Thursday, September 27, 2007

Segovia, Spain

Segovia's photos are on flickr.
Click on the flickr cloud and it should take you there.

We had more trouble finding Segovia's old town once we left the main bus station than we had finding the Sepulvedenna Bus Company that took us there. The guide book said that the aqueduct was near the bus station and the train station but it didn't say which direction from either. The map in the book was only of "old" Segovia and did not show either station so we walked an extra 2 kilometers in the wrong direction before asking for help.

Our source of information was a gray-haired, balding man in a Mr. Rogers sweater. We showed him the guide book photo of the aquaduct and he gave extensive directions(in Spanish) but we knew precious few words: walk, police, roundabout, right. It was enough.

We hiked back to the bus station/police station at the roundabout and turned right and there it was exactly where the Romans had placed it nearly 2,000 years ago and where we had passed without looking back over our shoulders nearly an hour earlier.

We walked top the top of the tallest end of the aqueduct bridge and looked out over the new and the old city while chilly winds whipped down from the mountains. The guide book, often wrong and inconvenient, was correct in stressing the need to see these ruins - "one of the most significant and best-preserved Roman aqueducts (or aqueduct bridge) on the Iberian Peninsula."

The date of construction is guessed at near the end of the 1st Century AD. That's impressively old because it doesn't look ancient. Not like the ancient ruins at Ankor Wat or the ruins in Thailand's old city. It looks just great, only a little worn.

The aqueduct transports waters from Spring Fuenfría (17 kilometers from the city), gathers it in a tank and lets the sand settles out and sends it onward. The tallest part is 93 feet and there are 167 arches.

It was rebuilt in the 15th Century to restore a portion destroyed by Moors in 1072 but most of it is 2,000 years old. At the taller end there are two lines of arches and the water channel is about 6 by 5 feet.

Rick was impressed that it is built of un-mortared granite blocks and that it was used until the 1990s. Actually it is still used as a back up source of water for the castle on the hill (Segovia Alcázar.

After looking at this end of the Aqueduct we walked to cathedral but were side-tracked by a market in the main square. There was a brisk business in fruit, cheese, pig ears, fish, and lots of warm scarves and sweaters. Several tourists came to Segovia in the shorts and sleeveless shirts that worked well in Madrid. They were covered in goose bumps. Most of the men stayed that way and the women opted for shawls. Some seemed not to notice the biting wind.

Outside the cathedral an old woman, dressed in black from scarf to shoes offered head scarves and table cloths all the color and detail she lacked.

The cathedral had more altars than a passel of priests could use. There were 2 - count 'em - 2 pipe organs. I'm not talking about little things that would fit in your average church. These towered above the choir's chairs reaching near the top of the cathedral ceiling.

The chairs were nifty also. The backs were carved and the seats could fold half way leaving a little butt rest or they could unfold all the way and be an actual chair. None of them functioned that way anymore because now the choir sits is flimsy, modern, wooden, folding chairs and the 400 year old carved seats are roped off. The cathedral in Budapest and I think the one in Prague is the same.

The cathedral's ceiling was high but the high stained glass windows brought in enough light to clearly see the flying buttresses. The ceiling in the courtyard square was much like that in the building itself.

The main altar, when we were there, was being dressed in vases with hundreds of white flowers and in the cathedral's museum were priests' vestments and altar items ranging from finely crafted silver and gold to nailed together white metals.

Most of the cathedral was open floor space with only a small section of pews for seating. This particular building was rebuilt in the 1500's after the original was destroyed.

The cathedral was nice but my favorite part of the day was the time in the castle on the hill. Actually, we were both enormously impressed by the Alcazar. The ceilings were magnificent with the best in the room of kings. I’d like a scarf with that pattern in a nice silky fabric. It was turquoise and gold.
Spanish kings and queens must like to look up in their castles.

The armory had beautiful armor and, though I thought I had my fill of ornate yesterday, I did like the ornate amour. I think these were for tournaments and not for war but none of it looks comfy or protective. My favorite outfit had an articulated heart on the breast plate and smaller versions of the same design on the arms, elbows, legs, feet, knee wings (Well, what would you call them?) and thighs. Considering the tools of the time it’s amazing that the craftsmen could do such work. I really wished I could take some castings of those designs.

Before leaving we walked the entire length of the Aqueduct to find the stone at the end totally dry of course.

The spurs on the shoes reached out behind the heel at least 10 inches and the toes in front were knife thin and equally long. How did they walk let alone fight in those things? It could be that these were only the shoes worn for parade while on horses but it’s hard to imagine how anyone thought that these would be reasonable pieces of armor.

Rick liked the great old buildings throughout the old part of town and the narrow little streets that they nested up against. The streets were full of people most of the day though from 2-5 shops closed and the streets were empty for siesta.

We ended our day by walking to the very end of the aqueduct. It made two turns and while the water channel continued to flow down hill the structure itself adapted to the lay of the land so that it went from a towering bridge to a waist-high wall. Empty of water, full of dignity. What modern structures will last 2,000 years?

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