Friday, 6 January 2017

                                Cordoba & El Alhambra

The view above is of the Alhambra above the city of Grenada that serves as a good backdrop to this blog instalment. Since our last blog we have taken time off during the recent holiday period to visit both Cordoba and Grenada.  Let's tell you something about what we have seen. 

We took about 4 and a half hours to drive in a hire car from Valencia to Cordoba.  Silvia did the driving and we were very impressed with the Spanish infrastructure, though not with the Fiat 500 car that was claimed to be an equivalent to a Ford Focus - but we will not go there.  Some of the countryside reminded us of parts of Australia.  The city is an ancient settlement that was quite a centre in Roman times.  The bridge above was built by the Romans over 2,000yrs ago and is in remarkable condition.  The ancient city is behind us and the fortification in the distance guarding access to the bridge was originally built by the Moors 1,000 yrs later and was extended and modified to create the small fortress we see in later medieval times.  We had a tour of it and climbed to the top of it.  It is now a museum to the three cultures that more or less happily co-existed (Christian, Jewish and Moslem) until the reconquest of Spain requiring all Christian and the later Spanish inquisition.  There is a Jewish museum that covers this history.

Above is the view in the opposite direction of the old city as seen at night.  The large church you see is the cathedral that was later constructed in the 1500s in the middle of what was the largest Mosque in the world when built in the late 900s.

This is a view of one side of the Mosque.  It is quite an amazing building.

From there we went within the structure.  It is quite vast and now a Catholic Church.  Due to the entrance being free between 8:30am and 9:30am we arrived early to take these photos.  I (Mark) remember seeing photos of both the Roman Bridge and Mosque in my encyclopaedia when at primary school.

This is one of the many streetscapes in the old city.  It is very quaint with flowers hanging from walls.  In summer it must be even more beautiful but full of people.

Cordoba also has an old castle where Spanish monarchs lived.  It contains several original Roman stone mosaics that have been remounted on the walls of the grand hall of the castle.  We climbed to the top of the battlements you see in the distance and walked around the beautiful largely original gardens.  They would be even more striking in spring but very crowded.

This is another street view in the old Jewish quarter.  The streets are very narrow and many take vehicle traffic.  We watched one evening as a "medium" sized car had the force its way down one street with the tyres wedged between the sloping faces of the kerbs on each side of the street.  The car was effectively driving on the walls of its tyres.

The picture above is of the original minaret to the Mosque that was converted into a bell tower to the  when the Mosque was converted into a church.  We climbed to the top which is about 12 storeys high.  We had done a lot of climbing.

The next day we journeyed to Granada to see the Alhambra. This mountain fortress is actually a collection of palaces built by the Moors and then later "Christian" monarchs as well as a defensive castle structure.  Above is part of the gardens of one of the palaces.

Above is an interior view of one of the Moorish palaces.

Above is the interior of the palace built, but was never completed for occupation by Spanish King Carlos the 5th in the 1500s due to a Moorish revolt in Granada which stopped its construction until the late Eighteenth century.  It was considered to be of a very modern Baroque style for the time.

The real highlight was the Nadriz Palace itself.  Above is one of the interiors showing the intricate work undertaken.

Above is another interior of the Alhambra which shows the "Courtyard of the Lions".  Unfortunately restoration work was underway as can be seen on the right.

From the top of the original fortification you are greeted by this view of the old part of Granada (climate very similar to Canberra) as seen from the Alhambra. We later walked down to the old city (no, didn't climb) but took a taxi back.

After returning to Cordoba (2 hr drive) we took a tour the next day of the ruins of the Moorish capital city for the Iberian peninsula built from scratch outside Cordoba.  Resourceful lot, those Moors, in that they diverted the old Roman aqueduct to Cordoba to supply running water the city.

Above is another view of the city ruins.  The associated museum at the site was also full of very interesting artefacts recovered from the site.

This is a view just outside the medieval walls of Cordoba near the Jewish quarter.

This is a night view of one plaza in Cordoba.

Cordoba has a flamenco hall of fame.  We stumbled upon it and this free performance.  We gathered that these were students of this form of dancing and singing.

This Sunday we are off to the Circuit Assembly in Benidorm about 1 hour and 45 mins south of Valencia.  We are travelling on the coach organised by the congregation.  We'll give you an update on how that goes.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Hitting the Halfway Mark

Hi all, this is Mark here to give you an update on how we are traveling.  We are nearing the half way mark of our stay and are feeling more part of the congregation.  On the ministry we have been busy despite some challenging weather at times.  We have our own territory for later in the day and are starting earlier on a Wednesday in a large open street market talking to Africans there.  Last Friday was very wet so we did letter writing at the Kingdom Hall.

