Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Spanish Civil War

Sunday promised to be a great day in Madrid as I had two activities in mind. The first was a three hour walking tour of the city that concentrated on a fascinating and gruesome subject, the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War.

This conflict is often referred to as the opening ideological and military salvos of World War II. It was here that both Hitler and Stalin started testing each other's military might. Germany aided General Franco's rebellious Nationalist side while the USSR helped the duly elected Republicans who were running the country at the time of the outbreak of hostilities. This tour was scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. in Plaza Mayor.

The second landmark event, the main reason to spend the weekend in Madrid before arriving in Thun, Switzerland on Tuesday, was a journey to venerable Estadio Santiago Bernabéu to watch a Spanish La Liga soccer game with home team Real Madrid taking on a Levante squad, based in Valencia, at 9:30 p.m.

More about the game in my next blogpost.

I was up way too early as I am still fighting jet lag and my biological clock continues to be way out of whack, so I opted for wee stretch of the legs before hitting the Civil War tour.

That's 23º F. at 9:00 a.m.

How cold will it be at 9:30 p.m. tonight for the game?


Hostal Las Fuentes
World's Smallest Elevator

My walk took me near several more outstanding examples of Spanish architecture like these that follow.

Maybe not this one


Salon La Mallorquina

I mentioned this great pastry shop, located at Puerta del Sol, in Friday's post. I've tried to get in for two days now but it was wall-to-wall with customers each time that I tried.

Not on Sunday morning.

So I swooped in to have two of their signature rosquillas cookies. One was a tonta meaning plain while the other one was a lista signifying that it was iced. The lista was covered with a rich lemon frosting.


On the left, Yemas

I wasn't done yet as I saw these yemas delights that are a staple in Ávila, the city that I did not get a chance to visit yesterday.

They look like hard boiled egg yolks, which I abhor. Yemas is Spanish for egg yolks.

The candy I liked.

Both of them.

Plaza Mayor's Sunday Morning
Stamp and Coin Collector's Market

I collect neither BUT . . .

They set up shop underneath the arcades all around the Plaza. I was able to buy several inexpensive and different Spanish stamps celebrating Camino de Santiago Holy Years in 1965, 1971, 1982 and 2010. A Holy Year is any year that the Feast of St. James falls on a Sunday. It was a Holy Year when I made my pilgrimmage in 2010.

I also bought a not so inexpensive Spanish special edition 10 Euros coin that commemorated the 2010 Año Jacobeo as well.

Good times indeed!

King Phillip III's Statue
in the middle of Plaza Mayor

It was he who ordered the construction of Plaza Mayor in 1619.

Locks like these with intials mean love

After being placed in spots like this one on Plaza Mayor with the initials of the two partners, the lovers throw away the key to symbolize their unbreakable love for each other.

Hey, it is St. Valentine's Day on Tuesday.

Colorful Plaza Mayor Frescoes

A relief of the Spanish Inquistion

Around Plaza Mayor there are several light posts with places to sit at their bases like this one. They show reliefs of events that have taken place at Plaza Mayor over the centuries.

Besides the brutal Inquistion, the Plaza has seen its share of bullfights, fires and royal pageantry also depicted in similar reliefs.

Spanish Civil War Tour Time!

Part of why I was hanging out for so long at Plaza Mayor is that this is where our tour would start.

That is our Tour Guide, Mark Connolly, holding the red umbrella. Mark hales from Dublin, Ireland and was very passionate, energetic and knowledgable about this provacative subject.

While focusing primarily on the Battle of Madrid, he really did a fine job teaching us about the root causes of the conflicts, the military history, brutality and long term ramification of the four year struggle.

Spain's first Socialist Party was founded
at this very restaurant in the 1870s

They serve great cod as well.

A Memorial to the Fallen

The Temple de Debod

This Egyptian temple had nothing to do with the Spanish Civil War but we passed by it as we walked.

It was a gift to Spanish government from Egypt in thanks for Franco's financial help with the Aswan Dam project in 1968.

The dam would have destroyed the temple so it was easy for the Egyptians to give it away.

A very simple Civil War Monument

Made from rubble from the Battle of Madrid, it was made nondescript on purpose so that neither side claims it as theirs.

Even today, 73 years after the war's end, the Civil War is still a very sore subject with Spaniards. We even had a few passer byes chime in with their 2 Euros worth when they realized the tour's topic.

A Pill Box by University City

The pictures that Mark showed us of this area at the end of the hostilities looked like Hiroshima without the afterglow.

Today's Home of Spain's Air Force

The Republicans used this building as a prison during the Civil War. About 2,000 of Franco's Nationalist were housed here and were due to be shipped to Valencia but once at Madrid's Barajas Airport they were summarily shot by their Republican guards and placed in a mass grave.

An estimated 238,000+ men and women faced similar summary executions at the hands of the troops on both sides.

An army officer on the pro-Catholic Nationalist side even infamously announcecd via a national radio broadcast that for every Republican you killed it would mean one less year in Purgatory.

That's my religion at its historical finest.

I know, I'll say five Hail Marys and an Our Father for that remark.

A scene from Men in Black?

After three intense hours, our tour ended here.

Awesome Tour!

Three of my English speaking Tour mates

The two ladies work together in London but are both friends from Toronto, Canada. When our Tour Guide mentioned the continuing Basque Separatist Movement it sent these two off in an anti-French Canadian Separatist rant.

Sorry St. Julie.

The young fellow is from Napa, California and attended Cardinal Newman H.S. the year they played Oaks Christian in the inaugural California State H.S. Football Bowl Game. His team lost a close won that they should have won. The Oaks Christian QB that season was Jimmy Clausen who this fellow hates with a passion to this very day in Madrid.

We bonded.


Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
at the Plaza de España


Maybe one of these would make St. Julie feel better.


Almost back to my hotel, I stumbled upon this fine Asturian diner. My grandparents were from Spain's northern region of Asturias, so why not give it a whirl?

Sidra in the green bottle,
octopus to the left

Sidra is the adult beverage of choice for Asturianos. It's in my blood, no?

As seen in the previous picture, sidra must be poured from dizzying heights to let it breath.

I ordered one to go along with a fried meat tapas. I tipped the bartender 1 Euro and two seconds later he says here, finish the bottle.

International relations and all, what else could I do but say "Si, gracias!"

My first Sidra and Tapas

Fully lubricated and well fed, it was time to go to the hotel for a short nap before going to the BIG GAME.

Stay tuned for more on the Real Madrid-Levante game in the next blogpost.

Siesta time.

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