Donna and Joe have finished their assignment in India. Occasionally they still travel somewhere.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Segovia is a small town about an hour and a half drive north of Madrid. Segovia's claim to fame is the Roman aqueduct shown in these pictures. Until sometime in the 20th century it was still functioning, bringing water from a river 10 miles away into the city. It was built sometime around 100 AD out of large granite blocks laid without mortar. At its highest point it is 93 feet tall, to bring water over the top of the city wall. This first picture was taken from the city wall looking out toward the mountains from which the water came.
Here you can see the size of the blocks at the base of each pillar. The blocks get somewhat smaller as you go up to the double arches that support the aqueduct. Still it seems like a quite feat to lift all that rock up that high & hold it in place until the arch was completed by the keystone, with only human and animal muscle power to do the lifting.

This last picture of the aqueduct was taken from the window our our hotel room. The city is small enough that we could easily walk from this hotel, just outside the city wall to any where in the city. We arrived in Segovia in a rental car complete with a GPS navigator. It actually did a pretty good job of getting us to Segovia and close to our hotel. Spain has a lot of one way streets, so when I missed the hotel drive way on the first pass it was quite a long drive get back to a point where I could take another pass at the hotel driveway. The process of getting there was complicated by the fact the navigator and I seem use different systems for counting. Each time we approached a round-about the navigator would instruct "enter round-about in 300 meters, then take 2nd exit on the right." I would take what appeared to me to be the second exit and the navigator would respond "Re-calculating route." The difficulty seemed to lay, at least in part, in determining whether first opportunity to turn right was actually the an exit from the round about. It appears that sometimes the navigator would consider that first opportunity not an exit from the round-about, but a right turn independent of the round-about. The navigator did offer a street name but I was rarely able to find a sign that I could read while driving by.

This stained glass window is inside the Alcazar of Segovia. Alcazar simply means castle, so many cities and towns in Spain have an alcazar--always referred to as "the alcazar". The alcazar of Segovia was built in the 12th century on the site of an Arab fort which was built on the site of a Roman fort. The present structure served as both fortress and palace in the middle ages, then as a prison and finally as an artillery school before becoming a tourist attraction. It features many stained glass windows such as these depicting its royal inhabitants.

In various parts of the alcazar weapons from various ages are on display. The horse in life size but not real. Donna still wanted to pet it. The throne room as about 50 by 100 feet. These statues of kings and princes form an unbroken ring all the wall around the room at a height of about 10 feet.

The alcazar was built at the top of cliff with a commanding view of the plains around it. In the center rises a tower which you can climb to the top of for a separate fee of a couple of euros. A sign at the ticket booth and another at the foot of the stairs warns you that there are 152 stairs and it is not recommended for people with heart conditions. After about a dozen stairs in a straight, relatively wide staircase you enter a tight, dark spiral staircase. I'm not sure why the tight spiral is required because once you get to the top you are one a platform about 20 by 40 feet with a stone wall on all sides.

From the tower you have great views in all directions. This first one is looking west toward the palace end of the alcazar and out over the dry countryside. Driving north from Madrid the land reminded us of northern California and western India--miles of brown dormant vegetation punctuated by occasional green trees.

Looking toward the city the view is dominated by cathedral. In the distance are the Guadarrama mountains from which the aqueduct drew its water.

This shot, looking north must have been taken from a window in the castle since there was a stone wall and no iron railing at the top of the tower.

We did not have a chance to see the inside of the cathedral but we did eat dinner on Plaza Mayor where we took this picture of the cathedral light up at night. The plaza was similar to many others in Spain although larger than most. It is ringed by restaurants, all of which offer seating on the plaza. Some actually have no indoor seating and even where indoor seating was available it was empty, everyone preferring to eat outside on a warm fall evening. Spain at least the parts we visited is too dry to raise mosquitoes .

The local specialty in Segovia is roast suckling pig. However 80 to 120 euros plus drinks seemed a little expensive, so we chose a "fixed price" three course meal. Many Spanish restaurants offer these fixed price menus where you choose an appetizer, an entree and a dessert with a list of 2 or 3 choices for each course. Our meal started off with the bean soup (also a local specialty.) Notice the size of the beans compared to the size of Donna's thumb. Our guide book suggested that you ask for the house special or specialty, or ask what the waiter suggests, in order to try the best of the local specialties. We had pretty good luck using this approach. It saves a lot of looking up things in the dictionary, often not finding them. By the time you've looked up 5 or 6 things, you can't remember what any of them were anyway.

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