Segóbriga and Uclés: the perfect mix for sensitive travelers

In order to draft this post, the first thing I need is a title.

Choosing a title for this post isn’t easy. I’m considering these ones:

  • An awesome half-day trip from Madrid that almost nobody knows.
  • The road from Madrid to Valencia: 2 interesting stops.
  • The Roman village of Segóbriga and the Renaissance Monastery of Uclés.
  • Spain off the beaten path: travelling in time through La Mancha.
  • Segóbriga and Uclés: the perfect mix for sensitive travellers.

The last one is ok. My readers are sensitive.

The second thing I need for my post is an adequate quote. Starting with a quote would be great.

My readers are sensitive and intelligent; hence I must include an intelligent quote by an intelligent person.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. (Albert Einstein)

I’m sure that my sensitive and intelligent readers live their lives as though everything is a miracle.

Don’t they?

I don’t know. In fact, I am not very sure what the hell that quote means. Anyway, the introduction is done.

Now, let’s travel 2000 years back in time. We are visiting a little village of the Roman Empire … We are visiting Segóbriga.

Rome in Spain

Segóbriga is located in the Castilian countryside, in a region called La Mancha (Spain), the land of Don Quixote.

Archeological Segóbriga

Today Segóbriga is just an archeological site.

Gladiators playground

Segóbriga attracts very few visitors because, due to the globalization and the new technologies and the financial crisis and the pop culture and the proliferation of tattoos, the vast majority of people live their lives as though nothing is a miracle.

Segobriga Roman theater

They would say: we are not interested in old stones. We only like rolling stones.

Roman walk

I love old stones.

ruins in Spain

My shadow loves old stones.

Covetotop in Segóbriga

Archeologists love old stones too.

arqueólogos en España

In order to see old stones, nothing beats the city of Rome (btw, dear follower, did you read my nightmarish post “A dream of Italy”? It featured tons of old stones)

I like Rome very much. But there is a problem with Rome. This one: Roma Caput Mundi Regit Orbis Frena Rotundi. In other words: ancient Rome is always crowded.

At this regard (more or less), the wise Julius Caesar once said: I had rather be first in a village than second at Rome.

Covetotop agrees with Julius Caesar in this particular regard. Let’s return to the village of Segóbriga.

Ancient temple

Some of the archeological findings of Segóbriga are exposed in its little museum.

My grand grand grand father

There you’ll meet very interesting people from ancient times.

Mysterious lady

If you are kind and patient enough to let them speak, they will tell you their secrets, their stories, their lives … Even they will describe to you how their wonderful village was when they were young …

Plan of Segobriga

Today you will need a little bit of imagination to see a luxurious Roman bath complex here …

Roman baths Segóbriga

Can you see the gladiators fighting in the arena? Can you hear the crowds roaring?

Spanish gladiators

Psshhh … A Roman drama on stage …

Roman theater Segóbriga Spain

Believe it or not, in the pic below, there is a giant chariot-racing stadium under the flock of sheep … (If you look carefully at that picture, you’ll find faint white traces of the stadium under the sheep, the shepherd and the shepherd’s dog)

Sheep in Uclés

Yes, you’ll need some imagination, but take my word for granted: Segóbriga is still an amazing Roman village.

Segobrigenses stone

Just a few kilometers from Segóbriga (barely a 15 minutes drive), also in the middle of nowhere, is Uclés.

Uclés is a very strange place.

How to explain it?

Imagine a solitary hill surrounded by an infinite plain. On top of the hill, there are just two old buildings, face to face, like eccentric neighbors: an Arab fortress from the early Middle Ages and a Renaissance/Baroque monastery, laboriously built during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Let’s be practical. See the pic below:

The monastery and fortress of Uclés

Is this Arab castle real?

Spanish Arab castle of Uclés

Is this Monastery a dream?

Monastery of Uclés, façade

I am not very sure.

Spanish Baroque façade

Travelling through La Mancha is dangerous for your mental health. It makes people see giant brutes instead of windmills, attacking armies instead of sheep, daunting castles instead of humble houses … If you don’t believe me, read Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”.

Façade of Uclés

Am I having one of those weird visions?

