Madrid and Toledo to Cordoba and Seville
The activities in Barcelona have taken a large segment of the consciousness of the group. The guide observed that since the ‘illegal’ vote she has noticed a predominance of Spanish flags being hung in Madrid. Due to do the dictatorship of life under Franco, the flag represented oppression to many Spaniards.
So in this situation, we have seen an increase in a nationalistic fervor in response to the vote for secession by Catalonia. We saw many people actually wrapped in flags going to pro-Spain rallies. Interesting times.
Our tour company has altered our itinerary at this time to cancel Barcelona and extend our time in València C’est la vie.
Madrid is a metropolitan city with parks, museums, restaurants and a very active nightlife. We visited a famous modern art museum with a famous painting of the Spanish revolution. The end of our first day in Madrid was a welcome dinner. Finally a shower a bed and a welcome sleep not on a plane.
The first full day included a panoramic ride around Madrid and a visit to the Spanish royal palace. As with St. Petersburg, the opulence of these buildings and scale of the rooms leaves one in awe...and uncomfortable with the excess of resources spent on the “royalty”.
Then on to Toledo. The history of Spain as all of Europe is very complicated. Greeks, Romans, Germanic tribes, Arab, Christian re-conquests. The morning was the excesses of royalty and the afternoon golden monuments to religion. Sorry if that sentence is upsetting.
Today, Sunday a long bus ride from Madrid to Cordoba. Here we meandered thru the historic Jewish quarter (birthplace of Maimonides) and then on to the mosque converted to cathedral. Acres of arches.
Then on to Seville a really lovely city. Temperature today close to 90.
Group dinner in a lovely restaurant...glass covered entry way with archaeological dig beneath.
Driving thru town at 10 pm Sunday night looks like New Year’s Eve. These people know how to LIVE!
Sevilla is a most glorious, exciting, flavorful city. There is so much to do and the palpable energy of the heat of the culture and ambient temperature will keep me warm....winter is coming.
We had a lovely day. First a visit to the Spanish pavilion from the Ibero-American exposition of 1929. Seville spent 19 years getting ready and the buildings built were meant to be permanent. Many remained as consulates. The city modernized streets clearing medieval areas so that cars could enter the area.
We visited the Spanish exhibition building which was very impressive in size and design. Also we observed pavilions uniquely designed to demonstrate cultural elements of the different countries
Then on to the meandering alleys of the old city’s Jewish quarter. They (Ferdinand and Isabella king and Queen) threw all the Jews out in 1492 (unless you converted), so it’s ironic they still call these areas Jewish quarter...or is it marketing?
The end of the touring was the cathedral of Sevilla. Another humongous building combination of multiple cultures and faiths enlarged and rebuilt over centuries...centuries.
These spectacular structures do leave me with mixed feelings about concentration of wealth and power but my musings are still forming pros and cons in my head.
We meandered thru the medieval alleys of the Bario de Santa Cruz shopping and smelling spices and seeing plates of tapas and just being, in a way that occurs on holiday. Seeing life being lived with such joy and laughter and experiences that are so different from the rest of my life ... creating visual, auditory and olfactory synaptical pathways to inscribe in my mind these unique life experiences making memories.
The evening was a visit to a flamenco performance. I was pleasantly surprised. The rhythmic cadences of the booted heeled dancers ... the staccato of their clapping ... Spanish guitar melodies ... elaborate costumes...seductive hips ... suggestive glances ... combine to create a Spanish folk dancing movie musical in my mind.
Some of the group partied along the shores of the Guadaíra where restaurants and bars and life play out to the single digits of night.
This is a Moorish (Muslim) fortress built on Roman ruins starting in 900...built in 1300s into a royal palace and when the catholic conquest occurred became the royal palace of Ferdinand and Isabela. This is where Columbus convinced Isabela to finance his expedition to the East Indies when he came upon the new world and landed in the Bahamas. Later he returned to the Antilles, and central and South America. He NEVER touched the USA.
1492 was an important year. Columbus left on his expedition; the Spanish monarchy completed the conquest of the Muslim territory on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and the Jews were thrown out of Spain or made to convert.
The Alhambra Decree (also known as the Edict of Expulsion) was an edict issued on 31 March 1492, by the joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) ordering the expulsion of practicing Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and its territories and possessions by 31 July of that year. The primary purpose was to eliminate their influence on Spain's large Converso population and ensure they did not revert to Judaism. Over half of Spain's Jews had converted as a result of the religious persecution and pogroms which occurred in 1391, and as such were not subject to the Decree or to expulsion. A further number of those remaining chose to avoid expulsion as a result of the edict. As a result of the Alhambra decree and persecution in prior years, over 200,000 Jews converted to Catholicism and between 40,000 and 100,000 were expelled, an indeterminate number returning to Spain in the years following the expulsion.:1
Alhambra tour was a couple of hours of walking thru lovely gardens and water features. Very restful. Views from the palace walls were exceptional of the lovely ancient and modern city of Granada.
