In no particular order, below are some remembered moments from our recent travels.
Archeological Museum, Madrid - La Dama de Elche sits tall and monumental, life size, despite the fact that she is 2500 years old. She gazes straight ahead, her dark hair pulled up in combs in a style adopted much later by residents of the south of Spain. She is the first Sevillian woman, two millennia ahead of her time. With her beautiful mantilla (scarf), her dark hair and strong nose, she could have stepped out of last year’s photograph of the traditional Holy Week celebration. In fact, she is a burial urn, containing her own ashes. I can tell from the work that she was loved and revered, a holy woman from ancient Iberia.
I was struck by another pre-historic piece, the small statue of a woman whose body is a goblet. The drink is poured in at the top of her head and comes out in a wide bowl that she carries, breast height. The effect is of her breasts offering drink to the hungry traveler. How innocent and unguarded, the desire to return to mother’s milk as refreshment!
|Roman chariot racecourse, Tarragona|
|Court of Myrtles, Alhambra|
Granada is not just the calm and beautiful, but the violent and bloody. The shield held by Boabdil in his final encounter, trying to defend the Alhambra before losing it, his last toehold on the Spanish peninsula, is preserved in the Royal Palace in Madrid. “Granada is the product of two rivers of blood and two cultures in a living encounter”. The same could be said of Spain as a whole. So much of Spanish culture came from this encounter, this mixture of East and West.
The Mezquita in Cordoba – Even more so than the Alhambra, the Mezquita (or mosque) in Cordoba is a mixture of Moorish and Catholic culture. Moorish civilization is said to have reached its acme in Cordoba, home to scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers from the 10th through the 15th centuries. The production of paper was brought to Europe here, as was algebra, astronomy and astrology. Christopher Columbus consulted with Moorish scientific advisors before starting on his trip to the “Indies”.
|Cathedral in the Mezquita, Cordoba|
The Spanish functionary is not dead – We have seen some incredible government inefficiency in Spain. The Prado is free from 6-8 pm every night. So at 6 there is a long line to the ticket office, where people must go to pick up their free ticket. Then, you must walk clear around the museum to the other door where you are allowed in. Though it might be sufficient to do away with the ticket altogether and have one person with a “clicker” at the door, this would eliminate any number of jobs.
A Moroccan street - As I struggle to park the car within centimeters of the wall to avoid being hit on the street side, an old woman approaches the car, asking for alms. She is well dressed and carries a basket. “La, la”, I mutter, “No, no”. I am rushing and I do not normally give money to individuals. In the states, I contribute to organizations that serve the poor, rather than to individuals who might choose to spend the money on drink or drugs. How could I miss the fact that this was different? The woman gave me a look which indicated she was not used to being turned down, particularly on a Friday. Her look needed no translation: “You are going straight to hell, young lady!” It might have been helpful to have used the Arabic phrase, “May Allah help you”.
Traveling around Madrid - We are having fun with language. Here is a store whose owners wanted to ensure that Madrilenos pronounced "happy" correctly. So they added the "j" to help them remember not to use the silent "h"! An apt description for us!