June 18, 2008

Palacio Real and the Royal Gardens

Starting from where we left off, after stepping outside of the royal cathedral you would find yourself staring at a lavish gate and just beyond... the Palacio Real.

And once you step past the iron gate you can look back and see the cathedral.

We were told by the tour guides that this was intentional. The cardinals wanted the kings to remember who was truly in charge of the Spanish government... the Catholic church. There was no separation of church from state in this country. And in many places in Spain the Catholic church still influences people with a heavy hand. A stark contrast to the Catholicism found in the United States.

As we continued exploring we found the palace had so much charm and detail just on the outside!

Iron anywhere on or near it always had some form of decoration with gold. The contrast was beautiful.

And on both sides of the royal courtyard were outdoor hallways created by long lines of arches. Very Spanish! This type of architecture can be found in many areas of Guatemala and Mexico. And one place outside of Spain where you will see this architecture in abundance, albeit in a significantly smaller scale, are in the homes of the Moroccans.

If you look closely at the following photo you can see that the roof is actually created with brick! Incredible!

And at the either side of the entrance are the following guard stations. They are big enough for only one man to stand in. But should someone have ever tried to attack the king or any royal member of the family these guards would be pretty hard to take down. They were able to shoot arrows through the holes provided to them in their guarding stations.

Speaking about the king I learned that the palace has two flag poles set high atop its highest point. One flag always stays up but the second flag, both Spanish, is only raised when the king is in the palace. After talking with a friendly local, I learned that Spain's current king feels that the extravagance of the palace is too much. He refuses to live in it and prefers to live in more modest settings because he feels it isn't right for any one person to live so richly when the people are struggling with economic hardship. This has greatly raised the love of the Spanish people for him. Many people told me that Spain's current king is of great character and loves the United States, its government, and its people very much.

No one was permitted to take any photos of the interior of the palace but let me tell you it was like walking into a movie. The place is gorgeous! Extravagant doesn't even begin to describe the rooms inside. Did you know that there is a room for every day of the year in there?! The public is only allowed to see a handful of these rooms. The following are photos I found on-line that were taken a few years back. But the rooms are exactly the same today.

When you first enter you climb a grand staircase with an amazing fresco on the ceiling and marble columns and figurines.

The throne room was very impressive, as I'm sure you can imagine. The lions on either side of the thrones are made of brass and were saved from the first palace that burned down.

Nearly every room I saw had a fresco on the ceiling and if it didn't then it had figurines of marble or porcelain. This is just a small hint of what you would see on the ceiling of the throne room.

I was amazed to learn and see that the king had his very own pharmacy. The guy had four to five HUGE chambers filled with all kinds of herbs and potions just for his use! These chambers were in a separate wing all to themselves so that only the physicians could access these rooms.

Back inside the main palace I saw a " party" room where the queen would often have balls and masqarades. Today when the king visits he often has concerts performed here.

After we left the throne room we eventually came to a room that was known as the dressing room for the king. But it has an official name " Gasparini Room." It is the name of the artist who created the amazing space. There is silk on every wall and all over the ceiling. The furniture in the room is covered with the same silk. There are porcelain vines, flowers, and figurines of Asian resemblance all over! The floor is marble and the chandelier displays a golden lion reclining on his golden toy ball and surrounded by crystal. Amazing.

A little while later I found myself in another unique room called the " Porcelain Room." Why is it called this? Because EVERYTHING in the room is porcelain... including the walls and ceiling!

Next came the Gala Dining Room. What a room! I don't think I could even fill half the table with people I know! And above every chandelier is its very own fresco. I just wonder... what would one eat in a place this lavish? Something really tasty I imagine.

There were many other rooms that we saw including the salon, the music room which held a Stradivarius violin, viola, and cello. We saw the " Cinema Room," the " Silver Hall," the " Crystal Hall," and a huge gallery of many tapestries hung on the palace walls. Some were so well done that at first glance you would think they were actual paintings rather than embroidery!

But finally I came to the last sights of the palace... the armory. It was huge. And it was fascinating to see the history of the shields, spears, swords, crossbows, horse and child armor, and some armor gifted to the kings of Spain from the orient and Africa. Very, very cool.

When I stepped back into the daylight I spotted a lush landscape of trees as far as the eye could see from beyond the arches of the palace courtyard. And shooting high above the highest trees was a geyser!
By now my feet were very tired and wouldn't you know it, I had to cross walkways with big, hard cobble stones to reach the Royal Gardens. Those things hurt! But they look so pretty...

The gardens were so peaceful and open to the general public at all times. They are outside the palace courtyard and meant to be enjoyed by all. There are marble statues on opposite sides of the gardens representing the kings of Spain. There is also a queen too.

Well there you have it! A glimpse into what the people of Madrid see every day. And I'll be updating different places I visited on the performance tour. Now if anybody ever plans to go to Madrid to see the Royal Palace you need to know that this is luck of the draw. No one in the general public can ever be 100% certain when the palace will be open for visitors because its still used for government business and when the king is in... no one else is allowed near.

Also, be certain to bring excellent walking shoes because you will be standing more than sitting. There are very few places to sit first off, and there is so much to see that you won't want to anyway! Do bring a digital camera with lots of extra memory cards and bring several packs of batteries. My dad suggested that I carry extra batteries and I'm so glad I listened to him! And one last thought... stay hydrated. I know there are lots of places one can get alcohol and that its actually cheaper than soda or juice in Spain but alcohol can dehydrate you pretty fast. Spend a few euros on a bottle of water that you can carry with you.

Okay. Its getting pretty late for me now and I better get going. But keep checking back cause I will be updating again. Until then stay safe, stay healthy, and enjoy the photos!

" Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for he alone has all wisdom and all power. World events are under his control. He removes kings and sets others on their thrones. He gives wise men their wisdom, and scholars their intelligence."
Daniel 2:20,21

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