Report on Plasencia & Merida Oct 24, 2023

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I traveled from Salamanca to Plasencia by bus as the rail system does not connect these. Looking back at Salamanca, my long-time favorite place in Spain, where I often have thought of purchasing a small second home, I now have very mixed feelings.  All the charm of the old city and fabulous Roman to medieval and Renaissance architecture, still is in place, but the tourist scene is out of control. Every day, even now, well outside the tourist season, the narrow streets and famous sites are completely congested with large (20-30 person) tour groups, with the guides often using portable loud speakers. They stop in the middle of streets, alleys, and entrances while the guides give lectures. I found after about 5 days I was getting very annoyed as I wandered around.

Plasencia is a small hill town, but with a wonderful Romanesque Old Cathedral with the New Cathedral, mostly gothic with Renaissance touches, built onto one side.  I guess the original plan was to fully take down the Old to expand the New, but instead construction stopped where they brought the two together, and one finds major gaps in the interior supporting walls where the two don’t quite connect.  The old has a picturesque cloister.

The city has a large section of original defensive walls from medieval conflicts still standing , and a wonderful heroic size bronze of Alfonso VIII, King of Castille in the 12th Century, rides a horse over a town square.  My hotel was the Alfonso VIII, a 4-star with an old world charming interior.  I had a large top floor room with an outdoor roof-top terrace larger than the room. The town also maintains its 16th century aqueduct. The weather turned cold and rainy the last couple of days, so sitting on the small plaza for drinks was uncomfortable.

I traveled by train south on to Merida, on a day with pouring rain and lashing winds.  Spain news reported on Borrasca Aline (Storm Aline), which apparently flooded much of Spain with record rainfall, and particularly the southwest where I was traveling.  My train was much slowed down, and at one point stopped for a downed telegraph pole to be removed from the tracks. My first day and half in Merida was almost continual rain and cold winds.

Merida, which I have visited many times, is the most Roman of cities, surpassing the ruins of much of Italy. It was founded in 25 BCE by Augusta Ceasar’s Legionnaires in retirement after successful battles, and was the capital of Lusitania, one of the 3 provinces of the Iberian Peninsula. First Century BC construction includes the longest existing Roman bridge (almost a kilometer), built over the Guadiana River, the finest (subjective) Roman theater in existence and amphitheater for gladiator battles, the huge remains of the hippodrome (horse and chariot races), long standing sections of 95 foot aqueduct towers,  a small forum, temple to Diana, and the ruins of a number of massive Roman villas, with mosaic floors and painted walls in place. Beyond this are numerous smaller remains, and perhaps the finest Roman Museum outside Rome and Naples. Obviously it was designated one of the original premier World Heritage Sites. I have several times in the past posted numerous photos of the Merida ruins, so will only post a few here below.

From Merida I travel again by train to Cordoba. Later, Dave


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