[Fernando Moran], a donnish professor who likes to sit in the corner of an old Madrid cafe and read his newspapers, has often been the butt of political jokes in Spain. But Cambio 16, Spain's leading news magazine, celebrated him this week with a cover story. While the cover drawing depicted him as a Don Quixote, the headline proclaimed good-naturedly: "The Conquistador of Europe: Moran Wowed Them."
Later in the 8th Century, Emperor Charlemagne crossed the Pyrenees in a crusade to drive the Muslims out of Spain. The crusade failed, and Charlemagne's lieutenant, Roland, and his troops were annihilated as they tried to retreat through the pass at Roncesvalles. Ironically, these retreating troops were not killed by the Arabs but by Basques, who rolled rocks down on the French soldiers. The battle was glorified in the "Song of Roland," France's first epic poem.
For Europeans, the pass at Roncesvalles, with its breath-taking, snow-capped, jagged beauty, was for centuries a forbidding means of entry into Spain. Even the millions of Christian pilgrims who crossed through [Roncesvalles] on their pilgrimage to the holy Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages knew that danger and deprivation awaited them. A restored shrine and crypt, where dead pilgrims were buried centuries ago, still stands in the pass.