Vacation pix Spain 4-12

Our Trip to Spain
April 13-22  2012

Steven and Gloria Foster

Note: This webpage had originally been created for friends and family.  I have used many of the images below for an art project entitled "Crystalline Paradise".   Please take a look!

Hi Everyone.  Here are some images from our trip to Spain.  The trip was, in a sense, an extension of our Turkey trip last year.  For the past year I have been reading about Islamic Sacred art and I kept seeing references and images to the  places we visited on this trip.  I'm very grateful that Gloria and I could actually experience these places.  They are astonishingly beautiful but very hard to interpret photographically - especially while in a crowd of tourists rushing from one place to the next.    

Crystalline Paradise is the fourth art project is larger series of related projects.  To learn more about the Complete Collection of projects inspired by Islamic Sacred Art click here.


Our Trip to Spain
Gloria and I arrived in Barcelona the morning of April 14, Saturday.  It is 6 hours later in Spain relative to NY State and we had been traveling since early Friday Morning.  We were seriously jet-lagged and we missed our Insight Tour's airport pick-up bus to the hotel by ten minutes so we had to wait three hours for the next pick up.  We were exhausted and frustrated.   Here is information about our tour including it's itinerary

That evening we had a wonderful tour welcoming mean of tapas and Spanish wine at a very fine restaurant in Barcelona.  There were many wonderful things for us two vegetarians to eat, though the big deal in Spain is ham.

The next morning we traveled 45 minutes with a local guide out of Barcelona to visit Montserrat and the Black Madonna and Child (which is made of wood that turned naturally black).  The unique rock formations in the area are attributed to angels who carved the rocks as we can see them now.  The Madonna is housed in a Benedictine Monastery and is the sight of pilgrimages that have been going on for over a thousand years.  

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Gloria and the landscape outside our bus window 
on the way to Montserrat.       

View of the valley below Montserrate

On the horizon line, left, see the angle-wing 
shaped rocks.  The area has many rock 
formations that take on human features
which are the source of many local tales.

Steve in front of the entrance 
to the Monastery

The statue.  The madonna holds a mystical globe 
which the visitor may touch for blessings.

Gloria saying prayers for everyone.

Cyprus trees outside the monastery. They are found everywhere 
in Spain.  Like Church spired they point toward Heaven 
as a reminder to us . . .  Islamists believe they symbolize
the sacred pen used in the writing of the Koran.

That first afternoon we visited the Gothic quarter 
in Barcelona.  There were folk dancers in the square 
and people selling things under the tents, and tons
of travelers.  We walked through the Roman gates
and narrow lanes behind the old church.

Then we visited the great Spanish architect
 Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Familia church.
Amazing architecture, with wonderful 
sculptures about the life of Jesus all around it.

Guadi was inspired by nature.  
He wanted his church to be like 
being inside of nature, inside a forest.

That evening we visited an early project 
Guadi did for a friend that failed as a commercial 
venture and was finally turned into unique public park.  
This bridge shows how he treated everything 
in the park so naturally, organically.

Gaudi's gingerbread house at the park.

The next morning we stopped at, Peniscola
with it's famous castle perched on top of a rock 
overlooking the Mediterranean sea.  The 
castle was occupied by a Pope in 1415.

On top of the castle the wind was so strong 
it almost blew off the glasses on my face.

Steve and Gloria in a Peniscola doorway

We drove past lots of orange groves and finally 
arrived in Valencia that late afternoon.  
We tourned the city on bus and stopped to see 
several contemporary buildings by the Spanish 
architect Calatrava.   We know his work well because
the Milwaukee Art Museum addition was by him.


The next morning we explored Valencia 
Cathedral square with its very old 
fountains and churches.

I took a walk to the new bullet train station which 
was near our hotel.  Left of the train station 
you can see what was once a bull fighting 
coliseum.  It's now used for rock concerts, etc.  

The bullet trains are extremely fast & very expensive.

Inide the train station.

Leaving Valencia we saw many orange groves.  
The fresh orange juice was wonderful. 

At one bus stop we were able to get a close up 
view of this thousand year old olive tree. 

We were driving to Granada, home of the famed 
Alhambra Palace which is situated 
at the foot of the snow capped Sierra Nevada.
We also saw the Pyrenees Mountains 
that divide Spain and France.

Alhambra is heaven on earth.  
The design of its Islamic gardens are based on 
Paradise as defined in the Koran. 

For protection, a double wall system 
surrounded the palace which was occupied
by a whole series of warring invaders.

In the Moorish tradition, the exterior of the buildings 
were very plain,and the interiors were hypnotically 
beautiful with geometric crystal-like luminous decorations
and elegant calligraphy with quotes from the Koran.

Wood Ceiling

Water is at the very heart of Alhambra. 
For the Moorish residents water symbolized 
Divine intelligence and offered coolness 
and quiet stillness and the restful sounds 
of running fountains.

A jealousy window - designed to allow the Sultan's 
wives to view others walking by outside without being seen.   

Reflection in the Court of Myrtle pool.

Morrish stalactites - a very unique Moorish architectural 
ornamentation that connected dome ceilings to outer walls.

Our tour guide, left; Gloria is on the right.  
Our tour guides were local people 
and used a wireless mic system.  
We wore little ear pods and could hear 
what the guides were saying 
even in a very noisy environment.

Morrish gardens usually have a fountain in the center.

Distant view of Generalife, the king's private 
getaway garden a short walk just above the Alhambra.  

All images below are of Generalife. 

