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Segovia, Avila & Salamanca

Castilla y León

sunny 23 °C
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It was so constituted in 1983 and it comprises the historical regions of León and Old Castile (Spanish: Castilla la Vieja). It is the largest autonomous community in Spain, covering an area of 94,223 square kilometres with an official population of around 28 - 30 Lakh.
Segovia is a province of central/northern Spain, in the southern part of the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is bordered by the provinces of Burgos, Soria, Guadalajara, Madrid, Ávila, and Valladolid. The province has a population of 149,286, of whom about 35% live in the capital, Segovia. The Major places of interest here is the Roman Aquaduct and the Alcazar (and ofcourse the main gothic cathedral of the town.
The Aquaduct at Segovia is indicative of a complex historical reality. Its neighbourhoods, streets, and houses are laid out in accordance with a social structure in which hierarchy was overshadowed by belonging to one of the different cultural communities. Moors, Christians and Jews coexisted for a long time in the medieval city and worked together during the 16th century manufacturing boom. All the component parts of the built environment, from domestic architecture to the great religious and military structures, can be found in Segovia in a broad range of construction techniques and styles. The Roman aqueducts of Sevilla, Toledo, and Calahorra in Spain did not survive. The 221 colossal piers of this aquaduct at Segovia bear witness to the magnitude of the Aquae Atilianae in the province of Zaragoza. The impressive monuments that survive in Mérida, Tarragona, and Segovia illustrate the political determination which, following the steps of the victorious armies, greatly increased the number of aqueducts which Frontinus described as 'the most solemn testimony of the Empire.'
The Aqueduct of Segovia, the symbol of the city, is the best known of these civil engineering feats owing to its monumentality, to its excellent state of conservation, and in particular to its location in one of the most beautiful urban sites in the world.
The hydraulic engineers who tapped the waters of the Río Frío in the Sierra de Guadarrama to bring them 18km to Segovia via a canal with an average gradient of 1% ran into no natural obstacle more challenging than the crossing of the valley of the Río Clamores at the end of the course. In order to reach the rocky contrefort on which the city was perched they had to erect an enormous construction of masonry 813 m in length, consisting of four straight segments and two superimposed arcades borne by 128 pillars. At the lowest point of the valley, the aqueduct stands at a height of 28.5 m above ground. This colossal edifice is undocumented. However, the profile of the arcade and the construction technique used afford typological comparisons with the Aqua Claudia in Rome, a canal built between AD 38 and 52. Moreover, excavation carried out at the foot of the piers appears to corroborate a date of roughly AD 50.
The Alcázar of Segovia (literally, Segovia Castle) is a stone fortification, located in the old city of Segovia, Spain. Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores near the Guadarrama mountains, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape – like the bow of a ship. The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then. The Alcázar, throughout the Middle Ages, remained one of the favorite residences of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile and a key fortress in the defense of the kingdom. It was during this period a majority of the current building was constructed and the palace was extended on a large scale by the monarchs of the Trastámara dynasty. The original interior was badly damaged by fire in 1862, though they have since been partially restored.[2] Today, the Alcázar remains one of the most popular historical sites in Spain and is one of the three major attractions in Segovia. Notable rooms are the Hall of Ajimeces which houses many works of art, the Hall of the Throne and the Hall of Kings with a frieze representing all of the Spanish Kings and Queens starting from Pelagius of Asturias down to Juana la Loca after moving to El Palacio Real in Madrid, Spain.
The Segovia Cathedral is a Roman Catholic religious building in Segovia, Spain. It is located in the main square of the city, the Plaza Mayor, and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The building has a structure in three tall vaults and ambulatory, with fine tracery windows set, and numerous stained glass. The interior is characterized by unity of style (late Gothic), except for the dome, built around 1630 by Pedro de Brizuela. Gothic vaults rise to 33 meters high and measures 50 meters wide and 105 long. The bell tower reaches almost 90 meters. The current stone spire crowning the tower, dating from 1614, was erected after a major fire caused by a thunderstorm. The original spire, entirely Gothic, was built of american mahogany had pyramidal structure, and was the tallest tower in Spain.

