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Sunday, 01 November 2020

Iberian Peninsula: Slow-Travel Road Trip in Spain and Portugal - Page 5

Written by Russ and Emily Firlik
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Next we drove north 150 kms to the brilliant white hill of Jaen (pop. 117,000), which is on the way to Cordoba. Jaen is famous for its olive oil production, beautiful Renaissance style Catedral de Jaen, the 13th century Saint Catherine’s Castle, the Arab Baths, and the University of Jaen. An absolutely must slow-travel stop. We also enjoyed the best croissants we ever tasted, including in Paris.


In Cordoba (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) time warps, as it often does! The home of another of Europe’s best Islamic site's – Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral, dating back to 780AD. We crossed over the 1st century Roman bridge, leading to the Great Mosque of Cordoba. We then ventured onto the Roman Cordoba Route and found the Seneca statue, and became Stoics once again. After a 15 minute stroll down Calle San Fernando we entered the Jewish Quarter. We kept wandering and lingering along the narrow lanes of the Jewish Quarter until we found the expertly restored Synagogue (1315), which had been converted to a church in the 1500's.


We signed up for the guided Jewish Quarter walking tour, which was very informative and inspiring. Here are a few of the memorable characteristics of this quarter:


(1) Narrow streets as the people had to make the most of the limited space;

(2) Thick, whitewashed walls for natural air-conditioning and with a chalk ingredient to deter bugs;

(3) Colorful red, yellow and blue doors;

(4) Iron grilles, artistically crafted and practical;

(5) River-stone cobbles, inexpensive and local that allowed drainage;

(6) Pretty patios, flowerpots and flowers in the courtyards;

(7) People actually live here - No tacky shops;


On to Cordoba’s Cathedral: or the 784 AD Mosque; or the 1st-century AD -Roman pagan building; or the Lady of the Assumption Church - 1236; or the Mezquita - They are all one and the same. This incredible edifice includes many periods of architectural styles and religious adornments. Beginning with the Romans, the building has over 2000 years of history within. The Mosque was converted into the Christian church. Instead of destroying the mosque, the Christians elected to modify it. There is no doubt, however, that this is a Christian “working” church today.


We really favored Cordoba over Granada as the city is smaller and less touristy than its neighbors Granada and Seville.


The next day we dropped off the Opel at the Cordoba bus station, and simply walked across the street to the rail station to await our train to Madrid. We phoned our Madrid apartment owner and he assured us that he would be waiting at the apartment when we arrived. We taxied to the tiny apartment and were happily greeted by Raul, and he provided a brief orientation. The apartment was minimal, relatively clean, with no internet inside (though it could be accessed in the hallway). The best feature of the apartment is that it was smack in the historical center of Madrid. We purchased tickets for the two day On and Off Bus. We wound up riding both the Green and Blue routes around this elegant city with a population of 6.6 million. The unique and extravagant Spanish architecture of Madrid influenced Renaissance 15th century architecture.


The Prado Museum was free every evening from 6:00- 8:00, so we took our two hours admiring an enormous collection of devotional art from the world’s masters: Fra Angelico to Raphael Sanzio to El Grego to Francisco de Goya. An unbelievable collection.

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The next day we spent our entire morning and early afternoon in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. The museum has predominantly European art and is a worthy member of Madrid’s Golden Triangle of art. In addition to their permanent collection of painters, which included: 17th century Italian-Dutch paintings - Post Impressionists - Abstract - Modern – Surrealists - Futurists. Their current exhibition: “Impressionism and Open-Air Painting,” was a worldwide collection of 19th century European painters (Dutch, Flemish, French, Italian and Spanish).


We then enjoyed the treasures of the smallish sized Plaza Mayor, the famous and beautiful square lined with 18th century architecture. It was rebuilt in the 1790’s to include the grand arcaded buildings that surround the cobblestoned square. The buildings have the same structural elements, including 237 window balconies, and a total of 10 access points, but only nine gates to enter the square. What one finds in the Plaza Mayor are great restaurants and cafes, tapa bars, the important Tourist Office, and many street performers and musicians.

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We completed a very long day with a visit to the Centro De Arte Reina Sofia Museum, noted for Picasso’s famous painting called “Guernica.” Picasso was so distraught by the murderous army fighting against the resistance during the Spanish Civil War, that he painted for 37 straight days and nights the massacre that happened in the small town of Guernica in 1936. The painting was at the MET in NY for forty years until 1988 when it was returned to the Sofia Museum in Madrid. That was enough for one terrific day in Madrid.


(Page 5 of 7)
Last modified on Wednesday, 04 November 2020

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