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Posts Tagged ‘castles’

DAY 202

“I’m just fascinated by visiting actual castles in the countryside.”

§ Lily Collins §

I love castles. Do you want to know why? Well, it might be because we are flat out of castles in Washington, so the whole idea of a castle in each ancient town is…well…what a novelty. What’s even better is that in Europe in general, we’ve got castles, castles everywhere.

It’s not just me.  Now, yes, it’s true that castles fascinate some for their historical importance. But for many people, castles are fascinating because of the life that Hollywood and fairy tales have made us associate with castles. Fairy tales gently glaze over the extreme conditions—the bugs, the rats, the lack of food, the disease, the lack of running water or ever clean water, the constant fear or battle or plague or mass starvation.   The whole taking a bath once a month, wearing the same clothes day in and day out—skipped over.  Fairy tales glamorize castles and I can say with 100% certainty that I am not immune.

To me, castles are the place to go, the highlight of the weekend. What did you do last weekend? Oh, I found a castle. And you do always have to “find” it. Castles always involve walking…because they are always at the top of everything to afford the best views and the best defenses.

To get the Xátiva castle, I refused to take the train, electing instead to go walking.  It was so worth it.  I found so much on the way—castle walls, magnificent views, a hermitage, a watchtower I climbed on, blooming flowers, forests of catii, so much. And the castle itself—about a kilometer of walking just to see it all—was amazingly intact.  It had at least 4 sets of gates, so that in times of war, the inhabitants could literally blockade themselves off in sections depending on how far the invaders got.  It had several wells, a dungeon that once housed kings and noblemen, stores for food, for weapons, for people.  And it was gorgeous as well, both the views and the castle itself (which, with the way it was perched on top of the cliffs, almost reminded me of photos I’ve seen of China’s wall).

And at the top, I did what I always do these days—I asked for a photo. Asking for a photo gets me all kinds of interesting stories…but this time, it got me a new English-speaking friend.

Xátiva and it castle? Fantastic.

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DAY 197

§ A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. § Oscar Wilde

 Oh I am so terrible at this!! I am always too busy. But I shouldn’t be. There is always time for photos, there is always time to write!

That said, I am obsessed with photos, I really am. I am obsessed with beautiful photos. And okay, Oscar, maybe, in some ways, they are as useless as pretty flowers, but…but…I love them, I can’t resist taking them, I need to have the photos. I can’t just go someplace beautiful and NOT take a photo, at least, not without feeling sick and terrible.  They are beautiful, yes, like flowers. Perhaps useless to others, but to me, they are so much more.

I went to this castle in a place called Peñiscola (yes, you can laugh) which is possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.  In the center, there is a castle. The blue of the Mediterranean goes on as far as the eye can see, row after row of white houses blanket the ground, topped by row after row of orange roofs. It is the perfect combination, and sort of makes you think that maybe you’re dead after all, and this is what heaven looks like. Or maybe you’ve fallen down a well and are now in wonderland. Or perhaps this is just paradise.

I fell in love with those photos. On the train-ride back to my flat, I was antsy with anticipation to look at them. I tried to resist temptation—no, you can’t look at them on the tiny screen, wait until you can view them on the computer!—but I failed, and couldn’t resist a peek. Oh, so gorgeous. I almost died again.

Then what happened, you ask? Well, I went home. I plugged in the card reader. And….nothing. The card reader was dead. It had committed suicide somewhere along the way. Oh NO! I tried everything. I looked it up online, downloaded programs, tried and retried and retried. I went to the camera store, and then he told me the sad truth, the truth I already knew but didn’t want to admit. My baby was sick, and the card was unsalvageable.

I was so sad, so depressed. You see, I am obsessed with the photos. It’s as if having no photos of something means it didn’t happen. I know it makes no sense, but bear with me!  It doesn’t help that I have a terrible memory. So I use my photos to make sure I never forget something worth remembering.

What did I do? The next weekend, I paid another €25 for the train ticket, spent another couple hours on the train, bought another pricy (but delicious) meal of sangria, pizza, and ice cream, enjoyed the views all over again—because I went back. Yup, I went all the way back to Peñiscola to get back those photos.  I’m glad I did. I found a lot more this time. I appreciated it even more than the first time. I met some interesting, and very proud, Dutch tourists who were fond of telling me about Holland’s Golden Age and how they made America what it is today (they voted for America to be it’s own governing state way back when) etc. I saw the cliffs.  I enjoyed the views. I didn’t get lost.

In the end, both days were perfect…and the resulting pictures were so worth the return!

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