Monday, November 21, 2011

A Bit of Basque Country in Madrid (with Toledo, Avila, Segovia and Salamanca on the way!) – Sunday, November 20, 2011:


            This week started out studying the Rome I regulation, which dictates choice of law during litigation in the European Union. Each class, I'm reminded of the different legal necessities of Europe vs. the US, and this class was no different. Again, the civil system and the inherently, unavoidably transnational qualities of the European system seep into every aspect of the laws we study and the very basics of everything I learned in American law school is slightly shifted.

                We had a few days off this week, so my friend Alan and I headed off to check out Madrid. Aside from the areas closer to Bilbao, like La Rioja and San Sebastian, I had yet to check out the rest of Spain. So, off to Madrid we went to pay our respects to the King and Queen.

                We arrived by bus and took the Metro to Plaza del Sol. Immediately upon exiting the Metro stop, I could feel the pulsing energy of the capital city. Madrid was alive and bustling, with people walking in every direction, street performers, knock off bag sellers, statutes, fountains, stores, and even a fake Mickey mouse. The energy of the big city engaged me, providing a dramatic contrast to the subdued vibe of Bilbao. It made me miss San Francisco, appreciate city life and wonder what my time abroad would have been like if I had lived in Madrid. Probably, I would have never wanted to leave.

Puerta del Sol in Madrid, where we exited the Metro.

The oldest building in Plaza Mayor.

To be added to my photo bomb hall of fame (in front of the Royal Palace in Madrid)

Another plaza in Madrid, viewed from a rooftop bar.

The symbol of Madrid - a bear under a madrone tree - in statue form in Puerta del Sol.

                Alan and I wandered around, enjoying the food, the diversity, the Starbucks and the culture. We spent a day at the Prado, Madrid's huge art museum, and admired the works of Goya, El Greco, Raphael, and more. I particularly loved Rubens' work, and spent extra time admiring his definition of beauty. After the Prado, we quickly visited the Sofia Reina, the modern art museum built in a converted hospital to house Picasso's "Guernica".  This masterpiece painting was inspired by the bombing of the small Basque town of Guernica during Franco's reign, with assistance from Hitler. Picasso intended it to reflect the pain, severity and damage of war, and it is famous world round as an anti-war symbol. After touring it extensively, Picasso left the painting in the care of New York City's MoMa, on the condition it be returned to Spain after Franco's death and Spain was once again a republic. The painting was finally returned in the 80s and it is a great testament to the turmoil and despair of the Spanish civil war. I must admit I'm not the biggest of art fans - I often feel it’s a bit over my head. But, I could have stared at Guernica for hours, never tiring and never ceasing to find new aspects of the painting, new emotions Picasso conveyed, new perspectives to admire. It is truly a masterpiece, and made me feel simultaneously inspired, angry, grievous and pained - like only the best art can.

                The rest of the weekend included a whirlwind tour of Central Spain. We visited historic Toledo, the maze of El Escorial, the beautiful, ancient wall at Avila, the awe-inspiring Roman aqueduct in Segovia and the sandstonerific Salamanca. Each site was more beautiful and more grandiose than the last, but by the end of it all my neck hurt from gazing upwards and I was feeling a bit cathedraled out. We drove back to Bilbao in a rental car through miles and miles of La Meseta before finally passing the mountain range that kept Basque country separate for many years, arriving home in Bilbao.

The river outside Toledo, which is on the right on top of the hill.

Toledo viewed from the bell tower of its cathedral.

The beautiful aqueduct in Segovia.

Plaza Mayor in Salamanca... find me in my green scarf!

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