The town of Cervantes

Trip Start Dec 03, 2005
Trip End Jul 19, 2007

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

After getting to Heathrow with 6 hours to spare before my connecting flight to Madrid I decided to see if there were spaces on any earlier flights and promptly found myself booked onto a plane leaving in 45 minutes. Apparently snow had been forecast for that night so they wanted to get as many people as possible onto the earlier planes.

Luckily I managed to contact my friend Rafa and was on my way to Alcalá de Henares which has the second oldest university in Spain where many famous people had studied. These included Cervantes, Quevedo, Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca and Góngora. Oh do I remember the days when I studied their works!

So with Alcalá de Henares being my home for the next 4 days, I decided to have a look around. In the Middle Ages the Arabs occupied the place and called it Al-Qala (The Castle). The university's origins also lie in the middle ages, when King Sancho IV of Castile created the Studium General on May 20, 1293. In 1499, Pope Alexander VI granted the request by one of its former pupils, Cardinal Cisneros, to convert it into a full university. This was named the Universitas Complutensis, after Complutum where it was located. Complutum was the Latin name of Alcalá de Henares. This is also one of the few, if not the only, university to have had a King as lecturer. King Carlos III gave seminars once a month to the students of Alcalá.

It was also the place where the first classes of Spanish grammar were given, after the rules had been created in the Paraninfo (Auditorium) of the university. This room has a mix of styles reflecting the influences over time, the ceiling is Mudejar while Christian and Arabic styles can also be found. As I walked around I found it fascinating to think that this was where the territories of South America were divided up and created and also that the university in Alcala was the model for all universities in the New World.

And that was enough serious stuff for me for the day - I wanted to know if the Cuevas de Sesamo were still open and to sup a jar or five of their delicious sangria. This is the real stuff and not that touristy imitation that you get in most places. I'm sure some of it's ingredients are magic as I found myself walking along Postigo San Martin in the wee hours of the morning reminiscing over the good oul' days! It must have been the sangria but I could only remember the good times and couldn't stop bursting out in smiles!

England, you have a lot to live up to. Ireland has embraced the no-smoking approach and has converted over to kilometers. Italy is also no smoking zone and has been using kilometers for eons and I've just found out that Spain is about to introduce a no-smoking policy from 1st January 2006. The UK is lagging behind a bit there methinks.

By the way, if anyone's interested, apparently it was 26 degrees celsius in Andalucia on the 26th December! And I thought it was supposed to be winter!!!
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