Struggle for Life in the Painted Desert

The landscape in the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Parks in Arizona is both stark and beautiful. The colors and details were intriguing and would captivate anyone interested in geology, nature and the art of landscape painting or photography.

One of the main attractions of the Painted Desert is the Blue Mesa Trail. If you are going to this area and you are able to hike a bit, this is a must-see. The trail is paved, but there is a steep descent and of course a steep ascent on the return. If you take your time and rest along the way, it is not a difficult trail. This, of course depends upon your physical condition so your mileage may vary.

I am always intrigued by some of nature’s surprises. On the return trip back to the parking area while going uphill, I noticed this bush.


Painted Desert Bush along the Blue Mesa Trail

From this vantage point, this doesn’t look like anything special. There could be hundreds of similar bushes growing in these parks, but let’s take a look from the other side of the plant.


Painted Desert Bush along the Blue Mesa Trail

Do you see those yellow arrows? That is one long root running down the side of the sandstone formation following a crevice and into the ground where one can assume it takes hold and gets whatever moisture and nutrients it can.

This is a beautiful example of the the struggle to survive in some of the harshest environments and how living organisms often find a way to adapt.

Many visitors might pass by this “stoic” plant without ever taking notice of the ongoing fight for survival! I do hope a few stop to pay homage.

NOTE – The Blue Mesa area can be enjoyed from the rim without hiking down into the canyon. There are several lookout areas and quite a few parking spaces. It will be beautiful from those areas too!

Read more about the Blue Mesa Trail at Inspired Imperfection

 

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Petroglyphs: The Writing on the Wall

Petroglyphs are images scratched into rocks using other rocks or instruments. In the desert, rocks often gather a dark patina that can be chipped away to reveal a lighter surface underneath. These are ideal surfaces for creating petroglyphs.

These drawings are found in many locations around the world. and those created by ancient peoples tend to hold a certain mystique.

NOTE: – Paintings on rocks are referred to as pictographs or petrographs.

Some Petroglyphs are relatively recent, perhaps as young as the early twentieth century while others are tens of thousands of years old.

During our many hikes across the United States, we have seen a number of established petroglyph sites.

One of the most interesting encounters was Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument in Utah which can be found along the main road leading into the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park.



The photo above was of the left-hand side of the main display. A number of the images are self-explanatory while others remain mysterious. These are estimated to be 2,000 years old according to the park’s website.



This lighter section was a less “populated” area even farther left of the area shown above. It is amazing how well the petroglyphs have stood the rigors of weather over time. Notice that some drawings such as the feet and the quartered circle are repeated in a number of areas shown in the photographs.



The last section, located on the right-hand side of the monument, is carved on very dark rock. A variety of animals and hunters can clearly be seen.

What I find almost equally astounding is that these images do not seem to have been defaced. There is only a short fence blocking off this ancient canvas which could easily be breeched. Kudos to the thousands of visitors who have admired this precious view into the past and have kept it safe for others to witness.

Read more abut Newspaper Rock HERE


Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

We were fortunate enough to have time to visit petroglyphs at the Valley of Fire State Park. Although these were not at ground level, a scaffolding was erected to enable easy viewing of the ancient artistry.



Picture courtesy of Park Ranger John website

Valley of Fire State Park

A number of the images were similar to those at other sites.


 


 

Unfortunately there was some alteration, or more accurately, violation of these ancient treasures, shown in the picture below via the circle.


 

The names Herman and Janine were carved into the face of the large rock.


Painted Desert – Another Rock, Another Newspaper

The Painted Desert also has a Newspaper Rock although it is not as easy to “read” as the Canyonland’s Edition.

The artifacts can be viewed from a fenced-off, elevated area just a short walk from the large parking lot. Don’t expect to get a good picture of the actual drawings unless you have a camera with a fairly large telephoto lens.

This is what you will see from the viewpoint above the rock formation. I have placed yellow arrows where the petroglyphs are located. On a sunny day, there is shade covering much of the surface (obviously depending on the the time of the day) making them difficult to see with the naked eye.


 

There are free viewing machines (mechanical binoculars) that assist visitors in visualizing some of the drawings. These are not always optimal as dust and dirt on the lenses and loss of definition related to location in such a harsh environment degrades the lenses.

NOTES:

I am not suggesting that people be allowed to approach these ancient treasures and, as demonstrated above, perhaps it is a good thing for their own protection.

