Saturday, September 1, 2012

Segovia and the Valley of the Fallen

Today I stood by the tomb of the dictator Francisco Franco. It was the oddest thing. Flowers decorated his tomb, which was embedded in the floor behind the altar of the huge mausoleum inside of a mountain built to honor both sides of the Civil War.  Franco intended the place be majestic, grand and fearsome. He succeeded. People come everyday to visit, to worship and to mourn. Oddly enough, the other Francoist monument I saw, the victory arch, is covered in graffiti urging the destruction of Franco's legacy. Regardless, the progress made by Spain since Franco's death in 1975 is quite amazing. It's easy to forget that Spain was the last Western European country to democratize.

I also saw the best preserved Roman aqueduct in all of Europe. To build a structure that will bring water from a river seven miles away is difficult enough. To do it only using granite and no mortar and have it perfectly in tact more than 2000 years later is unfathomable. The only alteration is the removal of Roman gods for the Virgin Mary.

I saw the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain. I saw Jewish and Muslim architecture in a very old Spanish city. I saw an old bullring that is still in operation.

I stood in the throne room where Christopher Columbus met the king and queen of Spain to finance his voyage.

My home country simply isn't old enough to compare. Our great historical sites are not even half as old as the ones I saw. I still can't believe I walked near the burial site of the once dictator of Spain. I stood in the same room as the Catholic Monarchs and Christopher Columbus. There aren't really word to describe the profundity of being in such historical places.

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