I put on my walking shoes, lugged my backpack and headed off to Segovia, Spain, on an invite to the 35th World ITI (International Theatre Institute) Congress, in July. What I had not anticipated was that I would get to witness so much beyond my expectations in this city, declared as World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. My camera just kept clicking all along — every nook and corner made postcard pictures.
An hour’s drive from Madrid, this city is well connected by road and rail, traversing the picturesque hilly terrain of the Spanish countryside.
Nestled in rolling hills and pristine architectural buildings, it caters to the palette of adventure seekers, tourists interested in architecture, heritage and history, those seeking a cultural getaway or the ones who just wish to chill! For gastronomes, it’s a treat to choose from an array of local dishes like Suckling Pig, Milk-fed Lamb, Wild Mushrooms or tasty Cantimpalos Chorizos or to stay safe with a choice of outlets of Burger king, Pizza hut and McDonald’s!
The first thing that strikes you is the long stretched Aqueduct, a marvel of Roman architecture, which runs the length of the city and beyond. It has 167 arches made of unmortared, brick-like ashlars, joined by means of ingenuous force equilibrium, with no use of any plastering material. Water from the Rio Frio river traverses diverse natural landscapes and reaches the city through the Aqueduct, after being filtered in two tanks. This system has been recorded to be in existence since the first half of the 2nd century.
A not-to-miss monument is the Alcazar De Segovia, an imposing structure against a mountainous backdrop, on a stone peninsula between the rivers Eresma and Clamores. It seems straight out of a fairy tale with its pointed domes and tall minarets. Surrounded by gardens, this palace is complete with a moat and deep dungeons and escape ways, all geared for an invasion. Visiting it with a lingua-phone guide, transforms you to another era of valour and chivalry.
The Cathedral of Segovia, a prominent landmark, is defined by style and chronology as the last Gothic one. Inside it are displayed works of art of the highest order and quality, produced by great masters. The original Cathedral was destroyed in 1521 and the consecration of the present one was done in 1768, which now caters to the religious faith of all Segovians.
With a municipal council committed to promoting this as the cultural capital of Spain and tourism being the principal industry here, life is vibrant. The city hosts the annual European Film Festival, which is a crowd puller.
Richly carved buildings, tiny kiosks with bright and artistic displays, sculptures, manicured gardens, serpentine cobbled streets, a green countryside with mountains and rivulets, ancient history preserved in its architecture and imprints — all add magic to this city.
For a theatre connoisseur like me, the added treat to the usual touristy itinerary were the numerous shows, both in dance and theatre. They were both visually breathtaking and fodder for thought! One of the biggest Universities in Spain, the IE, where I stayed during the course of the Congress and Student Theatre Festival, is housed in a former monastery. But for a touch here and there, the monastery has been maintained as it is. And on a bright, sunny day, you can even see the stork’s nest atop the monastery’s chapel steeple!
Of the 10 days I spent there, not once did I feel the urge to visit other Spanish cities. It was a mesmerising experience indeed!