Cadiz: Day 2

We woke up to a very overcast morning. While not yet raining, it seemed that almost every local was carrying an umbrella – finally, a test to see who actually lives here!

This looked like a nice plaza on which to have a quiet morning coffee. What you don’t see, however, are the self-styled ”Los Gorditos.” That is, there were two enormously rotund gentlemen working in the cafe where Mikey randomly stopped for coffee. One was in the kitchen and the other was serving drinks. At one point, the two 350lbs+ men tried to pass each other and got stuck behind the narrow bar. Mikey must have looked quite startled because they both began laughing and one told us that this sometimes happens with slightly ”chubby” men! Mikey skipped the sugar in his latte.

Since it had begun sprinkling rain, we decided to do a few indoor activities. First up was a visit to the City Museum.

For background, let’s just say that Cadiz is the oldest inhabited city in Western Europe if not the whole of the European continent. While there exist stone tools from 600,000 BCE, even more reliable are the plethora of Phoenician artifacts concerning governance and both inter- and intra-city trade.

Those walls we talked about last time? Yes, they held back the sea, but Cadiz has been controlled by neanderthals, varying tribes of early homo-sapiens, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and various barbarians, North Africans, Moorish Caliphates, and Christian Spain (to highlight a few). Apparently, the city’s earliest recorded name of Gades or Gadis took on several variations (such as the Islamic Quadis) before finally becoming Cadiz at some point during the post-medieval, Christian period of dominance.

Whew! Are you still with us? If so, here are some highlights from the museum:

These two sarcophagi (yeah, how often do you get to use the plural of sarcophagus?!) were discovered in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The male was discovered first and had been buried in 470 BCE. But the big find occurred when his older female relative (buried in 400 BCE) was discovered in the 1980’s. Oh, and she had a flask built into her sarcophagus (go granny!).

These are examples of 5th-century BCE jewelry. As they have holes drilled through them for use in necklaces or bracelets, Mikey dubbed them “Phoenician Pandora.”

This is an early Hellenistic iron casting seemingly depicting Heracles, the son of the Greek god Zeus. But…as mentioned before, Cadiz changed hands frequently. In fact, this occurred so often that they had to co-opt gods into an ever-changing pantheon of deities. Ergo, the above is actually a statue of the Phoenician god Melkart (relating to life, death, and the protection of trade and sailors) who formed the basis of Heracles. Who is Heracles? Well, the Romans renamed him Hercules!

Oh, and speaking of the Romans – they just had to try to outdo everyone! Just see how colossally tall this Roman statue is when compared with the Greek statue behind it. (Yes, pedestal aside, it is about 1.5 times larger than its Greek predecessor.)

But, the Romans had pretty cool floors. This one was from somebody’s house in Cadiz. How cool is that?

Oh, wait – that guy was a nazi! (Insert joke here to segue from nazi reference.) No, we know that this is an ancient symbol that appears in almost all cultures around the world. Still, Mikey balked for a second when first noticing it. What can we say? “Thanks, Adolf for spoiling it for the rest of us.”

Jugs. Let’s talk about jugs. OK? Actually, these are amphorae (damn…that’s the plural of amphora!) Used to transport liquids such as wine and oils, they have the noticeably conical bases which aided in storage during transit by sea.

Ok, this shot is a little creepy. We’ll give you that. But, it was the entrance to the Roman Theatre in Cadiz. Second-largest in all the Roman Empire, this theatre is evidence of Cadiz’ importance due chiefly to trade.

Sure, the seats are a bit run-down, but they were built on a natural slope and were the hight of technology at the time. Oh, here’s a fun fact: it wasn’t until 55 BCE that the Roman Republic’s ruler Pompey allowed permanent theatres. Up to that point, they had to be temporarily constructed for specific events and torn down at the completion of said festivities. Let’s just say that Pompey lasted a mere 7 years after this declaration, but these theatre ruins (constructed in the late 1st-century BCE) are still around.

Here’s a graphic representation of what the theatre would have looked like. Oh, and the next time you feel crowded at yet another high school’s rendition of Our Town, just know that this little gem housed over 20,000 spectators! #noideaofpersonalspace

Ok, sorry to do this to you, but Mikey wants to post a video of the theatre ruins. Our apologies in advance and please turn down the speakers if you don’t want to hear the 1980’s travel music.

Assuming that you are still with us (or skipped the above) let’s go “back to the future” and chat about that time when Spain wanted to have a constitution.

The year was 1812. Cadiz, a small but important town on an Atlantic peninsula seemed a world away from the Spanish Royal Court in Madrid. From 1811 to early 1813, dignitaries from the provinces of Spain met largely in the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri. With private, covered entrances, the altar covered in a sheet, and an image of the sitting Spanish king covered, the dignitaries hashed out an early plan to wrestle Spain out of an outdated European feudal economy and into modernity complete with freely elected officials.

Could one say’ “¿Tarta en los cielos?” (Pie in the sky?)

Like many other churches in Cadiz, photography was not permitted. Oops. Seriously, though, Mikey’s first impression of this chapel was that it would be the perfect stage for a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. (Just throwing that out there, University of Cadiz Drama Department!)

Ok, kind of recycling this picture from yesterday, but the nearly torrential rain and 35-50mph wind prevented much useful exterior photography.

This is a shot from the choir loft. It really is a beautiful church.

This is the main altar.

Ok – this is a moveable paso, or float. At first, Mikey thought some art students had gotten carried away with aluminum foil. Nope – it’s pure silver. Yep – the whole thing. It’s also the only example in all of Spain of a hand-carried completely silver float. Yeah, check your local listings for that one in the next homecoming parade.

The crypt, centrally located below the center of the cathedral, had a very shallow dome. Coupled with the bricked walls, lamps, and statues, Mikey suddenly got flashbacks to Wolfenstein 3D and started tailing this German family.

This is a collection of old hymnals. Prior to Kinkos and the modern printing press, hand written choir hymnals were gigantic and were placed on large stands for all to share. Well, at least you didn’t have to turn to the correct page in your own book.

This is a collection of bishop robes. Apparently, he really liked red.

Cadiz takes the siesta very seriously insofar as there is practically no food available from 4-8pm. As such, Mikey decided to wander around and ended up walking the perimeter of much of the city along its sea walls. (Oh, and it was still raining and the wind was gusting like crazy.)

With a little time left to go before dinner, we decided to get a jump on tomorrow’s Sherry tasting at Taberna Manzanilla. Full disclosure: Mikey is not well versed in Sherry, so there will probably be some catching up to do.

Interestingly, many bartenders in Andalusia keep track of what patrons have ordered by writing it directly on the bar top with chalk. The fun part? It’s always written in code only the staff knows.

Following the rib overload from last night, we decided to go with croquettes and grilled veggies. Very filling, but no later regrets!

It had started to rain again, so Mikey headed back to the hostel to shower and pack for the morning. Still, he wanted to say bye to the cathedral one last time.

Good night, Cadiz.