stick to the more traditional Tapas places, preferably those which have an English translation of the menu, and avoid fine dining due to its generally higher (but not necessarily extortionate) price range. The wide range of clothing shops must not go unnoticed: prices look reasonable, but try to locate brands which are not accessible or found in Malta, otherwise it’s not really that much worth the difference.

 

Cons:

Language barrier’s a b*tch….

So it goes without saying that the Seville population speaks Spanish or, at worst, an Andalusian dialect which a prime facie is very close to the original…

Duh…

But what really hit me in the gut, as a non-Spanish speaking tourist, was the apparent lack of English, Italian, nor even French speaking citizens in the street and in the tourist attractions around.

When I started introducing myself to the hotel receptionist about checking in my room, the poor lady’s expression was one of horror and bewilderment, as if General Franco has just risen from the grave… swearing in Catalan and wearing a Barcelona football kit. It took a whole changing of the guard ceremony inside the Front Office in order to find a suitable English speaker.

When I had an emergency and needed to talk to the police, I managed to find around and meet half a dozen policemen before I had actually arrived at the police station. All initial feelings of hope and excitement were swept away each time with the phrase: “Nada, Espanol.” Not even the person responsible at what was supposed to be the regional ministry of interior affairs was capable of uttering more than a few words in English, making it much more affordable to just use Google Translate.

Great….

 

 

In between hell and high temperatures…

Word of warning: If you are going to remain outside for hours on end, be prepared to sweat like a prostitute in confession; it is flaming hot.

I can’t stress this enough: in summer, everywhere you go, there are posts or warning signs making sure you realize that its temperature has exceeded the 40 degree mark.

 

Mixed:

Time is everything… and nothing.

As a general rule, shops are open till late. The sun setting down at 9, even 10 in the evening, actually helps shops remain open up till late- who would have heard of going to shop for clothes at 9 in the evening?

But beware, fellow tourists and travelers, the notorious “siesta” ie. the brief afternoon nap which the Spanish are known to follow rigorously, is no exception here in Andalusia. Whole restaurants tend to close down during the brunch to drunch hours, so plan ahead for your dietary needs.

From what little I tried the buses, I actually discovered that they arrive generally on time, with the trip from the centre of Seville to the airport taking less than half an hour to complete at rush hour traffic. Yet, if it is possible to walk it to your destination, get your backpacks full of water and go. If you persist to use the public transport, then do so. But make sure you count the number of bus stops till your destination, because there is no way, neither on the bus itself, nor even on the bus stations, to know where you are or where you have arrived, and you can miss any obvious name clues in the blink of an eyelid.

 

All in all, my visit to Seville has been memorable and, no less than a full 24 hours after I’ve landed my feet on home soil, the nostalgia and the post-holiday blues have kicked in. Someone buy me a ticket please….

Posted in Features, Travel

European Youth Event 2014 – LYV Malta Round-Up

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“Discover Europe; not only with your heart, but with all your senses.” – Anni Podimata, Vice President of the European Parliament, EYE Opening Ceremony, 9th May

 

As League of Young Voters ambassadors, the weekend of the 9th-11th May has long been marked on our calendars. The European Youth Event, spread over three days, is an event which brought together over 5,000 young people from all over Europe, with the aim of providing a platform for each and every one of them to speak up and debate different ideas in the form of various workshops and activities. The five main themes in focus were: youth unemployment, digital revolution, future of the European Union, sustainability and European Values.

On the first day of the EYE, appropriately, on Europe Day, we made our way to the heart of the European Institutions in Strasbourg. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by (surprisingly) pleasant sunny weather – a perfect setting for the opening ceremony which set a positive and inspiring tone for the rest of the weekend. LYV Malta was not the only Maltese delegation present – in fact we were part of a 100 strong boisterous Maltese group.

The YO!Fest, part and parcel of the EYE experience, included the set up of a YO!Village outside of Parliament, which included interactive debates, and urban area, live music and a number of stands by different organisations part of the European Youth Forum. Having organised various debates here in Malta, the LYV Malta team was eager to meet our League of Young Voters counterparts from the rest of the member states on the popular LYV stand.

