Notes and Explorations

Spain and the Arabs
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So I wrote something in Spanish… Enjoy! (Let me know, gently, if you find errors. There must be many.)

Pilgrim Badges
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Speaking of souvenirs, medieval pilgrims used to bring home tin badges from pilgrimage sites. As the British Museum puts it: “Pilgrims’ badges were a symbol of the relationship between the saint and the pilgrim who had undertaken the journey to … Read More

Everyday Orientalism
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In my favourite cafe in Sevilla, near the cathedral it is named for, the Cafe Giralda marks its washrooms with reproductions of two paintings, one of a woman, the other of a man, in robes and chains, with signs over … Read More

El Transito Synagogue – Toledo
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The Synagogue Samuel ha-Levi in Toledo, now known as the Synogogue of El Transito and the Sephardic Museum, was first built in 1356, by Samuel ha-Levi Abulafia, treasurer to the Christian king of Castile and León, Pedro the Cruel. It’s … Read More

Ibn Shushan Synagogue – Toledo – Santa María la Blanca
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As you’re not using it, we’d like it back, thanks. In 2013, Isaac Querub, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain made a request: “What would be a better act of generosity and reconciliation than the return of … Read More

Darle un Abrazo – Santiago
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Give Santiago a hug for me – Darle un abrazo – is what one pilgrim will say to another who is going to Santiago de Compostela. And they mean it literally. In the cathedral there is a small staircase that … Read More

Jan Morris – Spain
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Found it! I’ve been looking for another copy of this since I lent my first copy to my sister. As she lives far away, it’s easier to buy another. My last copy of this book, a later edition, said “The … Read More

Galisteo and abandoned houses
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If you were to look at Spain from up high at night, you’d see this, the night lights massed and glowing in the center of the peninsula, which is Madrid. The darkest areas are where Spain’s rural villages have emptied … Read More

Where the light comes in – Toledo Cathedral
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This is Toledo Cathedral, directly behind the altar. I visited on a Sunday morning when the church first opened, and the sun came in through a skylight cut high in the walls and illuminated the sculptures behind the altar. I felt … Read More

Where the pieces join
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This is the mosque of Cristo de la Luz in Toledo, Spain. The square part of the building on the right hand side is the original mosque (mesquita), with the three horseshoe arches on the main level, and the row of … Read More

Past and present, cobbled together
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In the Spanish town Calzada del Bejár, in the province of Extremadura just south of Zamora, the wooden porches of the houses are held up with Roman milestones. The Via de la Plata, one of the caminos to Santiago de Compostela, … Read More

Neighbourhood center
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This fountain is in Ronda, Andalucía, Spain. From the patterns of wear, you can see that it’s been there for centuries. On the day that I was there, in the evening, a family was gathered on the steps next to … Read More