I scheduled a couple days in Seville, Spain because I wanted to see a city in the south of Spain, where the Moorish influence was stronger since in the battle for control of Spain, the Moors who had come up from Africa held onto power longer in the south (as compared with the north where the Catholic church started their slow and steady conquest of Spain.) My time started with a city tour, which covered some of the basics of the history of Seville. In this one courtyard, we saw influences in the architecture from when the Romans ruled (what had been arched walkways in bottom photo), when the Moors ruled (prayer tower built in 830 in top left photo), and when the Catholic church took over (converted it all into a church courtyard). The area was also ruled by the Romans, Phoenicians, Vikings, and Visigoths, but the remains from when they ruled are pretty scant since they are far underground. Julius Caesar founded the city, so they consider him the father of Seville.
I really wanted to see Madrid, because I spent many years studying Spanish and had learned a bit about the city and the art there, so I wanted to see it for myself. In all honesty, I pretty much structured my time around seeing some recommended sights (thanks Joaquin and Ginger) and being sure I got to see lots of things related to what I had studied, so consider this a sort of introduction to the culture and history part of my Spanish classes.
Starting with the Prado Museum, which I had read in a Rick Steve's book would be closed the day of the week I was in town, but fortunately, I double checked and Rick was wrong, which I was super excited about! Inside the museum, they have a variety of paintings, including some by Velazquez and Goya, both represented in statues above. The Goya statue is a bit weird, but that fits his paintings, which are also a bit weird. One of them for instance is called "Saturn Devouring His Child" and it's pretty much what you imagine it would look like.
We went to Martigny because I am an avid St. Bernard lover and they have a museum devoted to the breed, which we will get to in a moment, but that was only one part of what we enjoyed about Martigny. To start with, this was our view outside the window of our hotel room. That is the cute village with farms on a hillside in the background.
On the list of things I found out after the fact, the BMW Museum is different from the BMW Welt and also different from the BMW Headquarters. Each is supposed to have a slightly different focus (past, current/future, corporate operations), but to me, it all seemed to overlap quite a bit, so I'm treating it all as one. For those who are particular about these matters, the BMW Welt is pictured on the bottom right and where we sat on motorcycles in the left photo. The BMW Headquarters are the tower that is shaped like a four-cylinder engine in the top right photo, and the BMW Museum is the salad bowl shaped thing next to that.
As I said in my earlier post that is much cheerier and available here about modern day Berlin, they as a city are in a delicate balance of trying to grow and move forward while still honoring the devastation in their past, which is a difficult place for a city to be. Especially when so much of the history is so fresh. The wall only came down roughly twenty years ago. In any case, I give the city much credit for having displays everywhere that show in pretty good detail (plus, explained in German and English for us tourists) the atrocities that occurred before, during, and after WW2. We didn't see every possible historical war-related sight, because there were so many that could have been all we did on our trip, but we did visit some of the main sights.
Above is a series of photos from Checkpoint Charlie, which was the main spot in the Wall where approved people (meaning foreigners, not anyone from either side of Berlin) could cross from the American sector of West Berlin through to the GDR (communist) sector in East Berlin. Couple interesting notes: Charlie is because this was the third crossing point, so in military alphabet speak, that's alpha-bravo-Charlie. Also, there were pictures put up as the wall was coming down featuring a picture of soldier that was representative of each side, but the East Berlin soldier's uniform was already part of the modified army uniform given the changes that were taking place in the USSR at the time. The guard station and sign are recreations, with the originals in a museum nearby.
Berlin clearly has loads of history, ranging from some of the best to the worst of humanity. It's a city that is trying to move forward, while honoring the past. To that end, it would have been way too much for me to put it all in one blog post, so I'm dividing the main sights of Berlin into two posts: this one that is generally cheery, and another accesible here featuring loads of info from WW2 through 1989. The posts should be taken in tandem, as they are two very related and important sides of modern-day Berlin.
As for this post, the photo above is as follows: top left: Greg with one of the tourist bears that are all painted differently and scattered across Berlin. Apparently the bear is the animal for the region. The top right is the German Parliament building (Bundestag) which we toured and that will be featured in a separate post. The bottom is the Brandenburg Gate which was built originally in the late 1700's as part of the wall surrounding the city center, and featured on one of the Euro coins.
To call this a museum might be a bit of a stretch, but it is an interesting journey through the building up of Guinness as a company and brand. It is located in what used to be the actual brewery building, so the tour is a self-paced walk through the exhibits on five floors. Admission includes a pint of Guinness, so you tend to walk away having enjoyed your time. Among other notable visitors, in May 2011, Queen Elizabeth II toured the Guinness Storehouse.
Molly Malone, she may be completely fictional; she may be a daughter of a fish seller; she may have been a prostitute; really, no one really knows. What we do know is there are lots of Irish drinking songs featuring her, so in the grand, historical year of 1999, this statute to her was built. You can tell by which parts of her are shiniest where most people grab when posing with her.
We were fortunate enough that Hadley knows people in high places, and got us a tour of the British Parliament with a staff member for an MP. For US folks, that is like having someone who works on the staff of a Representative from the House of Reps give you a tour of Congress. British Parliament is held in Westminster Palace, which has all sorts of history and perhaps most notably, one of the towers has Big Ben. Tours are available to the general public on a very limited first come, first served basis, but given by generic guides, not someone who is actually a part of the process. Unfortunately, I didn't take the most diligent notes during our tour, but the photos are pretty impressive, even though I sadly can't name all the rooms where they were taken.
One other important item to note is that photos aren't really allowed inside. You'll note we took lots of photos inside, some of which were with a cell phone try to to keep it sly from the soldiers with guns, but for that reason, I'm not naming any names of who gave our tour, as I don't want to risk getting anyone in trouble, but I do want to give a huge thank you to our staff member!