Faculty Abroad: Mike Wallace, Valencia, Spain 2015
A day in Madrid: Thursday, July 23, 11:00 pm (Valencia time)
Catching up on blogging – as I am writing about one thing, such as our visit to Madrid, I am out doing another.
So, we spent Saturday in Madrid, starting at 9:45 am (which is apparently exceedingly early for most of our students) with a walking tour of downtown Madrid, then a short bus tour, and finally a visit to the Museo del Prado.
By the way, there are some really strange people populating the streets and plazas of Madrid. During our tour, I saw a headless man posing with tourists, a Minion, and an alien Predator. Hopefully, these were all just people in costumes.
Although we didn’t get to go into it – some days it is open for visitors, other days used for official business and closed – we did saunter by the Royal Palace of Madrid, the official residence of the Royal Family of Spain, although they actually live in a more modest palace on the outskirts of the city. In terms of floor space, it is the largest palace in Europe. The palace also has 3,418 rooms (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Palace_of_Madrid; Madrid Tourists Attractions, http://www.madridtourist.info/royal_palace.html).
For anyone who knows me, I am not the most cultured person in the world. In fact, our visit to the Museo del Prado represents the first time ever I have stepped into an art museum. The tour guide showed us literally a history of paintings and other works, and, yes, there were artists even I recognized, including Rembrandt and El Greco. The museum also had on loan 12 Picassos, which seemed incredibly out of place with the realists. They also had on display the only statue in Spain carved by Michelangelo (the artist, not the ninja turtle, Vincent!).
Sad to say, the museum didn’t allow patrons to take pictures.
In the evening, all 170 students and the faculty members who came to Madrid went to Los Carboneras for dinner and a Flamenco show. The Valencia IP program certainly treats faculty like royalty – we had front row seats, and I was able to take some excellent pictures of the show.
Segovia :Wednesday, July 22, 8:00 pm (Valencia time)
For Floridians like myself, unless you count the Indians who left burial mounds near Lake Jackson, we don’t really have a lot of history. For example, we don’t have a two thousand year old Roman aqueduct running through our downtown. Not like Segovia, one of the cities we toured as part of our trip to Madrid.
By the way, the aqueduct is really a very impressive structure, particularly when you consider the granite blocks were fitted together without any mortar. It is also apparently the only structure (at least the only one I’ve seen here) left alone by the area graffiti artists.
Then, there is Segovia Castle, which apparently is only eight hundred years old, and, according to our well-versed tour guide, where Queen Isabella I took refuge in 1474 after the death of King Henry IV. She soon became the Queen of Castile and Leon (Spanish kingdoms of the time period).
According to the “Unique Spain” website (http://www.uniquespain.com/segovia-castle.html), many locals lovingly refer to the Segovia landmark as “the inspiration of the Disney castle,” although this is unsubstantiated.
Of course, the students were interested in going to the top of the castle, which required going up a winding stone stairway of 152 steps (let me tell you, that was a workout). They were also interested in the castle gift shop, where some students learned about personal protection.
The Spanish Civil War: Tuesday, July 21, 8:00 pm (Valencia time)
Prior to my trip here, I knew very little about Spain – I could point to it on a map and I knew about ten basic phrases in Spanish, including ‘el bano, por favor’ (the bathroom, please?). Even after several weeks of living here, I still felt like a tourist.
That is, until we visited the Valley of the Fallen as part of our trip to Madrid.
Historically speaking, it was only a few generations ago that Spain was embroiled in a civil war. In fact, the Siege of Madrid lasted over two years, from October, 1936, to March, 1939, devastating a city of 900,000 people, killing thousands through war and starvation and forcing nearly half a million Spaniards to flee over the Pyrenees to France. From 1939 to 1975, Spain was furthermore ruled by a dictator, Generalissimo Franco, who, during his reign, had this Catholic basilica and monument built.
We didn’t see any indicators in Madrid of the aftermath of the war – it is a vibrant and prosperous city. Here at the Valley of the Fallen, however, it is rather hard to miss.
As seen in the photograph, the place is huge (dwarfing the man walking down the steps). I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the basilica, yet it was equally impressive in size.
The monument, which took over 18 years to complete and costing 1.159 billion pesetas to construct, is located on 3,360 acres of Mediterranean woodlands. The basilica was excavated in the granite mountainside and extends along a 262 meter (860 foot) nave with six chapels. The most prominent feature of the monument is the 150 meter high (500 foot) cross erected on a granite outcropping that is visible from over 20 miles away. It is estimated that between 2,000 and 20,000 convicts and prisoners, some of whom were likely Spanish Republican political prisoners, were used to construct the monument.
Finding out information on the monument was somewhat difficult. As noted by Lauren Aloise in her blog “Spanish Sabores,” “I was shocked by…the overall lack of solid information…After reading at least thirty articles about Valle de los Caidos in both English and Spanish I was almost as confused as when I first started my research. It is certainly a reflection of how Spain sometimes tends to ignore the past – a hot topic today among Spaniards themselves.”
“Francisco Franco (Dictator, 1892-1975),” Bio., http://www.biography.com/people/francisco-franco-9300766)
“The Valley of the Fallen,” FeelMadrid.com, http://www.feelmadrid.com/valleyofthefallen.html
“A Place of Contradictions: Valle de los Caidos,” Aloise, L., March 25, 2012, Spanish Sabores, http://spanishsabores.com/2012/03/25/visiting-valle-de-los-caidos-valley-of-the-fallen-spain/
“Valle de los Caidos,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valle_de_los_Ca%C3%ADdos
Going for gelato: Midnight (any night in Valencia)
Do we have anything like this in Panama City Beach? If we don’t, we should…