Don Quixote and Don Miguel

In a street of Alcalá de Henares, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since (y. 1547) one of the greatest geniuses of literature: Don Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra.

I arrived at that solitary street on a dull, windy and rainy day of October 2012 …

Raining on the street

In that street was the Cervantes’ birthplace …

Cervantes house

I entered the writer’s house and there I saw an old edition of my absolute favorite book of all time: “El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de La Mancha”, or “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de La Mancha”.

I opened the book …

The best book ever

… and then the sun shined again …

Picture above: that is the main square of Alcalá de Henares (Madrid region, Spain). The red things in the foreground are flowers (claveles, carnations, dianthus caryophyllus) and the black silhouette in the background is Don Miguel de Cervantes.

Picture below: Don Miguel de Cervantes, soldier in Lepanto, slave in Algiers, novelist, poet and playwright in Spain and king in the Realm of Literature.

Don Quixote is supposed to be crazy, but I do not agree with that mainstream opinion; I had a brief conversation with him in Alcalá de Henares and I can assure that he is not.

But I have to admit, on the other hand, that I am not sure if all the inhabitants of Alcalá are mentally healthy or not. For instance, some of them love to wander around sounding ancient trumpets and drums:

mad orchestra

Kids in Alcalá go to school on donkeys:

Alcalanians love hectic cooking on the street:

mad chef

And they love to set the table al fresco:

Photographers in Alcalá are crazy too:

Even statues seem a little crazy:

That statue belongs to the Alcalá de Henares University (façade). It was founded in 1499:

Alcalá de Henares University

The University and the Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Cervantes Prize (the Spanish-speaking world’s most prestigious literary award) is awarded annually by the King and Queen of Spain in the Paraninfo (Great Hall) of the university of Alcalá.


Who knows? Perhaps some day this blogger will win the Cervantes Prize, thanks to his unpublished novels written in Spanish. On the contrary, as you may well see, Covetotop’s English doesn’t deserve anything good.

But you, my dear reader, you do deserve something very good: read Don Quixote if you haven’t read it up until now. Still better: learn Spanish and read it in its original version, in old Spanish. Can you imagine Shakespeare translated into Spanish or French or Japanese? A translation means just a nice story, some times a boring story. A masterpiece in its original version always means awe.

This is the problem with translations: you get the melody but miss the harmony.

It’s like listening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in a flute solo version. Ooohh!

Ok. Let’s assume that you don’t speak Spanish and hence you cannot read Don Quixote in old Spanish. Don’t worry. You always can listen to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in its full, glorious and original orchestration.

Just in case you neither can read Don Quixote in old Spanish nor like Beethoven, you can console yourself by having lunch at a good restaurant, like this one:

Its name is “Hostería del Estudiante”, and its address is Colegios, 8 (Alcalá de Henares). In fact, this cozy corner is the former Minor School of San Jerónimo, founded by Cardinal Cisneros in 1510, and it overlooks one of the beautiful patios of the University.

Walls with four hundred years of history make the perfect place to sample a traditional menu, like “sopa boba” …

… and “cochinillo” …

If you need a hotel room in Alcalá, just in front of the Hostería is the “Parador de Alcalá” (former Dominican Convent). This is its “modernized” cloister:

It’s getting time to finish this post. Follow me; we are going to Madrid to put an end to our story (Madrid is roughly 15 miles away from Alcalá).

Cervantes was born in Alcalá de Henares in 1547, but his family moved to Madrid in 1566. There are lots of plaques throughout Madrid commemorating Cervantes’ coming and going.

He studied humanities here:

The first edition of “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de La Mancha” was printed in Atocha Street, Madrid, in 1605 (see plaque below). The book -the most published and translated second only to the Bible- has been a “bestseller” since 1605:

Here was the house -the original building has long gone- where Don Miguel de Cervantes died. By the way, it appears that there is an apartment on sale …

Both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died on the very same date: April 23, 1616, thus prompting UNESCO to declare April 23 the “World Book and Copyright Day”

Cervantes was buried on the grounds of the Convento de San Ildefonso de las Trinitarias Descalzas, in an unmarked tomb. It is located just a few meters away from the house where he died. You can only visit the convent church.