The pictures below were not captured with a standard 35mm camera and thus the ranges given are approximately estimated for a full-frame digital camera.

With a telephoto lens ( 80mm +/-), we can get closer…





At approximately 300 mm (+/-) the drawings become quite clear:


 



Moving in a bit closer, we can see even more detail.


 

At the maximum length of the crop sensor lens on my canon HS50xs Powershot, we get a closer look, but some detail is blurred.



Once again, we see similarity to petroglyphs from other sites.

 

Tours by the Old Pueblo Archaeology Center are available for some of the petroglyph sites at the Petrified Forest.

Read more about Petroglyphs and Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more miscellaneous stories on JBRish HERE


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©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 — JBRish.com



Holy Toledo – Spain

The last city visited during our trip to Spain was Toledo. Some have suggested that the expression Holy Toledo refers to this Spanish city which is the seat of the Cardinal Archbishop of Spain. During our stop in Toledo, we noticed numerous churches which might lend support to the Holy Toledo reference as well.*

Let’s start at the beginning. The first views we had of this beautiful city were from a nearby hillside.



We arrived on a Sunday and many of the holy shrines were closed to tourists, but we were able to appreciate the grand architecture of this urban center from afar.





At the turn of the current century, the city fathers realized that the historic streets could not handle the overwhelming pedestrian and vehicular traffic. To help alleviate congestion and difficulty of navigating the narrow streets, they constructed a large parking garage at the foot of one of the hills. Understanding that this climb might be difficult for travelers, they decided to build a unique system of six angular escalators.



We soon arrived at the Plaza de Zocodover which was city-center for Toledo through most of its history. The town is decorated for tourists with flags and banners festooning the the buildings and hanging across the busy streets.



This arcade leading up to the square from below also hosts a statue of Miguel de Cervantes which can be seen in the middle, lower part of the picture.



As part of our walking tour, we passed city hall…



and the historic Cathedral of Toledo.



Along the way, we passed a number of colorful residential areas.



While we visited Toledo on a Sunday when many houses of worship do not allow tourists, one part of the Church of Santo Tomé is available for a very special viewing.

Don Gonzalo Ruíz, the Count of Orgaz, was a church and city benefactor who died in 1323. The famous painter, El Greco, created a large painting symbolizing the burial of the Count of Orgaz which has a religious symbolism associated with it. This painting resides in an anteroom of sorts of the Church of Santo Tomé and is open for visitors.

The line to view the painting was long and entrance was metered so be prepared to wait. No pictures are allowed inside.



Read more about the painting and its history HERE

There was a significant Jewish Quarter in Toledo…






The street sign translates to: The crossing of the Jewry

We visited the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca. Interestingly enough the shrine was built by Muslim architects. It was later converted to a church and currently serves only as a historical site.







This oil painting of the Holy Land with Hebrew lettering hints at the Jewish this building’s Jewish past.



A Jewish star is also visible among the sculpted details of the interior.



During our visit to a souvenir shop, I noticed a most interesting drain downspout!



This attractive facade of the School of Arts and Crafts shows a relief of what appears to be the school’s coat of arms.



The Alcantara Bridge is one of the main access points in Toledo.



Below is a view near the bridge looking back at the city of Toledo.



This was our last city to see in Spain and Portugal. Of course there was more we would like to have seen and perhaps some day we will return.

* You can read more about the derivation of the phrase Holy Toledo HERE.


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Caught by Fire While Hiking

In mid September we traveled to the White Mountains in northeast Arizona near Pinetop/Lakeside for some hiking. After much research, one of of the daily hikes we selected was the Los Burros Trail in the Apache Sitgreaves Forest.

“Killer hike” is how you’d describe Los Burros if you were writing a postcard. Even the historic red barn, which greets hikers at the trailhead, is alluring. Or maybe “mystical” is a better word. It’s the kind of place Django Reinhardt might have hunkered down with a bottle of Château Margaux, despite the “no trespassing” sign.

Source

While the hike was nice, it was somewhat rocky with little else to see except trees and a couple of meadows. There were no distant mountain vistas or breathtaking mountain views. Having said that, it was a typical forest hike with plenty of canopy. It was a good forest hike if that is your goal.

During our hours of hiking we passed one trio of horseback riders and a cyclist; that’s it!

Little did we know what an adventure this would ultimately become. According to our Garmin GPS device, we had hiked a bit over eleven of the 13.8 (+/-) miles and we noticed that the sky was turning dark. Initially we thought a storm was brewing.

