El Escorial palace.
Today I decided to go a little farther from Madrid
, actually on the outskirts of the "Comunidad de Madrid" area. As routine I rode the metro to the "Atocha" station, and from there boarded a train bound for El Escorial
(named after the palace there). In this town you find one of the biggest palaces in Spain. We entered the palace through its basilica, a very large, impressive structure. We then proceeded to the Court of the Kings, a very nicely decorated courtyard, before entering the main palace. Once inside, we rented one of those good audio tours where you press the number the site tells you and gives you a description of it.
The main entrance of the basilica, crowned at the top by the cross.
This palace is absolutely huge!!! They even had small museum incorporated into the premises. I especially liked the architectural section of the museum, since it had various 3-D models of the palace, many drawings, and explanations for both. We then walked into the Pantheon of the Kings, an absolutely beautiful room accessed by a stairwell that gets more lavish and luxurious as you descend. Many of Spain's kings and queens are buried here in glorious marble sepulchers. The whole scene was lit by a large, magnificent candelabrum. After enjoying the awesome room, we went back up the stairs again and went on touring the rest of the palace. The mini art museum was pretty interesting, but mostly showed traditional biblical paintings. One of the most interesting parts of this palace was the "Hall of Battles", a long room with a large wall depicting all the major Spanish victories.
One of the best shots of the tapestry.
It was very amusing looking at all the details like the soldiers, the camps, the front line, the action, etc. Our last stop in the palace was the library, a very sophisticated and lavishly decorated room. The walls and the roof were filled with frescoes, truly a wonderful sight. After touring this awesome, huge palace, we resorted to eating lunch at a nearby cafe, with plenty of cheese and calamari =D. In the afternoon we decided to visit the "Valle de los Caidos", a gigantic memorial dedicated to all the fallen victims of the Spanish Civil War (Francisco Franco's idea). When we were still in the taxi riding towards it, we saw the huge cross getting bigger and bigger as we approached. The cross is situated over a craggy mountain, and the basilica is actually carved into the mountain, (arduous work to build, I imagine).
The other guardian.
We entered through the main entrance which led to the foyer, decorated with huge, mural-sized tapestries depicting different scenes (using symbols to represent the events). Some are of battles, some of the worship of the lamb (Jesus Christ), etc. There were around 5 of these tapestries on each side of the wall in this great space. Once we walked through the main foyer we reached the dome, a huge structure decorated with golden mosaics on the roof. Here is where the famous Spanish dictator Francisco Franco rests. In the middle of the space below the dome there is a statue of Christ on a cross. I was curious about the structure so I asked a worker about it. She told me that the dome had two layers to prevent water from seeping into the basilica and ruining the mosaics. When I asked her where all the soldiers were buried, she told me that they were buried in the very walls of this basilica. I was shocked to hear that, since the structure was basically reinforced by human bodies!!! After all the adventures in the basilica, I headed out to El Escorial to take the train back to Madrid. When I arrived back in the city I ate a delicious dinner at an Asian styled restaurant called the "Wok". Afterwards I took the metro right back to my hotel.