Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘History

I love history and can never get enough of it. Visiting sights and structures from long ago makes it all seem so much more real to me. On a recent visit to Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain, much to my delight, I was immersed in it.

The entire city of Tarragona was deemed a World Heritage Site in 2000. And I can see why. Roman ruins are everywhere and appear naturally amongst more modern apartment blocks, restaurants, coffee shops and commercial buildings. It is fitting as, after all, they were there first.

Amphitheatres always intrigue me and the one in Tarragona, built in the time of Augustus, is quite intact and overlooks the Mediterranean sea. Imagine watching a play there. It is still used for reenactments of gladiator fights, plays and even weddings.

Imagine having lunch with a view of the sea and the amphitheatre!

Not far from the amphitheatre are the remains of the Roman Circus built in the first century which was used for horse and chariot races. It doesn’t take much to imagine the excitement of such an event.

A museum inside the Roman Circus held interesting artefacts

The old indoor market, Mercat Central, still sells fresh fish, meat, fruits and vegetables and was worth a visit. I bought some lovely tea to bring home.

Coming across the Forum, the remains of a Roman street and basilica, in a residential area, was incredible. It was as if timelines had blurred together. And I had the place almost to myself!

This would have been part of someone’s home two thousand years ago. I touched the walls and my Roman heart sang.
The base of a sculpture

Tarragona is famous for its Concurs de Castells where people called Castellers in matching outfits and sashes, compete for building the tallest human pyramid. This exciting and well-attended event is held every other October at Plaza de Toros, the former bull ring. (Bullfighting is outlawed in Catalonia.) I found posters for the event and in the middle of the Rambla Nova, the city’s main business street, is a bronze sculpture commemorating the .

A poster for Concurs de Castells. Look at all the people cheering them on.
Hubby contemplating climbing the tower of people.

Tarragona has wonderful buildings, fountains and statues everywhere and much to see is in walking distance.

Mosaic on the sidewalk outside the theatre

As if all this wasn’t amazing enough, we drove 4 kilometres outside the city on a quest to find a two-thousand-year-old Roman Aqueduct. We drove past the entrance three times but eventually found the parking lot. A short hike through the forest and there it stood as it has for centuries. I truly felt time stand still.

The Romans built things to last!

I touched the stones that centuries of folks before me have, and all that history ran down my arm and into my heart. I was so happy.

I wrote about my recent visit to Winchester Cathedral here, the final resting place of Jane Austen and King Canute as well as other notables. I spent a couple of days in this enchanting part of the UK with friends who took me on drives full of pleasant surprises.
Winchester itself is an interesting city full of history and stories. It was made the capital of England during Saxon times by King Alfred The Great. Whether he let the cakes burn or not is debatable but when I read that story as a child, I was always intrigued by this man. In the center of town is a statue of one of my childhood heroes and the only monarch in England to be called Great.

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Winchester is a perfect place to wander around, with many historic buildings and interesting shops, including many bookstores.

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I love the boot above the Clark’s Shoe Shop

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At the university sits a bench dedicated to Jane Austen and Phillis Wheatly displaying the importance of literature to this city. It was at the University of Winchester that I attended a writer’s festival that weekend.

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Driving through the New Forest made me think of days of yore and those who would have traveled by horse and buggy down these same paths.

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And then we came upon a thatched-roofed village – right out of a book!

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The village of Wherwell

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Can you imagine living in a house like this?

Later, on the way to a pub for dinner, we came upon a wonderful old church with an awesome graveyard. Since I have this fascination with cemeteries, I had to take a few pictures.

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And to my delight, we passed through yet another thatched-roofed village. My friends were kind enough to stop so I could take pictures.

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The charming village of Monxton

 

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The following day we went to the seaside city of Bournemouth, a place I had not been to before. I loved the casual elegance of the place and the lovely gardens in the center of town.

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Bournemouth seafront

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A fabulous building housing a LUSH store

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Lovely gardens in the middle of the city

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A huge lilac bush with the cathedral in the background

I discovered that Mary Shelly, although she never lived there, is buried in Bournemouth.

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St. Peter’s in Bournemouth where Mary Shelly is buried, along with her parents.

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Yes, that Mary Shelly, the author of the novel, Frankenstein, and wife of Percy Shelly. Did she ever imagine there would be a pub named after her?

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We stopped for an ice cream and had a stroll along the seafront before I was dropped off at the airport. A perfect couple of days with good friends.

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Making memories with friends.

I hope you are not getting bored with my visit to Cordoba but there was so much to see and do in this fascinating city.  I must tell you about our visit to the Jewish Quarter and the fabulous museum we found there.

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The walls surrounding the Jewish Quarter in Cordoba

The Jewish Quarter in Cordoba, or Juderia as it is called, is a walled area surrounding a complex network of narrow streets lined with white buildings. With a quintessential Andalusian flavour, it is a perfect place to wander around and soak up the atmosphere.

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A typical street in the ancient Jewish quarter

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At the centre of the quarter is the Synagogue. It is one of only three original synagogues remaining in Spain. The building, built in the Mudejar style, dates from 1315. It was converted to a church in the 16th century and then held the Guild of Shoemakers until it was rediscovered in the 19th Century.

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The entrance to the Synagogue

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The interior includes restored walls revealing plaster work with inscriptions from Hebrew psalms and plant motifs.