Arab castle

Let’s take a walk a around the old Monastery … We´ll see three centuries of Art in a polyhedral façade …

Façade 1

Façade 2

façade 3

Façade 4

Façade 5

Façade 6

Façade 7

Façade 8

Churrigueran balcony

Spanish Renaissance façade

Ucles Façade

No. Definitively this place is not real. It is not a dream. It is not a vision. It is a miracle.

Monastery in La Mancha

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. (Albert Einstein)

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About Covetotop

A Mediterranean blogger
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21 Responses to Segóbriga and Uclés: the perfect mix for sensitive travelers

  1. Christina says:

    I also love old stones! 😀 I especially like having old stones to myself and it looks like you had Segóbriga all to yourself too.

    Do you have any of the details about the first face sculpture in your post? It doesn’t look like classical Roman works and I wonder when it dates to.

    Great post and great quote! Thanks for finding and sharing two very beautiful places with your “sensitive” readers.

    • Covetotop says:

      Miracles only occur when you are completely alone in magic places … Yes, I was alone in Segóbriga. In fact, this marvelous archeological site faces some problems due to the scarce number of visitors. Marketing in Spain is horrible. There are myriads of unbelievable places to visit, but visitors only go to the beach. 😦

      Thanks God my “sensitive” readers are not that kind of visitors 🙂 The problem with my sensitive readers is that they are intelligent too, and post intelligent questions that need complicated responses in English. The first sculpture in my post is not a sculpture; it is an “antefix”, a terracotta ornament at the lower border of the roof that overhangs the wall of classical buildings. In Segóbriga archeologists have found quite a lot antefixes. Almost all of them (the antefixes, not the archeologists) belong to the 1st Century b.C. The antefix I photographed was originally located in the monumental baths (“thermae”) area. All those antefixes represent feminine masks, with weird hairstyles and headbands.

      Thank you, as always, for your sensitive, intelligent comment, and for your damned difficult question! 😉

      • Christina says:

        Haha, I didn’t mean to pose such a difficult question! Regardless, you answered very well. 🙂

        I would never have guessed that that face was an antefix. Normally they are very classical looking or are just a decorative scroll or leaf designs. The one you posted has big Byzantine eyes but then also very Archaic-looking plaited hair. A very interesting piece indeed! Thanks!

      • Covetotop says:

        Magistra Christina: Your comments always arrive to this blog as lighting flashes of knowledge and I am very glad for that. Thank you. For further info about the strange antefixes found in Segóbriga, here you have a very interesting piece (.pdf archive): http://revistas.um.es/apa/article/view/61441/59201 It is written in Spanish, but it is illustrated with a lot of pics (b/w) of those antefixes from Segóbriga. 😉

  2. Covetotop, you always write beautifully, with a sense of wonder and excitement, (about wondrous places) but you have excelled yourself with this one! Truly, a miraculous location. And in the middle of that empty, scalding plain. Yes, it’s all quite dream-like and surreal. Almost like stranded ships. The changing sands of history, eh?
    That monastery is extraordinary, the level of art, and carved decoration is really super. Is it still active? I mean, are there still the monks there, singing matins and saying prayers?

    • Covetotop says:

      Reading the phrase “you always write beautifully” from an Irish Master of History and Art who writes like Shakespeare has made my day. Taking pictures is easy (just click) writing in my language is a little difficult (blank sheet) but writing in a foreign language (English) is exhausting, and I am never sure if my kind readers will understand what I really wanted to say. So, a thousand thanks, Arran!

      The Monastery of Uclés, originally dwelled by monks, of course, suffered a lot in the 19th and 20th centuries (Napoleon War, Spanish Civil War). In more recent times, from 1949 to 2012, it has been a Catholic seminary. Nowadays it still belongs to the Catholic Church, but it is just a monument, not a strictly religious place. It is available for weddings, celebrations, spiritual exercises, classical music concerts, conferences etc. It is also possible to book rooms in it. Not a typical hotel. It is a humble and inexpensive, but amazing “hotel” (although I haven’t been there as a guest). So, I guess that the people who sing and say prayers today in Uclés are not monks, but happy clients. 🙂

      Thanks again for your kind and encouraging comment, Arran!

