Following our rapid-tongued tour guide through the quaint cobblestone streets of Toledo, I’ll admit: I might have zoned out a bit. It was the end of my first week in Spain, I hadn’t heard a word of English in days, and my energy was beginning to wane. The town was beautiful and contained so much fascinating history, but after a few hours, my wind began to wander to topics like “I wonder what’s for lunch” and “I probably should have worn more practical shoes today,” so I followed the crowd mindlessly to our next destination, unsure of what it was.

As we stepped into the cool, dark interior of the Cathedral de Toledo and I peered up into the golden, gilded ceiling, I lost control of my jaw and stared, gaping at my surroundings, in awe. Archways and flying buttresses soared above us, leaving us with our eyes turned heavenward, feeling minuscule in the shadow of their magnificence and grandeur. Light filtered through the brilliant stained glass windows and entered the building in shades of deep violet, scarlet, and emerald that bounced off the metal work and sculptures surrounding the sanctuary. Every inch of wood and stone was carved with delicate intricacy and care in the forms of religious figures and Biblical scenes, and there, in the middle of it all, drawing the eye with its almost impossible decadence, was a golden alter piece that stretched from the marble floor to the domed ceiling, the Virgin Mary at its base and the crucified Christ gracing its highest point.

Religious or not, art of such magnitude and beauty makes you FEEL something. It hits you in your core and fills you with emotions– whether they be reverence, inspiration, peace, hope, something else, or all of them at once. I did not expect to find such incredible feeling during a school trip to Spain. My simple plan was only to see the sights, taste the food, and learn the language. Though I feel like I am accomplishing those things, the country had so much more in store that I was not expecting.

At every turn, I am shown cathedrals, museums, palaces, and gardens that take me to that place where truth, goodness, and beauty combine– that place of wonder, awe, and bliss. Spain keeps showing me the most incredible, gorgeous things I have ever seen my own eyes. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the hundreds of pictures I take really don’t do it justice, so I recommend coming to see it all for yourself.

My other recommendation is to always listen to your tour guide; sometimes the history of a place is as beautiful and striking as the view.