Ávila is a province of central-western Spain, in the southern part of the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is bordered on the south by the provinces of Toledo and Cáceres, on the west by Salamanca, on the north by Valladolid, and on the east by Segovia and Madrid. Ávila has a population of around 2 Lakh. Its capital is Ávila. Ávila is one of the oldest of all the cities in Castilla y León. The Celtic Iberians were the first to leave their mark, which can be seen in the stone boars and the nearby Castro de las Cogotas (hill fort), epicentre of the Vettone culture. The Romans also reached this area and the Arabs filled the area with their culture until the final conquest by the Christians. Proud of its perfect combination of old and new, the city of the river Adaja invites visitors to take a look inside the city from the tops of the crenellations that have protected the city walls for centuries. However, only some sections of the walls are opened for visitors (Euro 3 per person - ut its worth it) wishing to see the excellent views of the city from above. It is exactly this stone ridge that has made the city internationally famous, attracting tourists from all over the world who have come to follow the trail of Santa Teresa and explore a millenary city at the dawn of the 21st century. Muralles De Avila - The eastern wall section is the most striking. Beyond it, the bulk of the city found outside the walls lies. According to the chronicles there seems to be doubt as to when construction began. However, documents exist that prove that the Frenchman Florín de Pituenga and the Roman Casandro were responsible for its geometry. The exact date as to when the first stone of this universal feat of engineering was laid, remains unknown. However some chroniclers believe that it dates back to the 11th century, taking 9 years to construct. 1900 people, mostly Muslims in captivity, helped construct this amazing piece of engineering. Consequently, in spite of it being classified as Romanesque, it contains remarkable Moresque features. Attached to the walls is the first Gothic Cathedral on Spain. The Official site of the Muralla states - The walls are a UNIVERSAL monument. We all have an image of this great milestone in military architecture that has become a milestone in the history of art. It comes as no surprise that the walls are admired for their grandeur and spectacular appearance: the perimeter measures 2516 m in length and there are 87 turrets and 9 gates. Their elevation is finished off with no fewer than 2500 merlons (a merlon is the part of the parapet between two crenels). If our walls can be proud of anything, they can be proud of being the best-conserved city walls in the world. There are similar constructions in Europe, such as the walls of Carcassone in France (which also have a perimeter of almost 3 km in length) and, in Spain, the Roman walls of Lugo (2266 m), those of León (incomplete), which date from the same period, and those of Pamplona, which were built later than the Walls of Ávila.
Being the birthplace of Saint Teresa of Jesus has left its mark across the city, both inside and outside the city walls, with a large number of religious buildings linked to the saint's life. The European Commission has given Ávila the Access City Award 2010.
The excellent roasts and famous Avila veal cutlet are just part of a rich local cuisine without forgetting the famous dessert of Saint Teresa - "yemas" (sugared egg yolks). In any of the restaurants in the city you can discover the excellent gastronomy of the area. Some excellent dishes are roast suckling pig and lamb, as well as the famous Ávila T-bone steak. The veal and the El Barco de Ávila beans have their own Designation of Origin.

