Professor Duran has created a fantastic schedule for the first few days. We started with a trip to Toledo on Wednesday morning. What a treat to board a private, air conditioned bus with a knowledgeable and interesting guide for a trip to Toledo. For the month of June I have been working over 50 hours a week with school, papers, an internship and work and to have everything set up has been simply amazing.
Toledo is a town about an hour by bus south of Madrid. It is older than Madrid and used to be the capital. It is a very picturesque town with a river around three sides which has created a natural fortification. We started with a stop on the outskirts of town across the river for a chance to take some photos. We then were driven into the city and dropped off at the museum. Our tour started at the cathedral, one of the largest in Europe. Because Toledo used to be the capital it naturally had the largest and most impressive cathedral. Our guide explained it had many different styles including Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Rococco, to name a few. The Cathedral had three giant rose stained glass windows that were absolutely stunning. The choir, with its over 120 hand carved chairs, was impressive. It was done by two different artists. After the cathedral we went to a small church that had a famous painting by El Greco, The Burial of Count Orgaz. Our guide explained some of the symbolism in the painting and its overall importance. Santa María la Blanca was our final destination. It was originally a synagogue, but after the Jews were expelled from Spain it was turned into a church. Today it is neither a church nor a synagogue.
Yesterday we started at the Museo del Prado. Gerry, our guide, wanted to show us three famous Spanish painters of three different eras. We started with El Greco, exploring some of the iconography associated with his work especially in his painting The Trinity. Moving on to Velasquez we noted some of the differences between the two artists and discussed the importance of Las Meninas. We finished with Goya and got a little history of the Spanish court as well as saw some of his works like The Third of May 1808. After the Prado we visited the Royal Palace. The rooms were dazzling in their opulence, walls with silver and gold thread and inlaid marble floors. The palace has over 2500 rooms. Ńuff said.
Today started in Ávila, a town north of Spain known for its wall. It has a wall with over 80 towers and a circumference of almost 3 kilometers. We went to the church which had some amazing stonework. It looked like it was painted, but Gerry explained that the color was due to the high iron content in the rock. After another smaller church which marked the birthplace Santa Teresa we drove over to Segovia. After a lunch of suckling pig, a delicacy of the area, we visited the castle. It was a spectacular example of a castle. It had an extremely deep moat, without alligators, and walls which you could see where the castle had been expanded. The beautiful tower and views of the Spanish countryside are not to be missed. We arrived on the day of a local festival and we were able to see a parade with a local band in costume and some characters. We slept on the bus back to Madrid.
We are off to a Monastery and another castle tomorrow and the to Oviedo on Sunday. It has been unbelievably astonishing these past few days. I have truly had my socks knocked off. Thanks again, Professor Duran, for sharing your country with us.