Tuesday, March 31, 2015


There's something similar between Segovia and Salamanca, the light of their stones in the spring sun.

Although in Segovia there's more of Piedra del Parral and Salamanca Arenisca de Villamayor, I felt a certain warmth of the stone colour in both towns. They're sandstone types and in addition in Segovia the roof of the castle, Alcazar, is made of black pizarra/slate from the same area. For the first time I paid attention to how we built cities by using the nature around.

Many times the stones would come from nearby, as it would have been too difficult to carry them long distance. In Barcelona for instance the beautiful gothic church Santa Maria del Mar was made of blocks of stone brought from the close by hill of Montjuic by the port stevedores, on their backs. These two Castilla cities instead had around the type of rocks mentioned above.

There I felt peace and quiet, taking life at a slower pace myself. After all the running around in Madrid I took my time, for one day in Segovia, two days in Salamanca, to sit down, think and contemplate more. Seeing whatever I found on my way, without putting too much pressure and ticking lists.

It was quite fascinating to find out that queen Isabel la Catolica was actually crowned in Segovia and that Cristobal Colón - known as Columbus in English - met their Catholic majesties in Salamanca. There's so much history around, I felt like stepping on their tracks.

I landed in Segovia, name being of Celto-Iberic origin, before the Roman conquest, by mid-morning, after an interesting ride crossing the scenery of the Civil War, Sierra de Guadarrama and Valle de los Caídos. The setting is amazing,  I guess even more in spring, with the city raising in its warm light surrounded by snow capped mountains and the fresh shades of green brought by the season. Apparently Celts, Romans, Arabs, Jewish and finally Spanish found it all very appealing. As Segovia is not big and built on a rock about 1000 meters high, you get lovely different views as you make your way through the narrow streets.  Romanic churches, Plaza Mayor, the Jewish Quarter, are all dominated by three great landmarks: the Roman Aqueduct, built without mortar, the blocks of stone hold by themselves; the enormous late Gothic Cathedral and the elegant and solid Alcazar, the fortified castle that looks like a fairy tale one, especially if seen from the Eresma river bank, topping the abrupt rocks. Apparently the Sleeping Beauty Disney castle was inspired by it. Too bad they probably ignore the splendid mudejár decorations. Climbing to the terrace is rewarding the curious traveler with breathtaking panoramic views.

Wandering in the streets I found the less customary Gastronomic Museum, in some old house where every room tells a story about beans, chick-peas, wine, growing sheep and pigs and the by-products. Segovia is actually quite famous for its roast suckling pig and lamb and the huge white beans called judiones, not a bad idea for a consumable souvenir. The Gastronomic Museum also offers a small tasting of bread, cheese, jamón, sausage and wine, all very good, especially the jamón that happened to be made of a hairy sheep looking pig from Hungary, called mangalica. BThis and a delicious soup and a blue fish salad tapa at the Alcazar café made for lunch. Then eventually ventured out of the city walls to check on two Romanic churches, one now a convent.

It's also worthy for the sight of the high city and above all of the castle from below, plus you can take an enchanting walk by the river and re-enter through another gate. This way I found an incredibly beautiful and rather unusual Gothic façade of a convent, Santa Cruz la Real, that's now hosting an university. The famous and sinister first general inquisitor Torquemada was once a prior here.

All in all, small as it is, I still missed a few churches I wanted to visit and the Cathedral tower, so I have a good excuse for another visit.

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