We heard helicopters circling the area several times. We saw them and they should have seen us as there were many times they passed overhead and we were in clearings along the path.

We continued along the trail and then we saw this…


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There was a tremendous amount of smoke and haze. Part of the forest was on fire. It was nearly four o’clock on what was a sunny day.



Luckily, we were close to a rather wide service road. As we began to walk along the road to get to where the trail continued. At this point, flames were clearly visible.



see detail with flames below



detail from photograph above

We were really in a quandary regarding what would be the “best” strategy; especially when we saw exactly where our trail led…



The trail continued directly behind the sign along that path!

At this point, it was obvious we could not take the trail so we began to walk down the service road in the direction of the trailhead. We knew then and there that this had the potential to be a very long day.

We were prepared with headlamps, extra food, water, etc., but we had no firefighting mechanism and we were breathing smoke from the surrounding fires.

A fire truck came rambling along the road and after being flagged down, the driver was able to shout some vague directions to us, but it still left us guessing. We had a map and to the best of our knowledge of the area, we continued to walk.

After ten minutes or so, we caught a lucky break. A woman on an ATV was approaching along the road. She heard about the fire and wanted to see what was happening. After some conversation, she agreed to drive us back to the trailhead; apparently we were going to be spared an ordeal!

NOTE: We learned that the fire along our trail was set deliberately to prevent a lightning induced fire farther south from ravaging the area.


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The story has a happy ending, but it still leaves me with some interesting thoughts:

    1 – If the firefighters knew they were going to set a backfire, shouldn’t they have considered that there might be hikers along the Los Burros trail?

    2 – Shouldn’t the helicopters have reported that there were hikers on the trail and request help/rescue?

    3 – Wouldn’t it have been nice under the circumstances for the firemen on the truck who offered us “directions” to have given us a ride to the campground? We later saw firetrucks and firefighters at the trailhead just yards from where we parked. I can’t be sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the driver of the truck that stopped was among them.

    4 – Couldn’t the men on the truck call to get someone to help us get safely back to our car?

In the end, it all worked out and I thank that wonderful woman for giving us a ride to the trailhead. She wanted no reward, just to be remembered for a good deed. We thank you Susan! You saved us much anguish and consternation!

 

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©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com



Madrid, Spain – Anticipation & Surprises – Part 2

If you spend any significant time in Madrid, sooner or later you will find yourself in or near the Plaza Mayor located in one of the oldest parts of the city known as the Hapsburg district thus named because it was governed by the Hapsburg Dynasty from 1516–1700. This is the general area that has the Botin restaurant mentioned in my previous post. The plaza is a symmetrical, building-lined square which at first may appear to be completely enclosed.


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Visitors to the plaza enter through strategically placed arcades.


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As a chief tourist destination it is a natural stage for street performers and artists. For a fee, this headless military officer will gladly pose for a picture.


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We visited the square on two occasions and there was ample tourist traffic and activity to make it an interesting stop. Some readers may have read about the love lock fence in France. Continuing this tradition, Madrid has its facsimile surrounding the lamp post in the picture of the arcade above.


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During our visit to Madrid there was an art installation throughout town highlighting sculptures reminiscent of Diego Velázquez’s Meninas which are featured in his paintings at the Prado Art Museum in Madrid. More information about Las Meninas


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In parts of the city that were under construction and the environment was not safe for the actual Meninas, they had simple representations to include as many locations as possible.


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Just west of the Plaza Mayor is another interesting stop that will not disappoint.


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The Mercado San Miguel (Marketplace) is more than a hundred years old and started as a wholesale food market.

Today, this historical building stands out as one of the world’s main gastronomic markets. It allows visitors to experience the essence and most significant flavors of every corner of Spain.

From the finest Iberian ham and freshest fish and shellfish brought in daily from Galicia, to Mediterranean rice dishes and the most exquisite cheeses from Castile, Asturias and the Basque Country – at the Mercado de San Miguel, you’ll find all the highlights of Spanish cuisine. Spread out over more than 20 stands, the common denominator here is a commitment to high-quality tapas and pub fare.**

**source:

Fruit presentations are hand crafted providing the most pleasant displays and hopefully encouraging more purchases.


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There are gastronomic delights for every taste and of almost any imaginable food group.


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Whether it is Iberian ham …


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or a memorable vintage, the Mercado has you covered.


