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Travel: Segovia, Salamanca, Avila, Cuenca. Spain, March 12-17/2017


Date: March 12/2017

Place: SFO - via London- Madrid - to Segovia



On the day we got back on the road, spring's weather erupted in California

with a crystal clear blue sky, sunny warm temperatures, and glamorous blazing bloom. 




Upon the recommendation of our dear Israeli friends - Reuven and Hava - we took off to Spain today - to experience the less internationally known, but locally famous

Valencia Festival of Fire- Las Fallas -   



During the prior week, we had a blast at the movies, featured by the CA East Bay Jewish Film Festival,(EBJFF) on which its broad I serve.


This year David and I underwrote one of the Best in the Fest -a riveting Dutch film the "Menten Affair.


The film premiered in the US at our Film's Fest, on March 5th,/2017, thanks to our long lasting friendship with the film’s distinguished heroes - Hans and Betty Knoop.

They were specially flown in from the Flemish rim -a region also known for Rubens and Rembrandt, Tulips, Madurodam and Pan -Kucken.

Those are my vivid sensual memories of The Netherlands, were David and I resided for 4 years, as ex-patriates, during the late 80th, and where we befriended the Knoops.

The esteemed guests of the Festival, stayed with us at the Piedmont home, and were honored at a luncheon reception served in our house, with the Fest community’s members on March 4th,

Hans was awarded at the film’s screening, acknowledged for his relentless pursue of justice.  


"The Menten Affair" a 3 part episodes TV doco-drama which was aired on Dutch TV in 2016, has been a well known story in Holland, but not in the US.

It tells a story of an heroic investigating Jewish Dutch journalist - Hans, who boldly pursued a Nazi  collaborator, Peter Menten infamously known for stealing Polish/Jewish art, and murdering of Polish Jews.

The film is based on a book written on the case 40 years ago, by Hans and showcased in addition to Hans, also the late Israeli "Haaretz" Journalist Chaviv Cenaan


See also trailer below.

The movie scored an all time high number of Dutch viewers as well as got incredible reviews. 

US JTA: "Meet the Dutch Jewish Journalist Who Unmasked a Nazi “Monster’  by the

Cnaan Liphshiz, November 30, 2016


Distribution options of the film were bought by US, UK, Australia, France, Turkey and China,  and due to the tremendous positive reviews and following the screening of the film on Feb 2017, at the Berlin Film Festival, distribution options were also sold to Germany, Russia and Italy..

 

Algemeen Dagblad (Hollands biggest Newspaper Group) elected the "Menten Affair" as the best TV series of 2016 toppling "The "Crown" off Netflix! 


Furthermore, the public Dutch tv (channel 2) has elected the film to be submitted for an Emmy Award nomination. The actor Guy Clement who plays Hans Knoop, was nominated and won in Holland the award of best leading actor of 2016. On March 28, in a huge tv event, the series and actor will be awarded for the best mini serie 2016 and best actor.


Make sure not to miss the film, once it is coming hopefully soon, to play at your home town/country. And check the Fest link for other fantastic films screened.

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The flight from SFO to London stretched for almost 11 hours too looong.


One wonders how come with all the magnificent technological advances of the last decades, and when time = money… no environmentally friendly/cost effective aviation commercially profitable, to shorten the air flight hours, has not yet been invented???


How much real value there is in communicating with 500 Facebook friends, if being transported, as to reach face to face, the true one, lasts eternity???


While I was resting at the lounge, David spent the 2 hours layover at London’s airport security check, heroically, rescuing a confiscated medicinal supplement tube, for which he didn’t have a prescription in hand.

Due to the bit elongated tube’s oversize, clearly against the strict standard security code, applied to a carry-on, the stern tough guards on duty, considered it a “security hazard”..


