After our wonderful week in Australia, we boarded a plane and began the 30+ hour journey to Spain. To say it was long is a bit of an understatement. We flew Cairns to Sydney (3 hours), Sydney to Abu Dhabi (14 hours) and Abu Dhabi to Madrid (7 hours). We were both pretty happy to be off a plane once we touched down in Madrid. I love to fly and don’t mind long flights, but the jet-lag and short layovers made even me ready to be on the ground. The only issue was that we arrived in Madrid and couldn’t check into our AirBnB for 8 hours so if you ever want to know anything about the Madrid Arrivals area in Terminal 1, specifically the seats located close to the rental car area, we are your people ;) 

Needless to say, we were still excited to be back in Europe in the land of Espana. We both love Spain. The culture, the people, the language, the food…all of it are wonderful. Spain was also the first European country for both of us to ever visit- Perry in 2010 on a UT summer study abroad trip, and me in 2007 with a Farragut High School trip. It’s been a while for both of us, but it was fun thinking back on those trips and how different life has become since then. It’s also been fun trying to remember our Spanish :)

Spain is a beautiful country, and Madrid as the capital city is full of this beauty. Its streets are full of history, culture and European charm. And to have the opportunity to spend several days here was wonderful. We loved walking through the neighborhoods and spent a majority of our time exploring the different areas of the city such as La Latina, Plaza Mayor, Gran Via and Puerto del Sol.

We spent a morning at the Almundena Cathedral, which was beautiful inside and out. After not visiting a huge European cathedral in almost two months (since St. Petersburg), it was quite interesting, especially since it was built during the 20th Century and not finished until 1993.

Located next door to the Cathedral is the Palacio Real de Madrid or Royal Palace of Madrid. This palace was enormous, and with over 3,400 rooms and 1,450,000 sq. ft., it is one of the largest palaces in the world. Interestingly enough, it was designed to look like the Palace of Versailles but is sadly missing the gardens that give Versailles so much of its beauty. Even without the sprawling gardens though, this palace was beautiful and interesting to explore.

We spent one afternoon strolling through Retiro Park, a beautiful green space within the city. The air was crisp with autumn, the sun was shining, and the leaves on the trees were starting to change to fall colors and fall to the ground. It was so nice to be able to enjoy fall, a season that we have yet to really experience on this trip. We spent hours walking and enjoying the scenery with hundreds of other locals and tourists that couldn’t resist being out in the amazing weather.

We visited the Oeste (West) Park where the Temple of Debod is located. The Temple’s history is quite fascinating as it was gifted to Spain by the Egyptian government in 1968. It was originally located in Aswan, Egypt (and originally built in 200 B.C.). In the 60s, Egypt was going to have to tear it down because of the need to build a dam on its land, but instead of completely destroying it, they dismantled it and sent it to Spain to be reassembled there. The temple was beautiful at night, and the park had beautiful views over the city with the sun setting in the background.

We spent an afternoon at the Prado Museum, which is the National Art Museum of Spain. It is filled with thousands of pieces of art from artists such as Goya, Rubens, Rembrant, Rafael, Bosch, Titian and Velazquez. Again, we hadn’t visited a European art museum in quite a while so to be back in one was a treat.

If there were a word to describe how we spent much of our time in Madrid, I would have to use the word “tour”. While we arrived here with the plan to only do one free walking tour, we are leaving after doing a total of three different tours. We aren’t huge tour people, but they all turned out to be wonderful and well worth it. 

The first tour we did was a walking tour (which we love doing as a start to every city we arrive in- especially in Europe!), and the second was a tapas tour. Tapas are small dishes that typically come free with your drink at a restaurant in Spain. On the tour, we learned the history of tapas, ate traditional Spanish tapas, and drank traditional Spanish drinks such as sangria, tinto de verano and red wine. It was delicious and fun as the tour was full of people from all over the world that we were able to meet. We even learned how to drink from a wine skin, which was fairly entertaining.

Outside of the tapas on the tour, we thoroughly enjoyed the culinary treats of Spain. We ate lots of paella, croquetas, bocadillos and tortillas de papas. We also loved eating churros dipped in melted chocolate from a chocolateria that has been in business since 1894. YUM.

The third tour that we participated in was one about the Spanish Inquisition. Both Perry and I had heard of the Inquisition, but neither of us were truly aware of what happened and what it meant in Spain. What we learned was that the Spanish Inquisition was a devastating event that took place in Spain from 1478 to 1834- that’s 356 YEARS. For 356 years, people were punished and murdered in Spain and its colonies (specifically Peru and Colombia) in the name of the Catholic Church for either (1) not being Catholic or (2) being a “heretic”. The stories we heard were sad and hard to grapple with as we walked through the city and saw the buildings that the atrocities were carried out in. Although the “official” death toll from the Inquisition is 3,000 people, our tour guide said that these were only official recorded deaths and that historians estimate it to be well over 100,000 people.

Similar to our time at Dachau Concentration Camp, it’s taken Perry and I some time to process this piece of history. It’s hard to think that something this horrible would be allowed to happen in the name of religion. As most bad things in history, it really comes down to money, pride and power, and religion was the excuse it was given, but still, it’s hard to swallow. I don’t think the Jesus I love would have ever condoned such a thing.

The information that struck me the most on the tour is that sadly, the average Spaniard does not know anything about this dark piece of history. They do not learn about it in schools. They do not talk about it. They do not even have a museum about it in the entire country. Our tour guide showed us a building in Madrid where the victims were imprisoned during their questioning that closed down in 1820 (orange building below). On the outside of the building is a sign in Spanish that basically says that the building was used for the Inquisition from 1780 to 1820. She said that as far as she knows, this is the only sign she’s seen on a building in Spain that acknowledges that the Inquisition happened. It was truly disheartening.

Honestly, in no way do I hold this lack of knowledge against today's Spanish citizen. People cannot know what they are not told and if there is a veil of silence around something then it’s hard to break through that. The “secret” and silencing of the Inquisition goes back for hundreds of years and falls on those with power and authority much higher than your average person. Today, the Spanish are a wonderful people, full of acceptance and kindness. They are what makes Spain one of our favorite places in the world today.

In thinking on all of this, my mind keeps returning to the thought of how important it is to learn history. It’s cliché to say, but it’s so true that the only way to prevent us from repeating history is to learn from it. And if we don’t know it then how can we learn from it? 

During the Inquisition, men and women were tortured and killed because they didn’t believe the same as someone else. Children were separated from their families because their parents “did something wrong”. People were forced to flee their homes of thousands of years or risk punishment because of money, power, religion and politics. Any of these scenarios sound familiar? Sadly, you just have to watch the news for 5 minutes to realize how scary it is that history is repeating itself all over the world today. When will we learn from our pasts in order to better our future?

So for today, I’m remembering the victims of history’s pride, power, money and religion. I’m paying closer attention to the atrocities of the past and present in the world and in my own country. I’m praying that I portray the Jesus I know loves people. And I’m acknowledging and repenting of the times when my attitudes and actions promoted hatred because of differences. May we all learn from history and be empowered to change tomorrow because I truly believe that our world cannot afford to ignore it any longer.


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