Above is a picture of the group doing the letter writing.  The Brother on the left is Dario, one of the Spanish elders and the African brother is Justice who is 16 years old and is coming up to the end of his first year in Spain.  Many of the African brothers are named after Bible qualities.  So we have a Gracious, a Precious, Goodness, Kindness, Joy, Faith, along with Justice and two Shulamites.  For me and Julian it was the first time we had personally done this type of ministry.

Above we have Julian deciphering the map for us in the field.  They can have a combination of Spanish and the local Valenciano language.  He is doing a pretty good job.  In the ministry we do see some interesting things such as shown in the second photograph.  The lifts in many apartment buildings are tiny.  Hence, if you are moving you need some other means of getting your furniture out.  What you see is a truck mounted furniture lift bringing furniture down from the window of a 4th storey apartment.  A brother told me today that they have machines that can reach the 14th floor.  It a very expensive. 

 The beach front is about 30mins away by Met and Tram and short walk.  Last Monday, our day off from the ministry, we got up early and went to watch the sun rise out of the Mediterranean, as shown.  The country keeps German time dating back to the Franco period, so we didn't have to get up too early.  Then we walked the beach promenade which must be 1.5 to 2km long.  Finally we had a traditional Spanish breakfast on the front.

From the beach we walked to an amazing precinct that was just completed before the financial crash here.  The architect is a local and the buildings have been used in a range of Sci-Fi movies. The top picture is their science museum, the middle their opera house that has a similar timeless quality as the Sydney Opera House.  The third look from the science museum toward the opera house with another building, the "Hemispheric" between.  The weather was perfect that day, meaning we enjoyed a lovely day off.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Sun, Ministry & Fireworks

So about a week has passed since you last heard from us, meaning there's a lot of stuff to get through. Seeing we've settled fully into our congregation, our next focus has obviously been the ministry. Now because most people have too work more to get by over here, most of the brothers and sisters tend to only go out in the field for the morning. This has, in turn, created the problem of us being left on our own with no where to go seeing other brothers have the maps. So, to fix this problem, we have ended up doing what many of the pioneers seem to do and have obtained for ourselves our own map. The territory on the map has been searched for English speaking people meaning that rather than search work we're doing doors that should be English speaking. However, because of the doors being spread out over larger maps, finding people home isn't as easy as you'd think English witnessing would be. Though this is time consuming and tiring, the satisfaction it brings you when you walk through your apartment door at the end of the day is definitely worth it.

Mum and Dad in the park next to our territory where we spoke to an English speaking man from Germany.

 Last Thursday Spain enjoyed a public holiday, on which the congregation had arranged for those going out in the ministry to do the English addresses and some search work in the surrounding towns and villages.
The great thing about this is that most of these villages are either right next to the beach or very near to it.
It began with, as would happen in Australia, everyone placed into separate car groups, a lunch point was decided and then from there we set off.

Because of it being winter over here, we didn't find many English speakers at home but did find people where the apartments and houses were occupied by the Spanish owners. This though didn't mean our day was boring or uneventful for myself and Dad. You see in many of the villages around Valencia they fire fireworks to mark the public holidays. However, these fireworks aren't designed for a visual effect but rather an acoustic effect. This therefore means that once they were all lit, the noise it gave sounded as if you were in a war zone (not exaggerating that either). Adding to that, the shockwave the fireworks produced goes right through you and is the primary reason why the Spanish, but mainly the Valencians, are pyromaniacs to the point to them finding every opportunity to use them (just google Las Fallas and you see what I mean).

Once we'd finished the parts of the territory that we're assigned, all the car groups made their way back to the lunch point which turned out to be a seaside shopping centre. After indulging in a bit of Hungry Jacks, the majority of the group decided it would be nice to have a wander through a tourist village, commonly known as Little Venice.

This place is a quaint little marina where many of the English tourist come in summer to burn their white bodies red raw and to also get away from it all. It is impressive to see that, whilst it was built only a couple of decades ago, it gives the impression of always having been there. From there we all said our goodbyes to everyone and then made our way back into the city, therefore ending a lovely day with our fellow hermanos y hermanas (brothers & sisters).

