Group of European Pensioners from Savings Banks and Financial Institutions


Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 15

400 European pensioners from Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Scotland and Germany followed the trace of Don Quixote of la Mancha and his friends during one week in the 16th Euromeeting. We stayed at the hotel Beatriz of Toledo, the capital city of Castilla-La Mancha. The city is 65 kms in to the southwest of Madrid and enclosed by the river Tagus, which is the largest river in the Iberian Peninsula with 1007 kms.

This year the slogan of the General Assembly was 'The intergenerational solidarity'. The representatives of each country expounded to the rest of members their points of view about the subject. It is important to maintain family ties, and at the same time establish a group of friends with people of your age and others who are younger.

Like this, we can achieve a lasting life coexistence at an old age and between generations and the development of a new quality of life. In addition, the governments are demanded to create some satisfactory economic and social conditions: acceleration the economic growth, stop poverty, equality for women at work, make possible an appropriate education and dictate some laws focused on families.

The fact that our society is growing older is one of the most important challenges of the future. We only can overcome it together with all the generations. The intergenerational solidarity is not something obvious. It can only exist if it is given and received. Therefore, the basis to the capacity of future capacity of our society is common sense.

The speech of Mr. Dominique Christian, Professor of Philosophy, about 'The crisis, change in the individual and collective behaviour' was impressive. Irresponsible bankers have lost exorbitant amounts of money all around the world due to their uncontrolled speculations in the Stock Market. And, what is more, governments give subsidies to the banks with our money from the taxes we pay in order to guarantee the financial system stability. It is extremely unjust that citizens must pay these debts.

For this reason, the BCI must supervise and control all these sectors of the financial field. Also, some other financial companies should create reserve funds to the next crisis.

The European pensioners of the Savings Banks wrote 20 years ago the 'Declaration of Brussels' that was aimed to document their link with the savings banks. In that declaration they defined their identity and aims in the context of the social wellbeing in the political and social level.

This year we knew the interior Spain thanks to the extraordinary organization of the Euromeeting team and Halcón Viajes. The first destination was the city of Toledo. Its singular situation, picturesque urban aspect and the extraordinary monuments and buildings make that the visit of the city could be compared with a travel in a time machine: the whole city seems to be a museum. Houses with only a few windows, lattice balconies and open courtyards show the oriental influence; whereas in the Christian period a lot of churches, monasteries and hospitals were built. The Toledan steels (like swords) and marquetry pieces bathed in gold or silver are very famous.

Our walk around the old quarter started in the wall of the city near the San Martín Bridge of 30 meters height, from which we could have the spectacular view of the river Tagus canyon. By the Puerta del Cambrón we arrived in the Jewish quarter. The Jewish community was the biggest in the Iberian Peninsula up to 1492. There are still two synagogues of the Middle Ages called Del Tránsito and Santa María la Blanca. Both synagogues were used as churches when the Jewish were expelled.

In the northwest of the Jewish quarter we find the Monastery of the Franciscan San Juan de los Reyes. In the austere exterior of the church we still can see the chains of the liberated Christian captives. The shields of the Catholic Monarchs fastened by eagles and the choir vault placed in the middle of the nave are worth to be seen. The cloister, with flamboyant Gothic style, has a wooden roof with a Mudejar coffered ceiling decorated with geometrical shapes. The courtyard is adorned with orange trees full of oranges.

Our guide Javier drove us along the narrow streets to the Town Hall Square where the Cathedral, built between 1226 and 1492, is placed. In addition, is the second biggest cathedral of Spain, after the cathedral of Seville, and the fourth in Europe. Its features of the Islamic architecture, unusual distribution of the space and the decoration of Mudejar style are the factors that make the Cathedral the most interesting monument of the city. The golden Main Chapel, composed by four sections, is formed by live-sized figures that represent episodes of the New Testament. On the altar placed in the Choir we can see the Virgen Blanca, a smiling Virgin of the XIII century. In the Sacristy there is an extraordinary picture collection of artists like El Greco, Van Dyk, Rafael, Tiziano and Caravaggio. In the Chapel of Saint John we visited the Treasure of the Cathedral. The jewel is the famous monstrance of Enrique de Arfe of the XVI century; it measures almost three meters, weights 172 kgs and has 260 golden figurines. The Monstrance is used every year in the Corpus Christi procession around the city marches.

The true city centre is Zocodover Square, with a triangular layout and surrounded by the pillars of the colonnade. From there we accede to the Alcazar, the city symbol. It was completely destroyed during the Civil War between 1936-1939, but later reconstructed. It is currently closed to the public. For this reason, we went through the Arco de la Sangre, where we could find a statue of Miguel de Cervantes, to the Santa Cruz Hospital. The building was constructed in the 15th century by Cardinal Mendoza, confessor of the Queen Isabella I, and has Renaissance features. It is currently a museum that gathers some collections and archaeological remains spread around the whole city. On the top floor there are important pictures and sculptures made by El Greco, Ribera and Goya. And, what is more, in this floor a section to the crafts with glass and pottery has found its place.

Before coming back to the hotel, we enjoyed one more time the views of the city from the Paseo del Mirador. Then, the large escalator drove us to the buses that were waiting for us. The whole city of Toledo forms, in a reduced space, an unrepeatable free museum of the ancient history of Spain. Moreover, the UNESCO includes this city in its list of World Heritage.

The next day, on Sunday, we went to a little and quiet village called Puebla de Montalbán. In that village we could see some ancient important constructions, like the typical Main Square of Castilla where the house of the family Montalbán is placed, and the church of Nuestra Señora de la Paz. As the church was closed, we went to Otero to visit a country estate called Finca Constancia.

