© 2019 by Henry Thornton. 

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Andalusia and other

August 20, 2017

I did those things that should be done in Seville in the summertime. With the temperatures tipping 45 degrees I sought out intimate, cool spaces to watch flamenco and listen to wonderful Spanish guitar, such venues as a number of the beautiful historic buildings in the older part of town and the gardens of Real Alcázar. Gorgeous.

 

I felt I gleaned an understanding of the term ‘duende’ (that quality of inspiration and passion) that is central to the mournful laments and passionate movements of flamenco. I smiled when I heard that flamenco is best performed by more mature artists, as to have experienced  life is considered a prerequisite to being able to convey the subtleties, depths  and extremes of human emotions.

 

Real Alcázar - Seville. Apart from being a historic architectural wonder Real Alcázar is a perfect venue for guitar recitals, held in many of its atmospheric rooms.

 

In Granada, I spent the best part of a day wandering through Alhambra, listening to the gentle sound of water trickling through fountains, hearing the superstitious back-stories of Muslim warriors rising up, hidden treasures being revealed, and other; these mysteries revealed if certain architectural events occurred (namely the ‘hand’ over the door of Alhambra connecting with the keyhole also on the door’s facade). The ‘bricks’ that are fitted along the entry corridor of this structure are in fact the gravestones of cremated Muslim warriors and dignitaries.

 

In Granada, I also became overwhelmed, as I tend to, in trying to align accounts of the ‘saintly’ Catholic Queen Isabella of Castile’s reign with  the establishment of the inquisition in 1478. (*Isabella and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon were definitely the power couple of the 15th Century. They financed Christopher Columbus’ expeditions to the New World and established Spain as a leading global power, among many other high-profile achievements. Granada was the last, unconquered emirate of the region they added to their triumphs.)

 

 Alhambra - Granada. This bathing room has little stars worked into the ceiling.

 

A lovely American couple made me laugh when discussing my 'Isabelle' problem, confiding that they were tempted to wear maple leaves so that people might mistake them for Canadians due to the embarrassing political circus back home. The psychologist of the duo reminded me that historic context, social mores and belief systems are hugely influential in what cultures consider acceptable at specific points in history.

The perplexing Isabella of Castile. Image (detail) kept in the Collegiate Church of Santa María la Mayor, Toro, province of Zamora, Spain

 

Another companion mentioned that most religious/philosophical wars and revolutions are actual grabs for resources and power or quests for survival ‒ or both, cloaked in a more palatable or selectively fractional explanations. Age old marketing, if you will. I wonder how the future will interpret our actions in meeting present and impending refugee needs caused by climate change, natural and economic disasters and warfare and whether they will feel that we contributed to environments ripe for terrorist recruitment?

 

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My heart goes out to those lovely crowds of happy holiday-makers, business-owners and workers of Las Ramblas, Barcelona. Barcelona was my first stop in Spain and my hotel was just off Las Ramblas so it was my initial ‘go to’ street each day.

 

I am hoping that all the lovely Barcelonans that I was in contact with daily are recovering from the trauma: the young man who seemed to appear from nowhere and kindly guided  me to my hotel on my first night when I was jetlagged and lost; the shop-keeper who superglued my damaged sandal without my even asking; the fruit seller at La Bocquera, who always slipped an extra peach into my bag of purchases; the smiling, courteous strollers of early morning Barcelona, the late night, drunk young tourists who did not want their nights’ to end; the dispossessed who slept under the stars in those ancient side-streets.

 

Getting home is always such an exhaustion-cloaked moment when you have travelled from Europe to Australia and events like this one make you clasp friends and family even more tightly to your heart.

 

 Las Ramblas, Barcelona

 

 

 

 

 

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