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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Madrid (Cont.) Day Two

On day two we began by "sleeping in." We decided the night before not to set a clock, as our first day had been exceedingly full--to the point of falling asleep in the middle of a show we both thought was brilliant. "Sleeping in," though I had been blissfully unaware of it at the time of agreement, meant sleeping until "we" couldn't anymore. At about 8:30 am (Madrid time), J woke up. He couldn't sleep anymore. Therefore we couldn't sleep anymore. J is not a late sleeper, which sometimes worries me because I am nothing if not a late sleeper. I'm also an early sleeper. I'm a 24/7 sleeper except the world expects me to work and pay for food and such, so I wake up daily as my minor act of non-defiance.

By 9:30 we were on the hunt for El Templo De Debod.
This is an amazing piece of history in Spain--and the world if it bothered to learn it. After the Suez Canal was built, a dam had to also be built to protect certain parts of the flood plains from unseasoned flooding. Don't get me wrong, the Nile is known for flooding, you can set a watch by it--but all of a sudden, you couldn't set a watch by it because it wasn't doing it at the right time. This, for some reason upset the entire ecological balance of the area, not to mention the farmers--and I clearly don't mention them. All of which mattered not at all to the folks who had created the mess, at first, because, hey, we could get oil shipped across the world without having to travel all the way around Africa, and who can say no to that!?!

No one could. Why would they? If we had no Suez, the price of gas would be through the roof--and think of all the unemployed Somali pirates! Of course, worst of all is that we would have had to use our imaginations to come up with a more workable, less ecologically heinous solution, like, say, a pipeline through Israel? Okay, you're laughing, but wouldn't a shared economic interest in getting oil tot he world done a whole hell of a lot to getting people toward peace? Why, you ask? Because money is one of the best reasons for peace. It wasn't until the 20th century that we managed to make war a sound economic practice, and for more on that you can read Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine." Because regardless of what you think of her moral judgments, her historical ones are sound, and she backs them. But I'm WAY off topic here; we were talking about floods and rivers and dams and damns.



So the world, being both uneducated about the "realities on the ground" (Man! I love that phrase!) and not particularly concerned, though I blame that on the uneducated part, didn't do much of anything about the flooding being caused in parts of Egypt, Somalia and Nubia. Then someone noticed the flooding--and the creation of a rather permanent lake in a rather unhappy place--was damaging antiquities. We couldn't undam(n) the Nile, We couldn't untrench the Suez. What were we to do? A diplomat from UNESCO sent out the call for help. Among the countries that helped, was Spain. Yes, Spain, in the early 70s, under Franco, reached out and sent funding and manpower to help save these early signposts of our shared civilization.



In thanks, the Egyptian government sent the Temple of Debod. Actually, they sent what was left and copies of the carefully researched (in teams of anthropologists from the US, Italy, Spain and Egypt, to name just a few) records of what the temple had been like before a long span of time and then a short span of water had done its work.

All thanks to that, there is an incredible monument smack in the middle of Madrid. It's a few blocks to the left of the Palace--or something like that--but not easily reachable if you don't know where you're going, decide to hoof it the whole way and have a map that has no indication of North, though to its credit, every McDonald's in Madrid is carefully marked. Including the one at the Puerta Del Sol with a Walk-up Window (That's just what happens when you live in Madrid, but more on that later).



After about two hours of wandering down side streets, heading in the wrong direction, taking lovely photos of the Senate building (and some senators), talking to people who had no idea but gave us directions anyway, and watching a man let his dog crap on the front yard of a convent, a mere three meters front of the sign that showed a shadow of a dog pooping and a line through it, we did, finally, get directions from the guard at the senate who was suffering a massive nosebleed; and that got us as far as a lovely park from which the next bunch of directions (go that way a block & cross the street) brought us to an amazing oasis in the urban jungle (ok, so I love mixed metaphors, too).



So above are some of the photos, but there is no way to express the two or so hours we spent there except through the set of photos below. The Temple and its outlying arches are set on a reflecting pool, which was icy. Did I mention it''s COLD here?







As for the rest of the day, we napped, then wandered happily through a shopping mall close to our hotel--Malls are a rarity in Spain, and this one was a rarity in any case. The stores are unique, mostly concept based, and beautifully set among fun displays (though those may be space holders until they get more stores). We went into the coolest store EVER! A place that was something of a cross between the discovery store, a gardening store, a holistic medicines shop, book store specializing in photo books, and camping goods store. No, I'm not kidding.

But my favorite was this one display of a child's circus set from what must be the 50s--beautifully preserved, but clearly very old--which included a mannequin. And somehow, despite the obvious age of the piece, the mannequin was clearly a representation of Horatio Cane from CSI Miami--I knew there was something about that guy...

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about today, which was all Prado and still not enough, but we'll also be traveling to Salamanca, yay!

3 comments:

RabbiHaim said...

The Suez and the Aswan High Dam have absolutely NOTHING to do with each other, except their being located in the same country. The Suez was not the reason for building the Aswan.

RabbiHaim said...

The Suez and the Aswan High Dam have absolutely NOTHING to do with each other, except their being located in the same country. The Suez was not the reason for building the Aswan.

Leah Cassorla said...

Actually, they have a lot to do with each other, though I will certainly admit to having gotten the relationship backwards. In addition to the ruin of many antiquities, the Aswan High Dam was also the first step toward the Suez crisis when Egypt talked to the USSR and the US threatened to pull money. Of course, a good reading of "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" will show how the money relationship tends to be more causal and less dependent on "politics" than it generally seems. It *was*, *is*, and stupidly is likely to remain all about oil--in particular because too many people in power have their grubby little fingers in oil, and I mean folks like Clinton as well as the whole Bush Gang. A good read of Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine" may help with understanding how little the "politics" of a moment matter and how well the politicians know this. Of course, a reading of "Lies My Teachers Told Me" would make all of this far less shocking--and maybe even more interesting.