FocratesPhotography

Travel photography: Spain
Cities and Architecture

June 20, 2022

Introduction

If you have spent some time on my website before, you probably noticed that an article series on Spain already existed before this one. I visited the south of this amazing country in 2015 and even back then I knew that I had to return at some point to see the center and especially the north. This spring, seven years after my first visit, it was finally time to return. The northern part is so different from the south that it's almost hard to believe that this is really the same country. Not only the stark difference in geography and climate, but also in culture is unmissable.

Another thing you might have noticed is that this trip is my first large outing after a rather long, pandemic induced break. Thankfully photography is a bit like riding a bike- you don't unlearn it even if you don't do it in a while. Still, it's not easy picking up the camera with the confidence I put it down almost two years ago. Therefore the results may be not quite be on par with what you're used to.

Regardless, in this first installment I'd like to present some cities and architecture, just like in my previous Spain series.

Toledo

Famous for its long tradition of sword-smithing, Toledo was an important center for Romans, Visigoths, Moors and the Leon-Castilian Kingdom. The conquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085 marked one of the most impactful steps of the Reconquista and established the city as the capital of Spain for half a millennium.

Classic view on Toledo. The Alcázar (Fortress) sits prominently on top of the city.
The Puente de Alcántara was originally built by the Romans and used to be one of the few entrances into the city.
Views from and of the Church of San Ildefonso.

Salamanca

As a border city between the Moorish Andalusia and the Catholic Castile Salamanca especially suffered from the conflict between the two nations as a subject of regular raids. Only after the aforementioned conquest of Toledo did the city finally find peace.

View on the old town form the cathedral.
From a photography point of view especially the new cathedral itself is an interesting subject.
Interior views of the building.

Santiago de Compostela

The final destination of the Caminos de Santiago, one of the most famous network of pilgrim paths in the world, is also the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia.

The cathedral the Santiago sits on the alleged burial ground of the Apostle James the Great which makes it to one of the most important sites for Christian pilgrims worldwide.
The north side with the Plaza de la Azabachería.

Oviedo

Oviedo was a city I especially liked, but more because of the beautiful Asturian Landscape that surrounds it which we will explore in a later article.

The statue of "La Regenta", the main character of the novel of the same name by Leopoldo Alas in front of the Cathedral of San Salvador.
Street corner of Oviedo in the early morning.
A variety of bronze statues are to be found all over the city. This one is showing women selling ceramic products on the market square.

Bilbao

One of the most interesting cities I visited in Spain and the largest city of the Basque Country, Bilbao has managed to transform itself from an industrial town to a cultural and economic center. It has undergone a major aesthetic revitalization process and is now definitely one of Spain's most beautiful cities.

The iconic Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry is the city's most famous sight.
Views on the Ría de Bilbao - the river which separates the historic old town and the revitalized modern part of the city.

Pamplona

Although a charming little town in Navarra, especially famous for the annual bull run, from a photographic perspective I didn't find much that struck my eye. Even the picturesque main square was unfortunately filled up with rather ugly market stands and made photography very difficult.

With a bit of creativity I managed to get this unusual view of the Plaza del Castillo, minimizing the impact of the market stands.

Zaragoza

In contrast to Pamplona, Zaragoza offered an abundance of interesting photo spots, especially along the river Ebro.

The cathedral Our Lady of the Pillar in combination with the river Ebro offers many interesting perspectives under different conditions.
Street life in the Calle de Alfonso I. The cathedral is visible in the background.
An especially interesting architectonic detail is this remainder of the facade on the other cathedral of the city, the Cathedral del Salvador. It is a remainder of the Moorish mosque but with Gothic windows installed at a later point in time. This type of Islamic-Christian fusion is quite unique.
Spire of the third important church on the Plaza del Pilar, San Juan de los Panetes.

Madrid

Since Philipp II moved the Spanish court to Madrid in 1561, it has been the cultural, economical and political center of the country. It is by far the largest city in Spain and one of the largest in the EU.

The presidential palace is the official residence of the Spanish royal family.
The Almudena Cathedral. The building on left is again the palace.
Interior view of the cathedral and its prominent organ.
The Monument to Alfonso XII in Buen Retiro Park.
The Palacio de Cristal is another well-known structure in the park and is nowadays used for art exhibitions.

I hope you enjoyed this little introduction to my Spain trip. In the following articles I plan on showing some of the spectacular landscapes and of course some wildlife photography is also usually a mandatory part of my travels.

To be continued…

Thanks for reading!


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