I want to warn you this will be kind of a long post. I visited two cities today that sit about an hour north of Madrid. The first was Avila. And as I stood staring at this walled city, whose walls are intact and original from the 11th century, I came to the realization that wherever I happen to be in Spain, that is my favorite place. The walls average around 36 feet high, but some of the gates are 60 feet high. It has 88 towers and is 1 and a half miles around the old part of the city. Avila is known as the city of the knights, as many came from France and settled here to help with the reconquest from the Muslims. Avila is also know as the land of saints, as many came originally from here. The most famous is Santa Teresa of Avila. She is known for reforming the Carmelite order of nuns. Then she traveled around opening 17 convents of the very same order. There is a church now, that carries her name, in the location of the home where she was born inside the city.
Then after Avila we went to Segovia. Segovia was very important in the lives of Isabel and Ferdinand, the Catholic rulers. Isabel was from a small town near Segovia and was married to Ferdinand in secret. With the marraige, two large kingdoms united beginning the unification that would become Spain. Ferdinand was king of Castilla and Isabel, Queen of Aragon. After being named rulers the two went about conquering other kingdoms around them, at the same time expelling the Muslims and Jews from Spain. The 5 children of Isabel and Ferdinand furthered their aims. Two daughters married princes from Portugal, creating strong allies. The youngest daughter was the famed Catherine of Aragon, who was the first wife of Henry VIII of England. She did not lose her head, but this marriage and subsequent divorce lead to the enmity between France and Spain for centuries to come. The oldest daughter, Juana la Loca (Juana the Mad), married Felipe I introducing the Habsburg lineage of rulers who lasted until 1700. Interestingly enough during this time it was ok for Juana to become head ruler of the country. However, with the Bourbon (French ruling family) take over, a law was instituted that stated a woman could not rule. That law is in place today, but the Spanish congress is in process of overturning it. The current prince Felipe, who is being groomed to take over, only has two daughters. If the monarchy in Spain is to survive, things will have to change.