Friday, December 14, 2012

Belchite VI

I spent just one afternoon walking the ruins of Belchite. The fog was heavy and I was the only person in the entire wrecked village. If there was a ever a place that I've been that felt haunted by it's past, it was there.

After Belchite I knew I was afraid to go into action again. I tried all this time to overcome my feeling of fear. I felt we were doomed and fighting futilely. I dropped out of line and made up my mind to desert and try and reach France.

-Paul White. White deserted the lines and was later court martialed and executed by his commanders

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Belchite V

Openly gay soldiers served amongst the ranks of the Lincolns. After sharp shooter Wallace Burton was killed at Belchite by a single shot from the church tower, his lover Millie Bennet wrote:  

It doesn't yet seem possible that my stout, vital, life-loving darling is part of the that barren Aragon mesa.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Belchite IV

Some of the Lincolns found it only fitting that the ultra-Catholic fascists tended to make their last stands inside of churches.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Belchite III

We had to go forward. Yet that seemed like suicide. On the other hand, if we stayed in the trench we'd be picked off like sitting ducks. And a retreat over bare ground would cost more lives than an attack. Therefore we had to go forward.

 -Steve Nelson, Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Nelson took bullets to the face and groin but survived the battle.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Belchite II

In his history of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade -a battalion of American's who fought in the war alongside the Republican army- Peter Carroll describes the role the Lincoln's played in the battle: 

The Americans fell under heavy sniper fire from the hovering church tower and immediately began to count heavy casualties. By the end of the first day, all the company commanders and many of the adjutants had been killed. 


...In one assault 22 men started towards the town. None made it; only two survived.


Sunday, December 9, 2012


For three weeks at the end of the summer in 1937, the full fury of the Spanish civil war was concentrated on a small farming village a few hours northwest of Madrid. Belchite.

The Republicans (ie: coalition of loyalists, socialists, communists, anarchists and many others) first attacked the town to take pressure off the Nationalist (ie:fascists, rebels, German and Italian military support all led by Franco) advance elsewhere across the northwest. Belchite was heavily fortified by 4,000 - 7,000 Nationalist soldiers, and it took days of siege warfare, finally ending in house-to-house fighting before the Republicans claimed the town.

A member of the International Brigade fighting alongside the Spanish Republicans, Bill Bailey described the fighting: We would knock a hole through a wall with a pickaxe, throw in a few hand-grenades, make the hole bigger, climb through into the next house, and clear it from cellar to attic. And by God we did this, hour after hour. The dead were piled in the street, almost a story high, and burnt. The engineers kept pouring on gasoline until the remains sank down. Then they came with big trucks and swept up the ashes. The whole town stank of burning flesh.

The Republican "victory" was to be short-lived. Days later, Franco's troops struck back and successfully dislodged the Republicans from Belchite with a combination of air and artillery fire. They also effectively destroyed the town.

This was not a unique outcome during the Spanish civil war, but for some reason Franco declared that Belchite was not to be touched after the war. By highest order, Belchite would not be leveled or rebuilt, rather it would stand as a reminder to the war.

Depending on your views of the war (and Franco), Belchite was preserved either as a reminder to the horrors of war, or a reminder as to what happens to villages that dare to cross Franco.

Almost 40 years after Franco's death and the remains of Belchite still stand, untouched since 1938.  The ruins are hard to find, and there are almost no markers along any of the twisting back roads that wind through the nearby agricultural plains.  But it is there, and you can visit, and you should.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Memento Mori.

"Good god, how time carries on; it passes us all. My husband and son are gone, but here I am."
While visiting an elderly woman being cared for by the municipal government. The sum total of her life's possessions fit on her bedside table.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Three different views of the beautiful cathedral on the banks of the river of Zaragoza. Pilar, the patron saint of the Americas, is the namesake of the cathedral. Inside are flags from all of the countries in the Americas with historical connections to the Spanish empire. This means the ol' stars and bars are in there, but definitely not any maple leaves.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Sacrifice.

The inevitable postscript to Eid Al-Adha. Along with the piles of sheep skulls and hooves roasting on fire pits all over town, we were also treated to mounds of sheep hides still tinted with blood.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kick Back.

Caught a ride into town on big bro's moped. Check. Kickass argyle sweater. Check. Helmet off to display the new haircut. Check. Time to sit back and let the ladies swarm.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Light of Day.

And the same market by day features this classic game that I know well from summers at the California State Fair. Just as popular in Morocco as it was back home.
Not found at the State Fair; table full of teeth. Are they for sale? Trade? Buying up used teeth? Some kind of display table for an Amway-style direct sales tooth business? I guess we'll never know.

Monday, November 26, 2012


The famous night market of Marrakech. Snake charmers, fortune tellers, games, monkeys, orange juice, grilled meats and all other manner of items for sale in this large open square.
The upside of being a former French colony: fresh snails by the bowl. Just pull up a chair.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Passing Ghost in the Old City.

