jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 27 [25 Feb 09] – Zaragoza

Posted in Zaragoza by jn82 on February 26, 2009

This morning, we took the 8.20am Renfe AVE to Zaragoza, a city almost inbetween Madrid and Barcelona if you were to draw a line joining them. This particular train is Renfe’s fastest train in Spain, and reaches speeds of just over 300km/h, as we experienced on the train ride to Zaragoza.

Renfe AVE 3083 from Madrid Atocha to Zaragoza Delicias.

On the platform at Zaragoza Delicias.

Now I cannot exactly remember why I decided to come to Zaragoza, but I think it was something to do with the fact that I wanted to visit more smaller cities than just going to the regular big city tourist traps. Initially wanted to go to Bilbao and San Sebastian in-between Madrid and Barcelona, but that would have been a bit more hectic with shorter stays and more train connections. Zaragoza is a smaller city with a population of almost 700,000, though if you were to walk around the streets and tourist areas you might think the population was much lower. The city was first on the map after it was colonised by Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus and named “Carsaeaugustus” around 27 BC to 1 4AD, and remains the only ever Roman city to be named after the Roman emperor. With not that many tourist sites to visit, it meant that we were in for a more relaxing time.

The first sight of the day was to Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Pilar, or just Basílica de Pilar for short, which dominates the ariel views of downtown Zaragoza. The Basílica de Pillar is one of two minor basilicas in the city of Zaragoza, and is co-cathedral of the city alongside the nearby La Seo Cathedral. The architecture is of baroque style, and the present building was predominantly built between 1681 and 1872.

One of the big draws here is a piece of marble believed to have been left by the virgin Mary in 40 AD, which draws many Catholics from around the world to come here and kiss it. Although not Catholic, I decided to line up and kiss it and embrace the full experience of the basílica. The other big draw here is a statue of Mary carrying the baby Jesus called “Nuestra Señora del Pilar” (or Our Lady of the Pillar).

Basílica de Pilar.

Night view.

After this, we went for lunch at the funniest/weirdest place, in my opinion. In the middle of the shopping area (I assume) just off in a small alley in front of Basilica de Pilar, there was Bar Xiang Gang (), this tiny hole in the wall. I initially wanted to just go in for a look and a laugh, but after chatting with the Mainland Chinese(?!) operators of the bar, I decided to order what I thought was a cheap lunch. I think I just wanted to experience the whole ridiculousness of it all a bit more, as I could not figure out what a PRC male in his 20s, aPRC women in her late-30s/early-40s and a young boy (the woman’s son) of around 6 were doing operating a small bar with a few games machines in a smaller Spanish city. Okay the lunch was pretty cheap, for €5 and then just €2.20 more for the beer. My travelmate was pretty displeased with the quality of the food and the way it was prepared, as he claims the meat was fried with a painter’s paint scraper, but I found it pretty okay.

Bar Xiang Gang.

Un-healthy and Un-Spanish fried chicken, sausage, egg and chips.

After no food poisoning and some siesta back at the hostel (because NOTHING is open from 2-4pm or 5pm in Spain due to siesta, this was not a problem in Madrid or Toledo though), we headed to the second big tourist site in the city, La Seo Cathedral, which is part of UNESCO’s World Heritate Site Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon listing. The interior of the cathedral is very nice, and it has the usual smaller chapels at the side dedicated to the various saints.

La Seo.

Side of La Seo.

The rest of the day from 5.30pm – 9pm was spent at four small museums which contained the ruins and artifacts of four structures from the days when Zaragoza was Carsaraugustus. These four structures were the forum, port, public baths and theatre. After visiting a couple of Roman city ruin sites previously, this one was still pretty interesting because of the level of description behind every structure, and even spinning a story into the audiovisual presentation to create hypothetical scenarios which might have been part of everyday life during that period.

How a shop could have looked like in the marketplace of the forum.

Wooden model of the port.

Swimming pool of the public baths.

Roman theatre.

Dinner was late, as usual because of Spanish timing, and was at a buffet place we had walked past before lunch. Food was not fantastic, but for €16 per person for the buffet and a bottle of wine right in front of La Seo and Basicila de Pilar, I guess it was a fair price to pay.

Link to gallery of today’s pictures available here.

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