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Aragon and Catalonia, and, after a course of 123 Spanish leagues, discharges itself into the Mediterranean near Amposta.
Between Miranda and Burgos the country consists for the most part of extensive levels destitute of trees, and at this season nothing can be more desolate than these arid plains. Harvest being over, the crops have been removed; the fields are without grass, weeds, or vegetation of any kind, and the heat is so great that the yellow stubble has been consumed and turned into dust, so that you cannot distinguish the ground which was cultivated from that which has been left waste. There are no detached farm-houses, or houses of any kind, to enliven the scene, the agricultural population being collected in small towns or villages, vary. ing generally from three hundred to five hundred inhabitants. In the neighbourhood of most of these places, good crops of wheat, barley, and other grains are raised; but there are large tracts uncultivated, and agriculture seems to be in a very backward state. The produce of the fields is generally carried on the backs of mules or asses. We read in Scripture of the ox that treadeth out the corn ; and here this primitive custom is exemplified. In the open fields an ox or a mule is driven round a circle, dragging after it a kind of wooden sledge with a stone or heavy weight upon it, and this is the mode adopted to separate the grain from the straw. At Pancorbo there are sierras or mountain ridges, which vary
a little the monotony of the plains. Here in a narrow pass, with high perpendicular rocks on each side, through which a small stream flows, there is a small town, with 1568 inhabitants. During the Peninsular war the French constructed a strong castle at this place, which had a garrison of eight hundred men; but the works have since been destroyed.
Though Burgos has lost much of its ancient glory, it is still a place of considerable importance, with 26,026 inhabitants. Situated on the declivity of a hill on the banks of the Arlanzon, the capital of Old Castile is the seat of an archbishop, and the residence of a captain-general, with a considerable garrison of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. The river is crossed by three stone bridges, which lead to a suburb called Vega. A gate which opens on one of these bridges is an imposing architectural structure, ornamented with statues and stone carvings. It was built to commemorate the founders of the Spanish monarchy.
Burgos was the birthplace of the famous Castilian hero Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, better known as the Cid, whose romantic adventures in his combats with the Moors form the subject of the earliest poem in the Spanish language. Here also was born Fernan Gonzales, the first Count of Castile, in whose honour a triumphal arch has been erected in the town.
One of the peculiarities of Burgos is the great number of its convents -nine for friars and ten for nuns. By the law of the Cortes in 1836 which suppressed the monastic orders, the friars have been ex-cloistered, and the convents for nuns are only spared during the lives of the present occupants.
Burgos is well supplied with fountains, and has a beautiful promenade on the banks of the Arlanzon, ornamented with statues erected in honour of Don Fernan Gonzales, Don Alonzo, Don Enrique II., and Don FerDando I. This is a fashionable resort after sunset, especially on Sunday evenings, when a military band performs, and even the priests take their share in these recreations, their dark robes and curiously-shaped hats
contrasting well with the gay uniforms of the officers of the garrison. In the middle of the town there is a place of an irregular form, which is surrounded by buildings with arcades, having in the centre a statue of Charles III. As this is the market-place, it presents in the morning a spectacle of some interest to a stranger, being crowded with petty dealers and groups of peasants in picturesque costumes, standing or sitting in the midst of their asses and mules, and doing their best to dispose of their small stores of fruits, vegetables, and other country produce. The Castilians of the lower classes are good-natured, but slow and indolent; they dawdle over their work, singing snatches of old ballads very much out of tune; and it often occurred to us that they might profit by the advice “ to move on" (" Anda! anda !"), which the diligence-drivers in this country are constantly giving to their mules.
But the glory of Burgos centres in its cathedral. This fine specimen of Gothic architecture was commenced in 1221, but was not finished till some centuries after. It has two steeples with pointed spires finely sculptured, and a tower surmounts the centre of the transept. All the resources of art have been lavished on this building. The principal façade has three magnificent portals, embellished with statues and a profusion of figures, flowers, and foliage. There are two aisles, and a more elevated central nave, and the transept, which was rebuilt in the middle of the sixteenth century, is of admirable workmanship. The interior of the cathedral, without reckoning the chapels, is 300 Spanish feet in length, and 250 feet in breadth. The high altar is richly adorned with sculptures and arabesques, and the choir, which is very large, with two rows of stalls, is remarkable for its elaborate bas-reliefs of subjects taken from the Old Testament. In the chapel of the Constable (Capilla de Condestable) there is a tomb of white marble, with a statue of Velasco, Constable of Castile, and another of his wife, with her little dog by her side, all admirably sculptured. The spacious cloisters have recesses, which are filled with tombs of high dignitaries, decorated with statues the size of life, of prelates in episcopal costume and knights in armour.
