Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Valle de los Caídos and El Escorial

Tuesday, 25 October, 2016:

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my best midweek travel days as we leave La Casa Grande for Stings' practices in Guadalajara about two hours later than we need to for our Osos' workouts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Today was a Tuesday so I was off in the Land Rover to head to the northwest of Madrid for a one hour drive to two interesting landmarks that are memorials to bygone days of Spanish power. 

The Valley of the Fallen

Today's first stop was this memorial to the roughly 500,000 Spaniards who died fighting in the Spanish Civil War during this horrendous conflict from 1936-1939.

At least that is the theory.

You enter this memorial through a strong looking granite gate just off the highway. It immediately sends the message that the pro-Franco fascists want to send to those who enter, "We Are In POWER!"

At the gate you pay a 9 Euro entry fee and are told that the Basilica is six kilometers (a little over three miles) up the road  through a picturesque, pristine wooded parkland.

A 500 foot tall granite Cross
awaits you after your drive

Everything that is man-made in the Valle de los Caídos is HUGE in large part to make each person who enters feel somewhat small and insignificant compared to the power of Franco's regime.

Massive Statue at the base of
the granite Cross

In 1940, soon after the end of the Spanish Civil War, prison workers who were largely made up of members of the Civil War's defeated Republican forces started building the monument. They finished their work in 1950.

They would excavate over 220,000 tons granite from the site under the Cross to both create an underground Basilica and provide the materials to build the Cross which sits atop the Basilica's dome.

The Funicular that leads up to
the Cross was not in service today

Estrella Galicia Beer Taps

They are always fancy, but I was driving so I settled for a cafe con leche and a tostada de tomate instead for breakfast in the restaurant next to the Basilica.

 Sun peeking out after breakfast

The entrance to the
underground Basilica


Remember, the Cross by itself is 500 feet tall. Please take a close look at the entryway door and the Pieta in the middle of this structure.

Now note the size of the two
guides next to the entry door

Seal of Franco's Power

The Pieta above the entryway

A closer look at the Pieta

Jesus' hand is more than big enough for a person of my size to sit in comfortably.

 Saints on the Entry Door

 Flogging Jesus

Once you enter the 300 yard long Basilica, it is NO FOTOS ALLOWED!

I decided to heed the warning for several reasons.

1. The Catholic Church was in charge inside the Basilica and they were in cahoots with Franco from the get-go.

2. I still remembered being flogged by first nuns and then priests while going to Catholic schools in the late 1950s-early 1960s.

3. The lessons from the Spanish Inquisition Tour last Saturday night were still firmly imbedded in my head.

4. The two biggest names in the Spanish Fascist Pantheon, Francisco Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, are both interred in the Basilica, Primo de Rivera in front of the Main Altar and Franco behind it.

5. The fact that both tombs have a large bouquet of fresh flowers placed on them makes one think that the people in charge of the Basilica are still big fans of these two fellows and their Fascist views of the world.

I wisely took no pictures inside the Basilica.

Which was sad because the Basilica was both large and quite spectacular in its own way with giant statues, huge tapestries and a marvelous Main Altar.

I stayed for the 11:00 a.m. Mass. There were ten priests on hand to all assist in the Solemn High Mass.

I should mention that those of us in the pews outnumbered the priests. There were 16 of us in the pews that could easily accommodate about a 1,000 people. 

Now, by definition, a Solemn High Mass means lots of singing which I don't usually like.

Today was different for one reason, the White Voices, an all boys choir that sang with heavenly serenity during the Solemn High Mass.

Back outside the Sun was shining

I said at the beginning that this was a monument to all of the Spaniards who fought in the Spanish Civil War.

Besides the two major players on the Nationalist/Fascist side, the remains of 22,000 additional Nationalists and 12,000 Republicans are interred in locations that are not accessible to the public behind doors proclaiming "RIP 1936-1939, Died for God and Country."

The families of many of the deceased Republicans behind the doors are none to happy that they are in this memorial with the bodies of Franco and Primo de Rivera.

These statues at the base of the
Cross continue to be large in scale

group of about 20 new
visitors in the distance

 Is this a Madroño tree?

The symbol of Madrid is a bear climbing up a Madroño tree to eat its strawberry-like fruit.

More granite

The Cross in the distance

It was still early so I decided to take the ten minute drive over to the . . .

A 16th Century Tribute to Catholic
Spain's Power during the

I had visited inside the Monasterio back in 2012 and opted not to re-enter do to time constraints.

Another situation where size
equals power

Catholic School kids playing in
the Monasteries' outer courtyard

 The backside of the Monasterio

Another view from a mossy wall

Time to eat

The man talking to the lady at the bar was helping her through a rough, mentally draining time in her life.

They discussed her problems and possible solutions in voices just loud enough so that all of the patrons could hear.

None of us pitched in with any of our points of view.

Lunch consisted of a raccoon of
croquetas de jamón, French fries
and my go-to cafe con leche

All was good in the world once again.

Another random fountain

Inviting but, once again,
I was driving

Covered passage between
official looking buildings

Hanging out at the Monastery

 The chilly weather was returning

 The kids were still playing

Another GREAT day to be a
tourist in Spain!

In the evening, Jesús and I were off to Guadalajara for the 45 minute drive to another well attended, high intensity Stings' practice from 9:15 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.

The Offense ready to attack

A play action pass play

We really need to purchase purple and/or gold practice jerseys.

Jesus and I both thought that tonight was another solid step forward with the Stings.

And the COUNTDOWN now stands at . . . 

. . . more days until Laurie lands
at Madrid's Barajas Airport

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