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We enjoyed this somewhat snarky mileage sign reminding us how far away from home we were.


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We always enjoy seeing how different cultures represent products or events that are similar to those we have in America. This advertisement for car security system or insurance with chains placed around a parked automobile was quite clever. [Sorry the shot is a bit blurry as it was taken from our moving bus!]


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We do quite a bit of gardening at home and naturally we gravitate to gardens whenever we have a chance to visit other destinations. The Parque (Jardines) del Buen Retiro is a large park with many displays of flowers, trees, shrubs, etc.


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There is ample space to relax and enjoy the green atmosphere.


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Amid one of the water features, there was a family of ducks!


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One of the hubs in the park was a large fountain with a sculpture of Lucifer which is somewhat remarkable…

“The country’s capital city holds unique bragging rights for having what is commonly acknowledged as the only public monument to the Devil himself.

Located in the gardens of the expansive Parque del Buen Retiro, this statue is 666 meters height above the sea level. The Fallen Angel (Ángel Caído) is set atop a marble pillar in the midst of a fountain decorated with sinister demonic entities and some rather miscast reptiles. Lucifer is depicted at the moment he is cast out of Heaven, as inspired by a passage in John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
source:

This location is also a place to acquire snacks and perhaps take a restroom stop!


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A bit farther down the walkway there was an impressive rose garden.


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After admiring a dog or two, and having had our fill of plants and flowers for the day, we started to head back to our hotel. On the way, we walked through a residential section of town that had a few quaint, small restaurants like this eatery using ceramic hats to cover the al fresco place settings.


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Always a sucker for impressive, old-looking wooden doors, I had to take a picture of this beauty.


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Crossing the street near the Prado, we encountered this LGBTQ traffic signal.


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This was our last day in town and we were going to make the most of it. We were eager to explore the neighborhoods near our hotel even those that were a bit of a walk away.

This interesting sign for a Cervantes restaurant was just a few blocks from our room.


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We made one last dash to the Puerta del Sol or Gate of the Sun (not far from Plaza Mayor), another very busy, touristy stop in center of Madrid. This public square has the distinction of being the starting point for the six major roads emanating from the Puerta del Sol and there is actually a marker denoting kilometer zero for those streets..


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One of the most popular statues in Madrid is “El Oso y El Madroño” (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree). The reasoning behind this particular statue is a bit murky, but you can read about it at the link below:


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El Oso y El Madroño

We certainly had our share of adventures in Madrid and it was now time to call it the end of another day.


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Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.

 

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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com



Madrid, Spain – Anticipation & Surprises – Part 1

Little were we aware of the “surprise” awaiting us as we disembarked the bullet train from Cordoba and made our way to the streets of Madrid just outside the railroad station.




Madrid Atocha Train Station

Cars had abandoned the streets and were replaced by large groups of people briskly walking toward our hotel at the Plaza de las Cortes.



Our guide explained that the bus was not able to reach our hotel and we had a walk of several large blocks. The result was that the luggage could not be delivered until some time later (which turned out to be close to midnight). Anyone needing medications or other important supplies was asked to stay behind to retrieve a small quantity of items to carry with them. And thus the walk began!



The home team had just won a recent soccer championship. Celebration and merriment were the theme of the moment!

As we made our way through the ever more crowded streets, we passed a massive living green wall. This was perhaps the most exceptional example I had ever seen so kudos to those vertical gardeners of Madrid!



This was the scene just outside the hotel as we arrived.



We had some time before evening was upon us so we headed out to do a quick walkabout and gain some familiarity with the local sights. We continued to be impressed by the beautiful colors of the houses as well as the interesting contrasts in this urban district.



On the following day, it was an early breakfast and off to visit the The Palacio Real or Royal Palace, located at the Plaza de la Armeria.



“The structure itself is enormous and an awe-inspiring sight (both inside and out). It measures 135,00 square metres and is separated into 3,418 rooms. That’s almost double the size of England’s Buckingham Palace or France’s Versailles.**”
**source:

Once the home of the Kings of Spain, the palace today serves as the site for state ceremonies, official banquets and other government functions. Upon entering, visitors are soon rewarded with a magnificent staircase and and royal trappings of red velvet and golden accents.



