We got an early start out of the center of Madrid this morning, but still managed to sit in traffic for 30 minutes or so. Considering Madrid is basically the size of London or Paris, 30 minutes on a Friday morning didn’t seem so bad. As soon as we got north of the city, it immediately turned to mountains and an almost desert like terrain. Reminded me a lot of Nevada outside of Las Vegas.

We made a quick stop off at the Castle De Los Medoza just because it was along the way. A granite fortress towering over a small town. Not much history here really. They built this, lived there for less than 100 years… then it has sat empty for the last 400 years or so. I’d live there 🙂

The main attraction of the day was a little further up the highway in Segovia. The amazing Roman aqueduct! This aqueduct was built around 100AD and brought water to Segovia from over 15 miles away and was used until the mid 1850s. Over 20,000 granite blocks with no mortar make up the system and it maintains a 1.5 degreee slope all the way into the center of the city.

We walked around Segovia taking in the old buildings and churchs

Norah wanted to stand in front of the statue and be the Statue of Liberty. Ha

They have an actual bandstand in the main plaza.

Norah and Kegan played their imaginary instruments on the steps.

This incredible Segovia cathedral is a Gothic style from the 1500s that is just massive.

Giant 16 foot doors stand on multiple sides for entry.

One of the only Baroque organs in Europe (we saw another one in Amorbach a couple of weeks ago)

After our old quarter walking tour, we drove to the outskirts of Segovia to see the Alcazar, or “fortress”. Some sort of fortress has been here since Roman times. The Moors set up their fortress and defenses here as well because it’s right at the convergence point of two rivers. Then, when the Christian monarchs conquered the area, they immediately started building this giant stone structure. Very impressive castle.

Next, we went by the Iglesia de Vera Cruz, one of the oldest buildings in the world still standing as an original. There are tons of cathedrals and such from 700 or 800AD, but they’ve all been rebuilt, changed, built on top of an old one… but this 12 sided church was built by the Knights Templar in 1208 to mimic the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Knights Templar had taken back the Holy Land from Muslim control years earlier in the first crusade.

The Knights Templar have great mystery and speculation surrounding them…with ties to secret societies, freemasons and the Holy Grail, but the quick history is a lot more humdrum. The Pope decreed that this small order of Knights would answer only to the Pope/Catholic church and be above Kings/borders and all local laws. All Knights Templar swore themselves to poverty and chastity- and survived by donations. As a way to help the Christian cause, noblemen would make grand donations to the Knights and this helped grow the order into what today would be a considered a multinational corporation. Because they weren’t subject to the local rulers and they were sworn to poverty, they eventually became a trusted source for depositing valuables and controlling and securing wealth. They actually came up with the first form of banking- they would let pilgrims headed to the Holy Land deposit all wealth and valuables at their home area and they would issue a “check” to be redeemed when they reached Jerusalem.

The Templars lasted only a couple hundred years. A French king who financed a war against the English through the Knights was deeply indebted and was able to start enough rumors about the Knights Templar to create an absolute witch hunt- accusing the Knights of homosexual activity, spitting on the cross as part of their private initiation rituals, worshipping idols, etc…all because  he couldn’t pay his bills. He was even able to convince the current Pope (a member of his family, conveniently) to disband the Knights and pass their wealth to other Knight orders…but not before burning the leaders in Paris at the stake-for effect, of course. So- really- no true secret orders, no ulterior missions..just a group with more power than a King and a King who outplayed them. It is said that as the Grand Master of the Knights was burned, he said he would soon meet at God’s door those who orchestrated his punishment. The Pope died a month later and the King was killed in a hunting accident the same year….and that fact gives me a lot of satisfaction. Haha

I digress. Church of Vera Cruz:

A blurry dog along the way. I really wish this photo would have turned out… I love this dog. Ha

We started driving towards Salamanca for the evening but stopped by Avila to see the town with these intact medieval walls surrounding it.

We stopped for a quick meal along the road and happened on a restaurant serving suckling pig and suckling lamb.

I had the Jamon Iberico and of course, Kegan ordered the whole leg of lamb. Haha

They have so many rules on raising, cooking and serving this meat to preserve tradition and quality. It is always served in a clay dish, cooked slow in a clay oven and always with the tag on the foot showing it’s certified.

When we got to the hotel, Norah went to try out the pool.

We ventured out to the main plaza for dinner and had Tapas and drinks with all 2,000 other people in Salamanca on a Friday night. Haha