30.10.2010 - 31.10.2010 5 °C
My weekend was spent outside of Madrid, and it served as a brief review of Spanish history I had learned as a freshman in college in FLS 315 at NCSU 7 years ago. It all started Saturday morning as my cousin woke me up and told me to get dressed to eat breakfast in the Castillo de Oropesa (yes, a real castle). The castle was built between the 12th-13th centuries by Arabs and eventually occupied by King Alfonso X El Sabio. More details here.
You might be wondering what could we possible eat for breakfast in a castle...well, we pretended to be royalty for a bit and tried everything! (According to our guide in El Escorial, Felipe II used to eat 25-30 dishes in one meal for about 3 hours). My only plate included tortilla Española, chorizo, pimientos, jamón iberico, lomo, tomate licuado, y un croissant. To drink I had mango juice y un cafecito.... Must I say I didn't eat anything else until around 6pm?
Después de comer paseamos por el castillo y decidimos continuar con la lección de historia. Our next destination was a cemetery where Germans soldiers from the 1st and 2nd world wars were buried. The visit was brief as it was raining and cold.
Our main destination for the day was the Monasterio de Yuste in the province of Extremadura. The monastery was built around 1400s but probably the most interesting fact is that Emperador Carlos I de España (aka Carlos V de Alemania) moved to this Monastery in 1556 to retire and eventually rest until his death (he suffered from gout/gota). Interestingly, he actually died from Malaria. Other curious facts: Carlos I was married to Isabella of Portugal. In the Monasterio de Yuste, in the emperor's study room, there was a picture of Isabella hanging on the wall. Since he was mourning her death, a curtain hung over the painting and he would cover it when visitors came in the room. Also, in his bedroom, a door could be opened so that he would have a direct view of the high altar of the church. His wish was to be buried in a crypt exactly under the altar of the Monasterio de Yuste...and the whole reason he decided this monastery over others is because the Orden de San Jeronimo was his favorite Unfortunately his wish to be buried there was not fulfilled. His son, Felipe II decided that his father, the great Emperor, needed a special place to rest... and the tradition of burying kings and queens at the El Escorial began.
El Real Monasterio de El Escorial is located North of Madrid in the town of San Lorenzo. Felipe II ordered the construction to begin in 1563 and was finished in 1584 under the specifications of architect Juan Baustista de Toledo. El Escorial is the final resting place for nearly all monarchs from Carlos I to Alfonso XIII and it occupies an area of 33,000 square meters.. Although pictures are not allowed inside these locations, I will NEVER forget what I experienced. We walked through the bedroom of Felipe II and the Sala de Batallas. In this 55 meter long room, there are countless paintings portraying the different battles won by Spain and world maps. There Felipe II used to teach his children about the importance of war strategy... In every room we walked in, there were paintings and more paintings from Goya, José Ribera, Francisco Zurbán, and other fine artists. Some of the obras primas have now been moved the Museo del Prado (where I went earlier this week!). Another interesting thing about the Escorial is the original blue tiles that decorate many of the walls. This style of blue tiles and ceramics are all from Talavera de la Reina (where I am staying with my cousin!). I will look for some tiles here to take home...
Now - the most fascinating and creepy experience I had at the Escorial was our visit to the Pantheon of the Kings. This is an underground room, directly under the high altar of the Basilica that houses the remains of almost all Spanish monarchs. The stairs that led us to this room (and the walls) were all marble. Inside the Pantheon all I could see was GOLD and more marble... The room is rounded and the coffins are stacked from the ceiling to the floor in chronological order. The room is divided into kings on the left and queens on the right. As I mentioned earlier, no one is allowed to photograph anything...so here's a link for more info and pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Escorial
Funny thing is that I was not the only Mariana in the room. Queen Mariana of Austria is resting on the second column of coffins, way at the top.
After we left the Pantheon, we walked to other rooms where family members of the royal family were also burried - including parents, siblings...And our guide mentioned the saddest room in the Escorial was next: the room where all the children who died before their first communion were burried. We must remember that common medicine was not invented until maybe the 1800s...So back then childhood mortality rates were really high.
Our guided visit ended at this point. From there we entered the Basilica on our own...It contains 42 altars and the altarpiece El Cristo Blanco by Benvenuto Cellini.
Today, Monday Nov. 1st is a holiday in Spain, the Day of All Saints. The rain from the weekend has finally stopped and I am going to put a hold on my history lessons for a bit. My laundry is washed, my camera recharged, and my backpack is full again. Tomorrow I am headed to Madrid once again and flying to O Porto in Portugal. I've also picked up a new book to read from my cousin's collection..."La Fuerza del Optimismo" by Luis Rojas Marcos.
Y eso es todo por ahora! Must go figure out why Wachovia is making things so difficult for me! ay ay ay
Un graaaaaaaaaaan beso de España y luego será um beijo de Portugal. (Cadê as piadinhas de português? hahahaha)