04.12.2012 - 04.12.2012 8 °C
We travelled from Madrid to Salamanca today, stopping in the cities of El Escorial and Avila. Though we weren't keen on leaving behind our comfortable apartment, going somewhere new sounded appealing. El Escorial is home to the Real Monasterio, a palace, library, church, tomb, school and monastery all in one. The security and costs were higher than those at the Louvre, and we weren't allowed to take pictures. The palace and living areas themselves are simpler and plainer than those of the chateaus we'd been to see, though there were still quite a few paintings, mainly religious. We found a solar adjuster in one room, positioned underneath a tiny hole that apparently shines a beam of light down onto the adjuster at exactly twelve o'clock. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. We waited around so long that one of the security guards stared us out of the room.
We descended to the tombs next. There are seven in total. The first is the grandest, and my mom says that it's her favourite room in Spain. All of the kings and queens of Spain have been laid to rest here. The gilt coffins stand on golden feet, each on its own shelf. The room is circular, and they are stacked all around in the walls, four coffins high, looking majestic and intimidating. It's a stunning room, and you don't really seem to think about the bodies (or perhaps dust by now) inches from you. We progressed to the next tombs, which were filled with rows of white coffins. These held the infantes and infantas, the royalty that had not quite made it to the top of the hierarchy. Then there was the mausoleum, where the children who had died were placed. There were more names than I would have expected. Finally, we came back out of the crypt, and made our way to the library. The biblioteca was long and narrow, and the ceiling was covered in paintings depicting the seven schools of knowledge, including arithmetic, music and philosophy. The books were all faced pages out, and a few were open on display, so that we could see the beautiful illustrations and handwritten text. There were works in Spanish, Latin, Greek, Arabic and other languages, as well as many Bibles. There was an intricate armillary as well. Dad wanted to hand in an application for the head librarian’s position. We quickly visited the church, which was under construction, and then continued on towards Salamanca.
On the way, we saw a massive medieval wall surrounding an equally aged city. It caught our collective eye, and we decided to take a walk along the top of it. We saw the holes where soldiers would shoot arrows at the enemy, only to quickly duck behind the ramparts as arrows and worse sailed right back. The dips between the ramparts were deep, and one could have easily toppled off the side of the wall to the earth below. The vertigo you got while bending over the side was very unpleasant. It didn't seem to affect Mom, though. It was interesting to walk where the people of the 14th century would have walked, and made even more real by the old, crumbling town within. We walked back to our car by way of the village streets, and found it to be as much of a ghost town as some of those we saw in France.
We finished our trip to Salamanca, and settled into a tiny and extremely pink room crammed with four single beds.
It's cute, though not quite as comfy or homey as our last place. We'll be moving on to Coimbra tomorrow, so it's another travel day. I think we're starting to get pretty good at these.