A winding road close to the cathedral leads to the hill on which the famous Castle of Burgos stands. The word “castle,” however, does not convey a correct idea of the place, for you see no building corresponding to our notions of a castle, but a steep hill surrounded with fortifications, and having quarters for troops on the summit. The works are very extensive, and naturally very strong, but though they are occupied by a garrison, they appear to be in a very neglected state. A walk round the battlements on the summit of the hill affords a fine view of the town and its environs, the Carthusian monastery of Miraflores, the windings of the Arlanzon, and the whole surrounding country.
FROM BURGOS TO MADRID.
The journey from Burgos to Madrid occupies about twenty-six hours, and it is difficult to conceive a country so uninviting, or one which possesses so few objects of interest. Had we gone round by Valladolid the case might have been different; but the heat was so great that we were glad to take the shortest route to the Spanish capital by Lerma and Aranda
and the pass of Somosierra ; and as there was no convenient restingplace by the way, we had no alternative but to push on, exposed to a burning sun during the day, and the cold winds from the mountains during the night.
The farther we advanced into Castile the country became more arid and deserted:
Far as the eye could reach no tree was seen,
Earth clad in russet scorn’d the lively green. Few houses were visible except in the small towns or villages, and when we came upon a detached venta, or country-house, it had a very gloomy and forbidding aspect, surrounded with high walls, with no windows near the ground, and those in the upper story secured by iron bars, just as you could fancy the place might have been when the people were exposed to incursions from the Moors. On the main road there was little traffic. Occasionally we met a diligence with its long train of mules covered with dust; but there were no private carriages of any kind, though we passed from time to time a burly muleteer with his covered waggon, one or two peasants riding on mules, or a string of asses loaded with straw driven by a woman or a boy. One omen of evil augury attracted our notice. At various places near the side of the road we observed a small cross of black-painted wood, which we were told indicated the spot where some one had met a violent death, leaving full scope to the imagination to conjecture what might be the circumstances of each fatal catastrophe.
Between Burgos and Madrid there are hardly any towns or villages deserving of notice. Lerma, with 2327 inhabitants, stands on high ground near the river Arlanza, and has a large palace which was built by the duke of that name, who was the favourite minister of Philip III. Near Lerma we met a gang of convicts escorted by gendarmes. These unfortunate men were travelling on foot in the hottest part of the day, loaded with manacles and covered with dust. At the end of the next stage the diligence stopped nearly an hour for supper at Aranda, a place of some antiquity, with 5197 inhabitants, situated on a plain on the right bank of the Duero, which is here crossed by a stone bridge of three arches. Rising in the sierra of Urbion to the north of Soria, the Duero, called by the Portuguese Douro, traverses Old Castile, Leon, and Portugal
, and, after a course of 130 Spanish leagues, during which it receives numerous affluents, discharges itself into the Atlantic at Oporto. At a short distance from Aranda are the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Clunia ; but we had no opportunity of examining them.
Passing some insignificant villages in the province of Segovia, we crossed, about twelve leagues beyond Aranda, the mountain pass of Somosierra, which is 4950 feet above the sea; and this is about the mean elevation of the range which goes under that name. Near the summit there is a small village, and just before entering it you reach the territorial boundary which separates the two Castiles and the basins of the Duero and the Tagus. From the Somosierra pass the mountain range runs south-west, and is called the Sierra de Guadarrama, which is the source of the Manzanares, and the same range, after being prolonged through Spain under different names, enters Portugal, where it terminates to the west of Lisbon. The table-land of Spain,
which is from 2000 to
3000 feet above the sea-level, is divided into two parts of nearly equal extent by this chain of mountains. That part to the north of it is called the table-land of Old Castile and Leon ; while the part to the south is called the table-land of New Castile and Estremadura.
Times have changed since the “young American” travelled in Spain, when highway robberies were so common that he provided himself with a cheap pinchbeck watch, in order to be robbed of it, while his valuable gold repeater was concealed in the heel of his boot--a device, however, which he says proved unavailing, for, when the evil day came, both watches fell a prey to the remorseless banditti. Fortunately, we encountered no such perils. A well-appointed military police now watches over the security of the roads, having stations at suitable places, from which small detachments are sent out to the wildest and most unfrequented districts. Shortly after daybreak we were startled by some of these soldiers suddenly rising among the rocks in a mountainous region where no other human beings were to be seen.
