Sunday, December 31, 2006

Guadalupe - The Black Madonna

In Guadalupe, in the Extremadura section toward the west, is a lovely old cathedral with a Black Madonna, very small in size and said to have been carved by St. Luke - found in 1325, buried. The explanation for the dark skin is the length of time buried, but many other black madonnas were not buried, not scorched, and still are black. See picture at

The guidebook there does not mention the color, but internet sites tracking and mapping the black madonnas give more detail. Broad spectrum of approaches - see, for example,; and, and No pictures were permitted - we wish we had.

The figure is triangular, small head, stiff triangle shape robes. See her at your own Images search for Guadalupe Black Madonna, or at :// Read some background of the black madonnas at ://

Sunday, December 24, 2006

La Mancha, Spain. Windmills Old and New.

La Mancha, Spain. Windmills.

Old windmills.  There are many, but they may well be merely preserved rather than fully depended upon. These are in La Mancha, area of Don Quixote. 

Modern windmills were not as intrusive as we expected, but we understand the extreme hazard to migrating birds.  The windfarms are huge. And, residents in the area may find the noise unacceptable.  .

Modern windmill farm, Spain.

Modern windmills:  These are on the road from Burgos toward Bilbao. Look closely. They make such sense, and are better for emissions than refineries. Issues remain about how to protect birds and the like, so we remain interested. See Netherlands Road Ways, windmills post.

For the variety of windmills in Europe, add the Polish style, many such windmills destroyed by the Nazis as part of systemic impoverishment, see post at Poland Road Ways, Windmills.

Windmill farm, on way to Pamplona, Spain

Taking pictures in the countries we visit is haphazard - secondary to our having a good time and learning history.

For a fine site for photographs, see

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Avila - Teresa's Town

Here are the walls surrounding Avila, the home of St. Teresa (died in the mid-1500's), see St. Theresa is a favorite for those of us who like Bernini's 1652 sculpture of her swooning, with her shoe dangling off her bare foot. See

The town of Avila,, where she was from, has standing medieval walls, there were some 90 towers, and the museum is a fine display of her work.
She is especially dear because she had relationships, attractions, waffled in her faith, like Mother Teresa. See :// Nothing is certain, no matter how much we may want it to be. Is that right? Cheer on the searchers, and keep your own dishes washed. And, was she part Jewish? See :// Pursue that if it is of interest to you. The Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Castles, Crusades. Cultural, Religious Protection for Crusaders. St. Bernard of Clairvaud. Compare Jihad.

Castle, Spain, roadside view in passing.

Castles in Spain.

Castles are visible all over Spain.  Moors occupied Spain from the 800's until the final Reconquest by Spain's royalty and others by 1492.  The process of reconquest took centuries, chipping away.  The pointed arch-shaped crenellations here look Moorish, but the flat crenellations look like later Crusader work.  How to research?

From the visible remains of the Moorish time, in architecture, food, and a flowering of its culture (Jews and Christians could remain, under "dhimmitude" restrictions, but still participating in the culture), take some time to research the religion, the mindsets in conflict. *

 Many castles were used as Crusader* castles, even if original structures were Moorish.  They were often also repurposed in the Reconquest of Ferdinand and Isabella. See Some castle were built by one group, then used by successive powers.

This one, identity unknown, resembles Castle La Mota where Queen Juana la Loca was imprisoned.  She is buried at the Cathedral at Granada, with her husband, Philip; and with Ferdinand and Isabella. Read the site for a view of life in one of these castles, involuntarily there. Spain Road Ways, Granada.


*The Crusader Mindset. Definitive for the Middle Ages.

1.  The West was ultimately beaten, soundly, and the Crusades a failure.And the West was trounced.   It was the Western equivalent of a Jihad in some ways, except that Jihad is, I believe, a defensive matter.  The one who is targeted has to commit an act so egregious, so much a part of a pattern, that the Jihad response is required, part of the submission required to be good. Jihad means to strive, and is part of a process, not engaged in as an isolated or personal matter.  Everyman's overview:  start at

My understanding is that Jihad is, ultimately, the desire to do what is needed, and that which is seen as an ultimate good, but to do it defensively - see; whereas, the West loves the Offense. Which is worse?As you research, note that you will not find "translations" of the Koran.  It cannot be translated.  The closest would be the designation of "meaning of the Koran". See Pickthall's Meaning of the Koran at

2.  Find parallels to Jihad, but as an offensive and not defensive matter, in the West: Look for the concept of "evildoers".  That idea, that evildoers as defined by the Popes and others, had such non-human characteristics that they could be killed with impunity.  It was not a sin.  A crusader's sins would be forgiven, if going off to the crusades.  Who could resist?

