Week 5 - Spanish Civil War
Continuing from last time, I had my first intercambio on Monday with my dance teacher, Angela.My friend and I met with her at a café for about an hour and just talked.It was nice.She is full of energy and spunky so she was fun to talk to.We planned to make another time to meet this week.So recently Thursday has become my favorite day of the week due to the market, city excursions and the last day of class.This Thursday however was different.I ended up getting food poisoning on Thursday and I was in bed all day.I bad thing is that I missed my favorite day.I also had to miss my dance class.But by Friday I felt well enough to go on our excursion.On Friday we went to El Escorial and Valle de los Caidos.These were not too far from Segovia, only about an hour or so, so it was an easy day trip and we did not get home too late.I am going to try and describe the inside with much detail because we were not allowed to take pictures while inside both of these places.
El Escorial is a palace, monastery, school and museum.The real name is "The Real Monastery of El Escorial of Saint Lorenzo" (that is trying to translate it from Spanish).It was made in honor of Saint Lorenzo who was a martyr.He was tortured and killed by grilling and therefore El Escorial was designed in the shape of a grill to pay tribute to him.This makes it very interesting and intriguing but it also makes it very confusing to walk through.The handle of the grill and the center house the most important parts of the palace.At the end of the handle is the palace followed by the basilica and then the library signifying family, religion and education.First we started with the Hall of Tapestries.This was interesting but the best part of it all was El Greco's painting.This was El Greco's first commissioned painting in Spain.Apparently the King found it too plain and El Greco moved to Toledo to find more work.There was an immense collection of art throughout the palace.The next hall we went to was the summer palace.This has now been renovated into a museum type place.The rooms were separated by centuries.This is one of largest collections owned by a palace.We were able to see the bedroom where the king died which was sort of awkward.The view though was gorgeous out into the palace gardens.There was also the Hall of Battles which was completely painted from floor to ceiling of battles won by previous kings.This room showed how the battles were fought and won.It was like a crash course on fighting.It was beautiful and I found it very interesting.From there we went into the tombs.The first tomb room was for the kings and queens.It was amazing to say the least.The room was full of marble tombs with gold plaques that had the name of the person on it.Each body has to wait about 30 years to decompose before it is put into the tomb in the room.There are 3 openings right now which are reserved for the grandmother of the Juan Carlos and his parents.The kings are on one side and the queens on the other.Because the kings married many times to get an heir, the queen that is buried in this tomb is the one that gave the king his heir.The interesting thing is that there is a queen on the king side which is Isabel who was the heir to her father's throne.From this tomb room we walked into a larger less ornate room of tombs.This was the room for the other children who were not kings or queens who needed a place for their body.This room was much larger but there were some interesting tombs in there with a lot of history.There was this large white structure that housed children who died before their first communion.It was a nice tribute to everyone.From there we went to the basilica but it was closed for renovation so we were unable to go inside.Instead we went to the library which still had books from many many years ago.The ceiling was painted with the 7 subjects of learning and a model of the solar system before America was fully discovered.This was fun but we had been on our feet for about 2 hours so it was nice to be done.
After El Escorial we went to Valle de los Caidos.This is a memorial for all those fallen during the Spanish Civil War.This was commissioned by Francisco Franco, the dictator who won the Civil War.On top is a huge cross made of black granite with 4 figures surrounding it.We were unable to go to the top because it was closed for renovation which was too bad because I'm sure the view would have been amazing.Underneath the cross are white columns of a gorgeous building with a large patio/deck sort of thing.On top of the entrance there is a pieta made of black granite as well.It is very large and the hand of Jesus is so big it is possible to sit in if it were at ground level.Jesus' arm fell off a few days before we got there but it was put back by the time we got there.This building leads into a subterranean dome.As you walk into the dome there are 2 huge cloaked angles watching over you which is sort of creepy.There are multiple capillas on either side of the large hallway which behind them hold the remains of the fallen.Towards the end there is the altar with Jesus being crucified.It is an amazing piece of art and the interesting thing is that during a bombing in a side chamber it didn't even get scratched, a miracle I think.All around the altar are the four arc angels that are as large as the hooded angels in the beginning.Just beyond the altar is the tomb of Francisco Franco.This is interesting because there are mixed feelings about him around the country so some people go and discreetly stomp on his grave while others leave flowers.The dome all the while is fairly dark so as you turn around it is as if you are going to the light and leaving the darkness behind.It is a great design for what the memorial is trying to portray.Overall, I really enjoyed it and wish I could have taken pictures but yet again, not allowed.
Saturday was a laid back morning because I had not been able to have a weekend to myself in a while.In the afternoon I went to the public pool with a friend.The public pool was a lot nicer than I had expected.It had two pools and a lot of lawn area.I am looking forward to going there some more next week.That night was "Noche de la Luna Llena" which was a one night festival thing to promote Segovia for the cultural capital of Europe in 2016.There were events that started at 10:16 at night (20:16) and went until 02:16 in the morning.I decided to participate in La Luna Llena which was a photography deal done by Ouka Leele.She is a famous photographer in Madrid and she has done many amazing things.There were over 500 people all dressed in white to resemble the moon.So we had 11 different positions we had to flow into such as the growing of the moon, the moon's reflection in water and then at the end we made a moon of candles.It was such an amazing experience.It looked great and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it.I believe they are going to send the pictures and/or website to me when it is all finished so I am excited to see the end product.There were also art shows going on.The one I went to was called "Rock the City" and it was all spray-paint/graffiti stuff which was just crazy.Outside of the gallery, two guys were painting right in front of us.I was amazed.I just stood there dumbstruck as they made this masterpiece in front of my eyes.It was just a fun night to walk around the town and see all the fun things going on.
On Sunday I had the opportunity to go on an optional excursion with one of the professors who teaches the civilization class.He is so knowledgeable and he was speaking at a conference outside of Segovia about the Spanish Civil War.So a group of about 7 of us took a bus to Valsain where we met the professor and the group from the conference and went on a hike in a national forest.It was about 5km up the mountain and there were 2 old fortresses from the Civil War there.So at each fortress we sat and he talked about what happened and the importance of each fortress.It was a gorgeous day outside, a little hot but manageable and it was really nice to see the natural side of Spain and not just the old buildings.I really enjoyed the hike and afterwards we got a free lunch.It was an amazing lunch with a lot of food, too much actually.They had steak which was great because I have not had steak since I had gotten here.Although the hike was tiring, it was very enjoyable and a change in the daily schedule.There was a piano concert that night as well but it started to storm so I ended up not going.I really enjoyed the thunderstorm though.So that has been my week and sorry for the lateness of this all but my professors have decided to give me a lot of homework this week so I have not had time.I am truly enjoying my time here but I am ready to see everyone.I am starting to miss simple things back home and I only have a week and a half left to fit in the rest of the things I want to do.This next week should be fairly busy but it will keep me occupied.