We entered Madrid by the gate of Bilbao about two P.m., and alighted at the Fonda de la Viscaina, near the Puerta del Sol, which we found a very comfortable hotel. Being covered with dust and prostrated by the heat, we lost no time in proceeding to the baths of Diana, where we enjoyed the luxury of a cold bath, and this, followed by two hours of sleep, refreshed us wonderfully.
All round Madrid the country is a sandy desert, except on one side, where there are some woods, in the valley of the Manzanares. According to the last census, the town contains 281,170 inhabitants. It is the highest metropolis in Europe, the astronomical observatory being 2281 Spanish feet above the level of the sea. From its great elevation, the cold is severely felt in winter; but in summer the heat is excessive, the mean temperature being about 15 degs. higher than in London, while the thermometer frequently rises above 100 degs. of Fahrenheit. So great was the heat during our visit, that few people were to be seen on the streets during the day; but the principal thoroughfares were much crowded after sunset.
In its general aspect, Madrid is essentially a modern town ; it possesses few antiquities, and hardly any public buildings which date further back than the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It abounds with fountains of excellent water. The two best streets are the Calle Alcala, which is very broad, and remarkable for the large number of its public buildings; and the Calle Mayor, in which there are some excellent shops. Near this is an old tower, in which Francis I. was for some time detained a prisoner by the Emperor Charles V. The Plaza Mayor, which is 434 feet in length by 334 in breadth, is surrounded with lofty stone buildings, with rows of granite pillars forming arcades ; and in the centre there is an equestrian statue of Philip III., which does not rank high as a work of art. Here bull-fights were exhibited to the inhabitants at the marriage of the present queen. The Puerta del Sol, which is now undergoing extensive alterations, is an open area, where a considerable number of the principal streets converge, and it is much resorted to by all classes of the community, being in the vicinity of the Exchange and the General Post-office. The palace of the Cortes is a modern building in the French style, which reflects little credit on the architect. Opposite this, in the centre of the square, there is a bronze statue of Cervantes.
At Madrid the daily papers are sold in the streets at a very moderate price. We purchased a copy of the Correspondencia Autografa for two quartos, being rather less than a halfpenny. In Spain the periodical press is subject to the censorship, and the newspapers bear some resemblance to those of France, having a considerable part of their space occupied with works of fiction.
Though the churches are numerous, they are not remarkable either for their architecture or their internal decorations. One recently built, called the church of Calatrava, has a fresco painting on the façade fronting the street representing the present king devoutly submitting the plan of the church to the Virgin Mary—a strange anachronism, which has been very freely criticised. The heroic rising of the inhabitants on the 2nd of May, 1808, which compelled the French to evacuate Madrid, and roused the whole Spanish nation, is commemorated by an obelisk on the Prado. On the sides of the pedestal the names of the Spaniards who fell on the memorable Dos de Mayo are engraved in golden letters.
On the western extremity of the town stands the royal palace, a magnificent building in the Grecian style, which is considered one of the finest royal residences in Europe. It is built on the site of the old Alcazar inhabited by Philip II., which was burnt to the ground in 1734. Near the palace is a public garden, and beyond this are the woods in the valley of the Manzanares, where there is a country-house (casa del campo) belonging to the royal family. In the hot season the favourite residence of the court is at San Ildefonso, where the queen is now' living
In the Royal Armoury, near the palace, there is an extensive collection of armour of different epochs, well arranged and in excellent preservation. Besides suits worn by illustrious Spaniards, there are here some Moorish weapons with Arabic inscriptions.
Close to the Prado, on the eastern side of the town, is the picturegallery—one of the greatest attractions of Madrid. Villanueva designed the building, which is an imposing structure, with Doric colonnades and a well-arranged interior. Many of the best paintings which formerly decorated the Escurial have been brought to this collection, which has been described as containing a greater number of good pictures, with fewer bad ones, than any other gallery in Europe. A large saloon, bearing the inscription “Spanish School” (Escuela Española), is filled almost entirely with the works of Velasques, Murillo, and José Ribera, who is, perhaps, better known by his Italian nickname of Spagnolettothe little Spaniard. Many of the paintings of Murillo were executed for churches and convents, and his works are more widely diffused than those of Velasques. A very large proportion of the pictures of Velasques were painted for Philip IV., a great patron of art, who placed them in the royal palaces, where they passed from one dynasty to another, so that they suffered little from the French invasion; and comparatively few of this great master's works have found their way into foreign countries. Here, therefore, Velasques is to be seen in all his glory.
Two saloons are devoted to the works of the Flemish and German artists, which are numerous and valuable. In the “ Sala Grande” there are paintings by Italian, French, and Spanish masters. Another apartment, called the “Queen's Reposing Room,” is filled with portraits of the royal family of Spain for several generations back; and as they are a very