Our first stop on this mini-vacation was Berkeley, CA. The city of Berkeley sits on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay. Berkeley is home to the oldest campus in the University of California system, the University of California, Berkeley, which was founded in 1868.
Munich traces its founding to the year 1158. In 1240 the city would pass to the House of Wittelsbach which would govern Munich (and Bavaria) for the next 700 years. Munich prospered as a salt trading center but would be hit hard by the plague in 1349 and it would persist for the next 150 years. The coopers (barrel makers) initiated a ritualistic dance in an effort to bring an end to the plague since their trade was suffering because people were afraid to leave their houses and therefore were not drinking as much beer. This dance continues to be performed every seven years but it is reenacted 3 times daily by the little figures in the Glockenspiel high up on the main tower of the city hall.
Once again, we began our visit to Barcelona with a walking tour. We were told that Romans founded the city in 38 B.C. In the first 200 years they built a walled city that defined the boundaries of Barcelona for the next 1600 years! During this time they had to build higher since they could not build out, given that they could not extend the city beyond the walls. Not until the mid-1850’s did they break out of their medieval walls. People were dying very young from disease caused by the overcrowding. Previously unknown engineer Ildefons Cerda created a plan for the expanded city that turned out to be extraordinarily visionary ultimately leading to him being credited as having defined “urbanization”.
Barcelona is part of Catalonia, an “autonomous community” in the northeast corner of Spain. It is also referred to as a nationality for the people in this region who for centuries have been agitating for the creation of an independent state for Catalonia. Before the 18th century it was a principality of the Crown of Aragon with its own language. Today, Catalan, along with Spanish is the official language of this region.
The city of Madrid has survived centuries of religious and political turmoil to emerge as a world class destination with beautiful architecture and art. The Inquisition, Communist rule, a civil war and more recently, a deadly terrorist bombing in 2004, are all part of Madrid’s past. Today, world class museums, beautiful parks and some of Europe’s most attractive plazas form a very appealing experience. Clearly the world has noticed. We were shocked by the volume of tourists pouring through the streets.