Monday, May 27, 2013

El Jardine Del Capricho (The Garden of Caprice)


When looking at our blog you will be convinced that all we do is tour historic sites and walk around parks.  That's not the case, but as boring as it might be to browse through such blogs, it would be even more boring if we blogged the other places we go and the other things we do.  I mean, how many pictures of the Metro and of the grocery stores, etc would a person find interesting?  
Or how many pictures of going up and down the elevators at the MTC all day and night.  
So, thankfully, we're blogging historic sites and gardens.  
Much better.
About 3 weeks ago we took a day trip with 2 couples serving temple missions here in Madrid; the Jones' and the Zimmermans.  They are proficient in Spanish and both know the city very well, so they allowed us to tag along.  They took us walking through 2 very large parks, one covering several square miles.  But I chose to introduce you to the one that was the most enchanting and delightful.  It was a beautiful spring day with trees and bushes and gardens in full bloom.  
 So, please enjoy "The Garden of Caprice"
Though very much unknown and out of the way, the garden of El Capricho (literally, a whim) is one of the most beautiful and attractive parks in the city.
The 14-hectare garden, located in the area of the Barajas district, dates back to 1784 when the Duke of Osuna, from one of the most illustrious and powerful of the city’s families, acquired the land for the specific purpose of giving expression to the family’s artistic values as well as to give them a place to escape city life. The prime mover was the Duchess Lady María Josefa de la Soledad Alonso Pimentel. Thought to be among the most intelligent women of her time, and a patron to many artists, bull-fighters and intellectuals, she designed the garden bearing in mind a sort of artistic-nature retreat for the more illustrious figures of her day and to which the most prestigious gardeners and artists offered help in designing.
After she died, her eldest grandchild inherited the duchy of Osuna, along with El Capricho garden. The park was maintained throughout his life, but following his death the property passed on to one of his brothers, under who’s oversight the gardens fell into disrepair. Profligate and eccentric, he set about losing the family fortune, to such a point that after his death it was necessary to sell the garden in order to pay off debts. 
It was acquired by the Baüer family, which did its best to keep up the property, but the decline was already too far gone, and it was necessary to slowly get rid of some of the holdings.
During the Spanish Civil War another change came about; what was once considered a place for leisure and strolling became the Staff Headquarters of the Central Army.  At the end of the war, the property passed through a number of different hands, until it was bought by the Town Hall in 1974, followed by renovation works carried out several years later.

Entering the park one passes through a miniature bull-fighting ring.

Lovely fragrant flowers throughout the park.  I don't know what they all were, except beautiful. In the distance straight ahead, the dueling range.  I suppose that's where they settled their disputes; in a manly sort of way.  ??

All the structures, at the whim of the Duchess, were built to miniature scale, or something like 1/2 scale. This charming cottage was built to resemble something from a fairy tale, but I can't remember what.

All through the park these trees were fantastic. And lilacs were everywhere in bloom. 

Lovely maidens of the Park, Sister Zimmerman and Vivienne

Sister Jones. Someone who never learned how to frown.

This is how I want my backyard to look in a couple of years. Nice tiled drainage on the sides of the path, all leveled and manicured.


Miniature Dance Hall accessed by boat on canals or by footpath.

Figures in relief on the Dance Hall, or Casino de Baille

Dance Hall

Entrance to Dance Hall from the boat dock.

Beautiful walking paths with a look towards the pond in the middle of the canals where small boats plied.

This is also how I want my back yard to look

A moment's reflection in a place of serenity.  Nobility certainly had its advantages in times past.

The black swan was friendly but demonstrably disappointed that we did not bring food.

If you come to Madrid and are looking for a little "down" time for peaceful pondering pertaining to particularly pressing problems, pursuit for personal progress or proper posits on life's purpose, this is the place.

The small boat dock and the end of the path leading to the personal residence.

A less-trodden path near one of the boat canals. I thought of Frost's "The Road Less Taken"

Scott Zimmerman, the man, the camera. Inseparable.

An old and unusual tree.  Seemingly continually reborn with new shoots.  I think there's some kind of lesson there.

Garish but charming battlement built during the Spanish Civil War when the Gardens were turned into a military post.  A battery of artillery was placed in the middle.

There was a wonderful fragrance around this area.  I wish smells could be blogged.  Well, OK, SOME smells........

Another "Road Less Taken" moment

A miniaturized Hellenic temple.  This stuff has all been around since the founding of our nation.  Really beautiful

Looking from the porch and staircase of the family residence.  Off to the left were gardens created just for children to play in.

Gigantic Sycamore tree.  Reminded me of Doug Olson's front yard.  Only 3 times bigger.

Large maze.  I thought I was in a Harry Potter movie, the hedges were about 8 feet tall.  They did not allow us in.  A good thing; Vivienne would never have found her way out.

