Two weekends ago we had a group trip to Segovia, a city with over 2,000 years of history. Known not only for it’s ancient Roman Aqueduct, Segovia is also home to the Alcazar, a castle and fortress that has seen use by the various ruling population of the reason over the last few hundred years, as well as a beautiful gothic cathedral that dominates the skyline of Plaza Mayor. Segovia is about a two hour drive from Madrid and I used most of the drive to make up for missing sleep. We arrived around noon and while most of the group took a siesta, I took my camera and explored for a bit.
The city is absolutely stunning. Every building and every street has a particular character to it. This is not only seen in the overall architectural design of the different buildings, but in the patterned walls of every building. This is a custom unique to Segovia that helps create the beautiful, timeless atmosphere. One of the difficulties I always find in photography is taking photographs when spending time with others. When I’m with friends and having fun I always like to enjoy the moment and forgot to “capture” it with pictures. Because of this, I often explore on my own, taking my time to observe, explore, and frame my shots. There’s something almost liberating in wandering on one’s own just to observe one’s surroundings.
After our siesta, we had a delicious lunch of tortilla Española at the hotel and spent an hour or two talking with the Spaniards from our program. Learned a lot of new words as my dad would say! I would like to add to the vocabulary list I posted last time, but I’m not sure how appropriate it would be! Once lunch was over we headed on a walking tour of the city with the professor of our art history class, Arturo Colorado. We visited inside the gothic style cathedral which had gorgeous arches and stained glass windows. Next we walked to the Alcazar, and Arturo gave us a tour of the castle. Beautiful, ancient building with incredible views of the entire country site. Standing at the edge of the castle, looking out through one of the large stone windows, it was hard to believe that hundreds of years ago kings and queens ruled an entire country from where I stood.
And then it started to pour. The countryside disappeared from view, replaced by a wall of water. We waited in one of the huge stone rooms, wall and ceilings covered with beautiful paintings, for the rain to pass, telling “ghost stories” in Spanish and catching up with the Madrid students we hadn’t seen in a bit. Eventually the rain slowed down enough for us to make a run back to the hotel where we dried off and rested before heading out for dinner.Eating here in Spain always requires some economic analysis. With the Tufts program, we’re provided breakfast and either lunch or dinner with our host family, and provided with 11€ per day to eat. This stipend is always plenty for eating for getting the menú del día (a fantastic invention that gets you two courses, a drink, and a dessert for under 10€) during lunch or eating tapas for dinner, but when it comes to eating dinner at a full-fledged restaurant 11€ doesn’t usually cut it. Luckily all of this money is deposited in a checking account for us and we can save money from cheaper meals to enjoy fancier meals or put it towards other activities. With all the fantastic opportunities to spend money here, I ended up going to a small bar with a few of the other students and ordering a delicious hamburger. After dinner we turned to the hotel and took a brief siesta to get ready for the night.We left the hotel uncertain of where we would find the fiesta. One of the things you quickly learn here is that people are almost always glad to help you find where the party is. All you have to ask somebody walking down the street, “¿Dónde es la fiesta?”, and they’ll tell you the best places to go, sometimes even accompanying you there. We ended up running into Sergio and Miguel Angel, two of the program professors. After a competition in winking abilities, they accompanied us to a bar near the plaza mayor. The nightlife scene in Segovia was a bit different from the one I’ve grown accustomed to in Alcalá. WIth a university that welcomes hundreds of international students every year, Alcalá has a huge large population of 20 and 30 year olds who visit bars early in the night (around 12) and then head to the discobars afterwards. We went out a little early in Segovia and found the calle de fiesta lined with packs of teenagers, mostly boys. One could feel the hormones oozing forth from these testosterone fueled masses. As most of the Segovia party goers were still lining the streets, we had the bar mostly to ourselves and once we arrived the necessary drinking, dancing, and divertido ensued.After the first bar, the entire group headed to a second smoke-filled venue. Despite the relatively heavy smoking here in Spain, I haven’t had too many asthma-related issues. The biggest issue has always been just the unpleasantness of breathing cigarette flavored air, with an occasional cough or sneeze. This club, however, was worst I’ve yet to experience. The smoke hung visibly think in the air and each breath triggered a sharp pain in my lungs. Needless to say I said my goodbyes (in Spain it’s considered rude if you don’t say goodbye to everyone when making an exit) and headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
Saturday morning came bright and early. The rain from the evening before had disappeared and a beautiful partly cloudy day had taken its place. In the morning we headed out with Arturo once more to see more of the beautiful architecture and history of Segoiva. Our first stop, within walking distance of the hotel, was the gorgeous Monasterio del Parral. A beautiful reflecting pool filled the foyer of the monastery, providing a perfect frame for the Alcazar in the distance. Next to the monastery is a unassuming gothic style church. Relatively standard in appearance from the outside, the cathedral was enormous and ornate within. Leaving the monastery, we walked along a riverside path to our next church, La Iglesia de la Veracruz, a unique circular church once used as the location for knighting worthy Spaniards. One of the coolest features of the church is a small echo chamber in the middle of the church. Standing on opposite sides of the chamber, two people can talk to each other by speaking into the wall, as the sound travels along the dome ceiling to the other’s ear. When speaking from the the middle of the room, one’s voice is distributed evenly throughout the chamber as if it were everywhere at once.
With Veracruz behind us, we headed into the center of Segovia to witness the city’s claim to fame: the 2,000 year old Roman Aqueduct. It’s impossible to convey the feeling of seeing this enormous aqueduct for the first time. It almost seems like an illusion, as if it is going to suddenly disappear when you turn your head to a different angle. But it never does, it just stretches on and on. The aqueduct spreads across the center of Segovia, towering over the lower half and ending in a reservoir in the upper half. While the aqueduct ultimately attracts many tourists, there is good reason for this interest. For me, the idea that this 2,000 year old piece of plumbing is still standing, now towering over modern buildings, stores and cafes, is simply incredible. After a lot of free time, some chocolate a la taza, and a time-passing lunch, we headed back to Alcalá, surrounded by the passing beauty of the Spanish countryside.