Mérida and Cáceres: Ancient Rome in Spain

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First of all, I would like to send out a thank you to all of those who wished me happy birthday this week.  Wow, I’m finally 20 years old.  I know I shouldn’t say I feel old but dang…I really do!

My wonderful friends here bought me a gigantic bottle of diet coke and a beautiful gypsy bracelet, and threw me a little surprise party.  I couldn’t have asked for more.

They know me too well!

Before I bore you by delving into my observations of some of the intricacies of Spanish culture, I suppose I will expand upon my excursion this weekend.

We woke up early on Thursday morning and took a 4 hour bus ride to Mérida, Extremadura, or rather, a burning inferno that almost melted my camera lens and sept through the bottom of my sandals.  Mérida is famous for it’s ancient Roman ruins, and most importantly, the roman theatre.  This is the structure that comes up with the most google hits when “ampitheatre” is searched.  This is the same theatre that was founded in 25 B.C. by Octavius Augustus himself after the Cantabrian Wars.  Yeah, it’s just kind of a big deal.

This is where the history of tragedy and comedy began. So many soliloquies, monologues, murders, and celebrations will forever resonate from the powerful stone pillars.

Behind the amphitheater was a huge garden filled with terraces, fruit trees, streams, and a massive cistern where actors would memorize and practice their lines.  Thus the term “green room”  was coined.

Afterwards, we had a change to explore the rest of the town, although most of it was sleeping off large lunches in a siesta that I was extremely jealous of.  This city, as with many other places here in Spain, is so amazing because it’s built around ruins like Tucson is built around saguaro cacti.  Everywhere you turn, there is some fascinating piece of history, and it’s just there, no fences, no guards, nothing.  As we turned the corner on one of the narrow streets, we found the Temple of Diana, as well as an ancient Roman bridge that is still intact and functioning today.

Perhaps my favorite part of Mérida, however, was a tiny bookstore that had hundreds of the most beautiful, old books that I had ever seen.  It was one of those “love-at-first-sight” things, and I could have stayed there for hours.  Medical books, playwrights, classics, bibles – honestly everything you could think of, and they were all there waiting to be opened.  Ancient books from all ages….for SALE!  I wanted to go through every single one and buy them all and bring them home, but then I realized that I would have had to have more than a small fortune in my possession to satisfy my desire for these books.  It broke my heart to leave.

The next day, in Cáceres, I was in a slightly better mood and it wasn’t quite as hot, so I enjoyed it much more.  Plus I got a glorious sleep and a hot shower in the hotel the night before so I wasn’t complaining.  Cáceres is fascinating because it contains relics of Moorish, Jewish, Roman, and Italian architecture, and I’m sure I am leaving some out.  I could have filled up three memory cards with pictures of all of the different palaces, walls, and homes, and still not captured the beauty of this ancient city.

We kissed the feet of a sculpture of a priest, which apparently gives you good luck in regards to love life….

did you know that the artist who created this bronze used his own face in place of the priest he was supposed to be sculpting?

And ate migas and spanish tortillas in the Plaza Mayor during siesta because there was only one place open.

Living so close to Mexico, and having recently visited some of the historical sites of the Aztecs, among others, the Palacio de Toledo-Moctezuma was absolutely enchanting.  The history behind it explains so much about the Spanish Reconquista, as well as how the New World and ancient Spain were united.  Go read about it and you will understand.

The Palacio de Toledo-Moctezuma in Cáceres palace was built in the 15th century for the daughter of the Azctec emperor Moctezuma II

The Romans, in all of their brilliance, were infrastructural geniuses and built cisterns underneath many of their buildings to store water for the hot months of the year when it didn’t rain.

The Romans would collect water from the rainy months of the season by putting drains in their plazas that emptied into giant cisterns

Oh, also – Extremadura is FAMOUS for it’s Jamón Iberico de Bellota, which is essentially cured ham that has a deliciously sweet flavor due to the fact that the pigs gorge themselves on acorns, which are the “state fruit” of Extremadura.  Next time you’re here, try it.  The visit is worth it just for this.

Oh, also…I didn’t want to bore anyone with it who didn’t want to read, but you should check out my dream I had the other day.  It was a bit of a wake up call to me and I found it very interesting. Until next time!

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