“The Grand Staircase is composed of a single piece of San Agustin marble. Two lions grace the landing, one by Felipe de Castro and another by Robert Michel. The frescoes on the ceiling is by Corrado Giaquinto and depicts Religion Protected by Spain. On the ground floor is a statue of Charles III in Roman toga, with a similar statue on the first floor depicting Charles IV. The four cartouches at the corners depict the elements of water, earth, air and fire.**”

**source:

This area of the palace can be very crowded at times which makes it difficult to arrange for a good photographic composition without milling crowds.



On the ceiling above the grand staircase is a painting by the Italian artist Corrado Giaquinto which is titled Religion Protected by Spain.



Regal ornamentation was on exhibit throughout the rooms in the Royal Palace.



Tapestries and opulence on display

There were a few tell tale signs of modernity such as the painting of the family of Juan Carlos I by Antonio López.



Pictured are King Juan Carlos I, Queen Sophia and their 3 children – Elena, Cristina and the new King Felipe IV.

“The Manchegan painter Antonio López has devoted 20 years to the painting The Family of Juan Carlos I. The final version of this work, after numerous modifications, is the culmination of the exhibition The Portrait in the Royal Collections…**”

**source:

As we left the palace, we took a brief walk to one of the “balconies” accessible via the plaza to view an area that is now a park, but once served as the hunting grounds for the Spanish Royalty.



Located south of the Royal Palace (at the other end of the Plaza de la Armeria) is another architectural wonder, the Cathedral Santa Maria la Real de La Almudena. We did not have an opportunity to visit the Cathedral, but if we return to Madrid, it will be on the list of things to see.



As we were aboard the transport heading to another destination, we passed some of the beautiful gardens and parks surrounding the palace and cathedral.



There is plenty to see and admire in Madrid. A very popular tourist attraction is the Botín restaurant recognized as the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Tourists stop by to have their pictures taken in front of the wooden-paneled facade.



Read more about the history and current status of Botín

While strolling through the same neighborhood, we came across this whimsical modern art gallery.



There were numerous shops and floral displays to please the eyes and interests of passersby.



Closer to our hotel, we took another walk just about dinner time. Parking, as in most major cities, can be an issue in Madrid as this car parked along the side of the narrow street which appeared to be a walking only thoroughfare.



A visit to the Prado, Spain’s venerable art museum, was on our “things to do” the following day, but as we passed by on this day, there was a line going completely around the museum for blocks and blocks.



Out of curiosity, I stopped to ask a gentleman waiting in line what was happening and he cheerfully explained that there was free admission between 6 and 8 pm from Monday to Saturday (and other days as well) – check this web page if interested – https://www.museodelprado.es/en/visit-the-museum

That was enough for this day. It was time to rest a bit and prepare for tomorrow’s adventures.


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Cordoba, Spain and the Olive Country

Granada had a wonderful mixed ambiance of the old and the new which is very inviting, but after two days, it was time to move on to Cordoba for a very brief single-day stop. There would be no overnight stay, just a quick day of touring.


Olive orchards on the way to Cordoba
picture snapped through our speeding bus window

On the way, we traveled through Spain’s premier olive-growing region of Andalusia and of course we made a requisite stop at one of the local olive mills. There were plenty of products for sale and we acquired several tins of the famed olive oil as well as some decorative bottle stoppers.

The grounds had interesting artifacts. Whether they were originals or not, I had no way of knowing, but they were engaging just the same. The picture below is of a large urn for storing part of the season’s olive oil bounty. The metal wheels would most likely be parts of the grinding machinery used to crush the olives.


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This is a view of the beautiful plantings. Notice the urn in the distance.


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After our brief stop, we boarded the bus and arrived in Cordoba. We had a brief lunch and then enjoyed a walk through the historic part of the city which is a delight for anyone who enjoys the beautiful contrast of solid colored building facades (mostly white) generously punctuated with colorful flower-filled pots and planters.


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We also spent time wandering through city’s historic Jewish Quarter. Casa Pepe de la Juderia is one of the well-known restaurants in this part of town.


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Markers were embedded among the paving stones to differentiate the Jewish Quarter streets.


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Towering over the center of Cordoba, and visible from many streets, are the towers of the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba) which is perhaps the main draw for many tourists and adventurers. The structure is referred to as both a mosque and a cathedral because of its complex history.


he Bell tower of the Mosque of Cordoba
The Bell tower of the Mosque of Cordoba

The Torre del Alminar (Minaret Tower) has been converted to the Bell Tower with steps leading to the top for impressive views of Cordoba.