David and I make up a great team… I know better as not to enter situations , which David is a master-expert in getting out from…


Following of what seemed a futile muscling up with the unbending security staff, and thanks to the use of few phone calls, emails and fax,  the required Dr. prescription was furnished, sent and presented to Security, and resulting in having the medicinal tube  restored back to its rightful owner.


Hallelujah to the innovative technological devices of our era, and to David's ingenuity, which had proven to be very handy, in solving those problems which could have been avoided, in the first place....

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From Madrid to Segovia

Once we landed late afternoon in Madrid airport, we rented a car, and an hour later, after driving through vast plains surrounded by a ridge of  majestic mountainous snowy peaks, we reached our beautiful boutique hotel destination at the heart of Segovia’s old center.

Hotel “Eurostars Convento Capuchinos” -Segovia


A converted  old Oblatas Convent,  the original building consisted of a church, a convent and the founders' residence. The church has been converted into a gourmet restaurant, and the other two areas house the rooms and the hotel's common service


By the end of this very loooong journey, our depleted energy level afforded only quick Tapas at a close by the hotel good place named :

Bar Restaurant El Sitio” 

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Date: March 14/2017

Place: Segovia - UNESCO World Heritage medieval town,


Segovia

An enchanting medieval town, located on an elevation northwest of Madrid, in central Spain's Castile and León region.



Known most for its scenic iconic ancient Roman aqueduct that has more than 160 arches, most in the original mortar-less granite, and stands above Plaza Azoguejo in the heart of the city.


Segovia's centuries of settlement have resulted in a rich architectural legacy, including also medieval walls, Romanesque churches, a former royal palace, a Gothic cathedral, and a rich Jewish past.


On what we thought was an early morning walk, we spotted to our delight an huge bird nest, situated on the hotel's roof tower, with a nesting stork in it.

Yet even that endearing encounter, which should have brought us luck that morning, didn't remedy the unavoidable.


As my watch was not calibrated for the local time, we missed the Tourist Information's general tour of Segovia's old center for the English speaking, which departs daily at 11:00am .


So instead, David navigated us in a self guided 3 hours walk, around the Jewish Quarter of Segovia, and we will try our luck at the town's guided tour tomorrow.


Jewish quarter of Segovia

Closed by seven gates as from 1481, the Jewish quarter of Segovia comprises a space which is totally delimited on the southern side of the walled city, evoking its  past, amongst a set of streets rife with medieval flare.


A walk through the Jewish quarter – took us  back in time, to a fascinating and prosperous times in the life of the community.

While enjoying tremendously, an optimal cool sunny weather, we strolled through the district's narrow widening allies, passing the old town's buildings, climbing lots of stairs...discovering the remains of synagogues, palaces, museums, and visiting also  the Jewish vast cemetery of Pinarillo on the other side of Clamores stream, where there are some remains of burials which are of great value. Segovia Jewish Cemetery



All Jewish communal assets like the synagogues, slaughter houses and private dwellings, were confiscated after the 1492 expulsion of the community, becoming church property. Sadly most of the Jewish characteristic were erased by the church or by fire, except the Menorah symbol on some of the remaining graveyard's stones at the cemetery.




Abraham Seneor -

A known name in Segovia ( 1412 -1493) was a Sephardic Rabbi, banker and politician, a senior member of the Castilian hacienda (almojarife of the Castile or royal administrator). In 1492 he converted to Roman Catholicism, taking the name  Fernando Perez Coronel.

Despite serving as the monarch courtier and financier and bearing much influence, his money and assimilation didn't save him of the fate of lost identity.


The House of Abraham Sneor is today a Center of Jewish heritage and a museum


Segovia Old main Synagogue

Situated in Corpus Christi Square, which takes its name from the present-day appellation of the former synagogue. It was confiscated from the Jewish community at the beginning of the 15th Century. Today it is the church of the Convento de Clarisas del Corpus Christi [Convent of the Corpus Christi Order of St. Clare].


