Thursday, 21 September 2017
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SegoviaI have to confess that until very recently the only Segovia that I knew of was Andrés Segovia the very well known guitarist. Then in October 2010 while looking at Google images for Roman ruins in the Iberian Peninsula, I discovered the Roman aqueduct at Segovia and read that it is almost 2000 years old, nearly 30 metres high and made with large blocks of stone with no cement! It was photographs of this incredible aqueduct that persuaded me to spend some time visiting Roman ruins in Spain and Portugal in January 2011.

Following two wonderful days at Merida we travelled north east stopping for the night at Avila, a beautiful medieval walled city and then on to Segovia the next morning. Segovia is approximately 70 kilometres north of Madrid and sits on a high rock which must have encouraged the Romans to create a city there as it would clearly have been easy to defend.

There is not too much left of the Roman city that is visible apart from the Aqueduct. The Visigoths when they took over the city in the 6th century must have adapted the Roman buildings and then the Moors when they arrived in the 8th century built their own buildings on top of the Roman and Visigoth foundations. The Alcazar that they built was constructed precisely on top of the existing Roman and Visigoth foundations using also I am sure much of the original Roman stonework. Following the departure of the Moors the Alcazar became the residence of the monarchs of Castile. 'Isabella the Catholic' was proclaimed Queen in the main square of Segovia on December 13th 1474.

The Romans built their city at Segovia in the second half of the first century AD and having decided to build a settlement had only one major problem and that was to get a regular supply of water up to the town.

The nearest supply of water at a sufficient height was from the Fuenta Fria river in mountains 32 kilometres (20 miles) away. Undeterred they built the aqueduct and followed a design laid down by the very well know architect / engineer Vetruvius.

There are a total of 167 arches, over a distance of 818 metres, the foundations are 6 metres deep (19ft), the entire aqueduct has been built of very precisely cut granite blocks, the only cement used is in the top metre which needed to be waterproof and so is made of much smaller stones held together with cement. During the Roman era the three tallest and central arches had additional blocks of granite which can be seen in some of my photographs in the slide show to the right, these blocks supported brass letters which gave the name of the builder and the date of the completion of the construction. These brass letters have long since corroded and disappeared from the stonework, the holes that were used to hold them in position can still be seen as you can see from some of my photographs. Above and in the centre of this additional stonework are niches, the one facing south has a statue of the Patroness of Segovia 'Virgen de la Fuencisla' and St Stephen, the niche on the other side is now empty but once had a statue of Hercules who legend has it was the founder of the city.

The aqueduct was damaged by the Moors but repaired during the reigns of Ferdinand and Isabella towards the end of the 15th century.

The old town of Segovia and its Aqueduct is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

We were there for two days and enjoyed seeing the city and it's aqueduct immensely, for me anyway an important feature in my travels is to have a good lunch, this we achieved on both days, particularly the second day when we lunched at José Maria which is well known for its 'suckling pig', in fact we didn't see anyone eating anything else. The restaurant is well known throughout Spain and was packed with people and of course lunch was delicious. In the slide show to the right you will see a photograph of the outside of the restaurant and another of the headwaiter deftly chopping a pig into portions using the edge of a plate. A little later in our meal one of his assistants was a little less deft when imitating his boss's 'style and panache' managed to break the serving dish into two halves!! But unabashed he continued to serve his clients with their portions of suckling pig.