Wednesday, September 16, 2009

39

Good afternoon to you all
I left Toledo at 8:10 and arrived in Madrid on time but was unable to change my ticket from the 11am to 10am AVE service. This is the Spanish fast train, taking about one third of the time of the ordinary service, and charging 3 times as much! The trip was very smooth and quiet, the rail line seeming arrow straight horizontally and vertically. (Did I say that the French call their railways Road of Fire, and the Spanish, Iron Road?) AVE is bird in latin, I think, and the symbol of the service is four Vs overlapping each other like stylised wings. The A V stand for Alto Velocidad (high speed) and the E probably for EspaƱa. The clouds gradually grew more sparse and we fled through apparently borderless properties of millions of thirsty olive trees. Pale blue-grey hills surrounded the rolling land of eroding gullies, reminding me of how Gallipolli must have looked to troops in 1915. There were scrub and dry grass interspersed for no apparent reason among the olive groves. Later we saw small bushy trees about the size of olives but much greener. On the trip I but rarely saw what would qualify as a tree. Perhaps it was this land that was denuded of oak to build the Armada.
We passed through Cordoba, so I booked to go back there on Monday and stop. If you look at a map, they are not in a direct line. The Information service (a private one) at the station rang and found me a fine Hostal at 20€ for each of two nights. It has a restaurante with an 8€ meal I´ll try tonight. There is no choice in the plates, so tomorrow willl probably try the nearby Chinese place offering a MdD for 5.25€.
My room has a double bed but unlike Toledo and the Pension Castilla, there is no fan. At 5pm today it was 34 degrees and while the temperature has dropped a little (it is now 7.50pm) it is still uncomfortably hot. Still, I am typing this in the Correos which is a. open til 10pm, b. charging only 1.5€ for 1 hour, less than the commercial opposition next door, and AIRCONDITIONED. It also helps that the guy in charge is polite, friendly, keen to practise his English, and HELPFUL! May he quickly be promoted to a position where he can influence others.
My Hostal is very near the cathedral which was closed today. Actually, there were marriages and baptisms and I am happy that they closed the church to all but those attending. It is not good that whille religious services are on, places are being visited by tourists. Anyway, there are several services tomorrow, of course, and the cathedral is open for tourists after 2.30pm.
I walked around the C. and after a bit started taking pics of the doors. Even the simplest is grandly decorated while the important ones are dripping with statuary. Over the years the natural sandstone (why did they choose this most erodable of stone for buildings they expected to last a 1000 years?) has blackened badly and work is now in progress. The most photoed feature is the Muslim tower for the mosque which stood where the Gothic cath is. Extra stories were added to this most imposing structure to make it a bell tower. (Which reminds me, the bells of a church were ringing as I passed and they turn right over. Spanish bells hang down but with a sizeable timber and iron superstructure. British bells also hang down, I believe, but the bell ringers turn them up before ringing the changes. Because they have no balancing weights, the bellringers have to use considerable skill to control them.) On the shady side of the C is a parking area for coches de caballo or horse drawn coaches to you and me. (The word coche is used for these as well as large buses and private cars.) When I passed there were 11 of them plus more working the streets. I saw three magnificent ones decked out for weddings, two very formal with the attendants/drivers dressed in black suits, white shirts and shallow but broad-brimmed hats. Another was a most flashy affair with four horses decked in red plumes, with the radiant bride sitting by her glum husband. Perhaps he was paying for it.
There are tourists everywhere. Lots are Americans, both gray nomads and students, with many European nations represented as well as some Asians. Cameras are clicking away, and I am amazed at how many shots are taken into the sun. The perpetrators will ponder why their pics are so pale.
Some of the passages (too narrow to be streets) are literally a metre wide, and they twist and turn confusingly. Despite having a good map I had to repeatedly ask the way to the Hostal.
God bless you
John

1 comment:

Charlie said...

Hi Kate,

We are enjoying so much reading of your Dad's life and experiences. We would love for you and your Mum to visit with us in New Zealand. Send us an email to shailer@gmail.com

Thanks