On other Synagogues


More on the Jewish quarter walk


Culinary experience


We made sure to sample the typical food of Segovia - a delicious roasted 20 day old milk fed lamb , weighing 41/2 kg at  recommended specialized town's restaurant  :

Jose Maria 


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Date: March 15/2017

Place: Segovia


Segovia- Plaza Mayor


The "Convento Capuchino" hotel we stayed in was just off the small Plaza Mayor, and in walking distance to any corner of the the historic center. A walk to any direction from the Plaza took about  15-20 minutes, and covers the entire length and width of the center, if one is in a good shape and is ready to climb up and down  the elevations and down hills.


At 5 minutes to 11:00am, miraculously, another American couple from NJ,  showed up at the Tourist Info office for the official walking tour . So the guide, who is required to gather at least 4 explorers to any  guided tour, was willing to take our bear minimum small group for the day's excursion.

Though the guide was a true Segovian local patriot, her English pronunciation, convoluted thought process, and exaggerated coquettish mannerism, were heavily loaded with Spanish, and was very hard to follow.


Thus, except the visit to the most impressive Alcazr the rest of the guided tour was disappointing waste of time


Alcazar Fortress/Castle



Summer Fortress/Castle (Disney's Cinderella fairy-tale inspired perfect structure) with its impressive Moorish and Gothic ornamented halls and breathtaking views,


By mid-day we felt we exhausted Segovia's exploration possibilities ,

so we checked out from the hotel we enjoyed staying at, and were we especially loved the included breakfast quality, and departed the town.

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Departing to Salamnca

It took about 1,5 hours driving through pretty un-inhabited rural planes and pine groves to reach our next destination.



Salamanca - the Golden City.


A University town, situated on several hills in the northwestern central Spain, by the Tormes River on a plateau, and is the capital of Salamanca province, part of the Castile and León region.


It is considered to be one of the most spectacular Renaissance cities in Europe, with a history dating back to the Celtic era.

Founded in the 1100s, this ancient university town, was first conquered by the Carthaginians in the 3rd century B.C. It then became a Roman settlement before being ruled by the Moors until the 11th century.

Its Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988 for its important Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque religious architecture.

.

The many buildings of the city's historic center are  from the 15th to 18th centuries and constructed of an ornate sand stone, which was mined from the nearby Villamayor quarry.  As the sun begins to set, they glow gold, orange and pink. It is this radiant quality of the stones that has given Salamanca the nickname La Dorada, the golden city.


The remarkable examples include the Old Cathedral and San Marcos (12th century), the Salina and the Monterrey Palaces (16th century)


The oldest university building in Salamanca, now the Rectorate, is the old Hospital del Estudio, built in 1413, with the final element of the building program begun in 1533. 



And the late 15th century House of Shells (La Casa de las Conchas) - a building constructed in the time of the Catholic Kings, studded with 350 sandstone shells, and now is going reconstruction.




Salamanc's Jamon,

Furthermore the city is famous for its special Salamanc's Jamon, a heavenly Jamon city for David 


Since the city's guided tours in English, as we were told at the Tourist Office, are only offered during the summer, we explored the old city on our own:


Salamanca's Plaza Mayor (1729-1755)

Plaza Mayor- a large central public  square was built in the traditional Spanish baroque style and is a popular gathering area.

Serving as the heart of the city it is bustling with galleries and arcades, cafés and restaurants, really  is particularly impressive, and reminds me of a smaller version of  the Venetcia's San Marco square.



Best views of town can be seen from the tower of:


Salamanca's Universidad Pontificia

A private Roman Catholic university located in a mammoth and gorgeous tower building with few bell towers and domes. Climbing the 150 steps up the tower definitely is worth the view seen from all around up high.


Salamanca's University

Oldest university in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. In 1218, Alfonso X of León (Alfonso The Wise) founded the University - one of the first in the world.

