Sunday, December 14, 2008

Segovia & the Aqueduct 12/5/08

Segovia & the Aqueduct 

Friday we took a half-day trip north to Segovia by bus. We bought the tickets at the bus station and found that we had specific seats on a specific bus. The Palmers, the Bowdens and us wanted to see the ancient (Roman) aqueduct that was still being used to transport water into the town up until just a few years ago.

After an hour and a quarter ride we arrived at the Segovia bus station south of the main part of town. As we headed to the exit we stopped at a tourist information stall and got a map that was very useful. As we exited the station, crossed the street and rounded the end of a building at the corner, this is the sight that presented itself. The elevated section of the aqueduct really dominated the scene. From where I took this picture, I turned to the left and saw the Church of St. Andrew, above.

The old city is built on top of a long, narrow promontory. It contains many old structures, including the central cathedral, the famous ancient Roman aqueduct, the Alcázar castle, and various churches built in the Romanesque style including San Esteban, San Martin, San Andrew, and San Millan. The old city is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is surrounded by walls built in the 8th century AD on a Roman base and then rebuilt extensively during the 15th century.

The Aqueduct of Segovia, the most recognized and famous symbol of Segovia, ends at the entrance of the historic section of the town. It was built at the end of 1st to early 2nd century BC by the Romans during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula to bring water from the Río Frío (Cold River) that is about 18 km away from the city, requiring an elevated section in its last kilometer.

From the internet, "This elevated section is supported by an engineering marvel of 166 arches and 120 pillars in two levels. It is made of 20,400 large, rough-hewn granite blocks, joined without mortar or clamps. Its maximum height of 28.1 m (100.53 ft) is found at the plaza of Azoguejo. A raised section of stonework in the center once had an inscription. Today only the holes for the bronze letters survive."

The stone blocks were hoisted up to stack on one another using scissor clamps, much like a set of old ice tongs, that fit in these holes and provided purchase for the iron clamps. The heavier the block, the tighter the grip on the block.
At the base of one of the central arches is a niche filled with a statue of a woman and child. One is forced to consider the Madonna given the dominance of the Catholic church here, but remember that this was built by Romans well before the Christian era. The UNESCO web site has an interesting video that you may enjoy. To view it on your PC, go to

We walked the town to the west, through the narrow streets to the central plaza in front of the cathedral called "the lady". In this central square we tried to find a restaurant that was open, that we could all agree on. I had chosen two places along the way that the others didn't like, so I opted out of the gastronomical leadership and waited for direction.

In the mean time, we stopped by two gypsy ladies selling shawls and scarves. They said that each was made by hand and was the labor of many hours. When we finally found a restaurant and had eaten, on the way out we passed them packing up into boxes labeled, "Made in China". Well, they may have been hand made, but it probably wasn't in Spain. Here we are with the one that sold Sister Cindy a crocheted and beaded decorative over-blouse. Boy was she a saleswoman. I think she might have been attractive 50 years and 150 lbs ago, but she was just unique now. I think the tooth count was about even; half gone.

After lunch, at a restaurant founded by a toreador (that I had to pick due to inertia in the group) we continued past the cathedral and down the narrow streets to the Alcázar castle-palace perched at the tip of the town's promontory.

It is said that this castle started off as an Arab fort that was conquered by King Alfonso VI at the end of the 11th century. During the Middle Ages, the Alcazar of Segovia was the favorite residence of many kings of Castile, and many of them added new parts to the building, transforming the original fortress into a "modern" residence. King Philip II finally added the conical spires and the slate roofs. A fire in 1862 destroyed part of the roofs, but they were restored in the very same style they were built more than 300 years ago.

On the grounds of the of the castle was a monument to the heroes of the Spanish Civil War. My Spanish was not good enough to read the details, but that was the general description. I am so glad that no one laughed at my attempts at Spanish.

We walked the narrow streets again back to the center of town and waited while the more adventurous ones climbed down the aqueduct from the top to the bottom at the plaza.

On the way back I took pictures of lots of old doors. I am fascinated with doors because I imagine what has taken place at those doors. The heroes who have passed through them, the villains who have pounded on them, the mothers who have cowered behind them, the fathers who have defended them, the children who have played within them, the coffins that have passed through them. Doors are portals to stories yet untold except to those with the imagination to write them.

We slept through the trip home and were glad to be back in Madrid on time. This was the day when we would get what we actually came for; our Russian Visas. We found the building where the visa service offices were and rode the antique, 2 person, open cage elevator to the 6th floor and found the office. After examining our documents and putting them safely in our security pouches, we were off to the MTC for dinner and a visit with President and Sister Hill, the MTC President, and their computers to check our emails.

We had one more night at our hotel and then we could stay at the MTC a night before going home. Tomorrow we would go to the Temple twice. It is such a blessing to again enjoy Temple worship after six months of absence.

What a nice day in this nice country.

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

We were in this same town and saw the same sights! The very best picture I have ever taken was a wide, wide angle looooong picture of the acquaduct (sp?). What a great time you must have had during those days of Visa renewal! Be glad for the opportunity to "see the world" every three months. What a mission! Marilyn