My favorite souvenirs from a trip are not the ones found in a fabulous leather goods shop. While there’s nothing wrong with shopping, I’d rather go home with an appreciation for the land and culture than a fabulous handbag. Ok, the handbag is a bonus. Here’s what I brought home from Spain.
Do you know what kind of leaves adorn these Corinthian columns and other stately carvings?
They are acanthus leaves,
which thrive in the climate of southern Spain. I can’t pass a single Corinthian column
without looking for them now.
Speaking of carvings, did you know that craftsmen used elaborate carving to tell stories to the illiterate population? We learned that the monkey image
represented sexual or lewd activity. These images that we spotted in the cloisters of the San Juan de los Reys monastery were evidently carved to remind the monks to keep their minds out of the gutter and focus on the sacred.
Christopher Columbus is just as important to the Spaniards as he is to Americans.
Columbus’ discovery of the riches in the New World ushered in Spain’s glory days, which lasted about 80 years, until the Spanish Armada was defeated by the English. Monuments, plazas, streets and shops bear Columbus’s name, and the country also celebrates Columbus Day on October 12.
Star of David
The 6-pointed Star of David held no religious symbolism until 1897 when the Jewish community selected it to appear on its flag at the First Zionist Congress. Until then, it was merely a geometric design (along with its cousin the 8-pointed star) that adorned tiles, plaster walls and gardens.
The ubiquitous 8-point star was a favorite of Islamist artisans. It can be found carved in wood, molded in plaster, laid in tile and even in the elaborate ceiling of the Palace of the Alhambra.
We discovered that bullfighting originated on horseback. A sport for noblemen, it
evolved from medieval knights training for battle on horseback. Around 1726 Francisco Romero – in Ronda – asked permission to fight the bull sans horse, and a new style of bullfighting evolved. Ronda became known as the home of modern bullfighting, while Romero is credited with introducing the cape and thus the art of the brave matador.
Until visiting Spain a few weeks ago, I had not given Washington Irving, author of Rip Van Winkle and Tales of Sleepy Hollow, a thought in several years, but he was quite popular with the Spanish. Irving traveled to Spain at the invitation of the American Minister to Spain in 1829, and during his year there, he was inspired to research several works, including Tales of the Alhambra.
Later in life, Irving served as the U.S. Ambassador to Spain.
Semana Santa de Sevilla: Holy Week in Seville
Holy Week in Sevilla is celebrated in a big way. Beginning on Palm Sunday and ending early on the morning of Good Friday, brotherhoods of the local churches parade from their home church to the Cathedral in Seville. Depending on how you feel about crowds, this may or may not be the week for you to be in Seville ~ kind of like being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Crowds throng to see the elaborate floats depicting the Passion of Christ, a tradition for over 500 years.
The penitent in the parade wear the capriote, like the one shown above. Its pointed, hooded mask shields the identity of the wearer. We had a visceral reaction to the costume, which bears a creepy resemblance to the KKK’s robes. Seems some misguided Southerners hijacked the holy costume for evil purposes.
Did you know it’s bad luck to click glasses and exclaim ¡Salud! without looking each toaster in the eye? Now you do.
The benefits of using a travel advisor
When I told the family we were using tour guides in each city in Spain, I heard a collective groan from across the miles. My offspring immediately had visions of being herded through crowds with a droning narrative in their ears. They of little faith! Thanks to travel advisor Caroline Wallace and her Brownell network of experts, we were entertained, guided and educated at each of our cities and at strategic times so as to avoid the crowds. In fact, each of the nuggets I shared with you came to me by way of one of our tour guides. The guides act as mini-ambassadors to their region, making sure we returned home with positive impressions and a longing to return.
Using a travel advisor also eased the hassles of traveling as a family of five. Being in the know (and knowing the language), Caroline & company arranged our hotels and ground transportation, leaving us free to enjoy the destinations without having to bicker over logistics. Now that’s a true holiday. ¡Salud!
March 30, 2015