Friday, May 20, 2011

Unrest at Madrid's Puerta del Sol

Well it appears we made it out of Spain in the nick of time.  We just spend a week in Madrid and could feel the pressure building in the city's plazas for some major demonstrations just before this weekends Spanish elections. Currently Spain has a 21 percent unemployment rate, with 40 percent among the youth. This could be a recipe for serious violence in the coming days and weeks.

But we won't let this detract from our overall wonderful week and we have decided that Madrid is now one of our favorite cities. It is clean, has good weather, an excellent transportation system, great restaurants and cafes, beautiful plazas and elegant shops.  And there are lots of stimulating things to see and do in the city and in the region. For starters there are its two world famous art museums -- the Prado  ( and the Thyssen-Bornemesza  ( which were open in the evenings (thank goodness, since I had to work during the day).

On the weekend we immersed ourselves in Spainish history and culture by visiting El Escorial (, Segovia (, Avila (Ávila,_Spain) and

The highlight for me was Segovia with an impressive 2000 year old aqueduct crossing through the city center, a Moorish alcazar, parts of which are said to have been copied in the castle at Disneyworld, and an imposing cathedral which towers above the city. 

Alkazar of Segovia

Segovia Cathederal

Aqueduct of Segovia

The principal attraction of Avila is the ancient wall that completely surrounds the old city.

City Wall of Avila
A visit to Toledo is essential to an understanding of Isabella and Ferdinand and their honored place in Spanish history.  From a purely Spanish and Catholic point-of-view they were the force that united modern Spain under Catholicism and for which Isabella was granted sainthood.


They were also the ones who financed Colombus' voyage to America but who also carried out the Inquisition and drove the Moors (North African Muslims) and the Jews out of Spain with a commensurate loss of lives.  Here are a few links on Isabella and Ferdinand and on Spanish history for anyone who may be interested.

The past two weeks in Iberia have been extremely educational and nicely suplemented trips we had previous made to Andalusia and Catalonia.  But it would take many more visits to this peninsula to really understand the great impact that its people have had on the history of the world.


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