Salamanca is a province of western Spain, in the western part of the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is bordered by the provinces of Zamora, Valladolid, Ávila, and Cáceres; and by Portugal. About 4 Lakh live in the province, of whom 45% live in the capital, Salamanca. Salamanca is city reminiscent of Bologna in Italy, Paris in France or Oxford in England in the sense that it seems to breathe art, culture and knowledge as you walk along the streets and admire its señorial houses, small palaces, university buildings, towers, churches, the cathedral.... Popular with thousands of foreign students who come to Salamanca each year to study one of the Spanish language and culture courses offered by the University or one of the seemingly hundreds of acadamies, Salamanca is a cosmopolitan, lively city. Like most parts of Spain, Salamanca was occupied by the Romans and Visigoths. During Moorish occupation of Spain power toed and froed between the Arabs and Christians. In the 11th Century Alfonso VI consolidated Christian rule and appointed Count Raimundo de Borgoña, to rule over the city. This was the beginning of Salamanca's recovery, as the new stability encouraged people from all over the Iberian Peninsula to make their home in the city. In the 12th century the Old Cathedral was built and as it became a center of study, the seeds of one of Europe's first universities were sown. As the center of study grew, so religious orders and scholars started flocking to Salamanca, and their presence consolidated the University. Convents were built, money was donated by the Catholic church leaders, residences for scholars were built, and Salamanca became Spain's most important city during the Renaissance period, resulting in the so-called Spanish Golden Age (Siglo de Oro) when Spanish art, literature and music flourished. Fray Luis de León, Antonio de Nebrija, Lope de Vega, Christopher Columbus, Calderón de la Barca, Teresa de Jesús, San Juan de la Cruz, Cervantes and Christopher Columbus all spent part of their lives in Salamanca. The Plaza Mayor: Probably the best place from where to start walking around Salamanca, and where to have a cafe con leche or glass of cold water at one of the tables set up by the bars and cafes in the square. Built in the 18th century, The University has beautiful architecture and the famous plateresque façade with the hidden frog. The Old University Library is simply awesome, with shelves full of old literary and scholarly works of art. The library has over 160,000 volumes. Also visit the cloister, the paraninfo and the surrounding University buildings. Casa de las Conchas: Renaissance. One of Salamanca's most emblematic buildings. Today it is an art gallery and library. Catedral Viaja: XIII. The Old Cathedral of Salamanca. Unique façade of this building which was to become the one of Europe's main temples of knowledge and scientific research, and the embrion of one of Europe's first universities. Catedral Nueva: The New Cathedral of Salamanca. Again unique in the decoration of the façades. Romanic and gothic - a mixture of styles since the work on the new Cathedral began in the 1400s and ended in the 1700s. Cueva de Salamanca: Where, according to legend, the devil used to teach scholars everything that their religious teachers would not teach them.

Posted by Arunava 09:38 Archived in Spain Tagged avila segovia salamanca Comments (0)

Madrid 2

It is worth its weight in Gold

sunny 28 °C
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We had visited one of the three Great Museums - the Reina Sofia - yestersay.
Today, after a brief morning stroll along the Puerta del Sol, we made our way towards "The Prado".
The full name is Museo Nacional del Prado.
To see the works of Rembrant, Velazquez, Goya, El Greco, Zurbaran, Rubens, Raphael in the original was like wave after wave of absolute ecstasy. There were other major take-aways ofcourse. Had previously glimpsed over the works of Fra Angelico and Roger van der Weyden. Seeing them in the original and in their actual size was a revealation. The Annunciation by Fra Angelico and the The Descent from the Cross (or Deposition of Christ, or Descent of Christ from the Cross) by van der Weyden was mind blowing.
Decent from the Cross

Decent from the Cross

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza the third of the Great Museums in Madrid consists of the Modern / End of the 19 th C painters, including Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezane, Chagall, Dali, Picasso et all ...
A very fulfilling day to say the least.

