Monday, March 18, 2013

Stories from Segovia

el acueducto de Segovia

When my contract ended last summer, I boarded a bus with teary eyes to embark on a new adventure. My crazy-cool Uncle had decided to cross the pond for a visit! We met up in Madrid and set off, our first stop being not far away, just northwest of the capital in beautiful Segovia! Situated on the meseta in Castilla y Leon, Spain doesn't get much more Spanish than here. Its stunning scenery and easy access from Madrid make Segovia a popular tourist stop, but the Roman aqueducts, the Alcázar castle, and the cochinillo, or roast suckling pig, are what really put it on the map!

el Alcázar de Segovia

The earliest records indicate that the Alcazar began as a fortress during the Moorish invasion of Spain, and then continued to evolve with history. When I say that that Spain doesn't get more Spanish than this, think Queen Isabel I of Castille. After the death of Henry IV in Madrid, this is where she was crowned queen. Not of minor significance, Isabella and her husband Ferdinand of Aragón are credited with ending the Reconquista, starting the Inquisition, sending Columbus to America, and, oh yeah, uniting all of Spain under one rule.

The castle is beautiful (enough so to inspire disney fairy tales!), but imagining the history as I wandered the halls was a different kind of beauty, like sidestepping time. We made it up the tower, with a little huffing and puffing, but the applause from a group of students from Asturias at the top was absolutely worth it!

The applause and, of course, the view...

a view of Segovia

Segovia's historical significance extends beyond Spain's golden age and into modernity, having also been on the front lines during the Spanish Civil War. This history is also a bit more personal, and I was anxious to see it for myself, because a friend of mine is from Segovia and actually lived it. As a child, he remembers, it was an ordinary afternoon that his parents were debating whether his father should go down to Madrid on errands that day, or wait until the next. He went that same day, war broke out, and he couldn't come back for five years. My friend remembers seeing Franco's speeches from the balcony, and watching people run from the square into the church as the bombs fell. It was almost hard to believe as we wandered the same spot on a sleepy summer day, and sipped our coffee in the plaza. 

Segovia is a convenient tourist destination, but it's also a sleepy Spanish town. The man sweeping the plaza was happy to tell me an entire history of the cathedral, another man explained how the aquaduct appeared overnight after a tired farm boy made a deal with the devil to save time fetching water, and when we stopped in at the Mesón de Candido to sample some of Segovia's typical dish, roast suckling pig, the second-generation owner laughed as he wrote me a joke to tell my friend about the small neighboring towns. I loved Segovia for all of its touristic appeals, but I think that what I loved most was the grace with which it shares all of its stories, inviting you to be a part of its history. 

Have you ever been to Segovia? Did you stop in at the Meson de Candido for some cochinillo

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