We then headed to the YO!Cafe to listen to inspiring talks given by fellow youths who have contributed significantly to the youth activism, including our very own National Ambassador Andrew Micallef, who was handpicked to share with those present the work done by the LYV Malta team during our campaign.

Amongst the highlights of the workshops we attended were:

  • “eu2014: Information Blog”, in which we discussed media coverage of the European Institutions with youths from Austria, Spain and Denmark. The popular opinion seemed to be that European issues are not being aptly covered by the media.
  • “The Europe we want for our Future”, where we covered “Europe on Track”, winner of the Charlemagne Prize 2013. A group of young people travelled across Europe by train with the aim of engaging hundreds of young people to speak up about the European Commission’s 2020 strategy.
  • “On the search for a better life in Europe: Discussing immigration through film”, where the much debated issue of immigration was tackled from an artistic perspective by panelist Andrea Segre, director of “Io sono li”, LUX Prize Winner 2012. Also on the panel were Nadine Lyamouri-Bajja, an intercultural psychologist, Inmaculada Arnaez, Frontex representative, Marie-Odile Wiederkehr, from French NGO La Cimade, and Thierno Diallo, who fled Guinea aged 15 and whose rendition of his personal experience was met by what seemed like a never-ending round of applause.

The Closing Session brought together around a 1000 of the attendees of the EYE in the hemicycle to evaluate the outcomes and “Ideas for a better Europe” gathered from the workshops, which reports on the 5 main themes are to be handed to the new incoming MEPs in July. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the highly opinionated youths present will be contesting the European elections themselves in 2019.

For us LYV Ambassadors, attending the EYE was not the fulcrum of our work but has spurred us on to work harder to share our ideas and hopefully inspire others to fully embrace our European identity!

Posted in Features, Travel

8 reasons why you should stop making excuses and travel!

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You realise that life is too short when you learn that there are 195 countries in the world, and only one lifetime to visit all of them. There is something so thrilling about travelling. It is addictive and arguably the most fulfilling thing to do on the planet!  Yet, surprisingly a lot of people manage to find excuses not to experience the unexplainable excitement of travelling, comfortably sticking to their ‘what ifs’.  Hopefully after reading this article you will be browsing the net to find the next best flight to wherever your heart desires.  Below are 8 basic reasons why you should stop following Instagram Travel pages and just pack your bags and leave!

 

1. Well….It is fun and exciting!

Nothing is more exciting than travelling.  There is always that kind of adventure in it; that new favourite place waiting to be discovered, that secret ready to be unveiled, that sense of spontaneity. What will happen next?  And yes, at first it might scare you!  But when you are on the plane back home you will feel positively different knowing that you managed to overcome your fear and lived the excitement of your journey!  Even whilst the plane is landing you will realise that you have become a better person, a more fulfilled version of yourself.  And believe me, your adventures abroad are more exciting than that drunken encounter with the local authorities!

 

2. Change of ambiance

There is more to life than your every day routine!  Forget your “schedule”!  This applies to you no matter your occupation: If you are a student, then this is the perfect opportunity! Leave the classroom. Leave behind that snooze button and the lecturer who thinks that his/her subject is the only remedy for earth’s salvation; If you are employed, then this is your chance to get out of your office desk and get that dream tan or to feel the real cold (not just by messing with the temperature of your AC)!

 

3. Unforgettable experiences and memories

I can guarantee that some of the most long lasting memories are made whilst you are abroad!  There is something about leaving your country that gives you this fresh feel of unexplainable emotion of experiencing something totally alien.  These experiences will undoubtedly become memories that will last forever!  Through such experiences, you will open new horizons of defining who you are, influencing how you act, and providing you with new perspectives.  Travelling is not just an event, it is an experience!

 

4.  The educational aspect.  You can  learn gain new and useful knowledge!

Sitting down in a tacky lecture room is not the only way to learn!  Leaving your normal routine might give you a proper life lesson.  What better way is there to learn than travelling? How can you appreciate the Mona Lisa from a PowerPoint presentation?  You cannot learn about religions from your biased catholic lecturer! You cannot learn about living unless you live! You don’t have to learn a language from old library books. Believe me, you will learn French when you are in the middle of Paris trying to find the last metro before they all close down or you will have to sleep with one of the homeless people!