After dinner we meandered thru the old alleys in and out of the Northern Africa (Moroccan) shops that were still open. Our night tour included a visit to the church where Ferdinand and Isabela are buried and a visit to a monument to Christopher Columbus. Tomorrow (today is Gail’s birthday), is a holiday celebration in Columbus’ honor.
He is a big deal to the Spanish. His exploration opened the trade routes to the Americas which brought great wealth to the Spanish thru the colonization and subjugation and enslavement of much of the hemisphere.
Under his direct leadership & responsibility (as Captain and then as Governor) several hundred thousand, and probably over a million people were killed in a major act of genocide.
Others followed him and killed even more (Cortes, Pizarro etc.), but he did his share.
He was not just some innocent mariner: after his first voyage Columbus was appointed Viceroy and Governor of the Indies and directly ruled the territories from 1494 to 1500. He created work camps (where Indians were worked to death in as ghastly a manner as anyone in 20th century), led the troops, established slavery & mines
This is all a matter of record: 15th/16th century is not pre-history, and the Spaniards recorded all of this. Bartolome de las Casas  was a monk who wrote it in detail.
In just two years under Columbus Governorship through murder, mutilation, being worked to death or suicide more than half the 250,000 Indians in Haiti were dead
- Howard Zinn
"Haiti under the Spanish is one of the primary instances of genocide in Human history"
"Columbus not only sent the first slaves across the Atlantic, he sent more slaves than any other individual.
He also sold women:
One hundred Castellanos are obtained for a woman as easily as a farm and there are plenty of dealers who go looking for girls, those of 10 to 12 are especially in demand
- Columbus wrote to a friend
Columbus was not merely a navigator who sailed off: he was one of the first colonial despots who killed hundreds of thousands of people, established a major slave trade and looted an entire island-nation.
We watched at the hotel bar when the president of Catalonia spoke. Our guide looked visibly shaken. The possibility of a civil war with Catalonia is not out of the question.
Tourists who were in Barcelona over the past few days were at times not able to return to their hotels. Other tours to Spain have been cancelled.
We were in Buenos Aires when the Argentinian pope was named and now experiencing this bit of history.
Today long bus ride to Valencia.
We had a long bus ride from Granada to Valencia. Part of the ride was along the eastern coast of Spain as we longingly viewed the sparking Mediterranean from our traveling enclosure/prison.
Again visited cathedrals and meandered thru medieval curving shaded tributaries that feed into sun lit squares alive with locals and tourists soaking up life and wine and tapas.
The next day we bagged the museums and slept in and veg’d out on the soft sanded pleasant breezed beach wafting with the sounds of the mild waves from the Mediterranean. A well-earned rest and pleasant end to touring.
Spain is a varied and beautiful country. Well worth a visit. The Spanish people are stylish, happy and live life with a strong family structure. I assume kids nap for every evening restaurants were full with families including children.
They lived under a repressive military dictatorship under Franco which began with the Spanish civil war (1936-1939) against a democratically elected government when Franco enlisted the help of Hitler and Mussolini to bomb the Spanish city of Guernica...his own country. He ascended to power in 1939 until his death in 1975.
His early years of power led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands in work camps and concentration camps. So they are only 40 something years a democratically elected country. So many people who lived under oppression that are still alive today may lend a sense of appreciation of freedom that we in the US take for granted.
Perhaps a government loaded with generals in the executive branch, hypercritical of the legislative and judicial branch, catering/cratering to religious factions, promoting voter suppression, heavily arming its angriest base and threatening to the freedom of the press and inciting his base to not trust the press could end badly.
What to say about the ostentatiously decorated palaces and cathedrals. When does concentration of wealth and power affect the health and well-being of the populace. Concentration of wealth leads to concentration of political power. The strongest time for the middle class in the US was immediately post WW II, when tax rates on the upper class were at their highest. The reduction of the graduated income tax using the theory of trickledown economics has been repeated regularly since then with the same result....more concentration of wealth and power, crumbling roads and schools, stagnation of wages and decreasing quality of life for the many to the benefit of the few.
Trickledown economics, tide lifting all boats, Laffer curve, tax reform are all sound bites .... Advertising slogans ... that always causes the same result...larger budget deficits, decreasing public spending, crumbling infrastructure and MORE concentration of wealth and power to the few at the expense of the many.
I have been blessed to see many countries. Except for the extremely poor countries I see better roads, more modern and user friendly airports and spectacularly better mass and rail infrastructure once I leave the USA. Education, medical care, and family leave are part of a strong social safety net supported by progressive taxation that is truly the truest form of patriotism.
When you combine that with the concentration of weapons and ammunition in those willing to march with torches spouting anti-Semitic slogans and Nazi flags...how much longer will my country be safe for my tribe?
Antisemitism was the canary in the coal mine warning to the Germans and they didn’t listen ... and it led to horrific devastation and death. History repeats itself...is mobs chanting “lock her up” and “Jews will not replace us” the preamble to “Zeig heil”?
To view pictures of Spain click on this link.