In 1254, Pope Alexander IV called it "one of the four leading lights of the world". It is one of the most important university cities in Spain and supplies 16% of Spain's market for the teaching of the Spanish language, partially due to the usage of a neutral Castilian Spanish, variant which is greatly appreciated.[ Salamanca attracts thousands of international students,[generating a diverse environment.

The university reached its high point during Salamanca's golden age. a key intellectual center in the 15th-16th centuries'. The university continues to add to the city’s vibrancy with its international student population.


Roman Bridge

Constructed in the 1st century A.D. during the reign of the emperor Trajan. the bridge crosses one of the widest stretches of the Tormes River and is located on rocky subsoil.


The Jewish Past

The Jews of Salamanca rendered valuable services to King Ferdinand II. of Leon during the war against the King of Castile in 1169, and in return were granted (in 1170) equal rights and liberties with the Christian inhabitants ("Fuero de Salamanca," tit. ccclxii.).


In Salamanca lived: Rabbi Menahem ben Ḥayyim ha-Aruk, otherwise Longo (d. 1425), and the Talmudist Moses ben Benjamin and his son Isaac, both of whom maintained a correspondence with Isaac b. Sheshet. Salamanca was also the birthplace of the mathematician and astronomer - Abraham Zacuto, who lectured at the university there.



We spent the night in a place nothing to write home about , but it was reasonable and good for one night, as well as just a block off the old city center. Hotel :

Eurostars las Claras


And had a very good meal at a place in the old city center:


Restaurant Cafe Casa Paca


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Date : March 16/2017

Place : Salamanca



Chocolatería Valor - Calle Libreros, 14



This morning I got my chocolatey fix at a recommended popular Salamanca's establishment founded in 1881‎ the oldest in Spain - Cafe Valor.

It is known for its famous best Chocolate drinks, Churros and Chocolate bars, 




The interior plain regions are also known for the excellent water supply and dry weather.  Remember Liza Doolittle - "My Fair Lady..."


"The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain!

By George, she's got it!  By George, she's got it!

Now, once again where does it rain?

On the plain! On the plain!'


The mineral composite and plenty of the water in Segovia enabled renowned color dying industry of clothing. The usage of technology and expertise of mainly the local Jews, was the basis of this magnificent cloths' coloring specialty  of Segovia's prosperous economy .


The ideal temperate and humidity in Salamanca are the secret for curing of the Jamon -  .  

Later, while I basked in the beauty of artifacts on display, at one of the small, though most beautiful ART NOUEVO museums, I had ever visited, David was on Salamanc's best Jamon hunting tour, which he compared to a Napa valley winery scouting. 


He bought a few kg of " Belotta, Pata Negra " jamon , stocking on for his 65 birthday party, which‎ he agreed to have, in Israel, at the end of March. 


Belotta signifies that these pigs are only fed on Oak acorns (balut  in Hebrew) which cause their  legs to become black ( Negra ) .

After much family discussion over whAtsup  on whether we ought to serve this traif, at the party, David and Amit  - the ad-hock Rabbi... ruled out, that 100% acorn diet makes this Jamon nearly kosher....


The Art Nouveau and Art Déco Museum - Casa- Lis House

The Casa Lis - located inside the ancient city wall, is a museum -Museo Art Nouveau and Art Déco - is based in a modernist gorgeous stained-glass old mansion which was built for its first owner, Miguel de Lis by by a provincial architect (Joaquin de Vargas y Aguirre from Jerez de la Frontera


This museum of decorative arts showcases a sweeping aesthetic vestige of the 19th century's last decades, until World War II . This period of time of no more than sixty years is  one of the most prolific European applied workshops  decorative arts, in which more attention was paid to the quality, detail and the exquisite finishes of the Arts and Crafts.  The rebellion against mechanization combined with this aesthetic concern was the birth of a new style: the Art Nouveau.


