Gardens and History

We started today – Tuesday 4 – by going to the Post Office with 8kg of our winter gear. It will make a huge difference as we get closer to travelling by train around Spain. We just have to hope that the weather doesn’t get cold but even now we both have several layers we can wear, and we find our wind jackets are great if it’s a little bit cold at the beginning of the day.  Postage achieved, we went looking for gardens and flowers.

Jardin Botanica

We had a delightful couple of hours at the Jardin Botanica – the Botanic Gardens. They are always lovely places but this has an added meaning in the centre of a huge, busy and noisy city, and in which most people live in apartments. The bulbs were at their best with large beds of iris, narcissus, and many coloured tulips – it seems the Spanish for tulip is dahlia – very strange. We found a poster in the garden which gave the names of 134 varieties.

IMG_0981We found a very tall Ginkgo tree – at least 4 times the height of the one in our back yard. We were interested to confirm what we have heard that is is the oldest tree in evolutionary terms. They can grow to 30 metres, and if conditions are right can last for 1000 years. We did not know that it was the first tree that sprouted after the Hiroshima devastation.

There were a number of school groups visiting – all very attentive. There are widespread vegetable gardens there and the kids were particularly interested in those. A lot of people visiting and a large number of busy employees as it is very expansive.

They also have a shade house organised according to three different climates, kept at the right temperature, and with the correct moisture for that climate. The first was desert and most of the plants were very luxuriant succulents, many of which were flowering. Then came palms of different varieties, and the last were mostly orchids and other plants needing a moist and warm environment. It is most impressive.

Time for lunch – back at The Bull where we have been twice before. It was good as ever, and we are great mates now.

Museo de Historia de Madrid

We then walked back past our area to visit the Museo de Historia de Madrid set up by the Municipality to tell their story from when Madrid was a small medieval town in the Kingdom of Castile, to the capital of the Hispanic monarchy in 1561, and finally to a modern, cosmopolitan city by the early days of the 20th century.  Charles V and Philip II (of today’s featured image) were the key 16th Century Monarchs of Spain.

Four years ago the building was revamped and is now a very good place to visit if you want to know what Madrid has been through and how it has come to be as it is today. It has a magnificent 1721 façade – the building and the façade were designed by Pedro de Ribera. It was originally built as a hospice – hard to imagine. As well as documentation, memorabilia, photographs, and models of the city at different times, there is very interesting art on the walls. This includes a Goya called Allegory of the City of Madrid depicting a woman with her right hand on the shield of the Madrid emblem, and her left hand is pointing to “Dos de Mayo” (the second of May – 1808). This was the date on which the people of Madrid rebelled against the occupation of the city by French troops – which led to the Peninsular war.

The Alcasar (fortress) was initially the seat of the Spanish Monarchs starting with Charles I (who became Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor).  This model and map identified its form and location in the mid-17th Century.  It burnt down in 1734 and has not been replaced.  As a side issue, the third image below shows the crowd outside the Spanish Pavillion in the World Exhibition of 1789.

It may have been a good idea to go to the museum earlier in our visit, but leaving it till now meant that a lot of places and people talked about were at least a bit familiar to us.

Home around 7.30 feeling very happy about our day.