Even before entering the building, an examination of the beautiful exterior details revealed the uniqueness and the age of this Mosque. The nine entrances are referred to as gates; each with a distinct name. I believe this is the Gate of Holy Spirit Espiritu Santuto.


Gate of Holy Spirit Espiritu Santuto

Our group began the tour by gathering in the main courtyard.


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The Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba – Which has a unique combination of Christian and Moorish architecture and religious cultures. The original structure had, for a time, dual occupancy with different sections being used by the Visigoth Christians and the Muslims, but was later destroyed to make way for a grand Mosque (Mezquita) constructed over a period of more than 200 years.

In the 13th century, the building was taken over by the Christians and converted into a church. **

** Source

There is a huge columnar prayer hall that is astonishingly beautiful because of the colors and the manner in which the light plays off the surrounding walls, ceilings and floors.


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There are reportedly an excess of 800 columns supporting the structure.


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The picture below is particularly interesting because of the golden hue, the ornate carving and the hanging lights.


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The focal point in the prayer hall is the unusual horse-shoe arched prayer niche or mihrab beautifully painted with exquisite detail. Gold-backed glass was used in the construction and provides some of the striking contrast.**


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** Source

Wherever one looked, there was magnificence on display. The intricate arches were stunning.


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When the Christian rulers gained control of the structure, they took to the task of constructing the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption inside the mosque. This is the High Altar of the main chapel.


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Not to be outdone by all of the detailed artwork of the mosque, the chapel dome is also very ornate…


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As is this nearby ceiling…


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There is a Museum in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption where this gold and green artifact is on display.


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After our visit to the Mosque/Cathedral, we returned to the quaint streets of Cordoba with the mosque peering through the narrow skyscapes.


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Cordoba is also known for its courtyards and during May, there is a courtyard festival:

Every year in May, the city of Cordoba in Andalusia celebrates its famous Courtyards Festival, a tradition which was declared a part of our Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO in 2012 and during which many of the courtyards or “patios” in the historic quarter are open to visitors for a few days. The festival is a competition to discover the most beautiful courtyards in the city, and fills the streets with colour, the scent of jasmine and orange blossom and the strains of flamenco.**

** Source

While this was not part of the festival when we were in town, it was an interesting, colorful courtyard that we were able to admire.


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There was time for one last stop before we headed for the train station and I wanted to see the Roman Bridge (Puente Romano) and the Roman Arch Gate which is within easy walking distance of the Mosque.


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The afternoon shadows were growing long so we made our way to the train station in Cordoba to take the two-hour (+/-) ride to Madrid.

Members of our group served to create a Norman Rockwell moment.


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The bullet train was very sleek and fast! Next Stop Madrid!


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Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.

 

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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com



The Alhambra Palace and Fortress – Granada, Spain

The Alhambra Palace and Fortress – Granada, Spain

NOTE: The Alhambra Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is magnificent and I do not use that word lightly! There is much to see and admire and I can only offer a scattering of treasures that await visitors. The picture essay below is not comprehensive, but serves as an overview and perhaps introduction to this ancient building and grounds.

One reason many tourists visit Granada, perhaps the main reason, is to tour the Alhambra Palace. Its name is dervied from the red colors of its walls from the Arabic language (The Red One). This majestic structure is strategically set with a view of the entire city. The castle dates back to the 9th century as it evolved from a fortress into a palace using the remains of the Roman fortifications as a starting point.

The primary tourist entrance to the Alhambra is through the Wine Gate which is one of the oldest parts of the palace. There is speculation that this name was caused by a misnomer, Bib al-jamra, i.e. Wine Gate with its intended name, Bib al-hamra – meaning Red Gate.** Notice the white stone with a key in the panel above the arch. The key symbolizes the opening of knowledge or special pathways in Islamic cultures.

**(source: http://alhambra-guide.com/wine-gate/)


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The grounds are something to behold. The numerous garden areas are surrounded by finely manicured shrubs and trees.


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The Nasrid Palace contained the royal quarters comprising the core of the Alhambra. The exquisite detail in the architecture defies belief considering the materials and tools of the day.


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The picture above is the Dome of the Hall of the Abencerrajes (knights) that is comprised of exquisitely detailed plaster work. Reminiscent of some of the formations found in caves, these too are sometimes referred to as stalactites.

Another stunning example of the artistry used to create these domes is in the Hall of the Two Sisters (below) leading to the family living quarters.