A feast to the eye the 19th collections at the museum display

Jewellery by Masriera and Faberge;

Iridescent glass by Rene Lalique Lotz, Kralik, Pallme König or l’École de Nancy, 

Decorative pieces by Emile Gallé, the Daum brothers and Paul Nicolas;

Furniture by Homar, Majorelle, Busquets;

Porcelain by Rosenthal, Royal Copenhagen, Mariano Benlliure, Gustave Guetant and Zuloaga.

French porcelain doll collection from the 19th century is outstanding and has been defined by experts as the best collection ever exhibited worldwide, as well as

Small sculptures that combine metal by:the Chryselephantine collection by Demetre Chiparus, Hagenauer,  Ferdinand Preiss, .

Painting - a large collection by the Spanish painter  Celso Lagar


 * Don't miss the "La Tienda de Lis", fantastic  souvenirs and gifts shop, and

the "Café de Lis" on the museum second floor offering the river view.


Departing Salamanca

Upon checking out from the hotel, I noticed, to my delight, a display on the lobby's walls of a local painter named : Guillermo Serrano Amat 


That precious joyous moment of encountering a pleasing art work, had evaporated instantly, when we set our foot out of the hotel.


What we have saved on a reasonable hotel stay, we spent extra, on being forced making a "donation" to Salamanc's township...

To our bewilderment, our rental car, which was parked in the street across from the hotel from the night before, disappeared.. as it was towed away by the local Police..


Well ...in life one can not avoid the equation of gaining all the time, loosing sometimes,

.is part of traveling..

.

There is an advantages to small town though.. we reclaimed the towed car, relatively quickly, and after forsaking considerable Euro amount, we hit the road again, toward our next destination.


Driving East

We broke off the ride toward the East part of the country, through the boring non-remarkable, monotonous scenery, by stopping at the quint town of:


AVILA -World Heritage site

The capital of the Spanish province of the same name.

The entire city, situated northwest of Madrid - is a World Heritage site. 

It’s best known for its marvelous intact medieval city walls. The massive walls are punctuated by ninety, heavily fortified granite stone semicircular towers,  and 9 gates, including the arched El Alcázar, on the eastern side.

Long sections atop the walls are walkable.

The walled town of Avila was sacred to an ancient Celt Iberian culture long before the arrival of the Romans or Christians.The Arab Moors captured the city in 714 AD, it was recaptured by the Christians in 1088, and had its protective walls built in the 12th century.


Since we lost time dealing in Salamanca with the police,  we had time for a short superficial tour of Avila, only by car. 

The enchanting town definitely worth a night stay.. Hope there will be a next time..


Jews of Avila .

Jews are mentioned there in 1085. The first documentary evidence of a Jewish community is from 1144. . By the end of the 13th century the community was one of the largest in Castile. 


Among some of its leading members was Yuc'af de Ávila, a very important tax collector under Sancho IV. In 1303 the community numbered about 50 families, or about 250 people, occupying 40 houses on diocesan land.

The majority were artisans and shopkeepers, some were moneylenders, and others engaged in farming and sheep- and cattle-raising. Prominent were "R. Judah the dyer"  



By the end of the 13th century Ávila had become a center of mysticism and messianic activities (see Ávila, Prophet *of). Yuc'af was a patron of mystics and scholars. The famous kabbalist *Moses de Leon resided for a while in the city.

During the civil war in Castile, when a moratorium was imposed on debts to Jews in 1366, the Jews in Ávila and other communities were attacked by rioters who seized their promissory notes and securities.

