Zaragoza is a city located halfway between the cosmopolitan Barcelona (currently, fifth major tourist destination in Europe) and the museums-filled Madrid (Spain’s capital).
Roughly speaking, Zaragoza is 300 Kilometers (200 miles) both from Barcelona and Madrid. That’s barely 3 hours driving your car through the A2/AP2 highway.
Zaragoza is connected with Madrid (75 minutes) and Barcelona (90 minutes) by high-speed train.
Having said that, I must admit that Zaragoza is not a major tourist destination in the world.
Having said that, I must admit that I like Zaragoza very much.
Whenever I drive my little car between Barcelona (or beyond to the North) and Madrid (or beyond to the South) I stop for a while in Zaragoza (usually a longer while than expected) to stretch legs … and enjoy this surprising city.
Zaragoza deserves longer stays, of course, but this post is the result of just a 2 hours visit. I parked my car under El Pilar Square. There is a parking garage underground with always space available. Getting there from the highway takes no more than 5 minutes. Zaragoza is a very easy city to reach and visit.
Zaragoza has two cathedrals: “El Pilar” and “La Seo”.
“La Seo” is the popular name of the “Cathedral of the Savior” (“Catedral del Salvador”) This cathedral is the wonderful result of successive art styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Mudéjar … It is included in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites as part of the “Mudéjar Architecture of Aragón”.
Visitors are kindly requested not to take pictures inside the cathedrals. Hence, no interior pics in this post, but take my word for granted: both are worth a visit …
Just in front of La Seo’s façade there is a monument to Goya. (Goya was born in the province of Zaragoza)
Goya is the local hero, and you´ll find him everywhere.
As a matter of fact, Goya is one of my heroes too. What a genius he was! I´ll devote one post to his life & paintings one of these days … but not today.
Today I am writing about Zaragoza, capital of the old Kingdom of Aragón.
When King Ferdinand II of Aragón married Queen Isabel I of Castile, Spain (as a country) was born. This young couple made great things and had eccentric ideas. For instance, in 1492 they were the official sponsors and organizers of a crazy sailing regatta from Spain to a place later known as America. An Italian guy named Columbus was in charge of a Spanish flotilla of three vessels (Pinta, Niña and Santa María)
Walking through the old streets of Zaragoza produces a sense of happiness, improve the mood and can cause euphoria -at least in my case- I don’t know exactly why.
The old and the new mixes very well in Zaragoza …
The city is filled with churches from the 14th century, magnificent palaces from the 16th century and, a little far away from the center (no pics this time, sorry!), the awesome Aljafería Palace.
There are surprising details everywhere …
Local fruit shops sell outstanding local fruits and veggies (Aragonese peaches are second to none)
Some shops are funny, like “El Maño” … (Note to the pic below: “frutas de Aragón” is a typical Aragonese recipe since ancient times; it consists on delicious fruits macerated and boiled in “almíbar” to later be dipped in a special chocolate)
Local tourist offices are tranquil places most of the time, because there are no tourist hordes in Zaragoza; just intelligent and sensitive travellers (just like you, my dear reader)
Zaragoza is a good place to ir de tapeo (in other words, to enjoy “tapas”)
Tapas are an almost infinite variety of delicious appetizers, or snacks, or hors d’oeuvre in Spanish cuisine. They must be served with a beer or a good cup of Spanish wine (for instance, an Aragonese Somontano). Avoid Coke. Drink water if you drive. Tapas are inexpensive as long as you are able to stop eating them.
So, whenever I stop in Zaragoza, I visit lots of typical tapas-bars (“tabernas”) …
Each “taberna” in Zaragoza has its own special tapa …
Variety and charm are guaranteed …
Traditional tabernas abound …
Some tabernas have wonderful terraces where you can enjoy your tapas “al fresco” …
The taberna that you can see in the pic below is 140 years old (clients are younger) …
A relaxed and fun ambience is norm in these tabernas …
All the tabernas featured on this post are located in the center of Zaragoza, in an area known as “El Tubo”.
In general terms, it is very easy to socialize with Aragonese people, as they tend to be good humored and easy-going …
… although there are some exceptions …
Good humor, joy of life and lots of stamina are clear characteristics of the Aragonese folklore. The “Jota Aragonesa” is a joy to watch (dance) and listen (instrumental music or song). This local musical genre was created in the late 18th century and it is very alive today. Quite a few classical composers have made use of the “Jota” in their works, from Liszt to Bizet (in his opera “Carmen”).
If you have time, patience and good mood, you can see and listen wonderful jotas by googling (YouTube) jewels like these:
– “La Dolores”, sung by Plácido Domingo, with outstanding Aragonese dancers (all of them dressed with traditional Aragonese costumes)
– Miguel Angel Berna dancing solo (arguably the best Jota dancer of Aragón)
(Note: Jota is not Flamenco)
Like most cities in Spain, Zaragoza has a big problem (politicians apart): It was founded by the Romans. That means that you cannot take a relaxing walk without running into old ruins here and there.
(Pic above: an ancient Roman defensive wall in the middle of the city. Pic below: Roman forum ruins/museum)
Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus (just “Augustus” to his friends) founded “Caesaraugusta” (from which the modern name “Zaragoza” derives) to settle there some Roman legion veterans from the Cantabrian wars. The foundation date of Caesaraugusta has not been set with exact precision, though it is known to lie between 25 BC and 12 BC.
In the pic above you can see how Emperor Augustus is still taking care of his old and beloved Caesaraugusta.
Yes, I must admit that I like Zaragoza very much, and that’s why I publish this post today.
October 12, 2014