Sunday 5th September, Madrid, Spain
Yesterday Maria and I took a day trip.
The town of Avila, about an hour northwest of Madrid, was celebrating a medieval fair and we didn't want to miss out on the party. Maria's uncle and his partner, along with Maria's mother, met us at a nearby Metro station and gave us a ride to Avila. Maria's father stayed at home to be in charge of the remote control for the day. None of the others in the car spoke any English (a situation I'm becoming accustomed to in Spain) so it was once again up to Maria to translate what the rest of the car were laughing about, even when it was just her Mum telling me "stop touching my daughter." Oops!
Avila is a pretty place with one of the world's best preserved walled cities.
The 11th and 12th century ramparts that surround the hilltop town consist of eight monumental gates and 88 towers. In the late 15th century, Avila was the centre of the most brutal phase of the Spanish Inquisition, with over 2000 people sent off to be burnt at the stake. The highest city in Spain- at 1130m- Avila would be well worth a visit any time, but the residents had really turned it on for the fair. The streets and squares of the old town were decorated and packed with stalls selling all variety of handcrafts and souvenirs, home made cider, sweets and breads and tasty foods. Everywhere we turned, there was entertainment, from archery competitions to dancing and street marches. Costumed characters roamed the narrow cobbled streets performing skits that re-enacted events from Spain's history.
Maria and I sampled the local sweets
and crepes and felafels, and when we'd had enough food and excitement, we stretched out on the grass by the old city walls for a siesta.
TO SEE WHY MARIA LOOKS SO UNHAPPY, CLICK ON THE PICTURE ABOVE
On the way home, we stopped at the Basilica of El Escorial,
a colossal concrete memorial built under the dictator Franco- built largely by political prisoners imprisoned by Franco for their opposition to his regime. The subterranean basilica is enormous and the mind boggles at the task of excavating it into the side of the mountain. It would have been a mammoth project even with the use of today's heavy machinery, but I was told that the entire project was completed by hand. It is maintained as something of a memorial to Franco, but I get the feeling that to many Spaniards it is a comforting reminder of the end
of his cruel reign, rather than a testament to the man himself.
I'm only just learning about Spain's colorful history myself,
so rather than try to go into detail here, I encourage you to do a google search for Spain Franco El Escorial.