A day in the country!

Trip Start Jun 13, 2012
Trip End Jun 26, 2012

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What I did

Flag of Spain  , Castile-León,
Saturday, June 16, 2012

Madrid (Segovia & Escorial) Saturday, Jun 16

Today we had the choice of staying in Madrid or visiting a couple of smaller towns north of Madrid. I, of course, choice the trip to the smaller towns, Segovia and Escorial.  The first stop was about an hour away at the town of Segovia.  Segovia is best known for its Roman Aqueduct.  It was built towards the end of 1 A.D. and measures 800 meters at its highest point.  It can be seen from a long ways away and was truly beautiful.  For those of you who don't remember an aqueduct is a sort of water system the Romans came up with to get water from the mountains to the cities, back in the day.  While we were in Segovia we also visited the Alcazar de Segovia, or the fortress which could have either Roman or Celtic origins. It was built around the 14th century and is a transition between Roman and Gothic styles.  In 1492 Queen Isabel used it to start her royal procession before being proclaimed queen.  The views were terrific from the fortress and a lot of the original mosaic’s and ceilings are still in place.  It was a self guided tour and I enjoyed reading and learning as I went along.  We also saw, from the outside, the beautiful Renaissance Gothic style cathedral and the charming streets of the city.

Once we finished in Segovia we headed to Escorial.  On the way we stopped at the Valley of the Fallen.  This is a place which was built between during Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975).  After the Franco government came into power he took the opposition party members as political prisoners.  Some were killed while others were forced to work as slaves.  Franco committed many other horrible crimes during his dictatorship including telling new parents their newborn baby had died while in fact the child was adopted by families who were unable to have children.  He and Hitler had some of the same ideas.   In fact on Friday night while we were in Madrid city center we saw protestors who were protesting the fact that the Catholic Church participated in the illegal adoptions and the fact that the family members who just disappeared during this time have never been accounted for, anyhow, Franco had this huge mausoleum built, he is buried there, to supposedly commemorate all those who died during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).   It was really kind of creepy there as a lot of the country would like it to be destroyed and the upkeep is lacking.  Shortly before we arrived a wedding took place inside which is very weird.  Oh well to each their own.

After the Valley of the Fallen we had lunch in Escorial and then took a guided tour of the Alcazar of Escorial.  Years ago the kings would travel from place to place depending on the time of the year, cooler places in the summer and warmer places in the winter.  Today this huge fortress is used for many different things, including a day school, a monastery, a library, a church and most famously a pantheon, or a mausoleum.  Not all of the kings of Spain are buried at Escorial but most of them are.  A couple of interesting facts, the pantheon is only 8 meters below the dome of the cathedral, the room is lined in marble and is incredibly beautiful, and finally, the current king of Spain has saved the last remaining two spots for his parents.  His father abdicated to Franco so in the traditional Spanish culture he should not be buried there but Juan Carlos has beholden this honor on his parents.  Juan Carlos parents have passed away; however, since bodies have a certain smell to them while they are decaying they are not placed in the pantheon for 40 – 45 yrs after the death occurs.  So currently they are still in the "rotting room". Ok on to more “interesting” things.  The Royal Palace in Madrid has over 2800 rooms.  The current Royal family does not live there because they thought it was too big for them.  They live a short distance from Madrid in a 150 room palace.  

The Catholic Cathedral in Madrid is a relatively new building, it was dedicated only 18yrs ago by John Paul II.  The first picture I sent was of our group standing in front of the bear with the tree is very important in Madrid.  In the olden days Madrid was a great place for hunting so noebility would come to Madrid for the hunt.  While they were hunting they would see animals, I guess bears, walking kind of crazy.  The tree was a Madrono tree and the berries on it can ferment making them like alchol so when the animals would eat the berries they would get drunk.  Actually, Madrid is so very proud of the female bear eating the berries that it is everywhere, on the backs of taxi’s as well as on the tops of manhold covers.  The bear, by the way, stands for fertile soil and the tree stands for aristocracy.

Spain has a Parlimentary Constitional Governement.  What that means is the government is democratically elected by the King has the final say or veto if he wants to.

Now a little history, around 200 BC the Romans arrived and imposed their civilization on the native Iberian people.  They were in Spain for 700 hundred yrs and as with most places they occupied left some important things.  One was the language, a second was the legal system, a third was the type or style of agriculture that Spain still used (olives, almonds, wheat & grapes), and the fourth was the system of roads which are improved and still used in large part today.

Once the Romans were kicked out Germanic tribes (northern Europe) lived in Spain but after 150yrs they were booted by the Arabs who remained in Spain for about 700yrs.  The last defensive hold the Arabs had was in Granada, Spain, but I’ll tell you more about that in a later blog.

One final (for today at least) tidbit about Madrid, it gets it water for public consumption from the nearby mountain snows.  That must mean a lot of snow each winter! 

Well for now good-bye,

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reyjusuf on

I love Segovia. Spain is just full of awesome places like this!

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