A Trip Through Spain in Black and White

[Guest post by Tanya Heidrich in Spain] This year I took off to Spain with a one-way ticket and no specific route in mind, eager to explore a country I’d always been drawn to. I sketched my way from Madrid, down to Andalucia and up the Mediterranean coast to Barcelona, capturing everything in black and white in a hand-made sketchbook. Over the course of 77 days of travel, I visited 14 towns and cities, and filled my sketchbook with 73 drawings of architecture, plants, patterns, and mini comics.

The Palacio de Cristal, in Parque El Retiro, Madrid
Left: The Aqueduct of Segovia. Right: Patterns embossed in the façades of buildings throughout Segovia

During my six days in Madrid, I took a day trip up to Segovia, eager to see its aqueduct, which is one of the largest and best preserved aqueducts of the Roman Empire. It turned out to be well worth the trip, as the aqueduct is so much larger and more impressive than I had expected (and my expectations were already high).

The Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba
A collection of patterns from inside and outside la Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

After Madrid, I made my way to Cordoba, spending eight days aimlessly wandering around – and getting lost in – the small curved streets of its old town. As an avid lover of all things striped, I had been wanting to visit the Mezquita-Catedral for years to admire its white and red striped arches – and it did not disappoint! The Mezquita de Córdoba is a rare combination of a mosque and cathedral, reflecting the area’s history of rule by Muslims and Christians. The simple foundations –which are now ruins under the building – were built by Christians, but when Córdoba became a Muslim town a mosque was built over it and expanded over time. Many years later, when Christians took over the city, they wanted to preserve the beauty of the building but turn it into a cathedral. The result is an unbelievably beautiful and eclectic combination of architectural and historical styles, packed with beautiful details, patterns and tiles.

A street in Sevilla during a terrace lunch.

Next, I spent 11 days in Sevilla (which absolutely flew by), gawking at its many elaborate tiles, drawing on terraces and enjoying goat cheese tapas. Several people told me that I would love Plaza de España, so I made an effort not to look up any pictures of it before going there to take it all in at once. I’m glad I did, because it was so much more impressive and beautiful than I could’ve imagined! It’s majestic as a whole, but what makes it all the more special is how much detail and color every corner is adorned with, and how many patterns and hand painted tiles abound.

Architectural detail from Plaza de España in Sevilla

Left: A collection of things found on the beach in Cadiz. Right: Pattern based on the giant concrete cubes stacked along the edges of the coastline in the old town of Cadiz (to break down the impact of the waves and reduce erosion).

Over the next few days, I decided to take a beach break and head off to Cadiz, before making my way down to Gibraltar (and out of Spain) for 36 hours, where I got to see the only wild monkeys in Europe. After a quick stint in Malaga, I was off to spend 11 days in Granada.

The Alhambra in Granada

Architectural styles in Granada vary so much based on its history of Christian and Muslim rule, as shown through its wide variety of architectural styles, from the Albaicin neighborhood made of small white houses and cobblestone streets, to the majestic Alhambra (the most visited monument in Spain) to the detailed doors around town.

Doors of Granada

My mother joined me in Granada, where we set off on a roadtrip to Cabo de Gata, a natural park with a rich combination of dry landscapes, cacti, small coastal towns, windmills and picturesque natural beaches. We spent three days hiking, exploring and swimming, taking full advantage of the quiet nature and open spaces, in contrast to the busy cities we’d been in prior. The road trip continued up to Cuenca, a town whose colorful old town is perched atop steep cliffs.

The old town of Cuenca

We said our farewells in Valencia, where I continued my trip alone, exploring the city by bike.

Twisted trees in the Jardines del Real, Valencia.

The trip continued to Tarragona (where I spent most of my time sick and in bed), and onto Barcelona, before heading back home to Switzerland, sad to leave but eager to catch my breath and give my drawing hand a well-earned rest.

Tanya Heidrich is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Switzerland. She recently went on a trip across Spain, and you can see all the drawings from that trip here.

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