The Guiding App
For the first time ever on a trip we purchased a self guide to help us choose where to stop on our travels. Of course it’s also an app! Usually we just pick a parking spot that sounds interesting. And most of the time we find something interesting nearby. This time we are following a map and picking parking spots nearby. It makes for a different type of experience. The tour starts in the town of Gernika (Guernica is the English, I think) and I’m very excited. I can hardly believe we have passed this town many times travelling to Portugal via northern Spain.
History is more interesting now
Something you may not know about me – my new interest in history. In school I thought history was too complicated, too much to read and too much to study. I wanted to get a good grade in my leaving certificate (end of school exam, Ireland) but the exam preparation was mainly learning things off by heart therefore any subject with high content was a risky choice. History had a lot of content and my decision to drop it was influenced by that. I am sorry now… and all because of a fiction book. Imagine a really easy to read fiction book being a way to learn about history? What a great idea. I found the book (really three books) by accident. It’s called, The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett and tells the story of the 20th Century from the perspective of fictitious families in Russia, Germany, Austria, America, England, Wales and Spain. It’s also interspersed with real characters like presidents and kings, etc. Hopefully Ken Follett does a lot of research, it seems he does. Now, because of him and his book I understand so much more about the conflicts during the 20th century, which includes World War 1 and 2, fascism, Spanish civil war…. The book has been like an intro for me and I’m ready for more so if you have any recommendations for easy to understand history books please let me know.
Art History, also interesting
The second thing you may not know about me – in 2012 I attended an art course that included art history. It gave me an appreciation for art, including Picasso, who before that was a complete mystery to me. Anyway, one class included his art piece called Guernica. Picasso started painting Guernica the day after he read reports about a Spanish town that was decimated by German bombs. Men women and children were killed, they still don’t know how many, up to 2000. The actual painting is in a museum in Madrid.
Visiting the Peace Museum, Gernika
Now here I am in Gernika with a basic understanding of the Spanish Civil War and the art piece Guernica… this will be my simplified version of events which I hope will allow me to tell a close enough approximation of the story, simply and clearly. The Spanish Civil War started in July 1936 and lasted until the Second World War began in 1939.
On one side there was the Republicans who supported the government of Spain and on the other side was the Nationalists who were military men including General Franco. Spain was a young republic at the start of the civil war. The government was inexperienced. There were many economic problems, poverty, unemployment and the general public were unhappy. Something similar to Germany after the First World War which led to the Second World War and there are similarities today…
Both sides had support from outside Spain. The Republicans were supported by Russia and the Nationalists (with General Franco) were supported by the Nazi government in Germany.
The Day of the Bombing
Monday 26th April, 1937 was market day in Gernika, lots of people and animals on the streets. The planes arrived at 4pm, they dropped bombs and shot civilians until 8pm. The town was completely destroyed. The planes were German. The Nationalists won the civil war and General Franco ruled Spain until his death in November 1975. He was a dictator and until his death there was no investigation of the bombing. When asked, they had to say the planes bombed Gernika… but it was Franco who directed the planes to bomb Gernika.
The peace museum is an attempt to examine peace, the hard peace. The kind that requires forgiveness. The kind that requires living with neighbours who were on the other side of the civil war. Some people who were Nationalist supporters knew there would be some kind of action in Gernika that day so they left the town. I cannot imagine being able to forgive that and lucky for me I don’t have to. But it inspires me to do my own forgiving, for my own version of civil war. I am inspired to know peace as more than a quiet seat by the river bank, or a meditation alone on a cushion. I am inspired to do my own peace work.
At the Peace Museum in Gernika there’s a informational handout in English. In it there’s a list titled, The Tools Used to Bring Peace. Among the tools are, Honouring Fellow Human Beings, Listening to Different Opinions, Admitting our Mistakes, Looking to the Future.
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” -Unknown (from the handout)