Chase-ing Spain: entering the sea of olive trees


Photo by Chase Hollenkamp

Chase Hollenkamp, sophomore economics and global studies major, stands in front of the Castle of Segura de la Sierra.

Chase Hollenkamp, Staff Writer

¡Hola! I am sad to say that this is the last time I will be writing to you before the end of this semester. However, I believe that I am ending on a good note. During my spring break here, I had the chance to go on a tour of Andalucia. 

The main stop on my tour of Andalucia was the province of Jaén. More specifically, I also traveled to the capital of this province, also called Jaén. Entering the province, I was immediately consumed by the immense number of olive trees that were in the province. They expand across the landscape and form what is known as the sea of olive trees, giving way to Jaén being the olive oil capital of the world. 

The olive trees are overlooked by the numerous castles that lay scattered throughout the province. Being the province with the highest concentration of castles in Europe, it is nearly impossible to not run across one while visiting.

Atop a mountain overlooking the capital sits Saint Catherine’s Castle. From its impressive walls you can see the entire city, including the Jaén Cathedral and its Plaza de Toros. 

The Castle of Santa Catalina in Jaén (Photo by Chase Hollenkamp)

Celebrating Holy Week gave way to processions that take place throughout Spain. These processions  are especially important in the south. Churches are tasked with preparing floats adorned with gold and silver and boasting religious figures. These floats are then carried through the city and crowds of people come to watch, cry, sing and pray over the processions.

 This was a cultural spectacle that was very impressive and shocking. One of the biggest shocks are the cloaked figures that walk with the procession known as “nazarenes.” When seeing these people, the immediate thought for an American is that they are the KKK, but it is not related at all.

Procession in Jaén of Virgin Mary with the Cathedral of Jaén in the background. (Photo by Chase Hollenkamp)

Apart from Jaén, I was able to visit various other towns and cities in Andalucia. All of the places I visited contained incredible architecture that has outlasted centuries. The smell of orange trees all around was magical. 

Our first stop was to Segura de la Sierra, but on the way we stopped in Riópar Viejo, a medieval town. It has now been converted into a tourist area, but they have conserved the old remains of the original city. Once we arrived in Segura de la Sierra we headed up the mountain to see the castle. Sweaty and out of breath, we made it to the top just to discover that it was closed. So we turned around and headed back down the hill to explore the town. 

The next destination was Granada, where I was able to visit the incredible Alhambra. The mudejar fortress is a construction that can take your breath away. The incredibly intricate designs in the architecture and beautiful gardens were unforgettable. 

Outside view of Alhambra in Granada. (Photo by Chase Hollenkamp)

The next day we visited Córdoba, a city known for its beautiful interior patios and cute streets. Here we had the chance to visit Córdoba’s amazing mosque-turned-church from the 700s AD. It is styled with an array of interior arches, giving it an endless feel. 

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. (Photo by Chase Hollenkamp)

The last destinations on our trip were Úbeda and Baeza. Both cities contain beautiful churches and old palaces that left me in awe, as did every destination on the itinerary. In Ubeda we stopped for a buffet and ate seafood, different types of meat and of course a plethora of desserts. We were so full we could barely walk. 

After this trip, not only was I left completely exhausted, but I was also left with a different view of Spain. First, I realized that southern Spain is solely responsible for Spain having the reputation of one of the most difficult countries in the Spanish speaking world to understand. 

Apart from that, my original view of Spain was of Mediterranean beaches, but I now know that the country holds so many other amazing  destinations that are just as worthy of admiration. Among the castles, food, hikes and quaint towns, Andalucia has more than exceeded my expectations. 

Well, with this last article written, for now I say goodbye. I hope you enjoyed hearing about my journey in Spain, and I look forward to seeing you all very soon for the fall semester. ¡Hasta luego!