Month: May 2016

Miguel de Cervantes: Soldier, Jailbird, Wanderer, Scribe

The wellspring of knowledge is a source point where humanity seeks answers and inspiration. Science, art, and human endeavor advance when passionate seekers draw forth the water of knowledge. One man, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra slaked his thirst in 1605 and again in 1615, and in the process, he produced one of history’s greatest works of literature, commonly known as The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha (or as it is known in Spanish, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha).

Beyond credit for creating one of world literature’s monumental works, Cervantes is lauded for inventing the modern novel, he is Spain’s greatest writer, and he set a standard for writing and storytelling that endures to this day. Quite an achievement, considering Cervantes did not come from wealth, nobility, or academia. In fact, Cervantes was born in a small town northeast of Madrid, Alcala de Henares, and his working career was marked by periods as a tax collector, incarceration as a debtor and also a prisoner of war. It is thought the germ of his idea for Don Quixote (as it is universally known), came to him while he was in prison during part of his military service. read more

Toledo, A Crossroads Forged by Steel

History is a blend of people, place, events, and moments. For thousands of years those elements have been mixing together in Toledo, Spain to create a fascinating history. Like so many good stories this one begins with a place.

For countless centuries the longest river in Spain, the Tagus, flowed at a spot in the central part of the country, etching deeper into the granite hillsides to create a promontory on three sides. When Celtic and Iberian tribesmen constructed a wall along the steep north side they had a highly defensible position. That is until 193 A.D., when the Roman Empire decided Toletum (as it was then known) would be an ideal place from which to rule the western edge of their empire. They drove out the Celtic tribesmen and appropriated the location for themselves. read more

Only Gaudi Could Conceive Sagrada Familia

Barcelona deserves its reputation as one of the world’s top travel destinations, a city with a grand mix of history, culture, cuisine, and architecture. When it comes to Barcelona’s architecture, no name is more highly regarded than Antoni Gaudi. His singular style of design has bequeathed the city some of the most recognizable buildings on the planet and the pinnacle accomplishment of the Catalonian’s “labore corporis” is Sagrada Familia.

The story of Sagrada Faimilia – Sacred Family – and Antoni Gaudi are intertwined. Both the city and the man represent a series of contrasts – and similarities. In some ways each is a product of the other, and neither would be one without the other had it not been for a devoutly religious man’s ambition and a city’s desire to construct a shrine to Catholicism. read more

Palau Güell

Antoni Gaudi easily ranks as one of the most brilliant architects of all time. Barcelona, Spain is home to Gaudi’s greatest works, and Palau Güell is a first-rate example of some of his early efforts. And while Palau Güell might be considered a more traditional, as compared with some of Gaudi’s later accomplishments, it is technically marvelous and strongly hints at some of the inventiveness he would demonstrate throughout his career.

Gaudi did design and build projects outside of Barcelona; the Catalan city is home, however, to his most famous buildings, and all seven of the Gaudi projects that have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Palau Güell (1984), are here. read more

Castell de Montjuïc

There are a number of excellent reasons tourists find Barcelona one of the most popular cities in the world. Beauty, culture, unique attractions, Catalan magic, and so much more combine to produce a city that attracts millions of visitors each year. One of the oldest sites in the city is Castell de Montjuïc, essential to the story and history of Barcelona.

Like many areas along the Mediterranean Sea, the Catalan region has been occupied since the Stone Age. Over the centuries various conquerors laid claim to the area and by the Middle Ages European monarchs were squabbling over borders. Barcelona, a city within Catalonia, was coming into its own and for protection a fortress was needed. Located southwest of the center of Barcelona, high up on a cliff by the sea, a fortress has been located here, as far back as 1073. The basic foundation of Castell de Montjuïc was laid out in 1640. Within a year it would be the scene of battle when Catalans stood up to the supremacy of Spanish royals – and won. But less than 30 years later Catalonia would be subsumed into the borders of Spain – a point that fiercely proud Catalans still chafe over. read more