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Located in the Lindaraja belvedere is an intricate double arched window. The view of the courtyard is framed by the window with the attractive mosaic patterned walls surrounding it.


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Onlookers appreciate the details and colors in this series of arches.


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The patio of the lions is the site of one of the most popular attractions. Twelve lions spray water into a marble catch basin surrounding the main fountain. Some researchers have noted that the courtyard facades are more in the style of a Christian cloister rather than the typical Muslim style.


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There are many interesting features and areas to see and it is difficult to appreciate all of them. This fountain in the courtyard of the Lindaraja was well-placed among the trees and plantings and can be viewed from several vantage points.


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After touring the palace rooms, we headed outside to the gardens. On the way, we passed several other structures and fortifications.


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Before arriving at the main gardens, we walked past a terraced garden (below) with a view of the Iglesia del Santa Maria de la Alhambra (Church of Saint Mary) tower.


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The wall surrounding the fortress had a road that ran along the inside for use as a defensive moat during attacks. It was large enough for horses and riders.


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The Generalife Gardens (translates to Garden of the Architect) are built upon the Cerro del Sol (Hill of the Sun) next to the palace. A large pathway led to the more formal displays.


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One of the most beautiful presentations is the Court of the Myrtles. The garden courtyard is named after the myrtle bushes which contrast well with the white marble walkways along the sides. The pond reflects the Torre de Comares (Comares Tower) which is key to the striking composition.


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Some doorways leading to the courtyard have complex carvings and should be admired for their craftmanship.


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There is another less formal, but perhaps more colorful, garden inelegantly named the Patio de la Acequia (Patio of the Irrigation Ditch).


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The white second story was added by the Christians when the structure was under their rule and is less detailed and rather bland.

Along the walls, roses were espaliered to great effect alongside large wooden doors.


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This rose plays well against the stone wall and stands in contrast to the foreground floral display.


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From the hillside overlooking the fortress, the views are breathtaking.


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The elevated hillside of the Generalife gardens allow tourists to look out over city of Granada’s Albaycin district which has a strong Muslim influence.


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Another interesting picture of the hillside surrounding the fortress.


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As we returned to the palace proper, we passed a roof garden with a backdrop of mature cypress trees.


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This was a very full day which will remain in our memories and forever provide wonderment.


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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com



Romantic and Fabled Granada, Spain

Traveling from the mountain town of Ronda, we headed to the fabled Spanish city of Granada. Our residence during our stay in Grenada was the elegant Alhambra Palace Hotel.


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The hotel was constructed at one of the high points surrounding the town and afforded views of the rooftops and distant mountains.


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This was one of the views looking out of our hotel window.


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A special Flamenco program with accompanying Sangria was hosted for our group. This took place in a cozy theater venue designed to provide an intimate entertainment experience.


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Visitors will find that Granada has a certain romantic flare almost any time of day, but in the evening this allure intensifies. The subdued lighting along the downhill slope of the street leading to the main part of the city is just one example and one website describes it as “Andalucia’s most dreamy destinations.”


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The older parts of Granada offered more of the quaint, winding cobblestone streets and colorful housing that we found throughout our tour.


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The marketplace arcades were interesting with maze-like narrow alleyways. Churches rose above the pedestrian thoroughfares to cast their religious overtones.


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In and around the Calle de la Calderería Nueva (the Street of the New Cauldron Factory) there is a significant Moorish influence and this sector sometimes assumes the moniker of “little Morocco.”

Of course there were the familiar vendors of spices and…


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exotic teas.


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Herbalist and Essences from Granada
The sign – “Teas, Plants and FLowers collected. Safron, Spices, Granada’s products.
Natural cosmetics. Tea items and Incenses.”

A number of merchants were selling Turkish mosaic lamps that we hadn’t seen or noticed during our stops at the previous Spanish cities and towns.


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Here is a vendor setting up his display of goods to attract passersby using the colorful garb as a lure.


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We enjoyed strolling around the city in the early morning as the plazas were just awakening and tourists were fewer in number.


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The colorful mosaic tiles of San Juan de Dios Roman Catholic Church atop the dome-like structure caught our eye.


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And likewise as part of the facade of the Church of Iglesia de Santa Ana in the Albacin Quarter


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Most tourists will want to visit the older sections of Granada as they should, but there are more modern flares to be enjoyed as well. This statue of Queen Isabela accepting the proposal of Columbus is set in front of a modern office building at the Plaza de Isabel la Católica (Columbus Square).


