I have to tell you about my last getaway to Andalusia. Not exactly about the places (which undoubtedly beautiful), but about some unexpected events happened during my trip. This trip was planned, of course. It was just that some events concurred in their own ways that made me & Martha, my travel mate, questioned: Were those only coincidences? or, fates?
OK, let me tell you how it began.
After my friend, Bilqis, knew that my Erasmus Mundus application got accepted, she lend me her 99 Cahaya Islam di Langit Eropa (99 Islamic Lights on the Sky of Europe) book to me. She “forced” me to read that book before I stepped my feet on Europe. One of the highlighted destinations was Andalusia, the region in Spain where the Moslem once had their triumph in Europe.
Although I have visited several cities in the EU during my Erasmus (study) life in Portugal, I had never been to Andalusia, which most of people said that Andalusia plays an important part in the Moslem history. I heard about that. Not only heard, but studied about Andalusia in junior high school. I kept procrastinating my trip to Andalusia until my last semester. If you see it on a map, it looks like Andalusia is near from Portugal. Spain and Portugal are neighbourhood, of course. But the thing that there was no direct flight nor train to Andalusia from Porto made me (used to be) not so enthusiastic about coming to Andalusia.
But then I decided to give it a try! Let’s say, because of its background related with the Moslems history and also because most of my Spanish friends told me, “If you want to feel the real Spain, go to Andalusia, Nabila.” and I have to agree with that!!! ANDALUSIA, I AM IN LOVE!
I looked on my faculty agenda and I made a list of holidays. Considering that now I am working as an intern in a company, things got a bit complicated. I couldn’t just go in any date I want (fyi, I have no classes this semester). I found that there were two long weekend holidays in a row. So, it was decided! Then, my junior high school bestie, Martha, told me that she was going to Porto two weeks before THE date. I asked her, “wanna go to Andalusia?” Although Martha seemed a bit unsure about having the trip, I successfully persuaded her to accompany me, haha.
I planned the route (if you call open-google-maps-and-draw-a-map-of-Andalusia-on-my sketchbook as making and planning a route), did a comparison “study and analysis” of my route and destinations, and booked all the tickets needed while Martha was still in Indonesia (I have to blabber: I am really good in planning a route and quite obsessed to find student-friendly transportation prices xD ). After Martha had arrived in Porto, we divided the jobs. I looked for places to stay and she made an itinerary of what to visit, where to eat, and what to do.
Our route for Andalusia is: Porto-Lisbon (transit)-Seville-Malaga-Granada-Cordoba-Valencia (this one is not a part of Andalusia. I chose this because it has a direct flight to Porto). We travelled for around 10 days (I hope we had more! T_T).
I told my Indonesian friend who also studying in Porto, Pak Supri, that Seville would be my first destination in Andalusia. He recommended me to stay at his friend’s place, Mas Ibra and his wife, Mbak Riana. Pak Supri introduced me to Mas Ibra through Facebook and I added his wife on Facebook also. In short, I discussed about my Andalusia itinerary and route to Mbak Riana and surprisingly, she asked me, “Are you a friend of Risyad?” WOHO! It turned out that Mas Ibra is my high school friend’s uncle. Mas Ibra even used to take my friend to the high school dorm every Sunday. What a small world!!!
Based on my analysis (read: calculation), I decided to try Blablacar. Do you know about that? It’s a car-sharing website. Sounds like hitchhiking, right? But in a comfortable way. I didn’t have to take my thumbs up in the middle of a road. Just registered myself through the website, looked for available rides with friendly price, set the time and place where should the driver pick me up, and let’s go go go! Easy, right? I hitchhiked in two Blablacar rides: Porto-Lisbon and Lisbon-Seville. In total, I spent 34 Euros from Porto to Seville. It was much more cheaper than 72 Euros bus (Porto-Seville, 13 hours) or 18 Euros Porto-Lisbon by train plus 40 Euros Lisbon-Seville by bus.
AND BLABLACAR WAS SOOOO MUCH FUN!!!
On my first ride, the car owner was a lady who works in Porto but has a family in Lisbon. She told me that I was her first Asian passenger. She was so excited meeting me, this small girl with a scarf, and she wanted to introduce me to his son. LOL. My second ride was with a Spanish guy namely Carlos. He was completely funny. We were six inside the car: two Americans, one Italian, one Argentinian, me, and the Spanish guy. I learned many Spanish bad words *upsss* and some were drunk inside the car (except me & the driver, of course). Carlos recommended me to eat Andalusian typical foods and he named “Caracol” as the most famous and favourite. Later on, every Spanish sellers laughed at me when I asked for Caracol. I guess it’s pretty uncommon for strangers to eat it :p because Caracol is snails cooked with spices! OMG! I even could see the snails’ ears.
