The Ghosts in the Walls

Well, I give up.  It appears that my technological abilities are failing me as of late, since I can’t seem get my pictures in the order I want the to be on this post.  Just know that the pictures at the top of the post were taken last, and go back in time towards the bottom.  Not that it makes that much of a difference to you anyway.

So here it goes, from top to bottom.  The Castle of Manzanares el Real, built in 1475, is one of the best preserved castles of Central Spain (not saying much) and has been in several major movies, most notably El Cid, which, if you haven’t seen, you should know that I am ashamed at your level of culture.  It’s structure is made purely for defense, with walls five feet thick, few windows, and tiny slits to shoot arrows from.  What else is interesting about it?  That’s actually a really good question.  It’s a pretty solid piece of work though, on a hill overlooking pastures of cows and a beautiful lake.  I climbed one of the towers even though it was chained off, and guess what I found?

Darkness.  It was really creepy actually.

There was also a gallery of paintings by Javier Montesol.  Many of the girls didn’t appreciate him, but I liked his work.  It reminded me of France.

We also visited the Valle de los Caídos, or “Valley of the Fallen”.  This site is actually one of the most “modern” structures we have seen here in Spain, built in the 1940’s by General Franco.  This place has some convoluted history, and it’s actually highly controversial.  Many people refuse to visit it because of the history that resides within the stones.  Built with the intention to commemorate those who died during the Spanish Civil War in 1938, the Valley of the Fallen is more commonly seen as a fascist affront to the beautiful surrounding landscape.  The stony mountainside and expansive surface of the basilica serves as a gravesite for over 40,000 victims of the war, although only Franco and one other man are honored by name.  Those in the North, the ones who were conquered by Franco, find this monument extremely offensive due to the fact that not only did Franco use over 20,000 prisoners of war to build it, working most of them to death and letting their bodies decompose on the mountainside, but he also had it designed to be the largest basilica in the world, even larger than the Vatican – a horrible offense to the Pope.  Franco said it was built to commemorate those who died, although I disagree.  It was built to honor himself, to immortalize him forever.

The entire basilica is built inside the mountain, with the culminating point of the dome directly under the largest cross in the world.  The entire atmosphere plays up fascist ideas.  It’s sheer grandeur and oddly foreboding sterility diminishes the role of humans, dwarfing those who walk beneath the arching ceilings.  It’s as if the towering colonnades are an aggrandizement of Franco’s megalomaniac ideals.  Walking through the dark and sprawling corridors on the interior, visitors are overshadowed by somber and sepulchral hooded angels, and there’s almost a dystopian feel to the whole place.

Unfortunately I was castigated for taking contraband pictures inside the basilica.  I pretended not to speak English or Spanish so the guard didn’t know I had blatantly ignored the sign.  Oops.

We also stopped at El Escorial, which has served as a residence for King Phillip II of Spain, a school, a monastery, a museum, and a burial ground for a fair amount of Spanish Royalty.  Although photos were also prohibited inside, I used a friend’s phone to take some good pictures inside.  At least I thought they were good, until I looked at them on my computer and was highly disappointed.  We walked through room after room after room filled with huge marble coffins, some filled, and others waiting for a freshly dead occupant to make an eternal visit.  Probably my favorite part of the whole place though was the beautiful coloring of the leaves, and trying to take pictures of the adorable school children running around in their uniforms yelling “no fotos!” at us.

The pictures from the abandoned theme park were actually from last week when I was in San Sebastián in Northern Spain.  We made a brief stop on our way home, and everyone was in a weird sullen funk.  The misty and forlorn atmosphere of the park fit the mood perfectly.

On a side note:  I am officially registered for BYU Winter Semester now, and I am already starting to get grey hairs from the preemptive stress that has begun to build up.


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