by Erin Elaine
I’ve just spent about 27 hours in Segovia, Spain and I had a wonderful time! Segovia is about 30 minutes from Madrid via high-speed train. It’s known for its Roman aqueduct which dates from the 1st or 2nd century, as well as the Alcázar Castle, and the local specialty of roast suckling pig.
I arrived late in the afternoon on Thursday, because I had Friday off. First I checked into Duermavela Hostel, left my backpack there, and went out to explore the city.
This Roman aqueduct dominates the southern section of the old town. It dates from the 1st or 2nd century. This section is 2,500 feet long and 100 feet high. It is made of 20,000 granite blocks WITHOUT any mortar. It can still carry a stream of water! It was actually in use until the late 19th century. I like to imagine what the citizens of Segovia were thinking as they saw it beginning to take shape 2,000 years ago. Were they as in awe as I was when I saw it? It was truly amazing to be able to see something like this in person.
Next I wandered north towards the cathedral and the main square, called Plaza Mayor. Once I arrived I found a restaurant filled with elderly Segovians all dressed to the nines to enjoy their meal. I had the white bean and sausage soup, and a traditonal Castilian soup. They were both very tasty.
When I was finished with dinner, I went back outside to Plaza Mayor, and was greeted with a stunning sight of the cathedral all lit up, as the sun had long since set. It was breathtaking. I love seeing beautiful buildings all lit up at night. This Cathedral was built at the beginning of the Renaissance, in a style called “Flamboyant Gothic”.
After taking a few pictures of the cathedral, I wandered back towards my hostel and was greeted by the beautiful aqueduct once again.
The next morning I woke up in my hostel to this view:
After a small breakfast at the hostel for 1.50€, I stored my backpack downstairs and took off for the day with only my purse, camera, and tripod. I was very glad I was able to store my bag at the hostel, because if I had been carrying it around all day I wouldn’t have been able to see as much as I did. I probably walked 10-15 miles total.
The first sight of the day was the aqueduct.
Can you believe there is no mortar whatsoever? Mindblowing.
Next I wandered up past the cathedral on my way to go see Alcázar.
Here’s where it gets funny!
As I approached Alcázar, in the distance I saw a tall guy with hair similar to Ben’s (who is married to Kristen, one of the other American teachers hired with me). But I figured No, that’s impossible. They said they were going to Granada this weekend. But then Kristen, who had been facing away to take a picture, turned and faced me. Then all three of us bursted out laughing. What are the chances of running into one of the few people I know in Madrid, when I’m not even in Madrid?!
We headed inside Alcázar together, and I officially began exploring my very first European castle.
Alcázar was erected upon the remains of a Roman fortress. It was progressively and successively transformed from the reign of Alphonse VI (11th century) to Phillip II (16th century). The Alcázar became the residence of the Castilian Monarchs during the Medieval Age.
Above is the throne. The Latin text above it says that the King and Queen have equal power.
The painting above depicts Queen Isabel being crowned Queen of Castile in Segovia in 1474. This period was the beginning of the reclamation of Spain from the Moors, who had ruled for 700 years. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel provided the stability needed to reunify Spain. Thus began the Golden Age of the Spanish Empire, when Spain became the richest and one of the most important countries in the world.
That hourglass actually turns! I discovered this by turning it. Oops!
After climbing up a very tight and tall spiral staircase, we made it to the top of the tower. What a view! We could even see a huge bird’s nest at the top of a very tall tree.
After leaving Alcázar, it was time for lunch. Kristen and Ben kindly added me to their reservation at the famous Casa Duque restaurant. I knew I had to try the regional specialty, roast suckling pig. The pigs drink their mother’s milk for 3 weeks, then they are roasted whole and served. It was very very tender and tasty. I enjoyed it.
This was 2 orders of the suckling pig, or cochillo asado, and it was the perfect amount for 3 people.
Next, it was on to the cathedral to see the inside.
After the cathedral, Kristen and Ben went to a monastery and I hiked up to Vera Cruz church, where I had heard there was an amazing view of Alcázar. On the left is a picture of Vera Cruz church, and on the right is me with Alcázar in the background.
It was a very pretty view, but I still wasn’t quite satisfied. I knew a better view existed somewhere, because I had seen several postcards from a specific angle. I was currently north of the castle, and I wanted to be west of it. The only question was whether or not I could get to that spot on foot, or only by car. I had nowhere else I absolutely needed to be that day, and I had a map and a cell phone just in case, so I headed off in a direction I thought might get me where I wanted to be. Below is a picture of me during my wandering.
I came across a park with the view below, and I knew I was getting close to my goal. I just needed to be higher. Quite a bit higher.
I kept wandering, and finally, I saw this.
I just KNEW this was it. I climbed up the hill, and it was quite steep, but the trail was well-worn so I knew the top would be worth it. Once I reached the top and all the trees were below me, I was rewarded with the most incredible view ever. Completely unobstructed, very close, sun behind me, it was absolutely perfect. The wind was in my hair and the castle almost seemed close enough to touch.
Pictures can’t begin to capture how spectacular the view was up there. I probably wouldn’t have believed it was real if I hadn’t hiked up there with my own two feet. The castle looked so huge, it was just incredible. I was so so happy to be able to enjoy the calmness and awesomeness of that place.
This is one of the reasons I’m kind of excited to travel alone this year, because I can discover amazing things like this. When I’m with others I’m less likely to take chances because I don’t want to waste their time. Alone I’m only possibly wasting my own time, or possibly getting a huge reward. Plus sometimes other people aren’t interested in seeing the same things as I am, so I can customize a trip to be exactly the way I want it without feeling guilty worrying other people might not want to do the same things as me.
On the other hand, the first half of the day with Ben and Kristen was great. If I had been alone I wouldn’t have gone to Casa Duque, I wouldn’t have learned some neat facts about the castle that Ben knew, and I wouldn’t have the hilarious memory of running into Kristen and Ben. It is nice to be able to share fun experiences with other people. Hawaii wouldn’t have been quite the same if I had gone shark cage diving alone, or discovered dragonfruit alone. Las Vegas wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t gone with friends. The Civil War battlefield I saw in Virginia wouldn’t have been as interesting if I hadn’t gone there with someone who grew up in the area. So traveling with other people definitely does have its upsides. I think maybe I prefer a mix of the two, like what happened in Segovia. But that isn’t exactly feasible for most trips. I think anytime I start to feel lonely on a trip, I’ll think of this amazing summit with the awesome view of the castle, to remind myself of all the benefits of traveling alone.
After this, I walked back to the complete opposite end of the town. Hello, fall!
I got my backpack from the hostel and sat down for a very refreshing glass of water with a view of the aqueduct.
Once I finished my water I caught the bus back to the train station to return to Madrid. After a very eventful day I was back in my own bed just in time for bedtime. 🙂