A week before our departure to Andalusia, we had one problem. We hadn’t got any couch for our second night in Cordoba. I stressed me out and I told Martha, “Worst case, let’s sleep at McD. OK?” I didnt know if McD will open 24H in Cordoba nor if Cordoba has any McD. Last time I checked, the available hostels on that date was for more than 100euros per night. A BIG NO NO. But then, magic happened. Out of nowhere, Hostelbookers sent an email saying that there was an available hostels for 22 Euros per night. Well, it was a bit pricey (twice than the common price in Andalusia), but still, it was better than spending 100 Euros only for a couch.
After Seville, we arrived at 11AM in Malaga bus station. We went directly to our hostel to put our stuffs and to wash our completely sleepy face. At that time, we were so starving even though we ate like crazy at the Ibrahim’s house in the morning. Martha recommended a restaurant she found on TripAdvisor. So we went there with the hope to eat mega delicious meals. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed. We could’t take it any longer so we decided to eat kebab nearby. Because of our excitement in fulfilling our empty stomach and the thought of “yeay we are in Malaga”, we forgot to pay our kebab. We walked so innocently to Picasso’s house (5′ walking from the kebab restaurant). When I was at the Picasso’s gallery, I got a call from Mbak Riana and Mas Ibra. They were panicked because their bicycle card got locked. I was the last person who used the card. They were afraid if I forgot to lock the bicycle properly when I returned it to its place. I was panicked also. OH NOOOO! If it lost, I would have to pay 100 Euros penalty. In the middle of this panic moment, suddenly I remembered that we hadn’t paid our kebab. I told Martha and then we walked out of the gallery immediately. There was this bad feeling inside our mind if we didnt pay our kebab yet.
We told the seller that we hadn’t paid our kebab. Surprisingly, that man was the owner also. He gave us a discount price. Instead of paying 3.9 Euros each for complete meal + drink, we paid 5 euros for two. WOHOO SO LUCKY! The good news didn’t stop until here. Few minutes after, Mas Ibra called me saying that everything was OK. There was only some misunderstanding because I used the public bike for more than its maximum time per use. FYUUUUH~ Alhamdulillah!!!
Martha asked me to meet her friend in Cordoba. I was surprised when she asked me that, “So you have a local friend in Cordoba? Cool!” That friend was Martha’s friend’s friend actually. Martha randomly told her friend who was working in Malaysia that she was in Andalusia and heading to Cordoba. Her friend recommended Martha to meet Muhammad, a Spanish moslem who lives in Cordoba. We met him and his colleagues at the downtown. They work in a Halal institute. We had a great chit-chat and for me, it was inspiring how they fight for Halal certification and standardisation in Europe. It was sooo nice meeting other Moslems in the world. It always is.
Muhammad invited us to have lunch at his family’s house. His wife was going to give birth and his sister was going to get married within two days. We came in a puuurfect moment!!! They had a family gathering before the wedding day. They took us to the wedding venue also. The Escudero family itself lives in a small village outside Cordoba. They have their own mosque and their house was often being used for Moslems gathering in Cordoba. They translated several Islamic books into Spanish and they coordinate and participate in several events related with Islam.
In the middle of the lunch, some family members arrived. A girl came to say hi to me and I thought her face was familiar. Martha introduced herself, “Hi, I am Ma..” but that girl interrupted her and said, “Yes, I know. You are Martha and you are Nabila, right?” I was so blank at the moment. How could she know my name? Is it written on my forehead?
OMG! She works at the 22-Euro hostel I mentioned before. We just moved our luggages to that hostel this morning and she helped us there. OH MY GOD! She was Muhammad’s sister. I couldn’t close my mouth.
There were so many unexpected events happened in Andalusia. I also met a Malaysian family who turned out to be my father’s friend’s friend. Look how we were related to each other! Can you believe it? Me, who come from thousand-miles-away country from Spain, met new friends in Andalusia and then we found out that we were connected to each other. How could this be? I always believe everything happens for a reason. Based on Allah’s will. I still could’t believe it until now. and most importantly, Martha’s company. We were high school bestie who studied about the history of Islam in Andalusia during our junior high school in a boarding school. Martha studied in KL, Malaysia while I studied in Bandung, Indonesia. It was indeed hard to meet her in person when we were in Indonesia. Magic happened *I hate to call it magic, actually*. She got accepted to Porto Business School as an exchange student, lives in the same apartment with me, and we tried to combine the puzzles of the history of Islam we learned before. Andalusia was…UNFORGETTABLE!
Have you ever experiences this kind of thing? You went somewhere andsome unexpected events happened that made you questioned yourself: Were those only coincidences? or, fates?
See you again, Andalusia! (and caracol. and the delicious couscous.)
Love from a small girl who cannot move on from you,