Monday, 16 June 2014
A Few Spanish Photos
Just back from our holiday in Spain, which didn't go quite according to plan - mostly because of the Spanish Royal Family. We were staying in the centre of Madrid (in the Sol area - right in the middle of things) and the first hiccup was on the Sunday when we tried to visit the Spanish Naval Museum (about 15 minutes from the hotel and well placed opposite the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum)- lots of police vans parked outside, barriers up and MPs stopping us visiting. Closed for the day as there was to be a parade - we'd seen some bandsmen in dress uniforms milling around so we found a shady spot and waited....for an hour. Saw a small motorcade go past, everyone cheered and waved the Spanish flags they had been handed by some Spanish sailors a little while before (they'd run out just before reaching us!). Heard a short speech muffled by the PA system into even more incomprehensible Spanish.
And then saw four companies (one each from the Navy, Army, Air Force and Guardia Civil) march past followed by the band. And that was the moment I realised my camera was still set up for taking pictures of model soldiers and the batteries in the camera decided to die - so lots of scrabbling around. And that was it - except for the departure of the motorcade. I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed - I'd expected a bit more.
So the next day, we decided to visit the Royal Palace (15 minutes walk in the opposite direction to the Naval Museum) - only to find it closed for two of the next three days as the King was receiving the Mexican President. It was enough to make you want to vote Republican! So we rescheduled our plans and went to Toledo on the Wednesday rather than the Tuesday as originally intended.
And what did we find? You guessed it - the Museo del Erjercito is closed on Wednesdays. I was rather annoyed at myself for not making a note of what days it was open before travelling (of course it didn't stop me commenting to the gate guard that if any foreign powers wanted to invade Spain then Wednesday was clearly the day to choose as the Spanish Army would be taking the day off). I spent the rest of the day in Toledo behaving like a schoolboy who missed out on his treat.
On the Thursday we travelled down to Malaga for the final three days of our holiday (my wife doesn't count it a vacation unless she has at least two days at the beach) - she'd selected Malaga without any input from me, so I was rather concerned it would be like Torremelinos with a Picasso Museum planted in the middle (and modern art leaves me cold too) but I was pleasantly surprised. There were lots of tourists there but mostly not from the UK (and no "caffs" advertising "full English breakfasts" in sight) - there was a small museum from Carmen Thyssen (of the fore-mentioned Thyssen-Bornemisza Musum), the cathedral was nice and the Alcazaba / Gibralfaro dominated the Old Town and the harbour.
The Alcazaba is the lower of the two complexes and is still in pretty good order - the entrance is fairly poorly signposted (or perhaps my wife and I are simply challenged in that regard) but we eventually found it (as you are looking at the Alcazaba from the Calle Alcazabilla across the Roman Amphitheatre the entrance is up the steps on the right). Once you've hiked halfway up the hill you are rewarded with the above model in one tower - it is scaled for 20-28mm soldiers roughly.
As I said much of the Alcazaba (from the Arabic Al Qasbah meaning "citadel") is in pretty good nick considering it was built in the early 11th Century - in fact it is probably the best preserved Alcazaba in Spain (there are others, many dating from the Taifa period when Moorish Spain split into small kingdoms). Some of the materials used were taken from the Roman Amphitheatre as you can see in the picture below.
They have planted gardens (after all,this was a palace as well as a fortress) within several areas of the Alcazaba and it is very pretty - with the occasional skinny looking brown squirrel running around, fairly oblivious of the tourists.
And finally, I guess the final military use wasn't when Malaga fell to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1487 as you can see from this stone if you look carefully:
And the Gibralfaro? That was reached by a separate entrance at the very top of the hill - you can get there by walking or by bus (the No 35 from the seafront heading towards Velez-Malaga). Walking was out as my spinal problem chose this trip to re-assert itself. And the bus? On a siesta between 14.30 and 16.30...so no Gibralfaro for me.