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The Jewish community played an important role in the history of Spain and flourished in Cordoba during the Moorish times when the city was the centre for commerce, prosperity, education and religious tolerance. Unfortunately, in 1492, during the Spanish Inquisition, people of the Jewish faith and the religion itself, were expelled from Spain. A sad part of Spanish history.

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Wandering the peaceful little streets and alleys, we came upon a sign on a door, Casa Andalusi. Intrigued, we decided to check it out. Were we in for a treat!

Once inside we were welcomed by a cosy and cool courtyard with the pleasant sound of water from its fountain,  a mixture of Arab-Spanish music in the background and the faint scent of greenery and fresh flowers.

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The charming courtyard of Casa Andalusi

 

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There were many more serene courtyards and fountains full of fresh flowers throughout the site.
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It was a typical 12th-century Andalusian house filled with medieval Islamic furniture and decorations. The blend of Andalusian and eastern styles gave it a certain charm and transported you back to Arabic times.
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Exquisite leather work.

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A leather globe of the world as it was known at the time. Amazing

I found one room, dedicated to the making of paper out of rags, very interesting.
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and I had to demonstrate
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We were able to go down below the current house where we found items from the old houses of the Jewish quarter including a well and an unearthed Roman mosaic floor, proving just how old the site is.
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The courtyards held an assortment of large pots. I was told if I didn´t behave, I would be put in one!
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This museum proved to be a gem tucked away and not on many of the tourist maps. We were so pleased we found it. It was the perfect end to a long, but fun day.
I hope you enjoyed the trip to Cordoba with me and my wonderful travel buddies.

 

 

After spending a morning at the amazing Mezquita, enjoying a delightful lunch and checking out the cute shops we ventured to the Alcazar, a medieval fortress of the Christian Kings, rebuilt in 1328 by King Alfonso XI. The word Alcázar means palace in Arabic. It was the residence of the Christian Kings when they stayed in Cordoba and was one of the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Significant historic events were planned in this palace including the discovery of America. It was also the headquarters of the Inquisition and later served as a garrison for Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops in 1810. This intriguing place with a colourful history is now a World Heritage site.

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Battlements surrounding the Alcazar

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King Alfonso XI greets visitors to the Alcazar

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The round tower is the Tower of the Inquisition, added in the 15th century. The Main Tower in front was a place for the Inquisition to carry out its public executions.

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The gardens are a relaxing place to wander, with a wide variety of plants and trees overlooking stone fountains and large ponds

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Well kept gardens

The Moorish style Royal Baths are situated in the basement and are thought to have been built by Alfonso XI. The skylights in the shape of stars provided light and ventilation. The walls were made from hardened clay and some of the original marble floor slabs are still visible.

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Outside entrance to the Royal Bath House

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Entering the bath house in the basement

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Star shaped skylights for light and ventilation

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Inside the bath house. I may be touching a wall Queen Isabella touched.

Interesting 16th-century frescoes hang in a hall which housed the former chapel of the Inquisitions. A collection of Roman mosaic art and a sarcophagus from the 2nd and 3rd century that once belonged to a wealthy Roman Mansion, discovered under Corredera Square in 1959, are also on display.

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Interesting 16th-century frescoes

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2nd or 3rd-century sarcophagus

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Roman mosaic art discovered under a square in Cordoba

The Alcazar was yet another remarkable place to wander around and take in the history as we stepped back in time. Seeing places like this makes the history we learned in school come alive. It is no longer just stuff from textbooks but actual events and places. Queen Isabella walked these hallways, touched these walls and probably bathed in the bath house while deciding whether to fund the voyage of Christopher Columbus, which ultimately changed history. This is why travel means so much to me.

More to come as we visit the Jewish Quarter and a cool museum in Cordoba.

Thanks for travelling with me.

 

I love visiting museums and learning the history of a place, especially one as old as Malta. The only rainy day we encountered during our visit found me mesmerized by the Museum of Archeology in the capital city, Valletta. The museum is located in the Auberge de Provence, a baroque building built in 1571, which was house to the Knights of the Order of St John originating from Provence, France. It is a beautiful place to view these amazing ancient treasures.

 

The Museum exhibits artefacts dating back to Malta’s Neolithic period (5000 BC) up to the Phoenician Period (400 BC). On display are the earliest tools used by the prehistoric people giving an insight into their daily lives. Many interesting pottery pieces are also on display.

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This is one huge coffee mug. Perfect for a Venti Latte!

The highlight for me was the 5000-year old ‘Sleeping Lady’ from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum. It is a small ceramic figurine about 12cm in length and was found in a burial pit at a prehistoric underground burial place. It is an amazing example of craftsmanship from prehistoric times. Seems creativity has been around a long time.

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The Sleeping Lady

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I found the anthropomorphic sarcophagus from the Phoenician Period also fascinating.

 

Parts of prehistoric temples with photographs of the original site they were found in.  Swirls were a popular design those days.

Animals were often depicted

as were fish

Many of the goddess figurines were found headless, the heads found in another location. No one knows why.

Ancient writing unearthed in a neolithic temple.

A  rare Phoenician carving of a human

I like how the museum featured cartoons throughout the displays making them more interesting and understandable for young people.

Do you like visiting museums? I would love to know about your favourite museum?

 

 


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