We drove up to Madrid from Cordoba and stayed on Plaza de España for one night in the city. The drive north from Cordoba on the A4 shows just how connected Spain still is to it’s Muslim past. Many signs, both road signs and in rest-areas, were in Arabic.
It was nice to see the easy melding of cultures in every day life after all the stories in the news recently about the conflicts with the Moroccan government and Spain over the migrants in Cueta in North Africa. And the rise of far-right ant-immigration Vox party in Andalucía. The truth of Spain and it’s rich history as a cultural crossroads is far more complex that political slogans and shouted rhetoric. The layers run deep, both literally and figuratively.
Leaving Madrid yesterday we headed up the A6. It was insane trying to get out of the city during a road race celebrating Corpus Cristi. Corpus Cristi marks 60 days since Easter and everywhere there are massive processions and celebration throughout Spain that include the first communion for children. Except this year, like last year, Covid has put a stop to most activities around this important holiday. That is why we were so surprised when we became trapped by barricades and police as throngs of runners ran in front of our car. No matter which detour we took, we could not find our way out. And sat nav was no help. Finally, I figured we should just drive down any open road until we hit one of the many ring roads circling the city. After 45 minutes, we hit paydirt. Or pavement, actually. We were on our way North.
There are many places on the drive from Madrid to Lugo I would like to stop and see. I commented on this on our way to Cordoba. But we are always rushing to some place else when we drive thru that stretch. Trying to ‘make good time’, as my Dad used to say.
But this time, Jeff made a detour for me in Segovia. And it was amazing. I mean, what’s a 36 hour 1100 mile impromptu road trip through the length of Spain without a stop at a second UNESCO World Heritage site?
Segovia is a city founded by the Romans, then ruled by the Christians, conquered by the Muslims, and finally, recaptured by the Christians during the reconquista. Just like Cordoba. All this makes for an architectural lasagna that is still visible today. And it is stunning.
Starting with our drive into town, the site takes you a bit by surprise. The fully intact Roman aqua duct is what you see first coming around a corner from the more modern part of town. This supplied water to the hilltop fortress two thousand years ago.
Smaller homes and villages lay at the feet of the wall. Including a Templar church on the other side of the river.
We entered the gate to park the car. Segovia has the parking thing down. It’s very easy to access the many parking garages within the walls.
Walking the warren of streets on Corpus Cristi, people were out enjoying the sunshine in their Sunday best. Like a mini Easter. Women in ultra high heels on cobblestones. Braver souls than I.
It’s easy to get turned around in Segovia and we got a little lost on some blind alleys. But eventually we made our way to the Castle as the church bells peeled.
Approaching the site, the Alcazar looks more like a fairytale castle in France than a Castelo in central Spain. Jeff commented that it looked like the architects from Carcassonne had made this little model before building their massive Cathar one in Southern France. I quite agree.
The facade is very unusual, with roundish sandstone and pocked with lava rock. It looked like a massive rock climbing wall with hand holds.
Inside, it is smaller than it looks from the outside. King Enrique IV is responsible for most of the internal decorations. And you know this because he paid homage to himself in very flowery language in gold writing on the walls.
This room is created by the most exalted and smartest person to ever walk the face of the earth, Enrique IV, son of Juan l. Ordained by Almighty God. Oh yeah, and he is really handsome, too.
You get what I’m saying. No ego there. I bet he was 4ft 11. And his wife was 5ft 6. The golden scrolling script rings the ceilings, many like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The golden pinecones symbolize fertility. You will have to excuse me as there are many photos pointing up.
The castle is well preserved, and work to maintain it has not been neglected due to the pandemic. So much so, some of the weathered old charm is a bit lost in places. But it is still gorgeous. And the priceless tapestries are to die for.
The views of the surrounding area from the top are spectacular, too.
Like any castle in Europe, there is always an armory with homage to war and siege. This one is no different.
A full day in Segovia is what is truly required. We didn’t have that kind of time. So after a quick bite we were on the road home.
Our 36 hour weekend adventure across the length of Spain is over. After 12 hours of sleep, Jeff is still snoring. A well deserved rest after indulging my voracious appetite for history.