Day 99 of 111. Madrid, Spain
One of the biggest attractions of this overland trip was the chance to spend some time in the Prada Museum. Unfortunatly, absolutely no photographs were allowed inside the museum. Ron had a list in his head of the masterpieces he was hoping to see and I think we saw at least 10 of them. Our guide was knowledgeable and we learned a lot about the Spanish painters, Velasquez (who did the painting above), Goya and Murillo. We also saw paintings by Rembrandt and Ron’s favorite El Greco (he was born on Crete in a house just a few miles from where we docked in Iraklion).
Paintings caught our eyes. “Fable” (Paul’s choice) by El Greco shows a boy blowing on an ember. The boy is surrounded by a monkey and a man with a foolish expression. I was attracted by the interesting use of light. A picture that impressed Ron was “The 3rd of May in Madrid” or “The Executions” by Goya which commemorates the Spanish Resistance to Napoleon during the Peninsular War in 1808. Goya painted the picture in 1814.
Day 99 of 111. Madrid, Spain
The ship was docked in Barcelona when we took off on a train to Madrid. We will meet the ship when it gets to Cadiz. We only have a few more ports and then a seven-day sea voyage to get back to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA. It has been an amazing adventure. I seem to use the adjective, “amazing” quite a bit, but it is a perfectly valid word to describe the mind-expanding experience this has all been.
Two items… how will we pack everything we have in our staterooms into the bags we have brought. On the Holland America Grand World Voyage, we get to our rooms and occasionally find gifts sitting on our beds. Sometimes these are hats, sometimes beautiful (and bulky) glass picture frames, Lego kits to make little ms Amsterdam ships, and luckily even an extra suitcase. Add to this the few souvenirs we have purchased. Luckily, we do not buy very much. This packing will be problematic, but apparently on the way home a representative from FedEx will join the ship and help with shipping stuff home.
Our second item is the fact that we are still several hours out of sync with the US. We passed the International Date Line early in the cruise, so we have been a day ahead of our friends at home for the great majority of this trip. We have had instruction to set our clocks back an hour, every once in awhile. On the trip across the Atlantic, we will have to set our clocks back almost every night. This will result in 25 hour days, which is fine with me!
While the ship is docked in Barcelona, we boarded a train for an overland trip to Madrid. This was a high-speed train that got up to a speed of 187 mph (301 km/h). When we found our Madrid tour guide and boarded the bus, we drove to a beautiful public park that used to be the private property of the royal family (Parque del Buen Retiro). There was a nice lake with a lot of people in row boats, street artists, a puppet show, fountains, and lots of people. After our short visit, we took a panoramic tour of the city. One sight was a large vertical garden on the side of a building. Madrid is a very green city with many trees and plants.
Our guide told us that two iconic symbols of the city of Madrid are a triumphal arch (The Alcala Gate) built by King Charles the III and a fountain of the goddess of agriculture (Cibeles) on a chariot pulled by two lions. After our tour, we had two hours to ourselves at the Plaza Mayor. After lunch, we found a churro and chocolate shop. The chocolate is amazingly thick, so we dipped the churros but only drank a little of the leftover got chocolate. We wandered around the shops and a large square where Ron had his picture taken as a bullfighter. We found the Museum of Ham which was a store where you could buy whole hams or many varieties of ham-based snacks. We took a turn through the Mercado de San Miguel which is an indoor market where you can get a drink and then walk around and buy all sorts of interesting and sometimes exotic things to eat.
Day 98 of 111, Barcelona, Spain
Besides the churches he worked on, Gaudi was commissioned by several wealthy families to design houses for them. These two houses are located on the Barcelonian version of Rodeo Drive. We passed Gucci and Cartier’s as we walked from the La Pedrera to Casa Batllo. Casa Batllo has an interesting roof that looks like dragon scales. You cannot really see it in my photo so I downloaded one from the internet.
Day 98 of 111. Barcelona, Spain
We are in Barcelona, Spain. The excursion today focused on the works of Antonio Gaudi, a Spanish Catalan architect best known as a practitioner of Catalan Modernism. We toured his best known work, a huge church called the “Sagrada Familia”. It looks like a cathedral but is officially designated as a basilica (a church granted special privileges by the Pope due to the visit by Pope Benedict.) A cathedral is a church that contains the seat of a bishop. Only one church in a region can be a cathedral and a different church already has the bishop’s seat. After visiting the church we visited two homes that were designed by Gaudi: the “La Pedrera” and “Casa Batllo”.
We entered the church through the Passion facade (shown above). The carvings on this side are very modern in shape and portray the story of Christ from the Last Supper to his ascension into heaven. Close ups are shown in the next two collages.
The events shown in detail are: the procession of Christ into Jerusalem (this is from the floor at the entry door); the betrayal of Christ by Judas (note the square of numbers which add up to 33 in any direction; also the snake that represents evil); the flagellation of Christ; Peter’s denial (note the rooster); “Ecce Homo”, behold the man; the fall of Christ on the way to Golgotha (the woman with the veil is identified as Veronica who gave Christ her veil to wipe his forehead. The image of Christ then appeared on her veil. Also note the figure to the left. This is a self portrait of Gaudi, himself); Longinus on this horse; the soldiers playing dice for the tunic of Christ; Christ crucified; descent of Christ’s body from the cross; the entombment; and finally the ascension of Christ into heaven (see the first picture above to see the image’s location between the towers).
Words cannot describe my feelings upon entering the church. Several of us first-time visitors compared our reactions upon entering. “Wow!” was what we said to ourselves. The interior is truly immense. Hanging over the altar is the canopy designed by Gaudi. While the majority of the building is limestone, Gaudi used porphyry for the altar and the surrounding four columns. Porphyry is an extremely strong stone and was used to support the main structure as well as the huge “Jesus” tower that is yet to be built above the altar. Looking up to the ceiling, the support columns appear to be part of a forest.
This church was a very long project (that is not finished). The outside facade with the Nativity is a different, more traditional style, than the outside facade with the Passion. One interesting facets of the design is the greenery in the windows below the Nativity. From the outside (left image) it simply looks like shrubbery but from the inside there is the word “Deus” (God). The window next to it has the same idea, but I did not take the time to decipher the word.
On all of the walls of the church tall stain glass windows fill the walls. Our guide told us that they represent the different seasons of the year with their colors. Everywhere you look there are details and names and symbols worth noting. I liked the bronze doors below the Nativity that had leaves and small animals and insects. The details and symbols in this church would take a year to explore.
What kind of mind is able to conceive and build such an amazing structure? I’ve heard it said that there is a fine line between genius and insanity. Maybe Gaudi was walking that line.