Generalife's garden cat

View of Alhambra from Generalife 
looking over produce gardens.

Walking back to the bus from Generalife 
amongst the rows and rows of cyprus.

The next day we drove from our hotel in Granada 
to Albaicin, a world heritage site located 
on the side of the mountain overlooking Granada 
and Alhambra.  The drive provided dramatic views
of the city and the snow capped Sierra Nevada.

The Morrish Albaicin lanes are very narrow for coolness 
in the summer heat; when the Roman Catholics took over 
the area remaining Morrish residents showed that 
they had converted by eating ham and by putting 
decorations on the exterior of their homes.  

View of Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada from Albaicin

An old Flamenco dancer poses for tourists.
She was selling castanets and fans.  She danced 
for us which drummed up lots of business from our group.

The Royal Chapel, Granada, where Ferdinand 
and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs are buried.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside.

An orange tree outside of the Royal Chapel.
These orange trees. found in most Spainish cities, are 
called bitter oranges; they are too bitter to eat and therefore 
remained on the trees.  The juice is used for cakes and cookies.

We then bussed to Seville and toured the city.  
This is a tourist area called Maria Louisa Park.

Seville is famous for its Flamenco Dancers, many of the 
dancers are gypsies.  We saw an amazing 
program of intense, artistic flamenco dancing. 

Seville Cathedral, burial place of Christopher Columbus 
(. . . or at least part of him: it's a long story).

Remains of Christopher Columbus held up by four statues.

Islamic Art is non-figurative.  

The best part of Seville for us was the Alcazar.  
It is similar to Alhambra, though seemingly lesser known to tourists.   
It was quieter there and we had free time to slowly walk 
through the gardens and the amazingly decorated interiors.  
This picture shows red flowering vines climbing up 
the large tree in the main plaza.

Plaster cast tile decorations

Wood ceiling

Wood surface Dome

These Sunken Gardens are below the pool level

Wall decoration tiles. 

Fish being fed by a child created quite a dramatic 
event in one of the many courtyard pools in the 
Alcazar, this one named after Mercury.  

Next day we bussed to Cordoba, Spain, home of the 
great Mezquita, an 8th century mosque with a Christian 
church built inside of it!  The bridge you see here, 
leading to the mosque, is 2000 years old.
Click here for more info.

Cordoba Mosque courtyard

Mahogany wood carvings surrounded the Church 
inside the center of the great Mosque.  One Islamic
scholar referred to it as a "black spider".

Here you can see the church and mosque side by side.  
The church architect was sensitive to creating 
some formal design transitions between the two. 

The mihrab inside the mosque, 
a niche that indicates the direction of the 
Kaaba in Mecca.  
For more information click here.

Looking up, above the mihrab.

Eucharist Ciborium gold piece depicting the life 
of Jesus.  This and many paintings and sculptures 
were in a room full of Church artifacts inside the mosque. 

A narrow lane with red geraniums in Cordoba which 
led to a small square with a running fountain.

After visiting the mosque and church of Cordoba 
we visited a private run museum displaying 
the torture machines used between 1492-1821
during the Inquisition.  

Driving toward Madrid we passed many many olive fields 
with many different varieties of olives.  We learned 
that Spain produced the most olives of any 
country in the world, and that they shipped 
lots of them to Italy where they were made into olive oil.

Madrid is famous for it's bull fights, though it is much  
less popular in Spain now due to animal rights activists. 
We saw several billboard bulls along the highways.  
Near this sign we saw real bulls grazing in the fields. 
They were being raised to be used in the full fights.

The flat land Near Madrid was good for farming olives.

Madrid is a very modern city, the capitol of Spain.  
Not much of interest to me, though we did tour 
parts of the famous Prado Art Museum where we saw 
lots of paintings by El Greco, Velasquez, Goya, 
Titian and Rubens.  We could not take pictures in the Prado.

From Madrid we took a short drive to Toledo, Spain, 
once the capitol of ancient Spain.  This view shows how this 
ancient city was protected by the Tajo river and tall ancient walls.  
For many years the Christians, Moors and Jews 
lived in harmony in Toledo.

The Gothic Cathedral in Toledo.  
No pictures were allowed here.  

We stopped at the Church of Santo Tome 
to see the famous El Greco painting 
The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.  
Toledo was El Greco's home town.  

Interior view of the synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca
influenced by Islam, built in 1203.  
"In the early 15th century, the synagogue was stormed by a Christian mob 
led by St. Vincent Ferrer and converted into a church. 
In subsequent centuries it was used variously as a carpenter's 
workshop, store, barracks, and refuge for former prostitutes."

Leaving Toledo, our tour had essentially come to an end.
Back, then, to Madrid, then the airport, 
and the 24 hour trip back home.
Jet lag, jet lag, jet lag. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to see the Gaudi Church, Alhambra, the Seville Alcazar, the Seville Cathedral, the Cordoba mosque, and Toledo.  We did feel that our trip to Spain lacked the warm welcome and spiritually uplifting feelings of our trip to Turkey last year.  The history of Spain has some very bleak aspects to it;  perhaps I was too prepared for this trip - there was a huge element of surprise to my experiences in Turkey, I was not prepared for happened to me in Turkey.  Prayer Stones.

I have used many of the images above for an art project entitled Crystalline Paradise.   Please take a look!

Crystalline Paradise is the fourth art project is larger series of related projects.  To learn more about the Complete Collection of projects inspired by Islamic Sacred Art click here.

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.