Well, I’ve now got most of my hassle of moving jobs, country, language etc. sorted out now. (OK, the last one was a lie; I still can’t communicate. I just about managed to get some throat sweets this morning though.) Unfortunately, to my great distress, my favourite and most useful textbook, Solar System Dynamics by Murray & Dermott, is MIA after the move! While it awaits recovery or replacement (I’d rather it were recovery–it’s got 4 years’ worth of marginalia inside!) here are some more photos of Madrid…

I was surprised to learn on moving here how modern the city is. As I’d done some reading up on Spanish history before I came, I had learned that it was relatively unimportant in the Mediæval period, only being adopted as the seat of the monarchy during the reign of Felipe II (him of Spanish Armada fame) in the late 16th Century. So there are precious few Mediæval buildings left. An example is San Jerónimo el Real, built in the early 16th Century but extensively restored in the 19th.

San Jerónimo el Real

The church of San Jerónimo el Real, close to the Prado museum.

However, what surprised me more was really how few of the important buildings date to the Siglo de Oro, the “Golden Age” of the 16th to 17th Centuries. An example is Plaza Mayor, laid down at the turn of the 17th Century, albeit with some restoration following later fires &c.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor, surrounded by tapas bars. Rather pricey, but very tasty!

Many of the most famous buildings are rather modern: The Palacio Real, for example, built in the mid 18th Century…

Palacio Real

The South facade of the Palacio Real.

…and the Prado, built at the end of the 18th Century:

The Prado

The North facade of the Prado.

In my naïveté I had imagined that this time period, which geopolitically would be regarded as the time of the decline of the Spanish Empire, would have engendered less civic architecture, but that is not the case indeed! Development continued throughout the 19th Century, including buildings such as the Biblioteca Nacional:

Biblioteca Nacional

Biblioteca Nacional, the National Library. To make this post tangentially related to celestial mechanics, the figure seated at front right is King Alfonso "The Wise" of Castille, who ordered the compilation of the Alphonsine Tables of planetary positions, used in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.

The 20th Century saw transformation of Madrid’s skyline with the introduction of skyscrapers, one of the first being the Telefonica building:


The Telefónica building on the Gran Vía.

To one used to the more modest architecture of Cambridge, all the tall buildings here felt somewhat overbearing at first. I am, however, grateful for the shade they provide from the Sun here (note sparsity of clouds in these pictures!)