Segovia’s Mysteries

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August 8th 2019
Published: August 9th 2019
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After failing to decipher the mysteries of Segovian eating times last night, I enter the breakfast room at about what I would consider to be a normal breakfast time having no idea what to expect. There are people here eating breakfast, but if they’re staying at a hotel they’re probably not Segovians, so I’m really no closer to solving the mystery.

Issy is a bit tired after a long day of travelling yesterday so I set off on my own for the Cathedral. As we saw last night, it is an absolutely massive and spectacular structure that towers over the main square and the rest of the town. I arrive just in time for a tour of the belltower. I’m told that the tour will be in Spanish, which is fine because I’m now an expert in the language having studied it on a computer app for four years. After the guide’s been talking for about five minutes and I’ve understood all of about three words, I begin to wonder whether she really is speaking Spanish, or maybe it’s just a different dialect to the one I’ve been learning. I realise that I’m only kidding myself; she is speaking Spanish, which means that I must really suck at language learning. I’m now feeling very discouraged.

The first stop is the first floor of the belltower. I think it’s good that we have stopped here. Some of the older members of the group look like they might be in need of an ambulance if they try to go any further without a break. We sit and watch a spectacular audio visual display on the history of the Cathedral projected on three of the tower’s four sandstone walls. Fortunately there are English subtitles, although they are projected just above the rest of the visual display, and trying to read them while the walls all around me look like they're moving is making me feel a tad nauseous.

The Cathedral was built in the 16th century after the previous Cathedral was destroyed during the War of the Communities of Castile, which was an uprising by the locals against the rule of King Charles I. The original mahogany spire, which had been the tallest in Spain, was destroyed by a fire caused by a massive thunderstorm in 1614.

We move up to the next level, which from my very limited understanding of what the guide is saying, was the residence of the bell ringer and his family. I think she’s trying to tell us that they had to winch his furniture up here through the window, but I’m understanding so little of what’s being said that I’m really only guessing, and that mightn’t have anything to do with it at all. We move to the top level where the bells are. The views from up here over Segovia and the very dry surrounding countryside are spectacular.

Back on solid ground again I wander around the Cathedral. It is massive and absolutely stunning. It is right up there with the most spectacular cathedrals I’ve been to, and right on a par with the likes of St Peter’s in the Vatican, and the massive Seville Cathedral. It’s even photographer friendly. They keep the birds out of the cloisters with virtually invisible strings of very fine transparent fishing wire. The Belltower of the Alghero Cathedral by contrast used coarse black fishing nets to do the same thing, so all the photos I took from up there look like they were snapped from inside a prison cell.

I collect Issy and we head to one of Segovia’s other big ticket attractions, the Alcazar of Segovia, or literally the Segovia Fortress. It looks like a sand castle; it also looks relatively new from the outside, but from what we read it’s anything but. There’s evidence of the Romans having built a fort here, although only the foundations remain. The Moors then built a fort of their own on the site. The current structure dates from the 12th century and it’s been modified and expanded a lot over the centuries since then. It’s been a fortress, a Royal Palace, a state prison and a military academy. Most of the roofs were destroyed by fire in 1862 and only rebuilt some 20 years later, and much of the interior is now used as a museum and to house military archives. The views from the top of the tower back towards the rest of Segovia are excellent. We leave, still none the wiser as to why it looks so relatively new. Segovia’s turning into a mysterious place.

Issy left her reading glasses back at the hotel so I have to read the Spanish lunch menu and its English translation out loud to her. When I get to the drinks I’m a bit surprised to see that this particular restaurant thinks that the English translation of sangria is “bleeding”. It seems that there is a theory that the name sangria did originally come from the Spanish word for blood, which is sangre. I think most English speakers are happy to stick with the name sangria, which is probably fortunate, because if someone tried to order a “bleeding” in a pub back home, some of the bar tenders I’ve come across might have been only too happy to oblige.

I leave Issy creating artistic masterpieces while I go wandering in the never ending search for the perfect photo. The Alcazar looks a whole lot more forbidding and less like a Disneyland sand castle from the bottom of the hill next to the river than it did from the street front earlier in the day. I climb the hill on other side of the river where the views of the Alcazar, the Cathedral and the rest of the town as the sun goes down are spectacular.

I say a friendly “hola” to an elderly man out for his evening walk as we both admire the view, and he starts talking to me in Spanish. I respond with an assortment of ”ok’s“, “si’s” and “alright’s”, but he still seems to think I’m Spanish. I think he’s used the Spanish words for “lights”, “night” and “beautiful” a few times, so I decide he’s probably trying to tell me that the view from here is beautiful at night when everything’s lit up. As was the case earlier in the day, this is little more than a guess.

We dine in a square next to the town’s spectacular Roman aqueduct. This is believed to have been built in the first century AD and was used to transport water from the Frio River some seventeen kilometres away. It was still used to supply water to Segovia until the mid 19th century.

Our restaurant with its outdoor seating looks quite fancy. We thought the restaurant seating in the piece of the square next door, which is about a metre and a half from our table, looked quite fancy too until we realised it was McDonald’s. The cardboard cartons with the McDonald’s logos on them were the giveaway, although we probably should also have spotted the lack of white table cloths and serviettes, and that the average age of the diners is about twelve.

Today has been a real highlight, and we think Segovia is quickly becoming one of our favourite places. The architecture is stunning, it’s small and compact, it’s relatively quiet despite the tourists, and the food is excellent.

Additional photos below
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10th August 2019
Segovia Cathedral from the belltower

We have not been to Spain but really look forward to it. We enjoy reading your blogs and impressions.
11th August 2019
Segovia Cathedral from the belltower

Thanks! We've loved virtually everywhere we've been to in Spain. Great weather, food, people, beaches, and ancient towns and villages. From what I've read about you guys I reckon you'd love it!

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