Segovia, Spain – December 8, 2009
Today was a national holiday in Spain, so we all had the day off. We took advantage of that fact and drove to Segovia for the day. It is only about 83 kilometers (52 miles) from our home. When we left our home, it was a cloudy, cold day. When we turned off the main road to go north on M-601, we found ourselves climbing into the mountains. We started at about 1,000 meters (3,609 feet). We ended up climbing to 1,880 meters (6,168 feet).
At the summit is a small ski area, Puerto de Navacerrada. The town sort of had a Bavarian feel to it. There was a little bit of snow; however, it was nowhere near enough on which to ski.
The forest on both sides of the pass looked an awful lot like the forests in Colorado. The Segovia side of the pass was loaded with switchback turns. When we got to the bottom of the pass we were only about 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) from Segovia.
We drove on into Segovia and found a parking space. The garage was very interesting. Above each parking space was an LED light. If the space was vacant the light was green. If a car was in the space the light was red.
We walked up the stairs, out of the garage, and walked around the corner. As soon as we came around the corner we saw the ancient Roman aqueduct for which Segovia is famous. It is an impressive and imposing sight. At nearly 29 meters (95 feet) at its tallest, it is equivalent to a five or six-story building. This Roman aqueduct dates from the latter part of the first century! It is considered the most important Roman artifact in Spain. The remains of the aqueduct are approximately one-half mile in length. Up until 1884, the aqueduct carried water from the nearby Sierra de Riofrio.
We walked into the main square beneath the aqueduct, the Plaza del Azoguejo. That is where the main tourist information shop is located. There were very few people. As has become our tradition, we found a little place to have some coffee and a pastry. When we finished, we walked over to the tourist office which was now open. From there we began our hike through the old city.
We climbed up many stairs to get near the top of the aqueduct. From there we walked down one of the main streets inside the walls of the city. As we walked along, we noticed one of the things for which Segovia is renown, its unique building façades. There seems to be an unending number of patterns used on the fronts of each building. In the tourist information shop, they even sell books documenting the various patterns. During our walk, I continued my study of Spanish doors, photographing many along the way. They are so different from anything we have seen in the U.S.
As we continued our walk, we came across the Torreón de los Arias Dávila (Arias Dávila Tower). This is located at the Plaza los Huertas. In the 15th century, the Arias Dávila family built a palace. The tower is all that is left of that structure. A unique façade pattern is visible in the tower as well.
From the tower, we made our way to the Plaza Mayor and our first view of the Cathedral of Segovia. We went inside the Cathedral. It was huge. The ceiling was 15 or 20 meters (49 or 66 feet) tall, maybe even higher. The construction of this wonderful cathedral began in 1136. Completion did not occur until the late 16th century. Four to five hundred years of construction is just unheard of in our world today. Regardless, like so many of the churches and cathedrals in Europe, it is worth a visit just to see the works of art and the intricate decorations.
Departing the cathedral, we continued down one of the main shopping streets, Calle del Arco. We chose that direction because it ultimately led to the Alcázar, one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Segovia. Calle del Arco has numerous gift shops. In addition, there are quite a few artisan shops.
Soon we found ourselves at the Alcázar. It is a fortified castle that is rumored to have inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. I was not able to confirm that. This is the first castle in Europe that we have toured as a family. This castle is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is easy to see why. The castle was really spectacular. One of the first sights we encountered was the moat and drawbridge. The moat was really just a deep, deep pit. The castle itself is built on a point of cliffs. After walking around it was easy to see just how impossible it would have been to attack and capture the castle.
In the first room of the tour (self-guided), there are several suits of armor on display. Included in the display are a few of the suits of armor worn by the horses. From there, one makes their way to the Throne Room. This is a reproduction of the throne room used by the Catholic Monarchs. It was used for royal audiences. Immediately after the Throne Room is the Kings’ Room. The ceiling and the paintings in this room are incredible.
The armory has several suits of armor, cannon, swords and other weapons on display. It opens up onto the Patio del Reloj, the Watch Patio. That is so named because of the sundial on the side of the castle.
Moving from there to the Patio de Armas, one can easily see the Juan II tower. We did not tour the tower.
Leaving the Alcázar, we wound our way back through town, to the car and home.
Segovia is rich in heritage and well worth the visit.