Sun Ra - Column for 7/9

In Absentia, pt.3

Ooooh. Farther into the future. I predict that by now, Cant will have broken egregiously at least once, and will probably simply not be working at all. But, on the off chance that it is, and that Bush has not infuriated the rest of the world enough into launching nuclear strikes against us, here's what we are up to across the Atlantic.

Oh, and enjoy those California power outages, eh? Ha-ha! And you thought that Spain was a second rate country! At least I can read at night!

Anyways, we are in Granada. This is the heart of ex-Muslim Spain, and I imagine it is exceptionally nifty. We went from Seville the short distance to Cordoba, and then to Jaen (stayed in a castle!), and now we're in Granada. Most of Muslim Spain had been conquered by 1248, but Granada held out until 1492, and by the time it was conquered the Christians were less desperate, so a significant chunk of the artwork and architecture survived.

I'm really not sure what this area will be like. The river Guadalquivir has a broad valley which is largely farms, and flows along east to west north of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which themselves run east-west along the coast. I understand there are spectacular views, and there will certainly be castles, so I am happy, but, we'll, I guess I'll have to wait and see. Ask me in a week, eh?

Notes from the Road pt.2:

Before I begin - one really interesting thing is that Spain is on a totally different schedule. People get out and about at about nine in the morning, much like at home; but things just stop at 2 or 3pm. This is, of course, because it is baking hot. Then the towns spring back to life at about 7, and go until 11 or midnight. And this is not partying - this is houwewives shopping at 9pm and kids playing in the plazas at eleven. It´s just... different.

And the cities are populated. The plazas fill with all ages, doing their things, hanging out, talking, sitting at cafes. Our downtowns in America are so dead, and everyone goes home and locks themselves in the box of their house, and feeds on the teevee. Not here. Life occurs outside in Spain, in the streets and the plazas and the parks. Everyone is there.

Madrid: Of particular note, we visited the Prado, where we got to stand inches from the original Bosch painting (you know the one), and several other paintings of his. Also ´The Triumph of Death´ by, um, well I have the poster now, and tons of Goya, Reubens, Breughel, etc. etc. Wow. Also parks and palaces and plazas, oh my!

Then we took a train to Segovia, with its huge Roman aqueduct (in use until 1946), city walls, excellent castle (the Alcazar), huge, crumbly cathedral, etc. Afterwards we rented a car, a really underpowered Puegot which we have dubbed ´the cub´ for the lion on the front grill, and drove to Toledo.

Toledo was fantastic. Walled, with itty bitty medieval streets and crawling with history. Also a great cathedral, and an Alcazar (which was actually a bit of a let-down on the inside). They also had incredibly tasty food, so far the best we´ve had in Spain, and made mazapan (marzipan) as a city specialty. Who knew?

Then a long drive through the abandoned-looking Spanish countryside to the remote monastary and village of Guadalupe. Spain is a big, empty country, and looks an awful lot like the California foothills, except for the constant reminders that it used to be lived in. Tumbledown rock walls, crumbled buildings with trees growing in them - no one wants to farm the rocky, thin soil anymore.

The monastary at Guadalupe was fantastic, opulent and dripping with history. They have ceremonial gowns from the 14th and 15th centuries, illustrated manuscripts including huge (four foot by three foot) songbooks, and, of course, the Virgin of Guadalupe. After passing through several opulent chapels, a monk took charge of the tour group, and revealed to us the sacred relic of the Virgin. (A figurine of the Virgin in one of many jewel-encrusted gowns.) There was then a long prayer, and a Hail Mary, after which most of the tour group (all Spanish) were in tears. It was... something.

Then to Mérida, formerly Augusta Emerita, capital of Roman Lusitania. More Roman stuff than you can shake a stick at - a great museum, two Roman bridges still in service, ruined temples, aqueducts, and a theater and amphitheater complex in impressive condition.

As I observed, Sevilla was full, so we are now in the medieval town of Cáceres. Traveling is weary work, but every time I see a medieval wall or Moorish tower I haven´t seen before, I am rewarded. It´s an interesting emotional tug-of-war, between the joy of discovery and the new and the difficulty of daily life in a place you don´t really grok.

That´s it from Cáceres. Have a great day, and remember - everyone around you speaks your language.