May 29th

20160528_144618Today we visited the city of Toledo which was once the capital of Spain and is called the city of three cultures because it is rich with Christian, Jewish, and moorish heritage. We first went to the cathedral which was absolutely stunning. I thought that the United States has beautiful churches but nothing can compare to that. It was extremely interesting because we were able to see three different styles throughout the church since it took over 250 years to complete. We were in Toledo during the corpus cristi so the entire city was decorated beautifully which only happens once a year so we felt pretty special.
We also saw El Greco’s painting “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” which depicted the miracle of two saints coming from heaven to take the Count of Orgaz’s body to heaven. El Greco painted himself and his son into the picture which is considered to be well ahead of its time.
We also visited the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca which is a synagogue that was built by the moorish and later turned into a church by the Christians showing even further the rich history of all three of Toledo. Our guide Elena also told us the reason the synagogue was turned into a church was because when the Christians took over Toledo they forced the Jewish to either convert or to leave. Toledo is rich in history and is nearly impossible to navigate without a guide. The city hasn’t changed much over the centuries and the streets remain extremely narrow and winding.

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May 27th

We visited the museum of El Prado today. The museum was originally supposed to be a natural history museum but that never happened and it is now home to some of the world’s most famous classic paintings and sculptures.we were able to see many of El Greco’s masterpieces and how his art reflected his life. Towards the end of his life he became very depressed and that showed in the style to his paintings. The museum was home to only classical paintings and the modern paintings were held at the Reina Sofia which we were able to visit in the evening. We saw the works of Picasso. Both museums were exciting and Interesting to me since I had learned about several of the artists and paintings in a few of my classes back home.
As a group we went on a walking tour of Madrid. We saw several of the squares and plazas where we learned the history, importance, and meaning of the name of each one. My favorite was the Plaza Mayor. After that on elf my roommates and I went to the royal palace and took a tour. It was absolutely stunning. Every room’s ceiling was a masterpiece. It has Mazzini views of Madrid and it was very interesting to learn more about Spain’s history. Even though the palace is used only for ceremonial purposes these days and is not the residence of the Royal family. The a palace was so extravagant it was difficult to image one family living there.

May 26th

We went to the Valley of the Fallen and Segovia today. On the way to the Valley of the Fallen we learned about the Spanish civil war and why several Spaniards refuse to go to the monument. The Civil War in Spain is looked at in a much different way than the way American’s recollect their civil war. We are more able to acknowledge the loss of both sides and place less blame on either side. This could be due to the fact that America’s civil war dates over 100 years back while the Spanish civil war is relatively recent and that the ‘winning’ side is no longer in power. The monument was absolutely beautiful and had multiple symbols such as the ten arches representing the Ten Commandments. There was also a gorgeous mosaic at the top of the cathedral that was composed of six million individual mosaic pieces.
In Segovia we were able to see the old roman aqueduct which gave Segovia running water up until the 1960s when it was decommissioned. The aqueduct had of 260 arches. We also visited the castle and learned about Queen Isabel and how she was one of the first feminists of Spain. Typically when a royal woman married she forfeited all of her power to her husband but Isabel refused and kept her power. She and her husband ruled together and equally which I found interesting. We also had lunch at a lovely cafe where we learned that in Spain you seat yourselves instead of waiting for the hostess. We looked like complete tourists but the food was delicious.