Our train to Segovia passed by snow capped mountains and dozens of deer grazing the pastoral countryside.
There is a high speed AVE train that takes 30 minutes heading northwest from Madrid to Segovia but the Segovia AVE station is well outside of town. We elected instead to take the slower Regional train that stopped along the way at multiple stations and arrived in the center of Segovia. It was an excellent option for this trip as the passing landscape kept our attention riveted. The countryside in the center of Spain is more scenic than the South of Spain and the area just outside of Madrid seems to be less populated.
Once we arrived in town we headed to a cafe for a cortado and napolitana then began our typical flaneurial pace heading towards the old walled city. We often prepare an agenda or outline of what we want to accomplish in each town, but in Segovia there were only a few key sites we wanted to see so the balance of our day was unrestricted and relaxed.
El Acueducto de Segovia
Both the Aqueduct and the old city of Segovia are outstanding examples of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The imposing 1st century CE Aqueduct of Segovia runs through the center of town and was the first dramatic structure we saw.
According to Alejandro Lapunzina in Reference Guides to National Architecture: Architecture of Spain, “It consists of about 25,000 granite blocks held together without any mortar, and spans 818 meters (half a mile) with more than 170 arches, the highest being 29 metres (95 feet) high.” It was amazing to walk next to and beneath the arches and to imagine the millions of lives that have walked these same streets over the past 2000 years.
Catedral de Segovia
Segovia’s Cathedral, built between 1525 and 1577 is impressive inside and out. It holds the distinction of being the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain. In 1474, Isabella the Catholic, was crowned Queen of Castile in Segovia’s Plaza Mayor which today is directly in front of the magnificant Cathedral.
Alcázar de Segovia
This striking palace offers commanding views of the green hills beyond and below as well as an amazing view of the massive Cathedral of Segovia across town.
The Castle has served as a military base for the Romans, the Arab occupiers and Christian crusaders, a royal residence and a military school.
After the Reconquista of Segovia in the late 1100’s, the Kingdom of Castille chose this city and castle to be his capital. It was well fortified with a deep moat surrounding it and was able to store months worth of fresh water deep beneath the castle in case of a siege. In the late 1800’s a fire destroyed much of the roof. After all the restoration the pinkish hued walls topped with blue-grey tiled roofs once again resembles a fairy tale castle.
The castle interior is no less wondrous, with beautiful Renaissance art, a frieze that shows 52 images of Spanish Kings and Queens, a display of knights armor and the restored throne room from which Isabella and Ferdinand co-ruled the country.
Hans Christian Andersen, noted Danish author, poet and writer of fairy tales seemed to be fond of storks. He wrote ‘The Storks’, published in 1838 and ‘The Marsh King’s Daughter’, published in 1858 and has been credited with starting the rumour that storks deliver babies. We saw dozens of majestic white storks sitting on nests, so be prepared Segovia, a baby boom may be about to happen.
Le Manége d’Andrea o Carrusel
Andrea’s carousel is a fantastical gothic looking merry-go-round in Segovia located next to the aqueduct. The creatures children can ride here are the most unique we have ever seen. There were 2 or 3 types of fish, a ladybug, a seahorse, some DaVinci-like flying machines, a large black stag beetle, an ostrich, an iguana, a green frog, a Pegasus and more. The characters are made from a variety of materials including wood, glass, copper, metal and leather and the entire merry-go-round was also painted with scenes making it an interesting art piece.
Teja a la segoviana
Unusual roof tiles caught our attention in the older part of Segovia. The roofs had one single layer of inverted or concave tiles and because this traditional way of placing tiles on roofs is rare and most often found in or near Segovia, it has been named the ‘segoviana tile’.
After a few hours of research online we finally can provide a fairly simplified explanation of how the concave tiles work. A thick layer of wet clay is first laid down which will create waterproof joints. Then the concave tiles are arranged in the damp clay in rows alternating one with the wide side and the next with the narrow side that fit together like scales. Only the eaves or ridge gets a cover or convex tile for reinforcement. This type of tile arrangement is apparently waterproof, extremely long lasting and quite effective for snow removal as well.
We had read that the Tourist Office was excellent in Segovia. The one we popped into was next to the aqueduct and predictably busy. The gal that helped us was an American student and the service was top notch. She was both pleasant and enthusiastic. After a brief conversation, we received our map, a few tips and off we went. It was a worthwhile stop.
We had a gentle reminder to always check the restaurant bill. At our lunch the restaurant tried to sneak on, not one, but three extra drinks to our bill. Nice try, pero no! Other than that blip, we thoroughly enjoyed a peaceful and relaxing day trip to beautiful Segovia and recommend adding this destination to your itinerary.
Salud from these Segovians,
Ted and Julia