Today, we all got up around 7:00am to get ready for our weekend excursion to two historic cities, Segovia and Ávila, starting at 8:00am. We walked to the bus stop after meeting up at Mester and boarded a gigantic tour bus. The two-hour ride seemed to take a bit longer than it really did, since people from another group were singing bad karaoke in the back. Nevertheless, we soon arrived in Segovia, our first city of the day.
Segovia is an ancient town with a population around 60,000 in the mountains of Spain. Our guide said that it’s one of the highest cities in Spain, since it’s about 1000m (3300 feet) above sea level, though none of us were terribly blown away by the number. The star of Segovia is the Aqueduct of Segovia, which was built by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. It was used up until the 1920s, and transported water 15 kilometers (9.2 miles) from the mountains outside of the city to La Alcázar de Segovia (the Citadel of Segovia), which is the prominent castle built on the cliffs at the edge of town. The coolest part of the aqueduct that remains today is the main bridge which crosses through town – the entire thing is made of stone without any mortar! The channel at the top has mortar to hold in the water of course, but the rest of it is simply stacked stones.
As we stood in front of the aqueduct bridge, our guide told us a legend of how the bridge was built. The story begins with a woman who lived in the upper part of town, and had to walk many kilometers every day to get water for her home. One night, the devil appeared to the woman, and told her that if she sold her soul to the devil, he would build a channel on which the water could reach her home. The woman agreed to the offer, and that night the devil constructed the entire bridge, though neglected to put one stone in the middle of it. That “one stone” is still missing today, and in its place is a statue of the Virgin Mary wrapped in a Spanish flag.
After checking out the bridge, we walked up the sloping main street to a viewpoint over the city. The vista was great – from here we could see much of the residential portion of the town and beautiful mountains in the distance. One of the peaks is said to look like a woman who has been laid to rest, and next to it is one of the tallest mountains in the area, which rises to around 2500m (8200 feet). Our guide, whose name has slipped my mind, explained that it is usually possible to ski on the high peak, but this year has been far too warm for it to be possible. Proving that point, today got up to 18°C (65°F) in town – apparently that kind of temperature usually only happens months later in the year.
After we had time to eat lunch, do a bit of shopping, and explore the city, we met back at the Plaza Mayor (pretty much every Spanish town has one of these, remember?) to walk back to the bus and go to Ávila.
Once in Ávila, we walked around the town wall, which was built in 11th Century – more than 900 years ago. It’s regarded as one of the best preserved sites in Spain from that era, and it shows – almost all of the wall still looks pretty decent today. We then arrived at La Iglesia de Santa Teresa (Church of Saint Theresa), which is the site at which the Spanish Saint was born. Also here in a separate building were relics pertaining to Saint Teresa – the one that we all remember most is her actual ring finger inside a glass case!
Before getting back on the bus, we all stopped at the nearest Burger King. This particular restaurant has an incredible view of the city – totally unexpected for a place that serves American fast food! It was a great finish to another exciting yet informative day in Spain.