 

5. Meeting people…

People who do not travel usually find this difficult to understand. They feel the need to go to places infested with people they already know and can relate to, in other words “play it safe”.  They don’t realise that they are actually missing out on the opportunity to meet new people, an opportunity which would have allowed them to think differently and be more creative and open to experience.  Going to the same places will inevitably tie you up to the same views, ideas and concepts, limiting you to lead an average life.  By meeting different people you are introducing yourself to different knowledge and cultures, ideas, and widening your perspective of life.  This can be challenging and scary, but it is after you leave your “safe haven” that you will realise what you have been missing out on your own personal growth.

 

 6. New experiences…Doing things you wouldn’t be able to do in your own country! 

When abroad, no one really knows you.   You can act as crazy as the law allows you to! The possibilities are limitless! You  can afford to sleep-in or stay out as long as you want!

 

7. Becoming truly independent!

There is no better understanding of independence then when you leave your comfort zone and go into a new country!  One of the first challenges that you will find is the language barrier; what used to be a seamless errand might become a small challenge.  Certain tasks might even become a bit laborious, but these situations benefit you in becoming a more responsible person.  At first it might seem that there is no connection between independence and travelling, but when you are abroad and you are alone, you will have to become independent.  Simple tasks like finding your favourite kebab shop, the cheapest method of transport and from where to buy alcohol, might not only turn out to be a funny story but will also help you in your independence.

 

8. Everlasting memories!

This last point repeats point three, but it is important enough to repeat.  Travelling to a new country will not only update your Instagram pictures!  Travelling will create memories that will expose you to new “pictures” to print in your brain forever! Or until dementia gets you!

There are 195 countries, over 7billion people, millions of new experiences. When are you going to explore them?  Life is too short and “in the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take” (Unknown).

 

 

Posted in Travel

AEGEE – My Napoli Summer University experience

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This was my first AEGEE event away from Malta, therefore I had no idea what to expect besides from a fun experience!  I chose the SU of Napoli as I hadn’t visited that side of Italy and also because I heard that the organisers were quite entertaining! Every SU has a theme, mine was to fight the prejudices of Napoli and their people.

In the first few days we were given the welcome pack and programme, these were given to us in a very unusual manner as they were given to us in an empty pizza box, couldn’t have been more appropriate! Amongst these things we were also given a Neapolitan lucky charm.

We were also treated to some ice breakers in order to get to know the  participants that we were going to spend the following 14 days. The programme was jam packed with site seeing and activities to keep ourselves busy. The organisers were crazy enough to entertain us on the long bus rides throughout the trip  by dancing and singing away. Amongst the activities, we had a day trip to Caserta to visit the Royal Palace and also visits to many beautiful beaches such as Gaiola. We also visited the Grotta di Seiano and the archaeological remains of the Pausilypon were there was a breath taking view. We also visited Castell del’Uvo which is found on the famous lungomare of Naples.

We were guided through the narrow streets and the many churches and cathedrals found the centre of Naples. The tours were held by our fellow organisers who explained a few of the legends were passed on from the past. A photo contest was also held on these streets for us to familiarise ourselves further more. Along with the photo contest we had to interview Neapolitan people and ask them some basic questions.

On another day we had an esoteric tour were we visited the Cimiterio delle Fontanelle were thousands of skulls are found. Once again, the tour guide explained a few stories and legends which were to this location.  On the same day we had a game in Capo Di Monte, a grand, beautiful forest.

Several workshops were held on several days were we were taught about the Italian culture, language and their famous gestures. We also had a workshop about the Camorra held by the organisation Libera, which explained what takes place when they gain any form of property from the Camorra.

Like any other AEGEE event there is an optional fee, where one can either choose to attend that certain activity or not. In this case, the optional fee was for Pompeii, I decided to go to Capri instead with a friend of mine.  Capri is beyond beautiful, white painted houses, narrow streets filled with luxury shops and hotels which then lead to the most breath taking views ever!