Religious protection for Crusaders


"Neither dealing out death nor dying, when for Christ's sake, contains anything criminal but rather merits glorious reward.

"The soldier of Christ kills safely and dies the more safely.

"Not without cause does he bear the sword. He is the instrument of God for the punishment of evildoers and for the defense of the just.

"When he kills evildoers it is not homicide, but malicide, and he is considered Christ's legal executioner."

St. Bernard of Clairvaux thus drummed up enthusiasm for the first Crusade, as quoted at Do a "find" for "evildoers" and come to the passage where killing an evildoer is not killing a man, so it is ok.

A similar description of the dehumanization of the Muslims.   Killing not a sin.

"If he kills an evildoer, he is not a mankiller, but, if I may so put it, a killer of evil.

"He is evidently the avenger of Christ towards evildoers and he is rightly considered a defender of Christians.

"Should he be killed himself, we know that he has not perished, but has come safely into port.

"When he inflicts death it is to Christ's profit, and when he suffers death, it is for his own gain.

"The Christian glories in the death of the pagan, because Christ is glorified; while the death of the Christian gives occasion for the King to show his liberality in the rewarding of his knight."

The past offers a window to the present.  Cultural attitudes remain.  President Bush favored the terminology "evildoers" -- See Do your own search.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tapas and food

Any Plaza Major. Head for the main square. Eat outdoors and order at random. Point to unknowns, or to someone else's plate, and take what comes.Tapas. Bite-size. Eat until full.

Oreilles: You may think you are ordering little pasta ear-shells, and in will come braised pig's ears. A little salty, but cartilagenous and tasty. Recipes: oreja de oro at See also

Here is another write-up on tapas and food -Rick Steves (excellent travel guides) at For an overview of the individualized portions of many things - appetizers that can become an entire meal - see

Here is a site that talks about beef showing up on menus now, but this was not always the case. See the huge menu of environmental, climate and other nature items in Spain, Scroll down the right menu to the food in Spain section, and then to beef.

Restaurants with tablecloths: beware, unless you plan to pay restaurant prices.

More blogs about Spain Road Ways.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Estremadura: Guadalupe, Trujllo - Conquistadors; Black Madonna

Trujillo, Spain 

Trujillo arises suddenly out of the dust and rock. It is the birthplace of Pizarro, the conquistador that the Financial Times (this an update) calls "a sort of Renaissance Terminator,"  Issue September 8-9, 2012, article on Lima, Peru.  There apparently are some 25000 skeletons in the San Francisco Monastery there:  one in particular has been given a fancy sarcophagus, throat slashed, and skewered through an eye.  Francisco Pizarro. Plunderer extraordinaire.

 Pizarro, Statue in Trujillo, Spain

This man obliterated an entire culture. Incas in Peru never recovered.

 Does it sound like Simon de Montfort carrying out the orders of Pope Innocent III in decimating the Cathars in the 13th Century Languedoc, France?  Of course.  But Pizarro was not under shield of a church claiming to speak for God (ye gods) in implementing genocide and reaping the property from it; he went to get rich directly.

He also died in the attempt, as did Simon de Montfort at Toulouse.

More photos:  at; see also an older site,  "Celts, Romans, Moors and Christians," and travel guru Frommer at

There is a fine and well-maintained Moorish castle here as well, and fine palaces from the 16th and 17th Centuries, when the gold ran rich. This statue of Pizarro - an American work, is by Mary Harriman and Charles Runse, says Frommer.  Yankee statue?

The Extremadura is a region in the west, see, and many conquistadores came from the area - Balboa, Cortes and DeSoto, for example. A fine old Moorish palace overlooks the town. See

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Seville, Cadiz. Roman ruin, roadsixe.

Seville area, Roman ruins, countryside. Spain

On the way to Seville, on a back road, we heard cowbells, stopped for a rest, wandered, found Roman ruins, cattle wading beyond.