Posted by Arunava 15:18 Archived in Spain Tagged prado painting Comments (3)


"The Night is still Young"

sunny 29 °C
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The Lufthansa flight which we managerd to catch at the last minute, landed at Madrid - well past what we in India call as decent hours. It was 11.55 pm when the flight landed. The airport was not exactly bubbling, and I was wondering if what I had heard of Madrid / Spain and its Usual late hours and night life was true.
That was strange, because as we entered the old part of the city The Latinas, we found the streets quite lively and loud. And as we atarted to look for the exact location of our Hostel - there were far too many helping hands than necessary. But then that is how the Spaniards are !!
It was well past 2 am when we were cosily settled in our room. There were still a lot of people - including the usual mix of Bangladeshi & Pakisthanis. And I must admit that I quite liked the lirics of the old bengali hit -She-din tomay... dekhe chilem bhoor balay..... only a Bengali could be singing it so non-chalantly at well past midnight.
The day was warm and dry. The continuous walking today has perhaps balanced the long drives at Frankfurt/Idstein.
The Walk around the historical parts of the city was extraordinary. The Palacio Real, the Cathedral and one of the 3 great museums - Reina Sofia was where we spent most of our time today.
Seen "Guernica" live. The Reina Sofia museum of modern art has been the highlight of the day. Original Picasso, Dali, Miro, Tapies ...
But Guernica is what it is. Pure adrenalin with all its power & punch. For the Spanish to conceptualise such a living museum of Modern Art is simply out of the world. And the Guernica has been made more significant since there were a seriese of over 10 photographs showing the whole mural at different stages of its development / evolution. It really convinces me of several arguements on the significance of various symbols / geometric shapes used in the work. This is for the first time that I saw a seriese of pictures catching a Major work at various stages of its development. More so because this series of photographs is by itself a treasure of the Reina Sofia.
Tomorrow we should be doing the Prado and the Thyssen and then go on to the Bull Ring at Las Ventas.

Posted by Arunava 15:59 Archived in Spain Tagged madrid real reinasofia walkingtour Comments (1)


The Primary "High"

overcast 14 °C
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Reached our Mashi's place at Idstein - about an hours drive from Frankfurt.
Went to Limburg Cathedral yesterday. Beautiful Weather - sun & shade.
Driving on the Autobahn is sheer adrenalin: at 140 to 150 km/h on the middle lane on a Mercedes - getting the hang of the situation and then blinkers ON for sharp cut onto the extreme left lane for a 210-230 km/h drive is simply thrilling. And then its the 1st time on a Mercedes A class - fully loaded !!! I really do not know most of the gadgetry - nor did I bother. The speed of the drive was giving me too much of a high to bother about the simple electronics on use. This time I plan to use the 'auto' gears ......
Ready for the flight to Madrid. Checked in from home. Mobile / Blackberry isn't working. Will have to take a connection at Madrid.
Confirmed Hostel Bookings - Les Musa#s Residence at Tirso de Molina.
Will be reaching there pretty late - the flight lands at 10.30 pm. Check out and then the tube - will take an hour.
Probably reach the hostel at 12 o'clock midnight.

Posted by Arunava 06:25 Archived in Germany Tagged idstein Comments (0)

Packing !

A 'bother' ?

sunny 40 °C
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First - the Documents - Flight Tickets, the Hostel Bookings, the Train tickets (Granada to Barcelona), our IDs - other than our Passports.
Then the Essential Medicines - just in case ... & regular ones - with prescriptions.
Toiletries - the usual fancy stuff for the Ladies (which I dare not call un-essential) and my Shaving Kit.
Torches - rechargable ones; Cameras, chargers....mobile chargers ...My essential tool kit.
Clothes - not just summer clothings, since the temperatures in the evenings are presently around 12/14C. So a single light 'upper' should suffice. Undergarments in much larger numbers than clothings.
Footware - casual light and travel boots for me.
All this in my large Rucksack and another shoulder bag with rollers.
Handbaggage reduced to a minimum for all of us. Tanima uses a jumbo sized hand-bag and has in the past brought anything & everything we can ask for. Ticks will have her napsack with a couple of books, a set of clothings & socks, and her camera, a notebook as she is the account-keeper for the trip.
Mine will have the Documents, one set of clothings, a towel ..... I suppose thats all.
Now getting it all together and filling it using minimum possible space is what is interesting.

Posted by Arunava 09:03 Archived in India Tagged packing Comments (0)

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