  3. Hey Covetotop, brilliant post! I will be in Spain again starting tonight and when my best friend comes to visit me for a week next month in Madrid we will make the trip out there. Do we need a car or will RENFE help us out??

    • Covetotop says:

      Thank you, Nathan! You are really a “trotamundos”. I am afraid that RENFE cannot help you. Segóbriga and Uclés are in the middle of the countryside, and you’ll need a car. Both locations are barely 100 kilometers from Madrid, in the A-3 highway, and are very easy to reach if you rent a car. In just one morning you can visit both places (the archeological park of Segóbriga opens at 10 o’clock). It is a very little known half-day trip, but very advisable. You won’t be disappointed.

      ¡Buen viaje!

  4. harri8here says:

    Si, and in the words of Keith Richards, ‘You’ve got the sun, you’ve got the moon, and you’ve got the Rolling Stones’ ;). So much to love about this post: the sentiment; the way you have evoked the glorious timelessness of such stone; the light; the huge skies, and their shades of blue; those wonderful ancient faces, and their secrets … and C2T’s shadow tattooed into the sun. Some great pictures, particularly the rather surreal and marvellous sheep shot. On my little walk just now, I enjoyed mulling over those miraculous words. Thank you, C2T.

    • Covetotop says:

      I’ve got the sun, I’ve got the moon, and I’ve got a charming digital friend called HR8 😉 My blog doesn’t deserve such a wonderful comment, although I must admit that my shadow (tattooed into an electric bulb this time) and me liked it very much, and I am floating now around my room looking down upon my computer, trying (unsuccessfully) to write the response you deserve.

      Thank you very much, HR8.

  5. Wonderful photos. I like that you dealt with each time period, rather than focus on just one. I love old stones as well, and not the Rolling Stones.

    • Covetotop says:

      Thank you for your comment. 1300 years separate both periods; 15 kilometers (9 miles) separate both places. I thought they would make an interesting single post.

  6. Covetotop, may you keep having your visions so that we can share in them. Wonderful post. And it is nice to see familiar names like Arran and Nathan here. It feels like a welcoming café!

    • Covetotop says:

      Don’t worry, Dennis. I cannot stop having visions all the time, which is great, but it is not advisable from a practical point of view. Btw, I am starting to suspect that the whole famous and enormous blogosphere (spammers apart) is nothing more than a tiny, cozy, welcoming café!

  7. Amanda says:

    This is so beautiful. It’s amazing how you go to the middle of nowhere and find these sites and then bring them to us. It’s amazing to see after reading Quixote and imagining. Also the first explorers to Florida and Peru were from the Extremadura region so this definitely sheds light on how the architecture ended up as it is in certain places on this side of the pond.

    • Covetotop says:

      Thanks for your comment, Amanda. I guess architecture and all kinds of arts and ideas, follow the same route as the prevailing winds do. The problem is finding their starting point. 🙂

  8. a ferreira says:

    A los lectores sensibles les gusta mucho el blog sensible de Covetotop!
    (My Castellano is so basic, I’ll proceed in English)…
    Old stones are somehow reliable and reassuring, they were there before us and will remain when we’re gone; but they’re also mysterious (in the way we in fact know very little about them and their time and their people) and that’s probably what makes them so interesting!
    But there’s no incompatibility at all between old stones and rolling stones, I actually love to listen to the sound of the rolling stones … of those ones on the beach, they make the most wonderful sound when we walk on them, or better still, when the waves crash on them and drag and pull them along into the sea (OK, these are pebbles, not real ‘stones’ and surely not those ‘Stones’, I’m digressing here).
    A really captivating post, I could use a couple of ‘likes’ here! 😉

    • Covetotop says:

      Muchas gracias por tu comentario, Ana! You are absolutely right: the sound of stones (pebbles) rolling on the beach when the waves crash on them are very beautiful. Also I love the loud brrroouuuummm when a big wave hits a rock. Apart from these, I don’t like any other kind of sound produced by rocks or rolling stones … 😉

  9. Trish says:

    I read that Dennis Aubrey might come and meet you on his next trip. Isn’t that amazing? Hooray for blogs!

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