A bit of Fluxus, some Medieval sites and the grand final.

With a slight feeling of spring in the air our first trip this friday took us to the village of Malpartida de Cáceres. An old wool washing industry here has been converted into a fantastic art museum – The Vostell museum. With bits and pieces from modern society´s artefacts like cars, TV:s and motorcycles, Vostell has created an atmosphere that made us reflect upon our lifestyles in the western world. Sustainable art indeed! https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/vostell-malpartida-museum

The damm that used to keep the water for the wool washing industry.
A fountain of modernism in the garden of the Vostell museum.

Next stop on our tour was the capital city of Cáceres. The inner core of the city dates back to 25BC. The medieval walled city center is a Unesco World Heritage. You might have seen it before since the sceneries where uses in the Game of Thrones.

Capital letters for the capital city of the province.
Welcome to the historical quarters of Cáceres!
Touching the foot of a saint surely will bring her luck!

Life in a medieval city meant keeping the water resource safe. That is a task which also has a bearing on our modern life. How can we make sure that 7 billions of citizens on this earth can access safe drinking water?

The Moorish cistern of Cáceres built approx. 1000 years ago.

Underneath the old city are the remnants of its moorish past. Once built by recycled roman and visigoth building materials into arabstyle architecture, the king of Spain made sure the basin was allowed to remain intact after the reconquesta. On the way back to Mérida we saw an abundance of storks. The Extremadura region is a part of an EU-financed project to restore the habitats of the storks.

The Stork project has revitalised the habitats successfully!

When we came back to Mérida it was definitely time for lunch. Of course our hosts had prepared a fantastic paella.

The fantastic paella!

The late afternoon took us back to where we started. Not longer newcomers the feeling in the air was that of accomplishment. The tones of Halleluljah, spanish guitar and Chopin beautifully performed by students from Poland and Spain, gave the closing ceremony the right air of dignity. Certificates of attendance where handed out, the winners of an environmental kahoot where being “crowned”. The spanish team has been wonderful. Thank you! We are so much looking forward to next meeting in Kaunas, Lithuania. Let the environmental work continue. “Viva España! ahora Lituania está esperando”.

Cello duo playing Halleluljah.
Proudly presented with our certificates.

Planting trees for a better future

Waking up to a sunny morning, getting ready and dressed for a day outdoors but first we gathered at the school for a seminar about the initial survey of our project. A great job had been done by the statistical co-ordinator of the project Mr Eduardo Corbacho and his students at Sáenz de Buruaga school. Down to a detailed level of explanation we learnt about our current answers to some of the critical issues of our times. The total report is said to span over almost a hundred pages! What an effort.

The statistical co-ordinator of the project: Mr Eduardo Corbacho and his students.

After a short break close to a “swedish fika” we got on the bus. This bustrip was to take us to Cornalvo http://visit-western-spain.com/cornalvo-natural-park/ a Natural Park with holm oaks and cork oaks. On the way there we caught several glimpses of livestock.

The visitors center at Cornalvo Natural Park
A case full of protectors, essential equipment when one is planting saplings!

In the mediterranean forests on both sides of the road the famous Iberian pigs roamed in large flocks. From them comes the famous pata negra. Arriving at the main building we then got a briefing from the rangers about the wild-life of the park, its trees and flowers. We also learnt a bit about how to plant holm oaks. Then we had applied sciences! Well, anyways, we got to practice our treeplanting skills. This was an awesome thing for us. Planting a tree for a better and greener future is something emotionally satisfying. Since the trees will be protected they will also give each and everyone of us a reason to return to the park to check up on their growth, maybe even violate them a bit – leaving a carved in heart in memory of someone special on their bark in the future?!

Getting the work done!
Under a cork oak
One of the rangers together with Mrs Giovanna Nieddu from the Italian team.

The problem of deforestation has been known since late 1800s. Being a country where shepherds have roamed the countryside with their herds of sheep since the middleages has led to a loss of soil and other adverse consequenses for the environment. As early as 1867 a reforestation commission was created in Spain. Healthy forests are essential for preserving the soils and also acts as barriers when heavy rains washes the land. Another aspect of a tree is that it capsules carbon dioxide. Today we dug in to do a small part of this reforestation work!

After a delicious lunch outdoors we went back to Mérida. The late afternoon was spent in the National museum of Roman art: http://turismomerida.org/what-to-see/national-roman-art-museum/ a beautiful building drawn by the renowned spanish architect Rafael Moneo . Just outside a roman soldier – Abel, teacher in latin language – was waiting for us and inside we were given an introduction to the museum and its collection by Ph.D. Trinidad Nogales Bassarade: today in charge of the museum but earlier in her career she has also been the minister of education and culture in the Region of Extremadura.

Our host and Erasmus project co-ordinator Luis Ignacio Mur with our roman soldier Abel.
The past meets the future.
Our spanish hosts introducing us to Roman history.
Inside NMRA – the National Museum of Roman Art.
A commercial from the past.
At the arena.
A mosaic floor from a Roman villa in Augusta Emerita.

Regional efforts of Extremadura

This morning we where invited to the Extremaduran assembly. It was a very representative place in the middle of the city of Mérida. Here we learnt a bit about how an autonomous region works and that the Extremadura region has more ambitious goals than the Kingdom of Spain! When Spain has 20% of the energy coming from renewable sources, the figure for Extremadura is 50%! Our students also got to meet a politician from the assembly – Mr Felipe Redondo Milara, a member of the socialist party. One of the questions he was asked by our students was: “What are the politicians of Extremadura doing to improve the circular economy of Extremadura?”. He told us about the creation of a new National Park to protect biodiversity and the eco-system of the flora and fauna of the region. There is also approx. 160 other projects going on in the region. Many of those projects are about solar energy replacing fossile fuels as sources of energy production.

