Here is the second installment of our Europe trip.
Madrid -- We mainly went to the Prado. Tons of famous Spanish paintings. It was tedious for me because I had already been there, but also in a different way. I realized that such great art-work deserves a much more detailed appreciation. It slights the masters' work to have to pay a $7 entrance fee and rush through the museum in 3 or 4 hours to see everything. Each masterpiece deserves frequent visits, and a careful study. It is a great shame that they are located so far out of reach, and that a repeated $7 fee would tax most people's budget. This day in Madrid also was a terrible one. We spent about 2 hours walking around trying to find a place to eat. We just were looking in the wrong places. Finally we decide to use the Metro and go somewhere else.We ended up at our destination (tired, grouchy and hungry) only to find out that it didn't open for another 2 hours (It opened at 8:30pm to start dinner). That's Spanish siesta for you. So we people-watched in a nearby park until dinner. It was a crazy, painful day. We learned alot about each other that day.
El Escorial/Segovia -- El Escorial was built as a burial grounds/monestary for the dead kings. It was a gargantuan palace of sourts where the Hapsburgs lived and other successors lived. It was truly amazing. The crypt was a really neat place. The marble was all dark maroon, and there was gold linings throughout. It was a sight. Segovia you might have heard me talk about from the mission. This was the castle where my "emergency transfer" story takes place. It was a very peculiar sensation retracing my steps with my wife in tow. The aquaduct is also an amazing sight. Crazy to think the Romans built it, and it still stand today.
Aranjuez/Toledo -- Aranjuez is another palace. We figured out that the Spanish monarchy had a different palace for every season. This was the Spring palace. It has a beautiful garden and park. We took a little mini-train around the town and through the gardens. The told us stories about how the monarchy would raise elephants, zebras, camels and a slew of other crazy animals in that park for entertainment. Aranjuez acted as a great river-port to ferry across the Tajo river. So there were royal boats and a royal dock, etc. It was just a pretty place to be - very relaxing. Toledo is my favorite city of all times. Since I had already seen pretty much all there is to see as a missionary, we reviewed some of my favorite sights. Of course we went to the huge gothic cathedral. It is almost sickening to enter. It tears at my heart to think all the pain the Catholic church brought to Spain and other peoples when I walk in that place. Other churches didn't effect me the same way, but that one does. Santa Maria la Blanca and the Museo Sefardi. la Blanca was a synagogue for a long time, then the Moors took over Toledo and transformed it into a mosque. Then when the Catholic Kings kicked everyone else out, they changed it into a church. One building, 3 very distinct cultures/religions. My favorite place. The Sefardi Museum talked about the Sefardic Jews living in Toledo and other parts of Spain. I love this place also because of its interesting history. After most of the Moors were kicked out, the one that stayed had to convert to Catholicism. These people still had a culture and heritage behind, and it was termed Mudejar. It is a very arabic style of architecture and design. So the Mudejars decorated the Jewish synagogues for work. What results is a very interesting blend of culture that is simply beautiful.