Cordoba and Sevilla -- These two towns were amazing in their own right. They were two very Moorish towns for a long time. Cordoba had an immense "Cathedral" which was actually both a Visigothic church and then a huge Mosque. It was really beautiful. Visiting Spain and seeing these blends of culture, I found myself identifying spiritually more with the Jews and the Muslims than with the Catholics. I didn't get that feeling as much in other countries, but certainly here. We saw a cute magic show on the street late at night in Cordoba. The coolest trick was the last one. She had a kid sign a random card. He stuck it in the deck. She pulled out a pad and drew an orange tree. Pulled out an orange, cut it in half, then pulled out an "abnormal seed" which was indeed the signitured card. Crazy!
By the time we hit Sevilla, we were a little tired of paying the Catholic church money to see their churches and we'd seen enough palaces, so we didn't really do much that day. We did walk down to the local park where there was this huge semi-circular structure. It served as goverment offices, but it had a pretty fountain and some huge spires. The cool thing about Sevilla was the Flamenco dance we saw that night. It was awesome. It was this one solitary dancer, but she had lighting-quick feet. It was so beautiful. Flamenco uses soft curling hand motions and graceful flowing arms, along with quick agile feet. The she would explode with quick turns and slaps. It was incredible.
Madrid -- we came back to Madrid to see the Temple (our temple), Retiro park, and a bull-fight. The bull-fight was really sweet. It was a fight for beginners, so they weren't that great. It was scary seeing them doing the matador and toreador stuff. It was also really sad because they weren't very proficient in the killing stroke, and it would only make the bull bleed more and cause it more agony. However, the bulls had their fun too. The last bull was incredible. It was a powerful beast weighing in at 530 kilos (that about 1000 lbs folks). He almost clipped one of the helper dudes before he ducked behind the fence (think Bugs Bunny here if you can't get a mental image). Then he tore apart a whole section of the fence. He could have jumped through but he got distracted and sped off to the other side of the ring. Luckily they repaired the fence. Then while the matador went in to make the final blow, he lingered too long and got flung to the floor. The bull tried to gore him and stepped on him, but he rolled away in time and finished the job. It was crazy!
We flew into Milan very late at night and got up early the next morning and left for Rome.
Rome -- Rome is Rome. Everything is Enormous. Those Romans sure knew how to do it big. The Vatican was impressive. I liked above all a painting done in the Constantine room. It was a painting with a roman statue in pieces on the ground, and on top of its pedestal sat a crucifix. To me it symbolized the complete 180 Constantine did to the religious and cultural state of the Empire. Also impressive was Raphael's School of Athens and the Cistine Chapel. Honestly folks, to me the Cistine Chapel is a little over-rated. The ceiling is so high up, you can't really appreciate it that much. Also we saw the Pieta by Michaelangelo. Also a jipped experience because it was literally 50 feet away behind protective glass. We could hardly see it!! It was very disappointing, even though it looked very beautiful. The Pantheon was an architectural wonder. (Think of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons). The perfect circle hole in the ceiling was really hard. They had to construct the celing with increasingly lighter material so the base could support the weight. The upper portion is made entirely of pumice (volcanic stone). That was cool. And of course the Coliseum was enormous and generally cool to see for its biggness.