Entering the Extremaduran assembly
Swedish team outside the Assembly
Mr Felipe Redondo Milara with our translator Ines Pino, english Teacher at Sáenz de Buruaga
The alabaster decorations – lungs and hearts filling the people of the region with emotions and energy.

Next official visit was at the mayor´s office. The mayor himself: Antonio Rodriguez Osuna, held the opening speech. A panel made up of the head of the board of education, the head of environment and the principal of the Sáenz de Buruaga School told of us about their work with circular economy and sustainable tourism, then all students were presented with a gift from Merida, a T-shirt of course in spanish red.

The mayor Antonio Rodriguez Osuna was also wearing the 17 climategoals of UN on his lapel.
Anna Sierra the principal of Sáenz de Buruaga and Susanna, the head of Education.

When all questions had been answered we walked back in time to 37 AD, the date when Augusta Emerita, the “grandfather” of Mérida was founded. The Romans built a fort at the northern banks of the Guadiana river. The fort was later taken over by the arabs and turned into an Alcazaba. A remnant of its roman history is kept alive in the current coat of arms of the city – a two-arched bridge. Our guide through this long history was the archaeologist in charge of the excavations. Whoever was in charge of this fort controlled the only bridge from the north to the south in the province of Lusetania!

A picture of a coin imprinted with the two-arched bridge.
Our guide explaining the origins of the fort which later became an Alkazaba.
From the walls of the fort you have a great view over the bridge once built by the romans over the Guadiana.
Essential for all forts is a well, here is the entrance to the one watering this one.
The path used by the horses used for carrying the water supplying the 2000 soldiers living inside the premises of the fort.

Those of us who had some energy left after this went to Dolmen de Lacara and after that we had a dinner together before finally getting a night of sleep, preparing for another busy day experiencing the spanish hospitality.

The Dolmen of Lácara

Hydro electric power plant and Roman bath in the village of Alange

Tuesday morning was a sunny and cold morning. We gathered at the IES Sáenz de Buruaga school where we got on a comfortable bus taking us to the hydro electric powerplant of Alange. The dam at Alange is a gravity dam built in 1992. It has two main uses; providing fresh water for the Mérida region and producing hydro electric power. Nuclear power is the most important source of energy in Spain at the moment (45%) but renewable sources like sunpower, aeolian power and hydro electric power are growing in importance.

The village of Alange is a sleeping beauty at this time of the year. Its approx. twothousand inhabitants are recovering from previous season and are expecting the next. When the fourhundred hotelrooms are full of tourists they have nine busy months of working around the clock. The main attraction is the Roman baths dating back to 300 AD. They are dedicated to the goddess Juno.

Overlooking the village is the Castle of Alange, once held by the military order of Santiago after they had conquered and won it from the Moors. The symbol of the order is said to date back to the age of the crusades.

The cross is also a prominent feature inside the Church of our lady of Miracles in the central part of Alange. In the walls of the church swifts have their nests which is seen as a symbol of fertility, giving extra power to the church.

In the evening our students spent their time with their hostfamilies meanwhile we got to enjoy the hospitality of our spanish co-ordinator Inaki trying different kinds of tapas.

Of course we sang along with the food!

Getting beyond being strangers

Now we are all here in Mérida, Extremadura, Spain. All teams have arrived with their students and we are enjoying the spanish hospitality. The day has been intense, like a paso doble. No bulls are roaming the arenas anymore but the river Guadiana is still wetting the pastureland around the city and the heart of the spanish people is warm and red and welcoming.

All countries started out by introducing themselves to eachother. After a short break we then got to the more serious tasks of sharing knowledge about different environmental issues with eachother. The spanish students led the way. They introduced different sources of environmental problems to us. The Czech Republic followed up by furthering our knowledge of the causes of deforestation. In the Czech Republic draughts and the birch-beetle have severely harmed the forests. Italy and in particular Sardinia is experiencing loss of biodiversity and we got to know a little bit more about the albino donkey and other red-listed animals. Lithuania told us about garbage accumulation and Poland about pollution. The swedish girls then finished the theoretical part of the day by sharing their knowledge about the clothing industry. There we all can participate by using, reusing and mending our clothes.

After a typical lunch – chickpea stew – we went to the Roman theater in Mérida, one of twelve treasures of Spain. The site inspired Ridley Scott when he worked on the film Gladiator and today it also inspired us. Agrippa made an entry into the historybooks of us all when he financed the buildings of the arena and the theater in the decade before 0.

So, here we are, people from six european countries. Our main aim is to do something about the climate but a co-benefit of it all is that we get to learn about eachother! Tomorrow the experience will continue…. for today, we say thank you!

28th August we discussed and divided tasks amongst ourselves in Lund.

This very enjoyable late summer day in life we had our first fall meeting between the members of the Lundensian branch of an Erasmus project. We needed to discuss various ideas for our project about Sustainable Tourism. The financing is provided and we have to get set and running. We want to have an excellent agenda to offer our guests from Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland and Lithuania. They will be arriving for a week´s exchange at the end of oktober. Time might seem on our side but as the darker half of the year starts to unfold it is a good idea to have a head´s start.