The last two days of our trip were spend in Salerno, were we meet another group who were at the SU of AEGEE Salerno. During these days we resided at Vietri sul Mare and we visited Amalfi and its Coast. We also had a private boat trip around the coast and were also allowed to swim around this gorgeous scenery.

We also had a European night which was held on two days due to the large variety of countries the participants came from.

An article about a trip to Napoli would be without a mention of the food! I lost count of how many pizzas I ate in the span of 14 days.  We visited the most famous pizzerias in Naples, such as Sorbillo and Pizzeria Oliva – da Concettina ai Tre Santi. We were also lucky enough to have a booked place at the world known pizzeria – Da Michele, which was featured in the book ‘Eat, Pray and Love’. This pizzeria always has a queue of people waiting outside, and we were lucky enough to by-pass them. The organisers did their best to take us out every night to different clubs and bars found in the region of Naples, and made sure that we enter  free!

I can conclude by saying that attending an AEGEE Summer University should be on everyone’s bucket list as it is an amazing experience where one can integrate with people from all over Europe, but only few of us could be as lucky as me to find crazy organisers like those found in Naples!

Posted in Travel

ESN’s Mdina by Night Treasure-Hunt

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If you’re looking for something fun to do throughout an otherwise uneventful week of lectures, researching, and even more lectures, you should check out ESN’s (Erasmus Student Network) Mdina by-Night Treasure Hunt. Having been a success last year, it promises to provide that burst of adventure all of us students crave at some point or other.

The Silent City will witness much running around and exclamations of dawning realisation today night at 21:00 as the treasure-hunt begins. Aimed at Erasmus students, but open to all students who would like to participate, teams composed of 5-6 people will be given their initial clues and an answer sheet, and then left to launch themselves into a quest that will take them all around the inside of the great bastions of the old city. ESN have also stated that there will be a photo competition at hand during the treasure hunt. Teams will also have to keep their eyes open for slips of paper with the organisation’s logo on them scattered all around Mdina. But fear not, no exceptional skills are needed except maybe a basic grasp over Malta’s history and, that all important quality, the capability of working smoothly within a team.

The main aim of the event is to help Erasmus students get to know Malta better, not only for entertainment reasons (after all, Mdina is stunning by night and inspires many to visit its winding narrow streets just for a stroll), but also for cultural reasons. What better way to immerse yourself in Malta’s history than to set off on a quest of your own within one of the oldest fortresses Malta has to offer? Maltese students should also take it as an opportunity to experience their heritage in a way they never perhaps have, as well as a simple fun night out. Of course, if this isn’t motive enough, there is always that elusive grand prize waiting for the winners.

For any further details, contact ESN at info@esnmalta.org, or visit the facebook event page.

Posted in Events, Travel

Tlaqt!

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After dropping out of Law School in 2011, KarlAndrew decided to follow his dream to travel round the world while he’s young. Since then he walked the Camino de Santiago (the way of St. James) and experienced the ups and downs of living in Spain. This time round he’ll be going to Asia – Here’s his story.

When you go to the airport to pick up your one way ticket to Thailand, you know that shit just got real. The strange feeling that builds up in your stomach when you know you’re leaving home with no foreseeable plan to return, is not at all pleasant. However, to the traveller it’s somewhat comforting – the feeling of that ravishing hurricane inside of you reminds you that while you gave up stability in life to meet new people, see the world and experience new aspects of life, at least you’re doing that correctly.

Now that the day of my departure has arrived, here ends the last leg of my 4 month pit-stop. I’m glad to have spent Christmas with my family and enjoyed some time with my close friends, but now it’s time to leave once again. So now that I have quit working, got my ticket and crossed more and more of my to do list every day that  has passed, all I have to do is say my last good byes. Into my backpack I have put  my few belongings and off I am to Thailand.

As per usual there is no solid plan of what is to happen of me in the next few weeks, but I do know that for the first three weeks I will just be going round Thailand attempting to get as many sites under my belt; after that the usual hunt for a job and accommodation. I’ll tell you all about it from the other end.

 

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