A few years ago, the falily Gonzalez Byass bought 240 square kms of the state in the valley between two rivers to the vine crop.  In 2006 the first grape harvest took place. The grape harvest can be possible twice a year due to the Mediterranean climate. In the sunny pieces of ground grow the perfect grapes to elaborate a first quality red wine. In order to prove it, we were invited to a wine tasting session after visiting the cellar.

During our visit to Talavera de la Reina, we went for a walk under the sun around the Prados' Gardens of Talavera de la Reina with Javier and then we visited the basilica of Nuestra Señora del Prado. Excellent coats of yellow and blue glazed tiles of different periods cover its walls. The oldest are in the sacristy. In addition, the museum opened by the potter Ruiz de Luna in 1963 in the Pan Square, has a collection formed by glazed tiles from Talavera from the 16th century until now. We went for a walk through the famous Roman bridge of 35 arches along the Tagus and saved some time to go shopping later. Afterwards, we had lunch in the hotel Oasis. Having had lunch, we were ready to visit Torrijos.

This place was founded in the Roman period; it has a high economic potential. Its most important monument is the church of Santisimo Sacramento of the 16th century. It has a wonderful portal and high altar. The Hospital de la Caridad, which is World Heritage, was built in the 16th century with Renaissance style. The ancient Palace of Pedro I, with thick walls made of bricks and sand, is nowadays the hall town.

The next day, we could see the mountains of Toledo where we could distinguish some windmills in the way to Consuegra. We stopped in an old distillery owned as a cafeteria by a group of young disabled from this place. We climbed the famous Calderico hill where the castle and the thirteen windmills of the Mancha are. Each windmill has a name that refers to Don Quixote. They worked up to 1955. The sails only turn once a year, at the end of October in the Party of the Saffron. The castle was destroyed in 1813 by the army of Napoleon. The town bought the whole area in 1930 and restored it.

Javier showed us the old library, a cistern, the kitchen and the chapter house where the knight games take place during the Party of the Saffron. Nowadays, in the chapel, which did not have windows until the 15th century, civil marriages are officed. From the balcony we contemplated the arid landscape of La Mancha. The name of La Mancha comes from the Arab and means 'dry region'. There grow the saffron, olives, wheat and grapes to make wine.

Javier told us a typical proverb:

Nine months of winter - three months of hell.

Another typical place of La Mancha is Tembleque with its beautiful Mayor Square of the 17th century. This place, in whose sides are the arcades placed in three floors, was used as a bullring.

Another destination in our trip around La Mancha was El Toboso. The town is proud of being the place where was born the literary figure of Dulcinea, Don Quixote’s love interest. The name of Dulcinea comes from the Spanish word 'dulce' (sweet). Don Quixote nominated himself as a knight and looked for a lady to fall in love with. He chose the daughter of a farmer called Aldonza Lorenzo; she knew nothing about the feelings of Don Quixote, although he gave her the invented title of Dulcinea del Toboso. While Aldonza is known for having the ability of salting pigs, Sancho Panza describes her as a woman with fuzz in the teeth, strong arms and a deep voice; however, Don Quixote idealizes his lady: Dulcinea becomes the ideal beauty for him.

In the novel, Don Quixote always acts in the name of Dulcinea, but actually, Aldonza does not know anything about his actions. Dulcinea continues being for Don Quixote such a platonic love and an ideal unattainable image that the rest of women that Don Quixote meets in his adventures are not enough for him. In the Museum Cervantes, opened in 1983, we saw an interesting collection of the editions of Don Quixote in different languages and dialects. The oldest edition dates from 1605. We had lunch, obviously, in the restaurant 'Dulcinea'.

The last day we visited another monument declared World Heritage: the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, lying 50 km at the south of Madrid. The Palace was built on the remains of a monastery, whose land was bought by the Spanish king in the 16th century. Due to its favourable location on the bank of the Tagus, the Royal Family established there their summer residence; this fact implied an enormous effort to do the moving. The building started in 1560, following the maps of the Escorial, sorted out by Philip II. In the following years some reforms have been done. In the 17th century Philip V transformed the Palace in a big baroque residence with new decoration. The Royal Garden is now like was in the past. After the permission of Charles III of enlarging the building, the Armas Square was built. Today, the Palace houses a museum and an interior expensive decoration. The rooms contain valuable tapestries, furniture, porcelain, clocks, pictures and some other art objects that correspond to the period of the ancient inhabitants of the place. The Throne Room covered of velvet and the Arab Room are especially interesting. Culminating moment of the tour is the Room of the Porcelain, which is decorated with spectacular porcelain pieces and Asian figures. All the figures were manufactured in Madrid

Moreover, the Palace of Aranjuez is famous by its gardens. Water is the most important element due to the river Tagus as they are near the river. Today, they preserve its essential features although four of them are different. The Prince Garden is on the banks of the river while the Garden of the Island is in an artificial island. Its quantity of fountains, statues and beds of flowers characterizes them.

After a wonderful week we said goodbye with sadness to Toledo. In the airport of Madrid we were informed that the aerial traffic was interrupted due to the ash cloud of the Icelandic volcano. With some help and managing the situation by ourselves, we had to stay in a hotel in Madrid. To obtain some kind of information in that chaotic situation, it was normal to wait for 5 hours every day in the desk of Iberia. We did not know what to do, and the worst was that the situation started to get dangerous as some friends were running out of medicines. Eight days later, we were free at last and got a flight to Düsseldorf.

We hope that the intergenerational solidarity will grow up with our cooperation, and thank our friend Pepe López and his friendly team for the good times we had in this Euromeeting.

Ruth Rebert and Christa Saia