Back to the beginning; the dueling grounds with the bull-fighting ring and entrance into the park in the background.  My back yard will never resemble this, but I enjoyed dreaming about it as I walked these peaceful grounds.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Talent Night at the MTC

We have two groups of missionaries who come to the Madrid MTC: 
1.  Those who know their mission language and are only here for 2 weeks orientation and instruction from Preach My Gospel, the basic missionary handbook, and, 
2.  Those who are here to also learn a language.  They are here for 6 weeks.
Up until now the only 6-week missionaries have been those learning Spanish 
and who are called to one of the three Spain missions, Barcelona, Malaga or Madrid.
2-week missionaries come from Russia, Ukraine, Cabo Verde, Brazil, Italy, France, Madagascar and Portugal.  
We have teachers here who speak Russian, French, Portuguese and Italian who teach the 2-week missionaries.  
Vivienne usually gives these groups lots of immunization shots because they have not received them all in the native countries.  
Most of the North American missionaries are fully vaccinated, but not always.
At the end of the 6-weeks on the last Sunday evening we have a "Share Your Talent" time 
which is always one of the highlights of their time here.  
Following are some shots of our last group, which left 2 1/2 weeks ago.  
It was the first "big" group to go through since the change in age for young missionaries, so I had to pick only a few of the many pictures to put on the blog.

Sister Wirthlin, an incredibly gifted flautist, with some 200 compositions to her name.  
Could play in any orchestra in the country.
 Hermanas Noakes and Christian performing pushups.  They both did 50, as I recall.  It's incorrect to say the were "buff" but they were certainly fit.
 Elder Dansie, a yo-yo enthusiast and great entertainer.
 Hermana Bracken brought her violin on her mission and played for us several times.
 Hermana Israelson brought the house down with this "Dear John" song.  
It was the highlight of the night for me.
 Elder Smith memorized the story of the First Vision in Spanish while juggling, 
which he demonstrated for all of us.
 Hermana Peterson, a talented dancer, displayed an unusual skill: 
unwrapping a Starburst candy in her mouth using only her tongue in less than 20 seconds.
 Hermana Israelson & Hansen competing: 
who could move a cookie from their foreheard to their mouth without using their hands.  
Pretty funny to watch.
 President Jackson, who along with Sister Jackson spoke to all the missionaries that evening, brought his accordion and favored us with "Lady of Spain".
And, of course, Nana and Bubba: "When Skies Are Grey"......Nana was "in a zone" that night.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Alcázar of Segovia

The Alcázar of Segovia (literally, Segovia Castle) is a stone fortification, located in the old city of Segovia. Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape – like the bow of a ship. The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then. 
The castle is one of the inspirations for Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle.
 The Alcázar of Segovia, like many fortifications in Spain , started off as an Arab fort, which itself was built on a Roman fort but little of that structure remains. The first reference to this particular Alcázar was in 1120, around 32 years after the city of Segovia returned to Christian hands.
 The Alcázar, throughout the Middle Ages, remained one of the favorite residences of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile and a key fortress in the defense of the kingdom.
In 1474, the Alcázar played a major role in the rise of Queen Isabella I of Castile. On 12 December news of the King Henry IV's death in Madrid reached Segovia and Isabella immediately took refuge within the walls of this Alcázar where she received the support of Andres Cabrera and Segovia's council. She was crowned the next day as Queen of Castile and León. After her marriage to Ferdinand II of Aragon, Isabella and Ferdinand are known for completing the Reconquista, ordering conversion or exile of their Muslim and Jewish subjects and in supporting and financing Christopher Columbus' 1492 voyage that led to the opening of the "New World".
The royal court eventually moved to Madrid, but for many years Alcázar of Segovia played an important role in the development and growth of the united kingdom of Spain and was a favorite residence of the Kings of Spain. These first two photos are not mine but display the castle so well, I included them. Not apparent in this picture a moat separates the castle from the promontory point.
 File:Segovia - Alcazar ext 02.jpg
Below is the opposite side of the castle, on the outcropping of rocks just above the confluence of 
the two rivers of Segovia.
File:View of the Alcazar, Segovia.jpg
Above is my photo.  Notice the hint of Moorish influence in the relief on the facing walls.
Below is one of the two inner courtyards surrounding a water fountain.
The real beauty of The Alcázar lies is the interior of the various rooms.  Sumptuous.  It was really great living at the top of the food chain back in those days, but I still prefer indoor plumbing, central heating and air-conditioning, even without servants. Sorry. Here's the throne room.
Below, one of the halls for various functions and parties.  The scaffolding is for current restoration.
Unfortunately the shot below is a little blurry because of time exposure but an elegant portrayal of the coronation of Queen Isabella after the death of Henry IV of Madrid, setting the stage for unification of the various autonomous regions of Spain.
The "Flemish" wall hangings were in amazingly good condition considering their age.  
But I tried the bed: not nearly as good as our "memory" foam queen bed.  
And harder to make with the posts and canopy and stuff.
The room below was amazing.  Probably it was for dining functions and the like.  Surrounding the top of the walls, in relief, are statuary of all the kings of Spain.  It was really gorgeous! 
I wanted to sing in there also!
This was a hallway connecting the castle to the private chapel for worship by the royal family.  
I would have liked to sing in this space; great acoustics.
A peek into the private royal chapel and altar.
A view from the towers into one of the 2 courtyards.
Looking out over the old city from between the front towers.  If you zoom in to the tops of the trees in the foreground you will see large white cranes nesting in the tops of 4 of the trees.  Pretty cool.
250 circular steps to the roof of the towers.  For Harry Potter fans, it looks very much like the stairwell to Dumbledore's chambers. Not for the faint of heart or weak of knees.  
Only the men made the trip, but it was worth it. 
If you go to Segovia, don't miss The Alcázar.  
And take time to wander slowly through the rooms and try and imagine life as Royalty in Spain at the time Columbus was lobbying for sponsors to help him discover the New World.  
Really amazing stuff.