I enjoy maps. I can pore in excess of them endlessly. No issue how nicely I feel I know a put, when I glance at a map I see substantially I was not conscious of. At the similar time, as the Polish-American philosopher Alfred Korzybski pointed out, the map is not the territory. When you are truly in a put you expertise a excellent offer that is not on any map.
I find that no position is at any time rather what I imagined it to be. It is normally a wonderful offer far more. When I went to Spain, I was struck by quite a few matters that experienced never ever occurred to me. For example, I experienced normally assumed of Spain as element of Europe, which it clearly is. But when I was traveling throughout the countryside and traveling to the cities, I kept noticing what felt like an affinity with Africa.
The moment that experienced happened to me, I realized it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Spain and Africa are correct upcoming to every single other. At the Strait of Gibraltar, they are only divided by eight miles of quickly navigable h2o. There you can see Morocco from Spain and vice versa. In advance of railroads and cars and trucks were being invented, the sea was by far the most productive means of extended-distance vacation. So traditionally, Spain is in some ways closer to Africa than Europe.
In contrast, Spain is divided from France and the relaxation of Europe by the mighty Pyrenees mountain array, which sorts a formidable barrier. That bolstered Spain’s personal character advancement, and its independence from the rest of Europe. Spain has created its have distinctive character, and by its colonial empire, it distribute that lifestyle around the earth. Like all colonial empires, Spain experienced its oppressive facet. But all round, its cultural legacy is irresistibly charming.
I also learned a geological foundation for the affinity between Spain and Africa. In terms of continental drift, the movement of landmasses more than the crust of the earth around thousands and thousands of many years, Spain was earlier aspect of the African landmass. It collided with the Eurasian landmass millions of a long time in the past, and the force made the Pyrenees Mountains. So Spain has a deep affinity with Africa in the land alone.
But probably most of the affinity I felt between Spain and Africa was centered on the presence of the Moors, out of Northern Africa, who occupied Spain for nearly 800 yrs, 711 to 1492.
The Berber-Hispanic Muslims inhabited two-thirds of the Iberian Peninsula for 375 several years, occupied about half for another 160 decades, and stayed in Granada for one more 244 several years. These cultural influences run deep and do not vanish swiftly. The Moorish culture continues to be a palpable aspect of the encounter of contemporary Spain.
In the 20th century, the Spain-Africa affinity was mirrored in the artwork of Pablo Picasso, almost certainly Spain’s most celebrated artist. He started his occupation ably mastering the variations of his predecessors, from Rembrandt by Gauguin and Van Gogh. Then he found African art, which led to a revolution in the way he saw factors. He deconstructed the environment and place it again collectively in a stunning new way. That was the start of Cubism. It wasn’t just a type that arrived and went, it permanently transformed the way we see things and signify issues in art.
As I toured Spain and experienced the unique character of each and every of the metropolitan areas, I realized that each individual experienced made independently through the centuries before the establishment of a countrywide entity named Spain.
It was in the watershed yr of 1492 that the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon conquered the Emirate of Granada, finished Muslim rule in the south, and launched Spain as a united state.
The existence of Rome is also distribute across the region, as in just about all of Europe and North Africa. You operate into enduring Roman artifacts practically in all places, these as in Córdoba where there even now stands a excellent Roman bridge and a large waterwheel.
Touring cross nation was thrilling for the reason that the landscape by itself, with its awe-inspiring Sierra Nevada mountains and wonderful expanses of rolling plains, has coronary heart-stirring attractiveness. It appears to be to communicate quietly and grandly of its have ancient background. But it is the cities where individuals obtain and lifestyle is concentrated in so numerous artifacts, wherever you can seriously get a sense for the human historical past of the spot.
Each of the towns I frequented remaining its own parcel of personalized recollections: Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Córdoba, Granada and Malaga. Each and every felt exclusive and personal when I was there, and still left solid impressions that characterize my memories of them.
Barcelona is the superb Mediterranean seaport in the northeastern portion of Spain, as breezy and gorgeous as its identify is musical, dancing off the tongue. Barcelona was the cash of Catalonia, and was 1 of the 1st Roman settlements in Spain, founded by Emperor Augustus all over 15 BC. You can even now see Roman walls and ruins there.
One of my most vivid reminiscences of Barcelona is the remarkable Gaudí Cathedral. It was impressed by medieval Gothic cathedrals constructed from the 12th to the 15th century. But it was designed in the late 19th century. It’s viewed as Catalan Modernisme, or Art Nouveau. It’s bizarre and riveting to look at, colossal and ornate in a strange way. It embodies the aptitude and flamboyance of Barcelona. I liked the city’s Art Nouveau architecture, and the ornate iron railings and stone operate.
Barcelona also captured my coronary heart for the reason that it was the capital of Catalonia, exactly where the initially resistance to fascism rose up in the late 1930s in what became the Spanish Civil War.
Madrid is the excellent cosmopolitan middle of Spain, suitable in the center. With a populace of nearly 3 million, it’s by much Spain’s most significant metropolis. It’s the household of the great Museo Nacional del Prado, just one of the world’s greatest museums, as very well as the Reina Sofia museum, which properties Picasso’s “Guernica,” an additional statement on the Spanish Civil War. The streets of Madrid are thrilling, with art parts exhibited outdoor, sidewalk cafes, and lively street everyday living. And there’s the huge Palacio del Oriente, the Royal Palace now employed for occasions and as a tourist attraction.
Seville experienced what is claimed to be the initial tobacco manufacturing facility, from the 18th century, which was the setting of the opera “Carmen” by the French composer Bizet. Seville is the funds of the area of Andalucía, with lovely rolling hills and villages, and homes on hillsides. It’s the household of Flamenco tunes and dance, and a fantastic location to encounter the authentic matter. It is the remaining resting spot of Columbus and also the spot of the amazing Alamillo Bridge, intended by Santiago Calatrava applying a harp-like structure. And it is the place tapas originated.
Córdoba was a Moorish metropolis, and middle of the Arabic environment. The Cathedral of Cordoba reveals a intriguing conglomeration of Muslim and Christian cultures. It was the moment a Mosque, and nevertheless reveals symptoms of its before incarnation, now overlaid by Christian symbols. Cordoba was also the birthplace of the wonderful bullfighter El Cordobés.
Granada, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain, was the headquarters of the Moors in Spain. It’s acknowledged largely for the Alhambra, their palace. The Alhambra, or “Red Castle” in Arabic, is a thoughts-numbingly impressive palace and grounds, whole of ornate, Moorish artwork and layout, revealing a quite rich and formulated country that existed there from the late 9th century until the Moors were chased out in 1492 by the rising new Spanish country.
Málaga is an Andalusian town on Costa del Sol. It was the birthplace of Picasso in 1881, and is the household of the Museo Picasso Málaga, a museum devoted to Picasso. Málaga was also the website of a intimate legend of Enthusiasts Mountain, or Enthusiasts Rock, said to be the location in which two enthusiasts, a Christian and a Moor, jumped to their fatalities instead than to be divided. Spain is very little if not passionate.
Spain is a spot of wonderful soul, fantastic non secular and sensual vibrance. It is an unlimited supply of surprise and warm satisfaction, by no means to be fatigued.
Your humble reporter,