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Two Harbors students immerse themselves in Spanish culture

Lizz Berge takes a ride on a camel in Morocco as part of the Two Harbors High School Spanish Club trip last month.

The Two Harbors High School Spanish Club trip was a whirlwind but worldly experience for the 22 students and adults who attended.

The group left in mid-June to explore cities in Spain, trying out their language skills as they dared to eat exotic Spanish food, ride camels in Morocco, and swim in the Mediterranean Sea.

Spanish trips for students in Two Harbors were established by former Spanish teacher Sarah Svatos, who took a group of students to Costa Rica in 2009. This year, the students teamed with four others from Cook County to go on an 11 day trip to Spain, starting in Barcelona.

The following is an account of the trip from Lizz Berge, an intern reporter this summer at the News-Chronicle.

We met up with our tour guide, Kate, in Barcelona and a group of adults from Alabama. This made our group 31-people strong for the next week and a half.

One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to Morocco. We took a ferry from Torremolinos, Spain, to set foot on African soil. We had a tour guide set up who would show us the city of Tetuan.

On the way, we stopped to have one of the most exciting experiences of the trip: camel riding. The rides were enjoyable but scary, as the beasts are tall and ungainly.

We then went to the city's marketplace, which for most of us on the tour was a major culture shock. Many of the merchants in the crowded, narrow streets had their food and goods for sale laid out on small blankets on the ground. Each alley had its own unique, pungent smell, mostly unappealing.

We saw a mosque in the market area from the outside. Tourists were not allowed inside. Our tour guide described to us some of the Islamic rituals, such as praying five times a day and fasting during the month of Ramadan.

We also stopped by a rug outlet where we could view exquisite Moroccan rugs. It was an experience to make any purchase there, because you could haggle over the price to try and get a good deal.

We went to a pharmacy nothing like the American version. The Moroccan store sold spices, oils, and creams. They sold rare saffron for cooking, oils for curing headaches, and versatile creams that could be used for cold sores, lip moisturizer, and acne.

We ate a meal of couscous in Morocco before returning to Spain.

We really enjoyed the beautiful cities of Toledo and Madrid. In Toledo, we walked through the old part of the city and saw a demonstration on the making of the famed Toledo swords. In Madrid, our group explored the Royal Palace, which has 2,800 rooms, more than any other European palace. It is used for occasional formal events. We learned that in the 1700s, the king had a different room for eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It would be pretty grand to live like a king.

Our only train trip was on Spain's fastest train, the AVE, to Córdoba. The train reaches speeds over 180 mph. In Córdoba, we had a guided tour of the Mezquita, which used to be a mosque but is now used as a cathedral.

We went on to Seville and visited the cathedral where Columbus is buried. We headed over to the Alcázar, a palace that is the official residence of Spain's king and queen. We admired the beauty of the palace, the gardens, and the family of peacocks living there. Attending a lively evening show of flamenco dancing ended the day.

We also had the opportunity to visit one of the most famous cathedrals in Spain, the La Sagrada Familia. Architectural genius Antoni Gaudi started construction on this massive, ornate cathedral in 1882 and it isn't expected to be completed until 2026.

Outside the cathedral we saw people protesting recent government reforms. We saw protests throughout our trip in city squares where rows and rows of tents were set up as protestors camped out.

The last day of the trip was a free day and some of us spent it on the beach swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. Some did more shopping and some just relaxed. It was a great way to end the adventure.

We landed in New York with barely enough time to catch our connecting flight and flew back to Minneapolis. As we drove back up to Two Harbors, catching our breath, the first stop back in the U.S. was McDonalds. Typical Americanos, we are.

The trip, which included travel to two foreign continents by plane, train, and boat, came to an end in the parking lot of the high school, once again surrounded by the familiar.