And my very favorite photo from our week long visit. By evening, the cruise ship passengers had been ferried back to their waiting behemoth floating cities. Just as the sun set, a fast moving storm blew in and scared off the rest of the visitors. We were lucky enough to duck into a restaurant just as the sky opened up and by the time we were finished with the fresh calamari, sardines, swordfish and mussels; the rain had cleared. Here, Lydia stands in front of the Rector's Palace in Dubrovnik. Only a passing ghost manages to get into the shot.

Monday, October 29, 2012

See it Now.

And finally, the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik. Formerly the Republic of Ragusa, the modern city's name is derived from the once huge swaths of oak groves covering the hillsides. You can get a slight sense of the dark green patches that must have once run down all the way to the sea. Croatia joins the EU in 2013, which means that the thousands and thousands of tourists deposited daily into Dubrovnik by cruise ship, plane and bus will only increase. But if Dubrovnik could recover from the 1991 bombardment by Serbian forces, I'm sure it can survive some German tourists in sandals and black socks.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

East West.

Sunset over the harbor at Vela Luka. Photo credit goes to Lydia, especially after I said it couldn't be done. We spent the night in Vela Luka in a modern hotel that featured such Po-Mo touches as a shower with glass walls and pull down shades; and a toilet without any door or wall or privacy at all. Western European concept, Eastern European execution. Modernist design can be dangerous in the wrong hands.
The old walled city of Korcula as we motor the short distance back to the mainland. Here is a lovely gem straight from Wikipedia about the old Korcula town: All of KorĨula's narrow streets are stepped with the notable exception of the street running alongside the southeastern wall. The street is called the Street of Thoughts as one did not have to worry about the steps.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Korcula, Croatia.

Another day, another island and another rest along the way. A small flowering meadow on Korcula.
Olives ripening on the vine.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

To the Top.

Did I mention that we were riding bicycles? We were riding bicycles. And on this day we were riding to the highest point on Brac, a little over 2,500 feet up up up. Anyway, as I was climbing one of the last steep sections, very slowly, I noticed this beetle and decided to stop and take a photo. A dung beetle! I'd never actually seen one outside of the National Geographic channel.
After I got my photo and climbed back on the bike, I was having a lot of trouble getting my feet back into my toe cages. After a few moments I realized that was because I was having trouble controlling my legs. Because that's how tired I was. Not a great sign. About 10 minutes later I'd made it to the top and was able to take a rest and drink some water. The view was worth it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nice Tie.

I'm sure at some point a child played with this, and probably even cared for it dearly. But while in a small stone house deep in the Croatian hills, I could only see this doll as a real life prop from a horror movie.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Things Along the Way.

Another gorgeous day on Brac Island, this time crossing from Pucisca to Bol, with a detour climbing to the highest point, Vidova Gora. I'm sure this village has a name, I don't know it.
Picking olives along the roadside.
A few very friendly donkeys just enjoying the view.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Under Way.

Goodbye to Split while on our way to Brac Island. A beautiful day with calm seas.
Taking a break on Brac Island. On the road from Supetar to Pucisca, looking out over the rooftops and back toward mainland Croatia. We would later have dinner and spend the night in a 15th century palace on the harbor in Pucisca. Just another day in the Adriatic.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Up Early.

Sunrise over Split, Croatia. While on vacation I couldn't sleep, so rather I got to see the last few revelers from the night before filing out of Club Tropic while the cleaning crew started in with their vacuums.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

From West Africa to Madrid.

Selling handbags on Madrid's Magnificent Mile while an advertisement from Vogue's Fashion Week looks on.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Arts and Crafts.

Here is a photo of Spanish President Mariano Rajoy.
Here is a photo of someone attempting to strangle a puppet Mariano Rajoy holding scissors that he will use to cut the government budget.
I have no opinion on the sentiment expressed in this photo, but I do think this is a pretty impressive crafts project that someone spent a lot of time on. They've really captured his likeness.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Naturally, all that protesting really works up a thirst.
And, I mean, down the with the capitalist, right-wing, war machine and all that, but you can still enjoy a leisurely lunch with wine and cheese and cured ham. Right?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Another Weekend, Another Protest.

Of course, the Spanish are expert protesters, it seems there is some sort of crowd somewhere every weekend. Every now and then there are arrests or an injury, but for the most part everyone behaves. A bit of very loud whistling.
Some (Communist?) flag waving and chanting. The chants mostly consisted of swearing at the president or simply "Huelga! (Strike!)"
And as you can see, the police weren't particularly concerned either. No helmets or shields. No batons or even intimidating numbers of police. Everyone just sort of does their own thing and then heads home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Big protests across Madrid this weekend, huge crowds out in the streets upset about cuts to government spending.
Various interest groups protesting budget cuts that affect them. Firefighters from the north marching against budget cuts:
Teachers with giant green pencils protest cuts to public education:
And here are music teachers protesting cuts to music education. This group was marching while playing Darth Vader's theme.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012