España - Madrid
Located in the centre of the Buen Retiro Park in central Madrid is an imposing glass palace modeled on London's Crystal Palace. It was built around 36 years after its London counterpart in 1887, and designed by the architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco who was responsible for another building in the park, the Palacio de Velázques . The Palacio de Cristal, in the shape of a Greek cross, is made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework on a brick base, which is decorated with ceramics. Its domed roofs makes the structure over 72 feet high. The glass palace was created in 1887 to house exotic flora and fauna as part of an exhibition on the Philippines, which was then still a Spanish colony. The palace is used today for contemporary art exhibitions.
The Alcazar of Segovia, the royal palace located on top of a rock between the rivers Eresma and Clamores, is documented for the first time in 1122, although it may exist in earlier time. It was one of the favorite residences of the kings of Castile, built in the transition from Romanesque to Gothic and Mudéjar decor highlighting its ample rooms. Isabella was crowned Queen of Castile in the main square.
The Segovia Cathedral is the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain. It is considered the masterpiece of Basque-Castilian Gothic and is known as "The Lady of Cathedrals." This is the third largest cathedral in the city, and retains the cloister of the second, located opposite the castle. It was consecrated in 1768 and has dimensions of 500 feet long, 150 feet wide and 100 high in the nave, and has 18 chapels.
Arriving in Toledo after an hour bus ride, our guide took us on a walking tour via the monastery of St. Francis of Assisi and then on to the Old Synagogue, the oldest in Spain. Although now a museum, we were enlightened as to the history of Jews, Muslims and Christians from the times of the Romans to the Inquisition and to the present. From there we headed to the Tomb of Conde de Orgaz where the artist El Greco’s celebrated painting hangs. Our guide's explanation of the painting made even I, an appreciator of this grandiose masterpiece.
As we exited, a Bentley automobile stopped, and out stepped an elderly man, the former King Juan Carlos to enter the cathedral. Nary a murmur was heard from the locals, while we tourists stood with cameras clicking and wondering how we live in America burdened by the image of terror behind every face while here life seems so ordinary.