On the convent wall there is a warning signal: Don Miguel de Cervantes’ body is here.

In fact, Don Quixote and Don Miguel are still arguing and laughing in the most beautiful corners of the Realm of Literature.

Spanish National Librery




About Covetotop

A Mediterranean blogger
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23 Responses to Don Quixote and Don Miguel

  1. Tyran Grillo says:

    Wish I could ride a donkey to school!

  2. Tyran Grillo says:

    I finally read both books of Don Quixote a few years ago in Edith Grossman’s fluid translation, and actually found the story to be rather depressing. I agree with your opinion that the protagonist is anything but crazy. I think, rather, that he trusts people to tell him the truth about themselves, their customs, and their philosophies. That one after another takes such ruthless advantage of his faith in humanity says much more about the insanity of society than it does about his supposed own.

  3. betterthanfree says:

    Maybe not the Cervantes price but you deserve the Nobel Price. Thanks once more for your tasteful and personal views.

  4. oliviaobryon says:

    All the pics are great, as usual, but that first one really stands out! Nice work!

  5. Shtina says:

    In the event that I don’t end up learning proper Spanish, it is okay for me to read the flute solo (i.e. translated) version? 🙂 The town looks great, thanks for the photos.

  6. lolabees says:

    I actually own a beautiful copy of Don Quixote… in Spanish! I majored in Spanish and lived in Madrid for a year, and I still find it hard to understand. But then again, I also find Shakespeare hard to understand. Beautiful photos as usual.

    • Covetotop says:

      With your background and knowledge I am sure you can disfrutar perfectamente de la lectura de tan gran obra. Thanks for your nice commenting, as usual.

  7. harri8here says:

    Brilliant entry … words and images. Fascinating Miguel de Cervantes tapas (and didn’t know that he and Shakespeare left the earth on the same day). Thank you 🙂

    • Covetotop says:

      Thank you for your kind words about my words. Taking pictures in Alcalá is not very difficult, because it is a very picturesque town. But blogging in English requires a huge effort from my part, a fierce battle with grammar, a dictionary, a headache and two or three nightmares. Hence, I truly appreciate your mentioning it.

      The claim that Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the very same day is a little misleading, since it relies on a calculation correlating the new Gregorian calendar of Cervantes’s Spain to the old Julian calendar still in use in Shakespeare’s England. In any case, UNESCO assumes that both died the same “date”: 23 April 1616.

  8. When my sister and I were kids my mom read us the abridged English version of Don Quixote and we laughed and laughed at his crazy adventures! I’ve read novels in Spanish before, but somehow Don Quixote in it’s original Old Castilian is so daunting, but you have inspired me. Perhaps one day!

  9. Eri Berry says:

    ¡Qué suerte! ¿Cómo es la conversación con Cervantes? ¿Hablasteis en español moderno o antiguo? :p

    Es un placer ver edificios antiguos y bien conservados(?). Tomaste buenas fotos, como siempre.

    • Covetotop says:

      La conversación fue en español antiguo. En realidad, el texto de este post me lo dictaron a la vez Don Quixote y Don Miguel de Cervantes. Yo me limité a traducir sus palabras del español al inglés lo mejor que pude … 😉

      Muchas gracias por tu comentario y por hacerlo en español. Es un alivio para mí poder escribir un poquito sin necesidad de diccionario ni de librotes de gramática.

  10. Eri Berry says:

    Y yo.. necesito un diccionario y de librotes de gramática. ¡Jaja!

    Leo libros en español para mejorarlo. Tengo un libro que se llama, “¿Cómo Pesar un Elefante?” Un es libro para los niños. Es mucho más fácil que Don Quixote, jejeje. 😀

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