The Jews of Ávila were forced to attend a religious disputation in church between the apostate *Juan de Valladolid and *Moses ha-Kohen of Tordesillas in 1375. Nothing is known of the fate of Ávila Jewry during the 1391 massacres. In the 15th century the community was still important and consisted of 107 families, more than 500 Jews, constituting some 8% of the city population. In 1474 the community had to pay taxes amounting to 12,000 maravedis, and in 1489 a war levy of 86,900 maravedis. Abraham Melamed of Ávila farmed various taxes in this period. Anusim ("forced converts") were already living in Ávila in the 15th century. During the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella a number of restrictive measures were imposed, and in 1480 the Jews were segregated into a separate quarter of the city. In 1490 the *La Guardia blood libel trial was transferred from Segovia to Ávila. The proceedings so inflamed the populace that after the accused had been burned at the stake a Jew was stoned to death. Later a royal order of protection was issued. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the two synagogues of Ávila were sold and the Jewish cemetery was given to a monastery in 1494. An inquisitional tribunal was set up in Ávila in 1490. In 1499, 75 victims were burned at the stake, as well as the bones of 26 who had already died "in sin."

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Cuenca - A world Heritage Town


It was a looong and tidious driving day, so, as we were approaching Cuenca late in the day, I was glad to perk up upon noticing the change in scenery which transformed into a more dramatic rocky landscape .


Hotel-Parador De Cuenca

We checked into this  beautiful 16th c monastery which was transformed in 1928 into an hotel (our first ever Parador stay).



The hotel is situated atop the Huécar Gorge, site of huge rocks, sheer walls and dense vegetation in the outskirts of the city, opposite the magical hanging houses on the top of the hill.  It also includes lovely panoramic views, a glass-enclosed cloister and the former chapel, now a cozy café.


Diner at TRIVIO - Calle Colón, 25, 16002 Cuenca

A gastronomic establishment run by the chef Jesus Segura. Named a Madrid revelation chef, Fusion 2012, with experience in more than 30 restaurants, Segura, after obtaining a Michelin star for the Ars Natura Restaurant, undertakes -with Trivio- an own project in which to offer his vision of the kitchen: a traditional cuisine And novel.

Food was very creative but we were not smitten.



Date: April 17/ 2017

Place: Cuenca - A world Heritage Town


Cuenca is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Spain.

As we lucked out, since we arrived and all week long, on a fantastic weather, we could fully appreciate the spectacular scenery.


It is set in the mountains of east-central Spain. Taking full advantage of its location, the city towers above the magnificent countryside. It has retained its historic Walled Town.


This unusually well-preserved medieval fortified city was founded by Moors, in a defensive position at the heart of the Caliphate of Cordoba. It was conquered by the Castilians in the 12th century, it became a royal town and bishopric endowed with important buildings, such as Spain's first Gothic cathedral.


It is perched on a limestone spur high above the Júcar and Huécar rivers, which are running down below, through the deep walled Huécar gorge.


It's most famous for its well-preserved "casas colgadas," or hanging houses, seemingly suspended from the cliffs edges, overlooking the Huécar river over the gorge, the steep cobbled streets town square, old mansions, many monasteries and convents and medieval castle ruins. 


We enjoyed very much our early morning walk crossing the bridge,right by our hotel, over the gorge, and climbing up the historic town above. Wandering the old town ancient streets, discovering picturesque alleys, historic monuments, hidden corners and amazing views, was a true uplifting experience. As well as was visiting and be surprised by one of the towns many museums, located in one of the hanging houses.


Museo de Arte Abstracto Español

The Museum of Spanish Abstract Art is in one of the Casas Colgadas.



Dramatically suspended above a sheer cliff wall, the building has three levels of gravity-defying balconies that jut out over the river gorge.

The 15th-century house has been completely renovated but still reveals the original architectural elements, including wooden beam details on the interior. The museum's exceptional collection focuses on Spanish Abstract paintings and sculptures of the 1950s and 1960s as well as works from the 1980s and 1990s



Cuenca's Jews

Shortly after its reconquest in 1177, Cuenca was granted a fuero ("charter") which served as the model for other Castilian towns. This permitted Jews to settle freely and trade without restriction, but debarred them from certain offices and forbade sexual relations with Christian women, on pain of burning..


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CONTINUE to VALENCIA - Las Fallas festival