First, to Seville,, and Cadiz,

In Seville, when you go to a flamenco club, sit as far front as possible - the dancers may well spot your companion (Dan was spotted) and the gazes and smiles during the performances are worth a whole trip in itself.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rock of Gibraltar. Not part of Spain.

This is its own site, since it is a British territory, so see photos at separate site,  Gibraltar Road Ways.  It is a World Heritage site, see at

The Rock of Gibraltar appears while driving around the southern, Mediterranean coast of Spain. Go in. Find checkpoints after checkpoints, long vehicle lines, and be reminded that this is a British area.  There are plenty of places to stay, just veer from Spain's coast, wait in the line for customs, and go in.

Rock of Gibraltar

Enjoy the apes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ronda. Andalusian Cliffs.

Ronda, Spain. Andalusian Cliffs

Ronda - in the mountains, on a deep gorge in Malaga, with a Roman bridge crossing -- the name Ronda is thanks to Julius Caesar. See The site also keys other major towns. This city provided asylum for Moors fleeing the Inquisition after Granada fell. See

The old quarter is Moorish. We stayed at a Parador, one in a system of excellent and reasonable hotels throughout Spain.   The government interest is in encouraging tourism, and in preserving fine old structures, such as monasteries, palaces, castles, and they keep the exteriors but change the inside.  See

They vary widely in cost, but are worth checking out before driving on.  They are convenient and we splurged for the view below. Some are surprisingly inexpensive.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lodging: Paradors; Michener 's Iberia, and Viva Yo

1. Hotels -- Paradors.

1.1  Paradors are 90 government hotels in converted convents, monasteries and castles, usually moderately priced by US standards (higher than the bargain places we usually used), but high quality and in the most convenient locations. The system began in 1928 (NYT 7/23/06 at s.5, p.10)

Check them out before going to a regular hotel. We made the mistake of assuming Paradors were always too expensive. 

They are usually charming, a fine respite.  See upscale Cuenca Parador:  This was the Dominican Monastery de San Pablo, 16th C. 125 Euro per night in 2006.  Some $160.00. 

2. Michener:  Iberia.  Reference book for a cultural kick-start.

Take a paperback of Iberia, by James Michener, from the 1950's. It is large, at 818 pages, but you can rip out as you read chapters, and leave them nicely for someone else, if you like sharing.  Read Michener the night before you are about to enter a new section of the country.

  •  Concepts. Viva Yo. This roughly means long live me, as I understand it. See  Viva Yo was a favorite concept of Picasso, says the site. 
  • Michener also describes it as, "Good for me." 
    • It is a good-humored way to look at the situation, when someone takes your seat because you stood up to see better. They did a good viva yo on you. 
    • The best response is a wry grin of sorts, give a flourish of quiet applause, at their success, then politely ask if they could make a little room so you also could sit.
    • Or,  when surrounded by people wanting some money for watching your car as you venture a distance away (they know that -- as in Cordoba, with the Cathedral across a long bridge).  Navigate a close job of parking, cheer yourself while inside so all can see, then simply exit your own car, then give a hearty Viva Yo, point to one man who looks promising, give him some money, and leave with a sound point in his direction, and a smile.  We found no trouble.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Itinerary First Trip to Spain 2006. Platero y Yo.

First trip to Spain 2006: 

Madrid, Seville, Valladolid, Burgos, Vivar del Cid, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Pamplona, Zaragoza, Calatayud, Cuenca, El Toboso, Campo De Criptana, Toledo, Salamanca, Caceres, Trujillo, Guadalupe, Merida, Sevilla, Cadiz, Algeciras, Gibraltar, Marbella, Ronda, Malaga, Granada, Cordoba, Ciudad Real, Madrid.

See also Europe Road Ways

Books: Platero and I (Platero y Yo),by Juan Ramon Jimenez, Eloise Roach translation, University of Texas.

 Check out later translations. This one is 1950's:

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gibraltar - Mosque

The Muslims entered Spain in 711, the Berber Tarik. He arrived by way of North Africa, to Gibraltar, named then "Jabal (mount of) Tarik" - Gibraltar now. See the tip of the Rock of Gibraltar just behind the dome. It took only seven years to conquer the whole Iberian peninsula. They called Spain "Al Andalus" and was one of the centers of Muslim civilization.

In 1492, with the defeat of the Ottomans at Granada, many took refuge at Gibraltar, see ://