We left Madrid on Easter Saturday and drove towards Salamanca. The driving distance from Madrid to Salamanca was only 215 km. We decided to drive through Segovia, a well known historical city which attracts many tourists. When we arrived in Segovia, we found that a large crowd has already descended on the town. We managed to find a parking spot on a side road away from then main attractions.
Segovia has a long history dating back to Roman time. In 1985, Segovia was declared a World Heritage City by the UNESCO for its unique beauty and rich monumental heritage. The main feature of Segovia is the Aqueduct.
This aqueduct is one of the Roman Empire's most astounding engineering feats and one of the best preserved in Spain. It is the most important Roman artefact in Spain and it is the symbol of the City of Segovia. It was built at the end of the 1st century, probably during the reign of Nerva, and has been used until the middle of the 19th century.
There are 166 stone arches on granite ashlars and they have been set without cement or mortar. The blocks of ashlar were dressed so that they did not need mortar. The aqueduct is the highest and most imposing at the Azoguejo Square. The aqueduct got water from the Fuenfria Spring that is located in the mountains that are 17 km away. At its tallest, the aqueduct is 28.9 m tall and 728 meters in length. The structure has both single and double arches that are supported by pillars.
Other attractions in Segovia include the Cathedral and the Alcazar. We walked around in streets which were full of tourists and holiday makers and came back to the information centre near the entrance to the city. We had lunch in a restaurant and resumed our journey towards Salamanca.
The city of Salamanca was founded in the 4th century BC by the Celts. In the 8th century, during the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, the city was conquered by Musa Ibh Nusair, and Muslim culture took over Christianity.
After the Christian Reconquest, in the 13th century, the king Alfonso IX boosted the development of the city and founded the University of Salamanca, which was ratified by the Pope Alexander in 1255. The city and its university reached great prestige at the time and afterwards, with outstanding figures such as the famous writer Miguel de Unamuno, who was vice-Chancellor at the University of Salamanca.
Another outstanding episode of the Spanish history took place in Salamanca, when during the Spanish war of Independence, the French army was defeated in the Battle of Arapiles, in 1812.
Salamanca was also a key city during the Spanish Civil War. All the documents obtained by the national troops during the occupation of the country where concentrated in Salamanca, creating a famous archive of documents of the Spanish war.
With the establishment of democracy and the arrival of monarchy in Spain, the prestige of the city and its University flourished again. Salamanca has become a cosmopolitan city and is continuously growing in culture and heritage. It has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and recently designated as European Capital of Culture.
We had a booking in Tryp Salamanca hotel. We selected all our hotels outside the city. All the main attractions in Salamanca were in the old city. We took a taxi from the hotel to Plaza Mayor which was the first important landmark in Salamanca.
The Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain is a large plaza located in the center of Salamanca, used as a public square. It was built in the traditional Spanish baroque style and is a popular gathering area. It is lined by restaurants, ice cream parlors, tourist shops, jewelry stores and a pharmacy along its perimeter except in front of the city hall. It is considered the heart of Salamanca and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful plazas in Spain.
There are two cathedrals in Salamanca. The New Cathedral was started in 1512 to help stabilize the deteriorating Old Cathedral (built from1200's to 1300's AD). Today, the New Cathedral is the only entrance to the connecting old, Romanesque, Cathedral Vieja. The old cathedral and the new cathedral were very close to Plaza Mayor. We bought tickets and entered the cathedrals.
We were in Salamanca on Easter Sunday. While in the Information centre, we were told about the Easter procession that is taking place near the new cathedral area. It was a good opportunity for us to witness this procession that happens only once a year. We sat near the cathedral and waited patiently for the procession to begin.
Very soon the place was filled with locals and tourists. The procession was one of the rare scenes we have seen. There were people in colourful uniforms carrying the statues of Jesus and Virgin Mary. We took some photos and finally came back to the hotel in a taxi.