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And in a nod to our technological societies there was a battery recycle bin on at least one corner in the central section of the city.


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On our way back to the hotel to refresh a bit before we set out for our next adventure, we passed a seemingly popular bakery with happy cookies!


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We were happy indeed because our next stop was the fabled Alhambra Palace.


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Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.

 

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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com



Bridging the Gorge – Amazing Ronda, Spain

Ronda is one of the most visited destinations in Spain. The main characteristic and defining geographic attribute is the El Tajo gorge that separates the new and the old parts of Ronda.


El Tajo gorge

Well, if there is a ravine dividing a city,there is a need to connect them somehow and that is the function of impressive Puente Nuevo (New Bridge).


Puente Nuevo / New Bridge

The first time I looked over the top of the bridge and saw this view, I was stunned at how beautiful it was in the the early morning light!


El Tajo gorge

The bridge is an essential part of Ronda’s culture, allowing the newer parts of the city to easily mix with the old. It took more than forty years to build and should be seen as a marvel from many of the nearby vantage points.


The New Bridge Connecting old and new Ronda

We did not have time to walk down to the bottom of the gorge, but that too is another spectacular view of the Puente Nuevo (see the other photographs HERE)

Once across the bridge, we stopped to view an old city map created in the azulejo style of tin-glazed ceramics mounted on a building wall. The title, Viajeros Romanticos translates to Romantic Travelers.


City map made of tiles


Close up view of a city map made of tiles

We next visited the John Bosco house which was considered palatial in its day. It was bequeathed to the Order of Salesian Priests founded by Saint John Bosco and served as a retreat for that religious order. The picture below is of an interior courtyard.


Courtyard at the John Bosco House

What adds to the allure of this estate are the beautiful gardens…


Bosco house gardens

and vantage points of both east toward the mountains


The mountains from the Bosco house

and west toward the New Bridge.


The gorge from the Bosco house

The house is built on the edge of the ravine and looking straight down also provides a wonderful view of the old retaining wall.


The old retaining wall from the Bosco house

A short walk from the John Bosco house is a small park-like area with additional mountain views.


A Park in Ronda

Like most other old cities and older sections of cities, Ronda had a number of interesting streets to wander and admire. The handles on this old wooden door and metal accents give testimony to the pride Spaniards take in maintaining their heritage. Notice how the right-hand handle is broken and not replaced.


Aged wooden door with metal accents

And one of our favorite features to explore are the side streets and small plazas of these wonderful old-world cities. This is picturesque Plaza Mondragon.


old world plaza withe balconies and flowers


picturesque Plaza Mondragon

As we walked through Ronda, we visited one of the more unique churches, the Church of Our Lady of Peace.


Church of Our Lady of Peace

The most important feature is the altar of the Virgen de la Paz, the patron Saint of Ronda.


 altar of the Virgen de la Paz


 altar of the Virgen de la Paz - close up

We admired other buildings and churches as part of our walking tour including the clock tower of the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor.


clock tower of the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor.

Wildflowers growing from the walls of another church added to the historic beauty of the building.

Old wall with wildflowers growing

One of the most noteworthy historical assignations for Ronda is the birthplace of modern bullfighting sometimes referred to as the “Ronda school.” The historic context of bullfighting is lost to the ages, but it is suggested that perhaps it was a right of passage for adolescent boys before transitioning to manhood. The absolute derivation will never be known.

Pedro Romero, a Ronda native, hailed from a line of innovative bullfighters, but he was the one matador who raised the ritual to an artistic form and thus is given the distinction of the Father of Modern Bullfighting. Read more about it HERE


Statue of a Bull outside the Plaza de Toros de Ronda

Plaza de Toros de Ronda is a world famous bullfighting ring which is not in regular use anymore. It is a beautiful structure to behold.


the Plaza de Toros de Ronda

Standing in the middle of the arena, one gathers a sense of the scope and popularity of this Spanish tradition.


the Plaza de Toros de Ronda

Some youngsters could not resist reenacting the contest between man and beast.


Youngsters acting out a bullfight

This was our last stop in Ronda this morning before having lunch and heading to our next destination. It surely is a town that deserves more time and perhaps one day we shall return to explore further.

One last look back at the El Tajo gorge of Ronda!


One last photo of Ronda's beautiful gorge


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***************
Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.

 

Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE


**********


All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com