Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Seville was our last stop in Spain, mainly to see the Alcazar, which was built for a Christian ruler but using Islamic design (and some of the same craftsmen who worked on the Alhambra in Granada).
This is the ceiling of the throne room, intended to look like the stars. As at the Generalife in Granada, the gardens were beautiful and had lots of water elements. Also in Seville is a huge cathedal with an amazing high altar including over 1,000 carved figures.

This is a view from the tower, which is fun because it is all in ramps instead of stairs. The guidebook said that was so the guards could ride their horses up the tower. Seems unlikely to me!


On the way from Granada to Seville, we stopped off at Cordoba, mainly to see the mosque/cathedral there. The site has been used for over 1000 years as the religious center of whatever group was in power. It became a mosque starting in the 8th century and was, at one time, the second largest in the world. In 1236, Cordoba was conquered by the Christians, and a cathedral was built in the central section of the mosque, leaving over 800 of the columns (there were once over 1,200) and the mihrab (the niche in the wall that indicates the proper direction for Muslims to pray, towards Mecca).
The pillars are the most striking feature of the mosque/cathedral, and they were built, at least in part, from an ancient Roman temple on the site.

This is the ceiling over the area where the Islamic ruler would have prayed. Then, in the middle of the mosque, is the Catholic cathedral. The mosque/cathedral is surrounded by a high wall. Abby asked me why it was there, and I replied that, as with most walls, it was for protection - to keep the mosque safe from invaders. She sighed and said, "Sadly, it wasn't enough."


The main reason we went to Granada was to see the Alhambra, which was the fortress/palace of Granada's Muslim leaders for hundreds of years. This was the last part of Spain to remain in Islamic hands (until 1492 when Ferdinand and Isabella conquered them). The Catholic king and queen are buried in Granada in a beautiful chapel adjacent to the cathedral, incidentally.

The architecture of the Alhambra is simply amazing. This is a view through several doorways - every square inch in carved with non-representational art and Arabic words. This is a closeup of one of the walls. Nearly all the walls are like this.

The ceilings are decorated, too. This is a beautiful wooden one.Next to the Alhambra is Generalife, another palace (not an insurance agency, which is what it sounds like to English ears!). It has beautiful gardens with lots of fountains and ponds thoughout. Water served a practical function in helping to keep the palace cool in the very hot summer months (it was already in the high 80s in April!), but also symbolized life and purity.

And a view from the Alhambra of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


We've just returned from 10 days in Spain with Pete and Robin, and it was amazing. We started in Barcelona, where we spent much of our time walking around admiring the architecture, particularly that of Gaudi. This is one of the facades of La Sagrada Familia, the unfinished cathedral to which he dedicated his last years.
He also designed many other buildings, including Casa Battlo. The roof represents St. George and the dragon.
One of our favorite places was Park Guell, where nothing is in a straight line (or at least it seems that way!)

We went to the Maritime Museum, mainly because the guide book said it was good for kids. Not so much, but this ship was grand.
We also liked the market in Barcelona, where some of the seafood was so fresh it was still moving, which I found a bit creepy.
The candy stall wasn't a bit creepy, though.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


When Betty was here visiting we went to Worms, a city I didn't know much about. It turned out to be a really interesting visit. For one, Worms is the place where Martin Luther was called to account for his heresy. On a statue to him is his famous quote: Here I stand. I can do nothing else, may God help me. Amen!
I was also really interested by the Jewish community history in Worms. The Jewish residents were so well integrated that there was even a Jewish mayor in the 19th Century. The Jewish population was wiped out in the Nazi period, but the Synagogue has been rebuilt and there's an interesting museum. The Jewish cemetary is still there, too, with graves going back to the 12th century. It is beautiful.
The cathedral in Worms is also beautiful, especially when approached through the old city wall!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Venice was certainly beautiful, but cool and rainy much of the time we were there. This is a view from the balcony of the Basilica San Marco, which is one of the most beautiful cathedrals anywhere. Inside (where no pictures are allowed, though you can see some here), is gorgeously decorated. The floors and lower parts of the walls are all stone or marble, symbolizing the earth, while the upper walls and ceilings have mosaics surrounded by small gold colored tiles, representing heaven. It is stunning. The treasury was a treat, too, with lots of relics and beautiful items. Of course, travelling the canals was one of the highlights. We took the vaporettos (water buses) everywhere.
Our hotel was located on this canal, as was the best restaurant we ate at, Gam Gam. It's a kosher restaurant situated on the edge of the old Jewish Ghetto of Venice, and it is fabulous.
Venice prices are not for the faint of heart! We were highly amused at one restaurant (one we did NOT eat at) that charged about $12 for a soda.

Below is a view from the Campanile, a tower across from the Basilica.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

It's Ice Cream season!

Forget the snow, sleet, and cold weather. It's spring now and in Germany that means ice cream! Just in the last week I've tried Hazelnut (my standard favorite here), Hazelnut with chocolate (even better!) Cherry Mania, and Rum Raisin. I've still got lots of flavors to try, though. Sharp eyes will notice that these ice cream signs are in Italian - I took this picture in Venice. More Venice pictures soon.
Can this be the same city that had a snowfall last Wednesday?