I know that lately I haven't posted but now things have picked up you are definitely going to see many more photo coming your way soon.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Hi all sorry for not posting anything for a while, but we've just been busy here fitting in. However, now that I have a free moment, I can tell so far what's happened over the last few days. We've begun witnessing in the field and getting used to a different form of the ministry. You see, unlike Australia, major cities in Spain consist primarily of apartments and not houses (as you all probably knew). This means that rather than going door to door you do intercom to intercom. Adding to this, the majority of Valencias English territory hasn't been covered, meaning that at the moment the primary type of witnessing we're doing is search work, which ironically leads to you using more Spanish than English in an English cong. Having said this though, I've been enjoying this different form of the ministry, mainly because it feels like basing our success on helping people grasp the truth rather than focusing on how much literature you place.
As for the photo above, this was part of the Friday 4:30pm group that I (Julian) and Dad worked with. The brother next to me is Josuel who is part of a Spanish congregaion nearby, and the brother next to him is Scott. Both of which have been welcoming to our visit. Sorry for not mentioning a lot today, but I promise more photos and more will be coming your way shortly.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Well we've made it to Valencia, famous for sunny beaches and oranges. For the last two days, we've been finding our way around and getting our bearings around our little home. Speaking of home, let me introduce you to our street. At one end of it, you'll find the farmers market (that's the triangular building in the picture), in which fresh produce is brought everyday and also where we buy our food. As for the apartment, its small but homely and is now starting to feel quite nice. However, this hasn't come about without challenges. The main one we encountered was the hot water for the apartment, and particularly the shower. You see, the apartment has a tiny little water heater that is supposed to cater for the whole apartment, but has the tendency of running cold. This means that we have to split up when we have our showers and when we do the dish washing so that the heater can have enough time to refill and heat more hot water so we don't run out completely. On a positive note though, our method to preserve the hot water is working so far and hasn't lead to a nasty surprise in the shower.

Today we went and checked out the Kingdom Hall to see where it was and what it looks like, so that we don't end up somewhere we'd rather not. The walk there wasn't too long and actually had some cute little laneways coming off the main road. The hall (shown in the picture), was as we expected was modest in appearance, but is probably the cleanest shopfront in the street.

 One thing that you notice as soon as you arrive is that the trees along the footpaths are genuine orange trees. whether you can eat them not is something I intend to look into, when we start to settle into our congregation.   

Today we also bumped into numerous brothers and sister out in their ministry, with most only speaking Spanish (perfect time to practice). The picture above is of last group we met on our travels as we were looking for somewhere to buy Metro cards (I apologise for my stalker like pose, it was unintentional). The brother in the picture is one of the elders in the English cong we'll be going to. His name is Ivan and he was really helpful in giving us a solid rundown of what both the cong and territory are like. He also helped us in knowing what to look for when it comes to Metro tickets.

True, our arrival hasn't been totally smooth, but thanks to Jehovah, he's sure has helped us make a soft landing.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


Well, today has marked our first night in Valencia, in which we've settled into our new home for the next ten weeks. Before this though, we've spent the last two days in Barcelona, which without a doubt is a very impressive city. Our journey there began by visiting the world famous cathedral, La Sangrada Familia (or The Sacred Family).
This unfinished sculpture, which has taken 130 years to construct, was originally the work of the architect Antoni Gaudi, who has designed many other landmarks in Barcelona (which I'll be coming to later). However, in 1926 Gaudi was run over by a tram which had the effect of killing him. This along with the political tension and then civil war in the country halted the progress of the building. Now it faces possibly never being finished as this system draws to a close. Having said that, from architectural point of view this building is unlike anything that's come before it, with even my photos not doing justice.

From there, we made our way through the wide streets, beautiful boulevards and quaint cafes to Gaudi's other famous masterpiece, Park Guel.

And despite losing our way occasionally...

We finally found our way to the park.

This park was the last creation that Gaudi saw completed in 1903. It has been built around Gaudis old house, which if it weren't for my laptops low storage you would be able to see too. Inside his house is a museum that pays tribute to the creator of many of Barcelona's many famous landmarks.

From this park you get what is probably the best view of the city in which you can enjoy the panoramas of Barcelona's city centre.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

So we've made it, and we're spending a few nights in Barcelona. But before we start showing you Spain, we've got a unique pic from our plane. About 17  hours into our flight, we were now comfortably over the Red Sea, and as I (that's Julian speaking) looked out, I thought id take this photo because of what saw. Firstly, if you look out and see that little ribbon of blue that looks like a line through the sand; what your seeing is the Suez Cannel. however, its the second thing I was that made the picture worthwhile. If you look in the Insight Volumes (Volume 1, p537) it shows a map of where the Israelites would've crossed the Red Sea to escape Egypt's army. Well do you see that shallow headland in the bottom left, just above of the plane window and between the clouds? Well that is where the Israelites would've fled through the Red Sea from Egypt's army, for that is the shallowest point of the Red Sea.

As for Spain,today marks our first of our full two days in Barcelona, before we head to Valencia. So stay tuned for more photos coming your way.