In Catalonia (Spain): Excursion to Zaragoza

Zaragoza, the capital of Aragón is our longest excursion. It is a three hours’ drive from Hospitalet de l’Infant. In Hospitalet we spend a few days in the apartment of our friends end October until mid November 2016.

We start in sunny Hospitalet crossing the hills to reach the Ebro valley where the scenery is hidden in grey fog. After three hours, we park our car right in the center under the Plaza del Pilar. With Ursula we always first enter the Tourist Office to get some maps and advice about what to see. We are told that the old Islamic Palace and Parliament Seat (Aljaferia) is closed for renovation. That means our sightseeing will be restricted to the very city center.

We feel like hot chocolate in the famous Gran Café. What a disappointment! We are served churros that are not fresh and melted chocolate that is dense and tepid. Well, it seems that this is how chocolate is made in Spain, but I do not think that “old” churros are a particular Spanish specialty. As for the chocolate drink it is a pity that Spain seems not to have adopted the Mexican way of preparing it – the Mexicans prepare much lighter chocolate using hot water.

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The Catedral-Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Pilar – an important stop on the Way of St. James

In front of the Catedral-Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Pilar four pilgrims are absorbed by their prayings. This cathedral is important on the Way of St. James. Right here, it is said, the Virgin Maria appeared to St. James (Jakob) on a pillar (in Spanish “pilar”) in 40 AD. In the hazy background the Cathedral of Seo can be seen.

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The Catedral-Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Pilar has been built in Baroque style in the late 17th century. Inside it  is richly decorated. Some vaults (or domes) are painted with frescos by Francisco Goya. It is not allowed to take photos inside the cathedral. This is the view of the Cathedral of Pilar from the Plaza Pilar.

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Eleven vaults (or domes) decorate the roof of the cathedral.

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From the Ebro river we take more photos of the Cathedral of Pilar with the stone bridge.

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Fishing seems to be a rewarding activity here.

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The Archbishop’s Catedral de Seo with Mudejar elements

Also on the Plaza Pilar there is the Archbishop Cathedral of Seo. The construction started in the 12th century (some Roman elements are left in the apsis), and it was newly built in the 14th century (hence primarily Gothic in style). The tower is the late 17th century work of an Italian architect. The Cathedral of Seo has been UNESCO world heritage since 2001.

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The northern wall is of fine Gothic-Mudejar style.

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Inside we find innumerable chapels – some of them of Renaissance and some of Baroque style. Each chapel is explained in detail. A nice detail: A statue of Joseph holding his baby – I saw that only in Tarragona before. One chapel is devoted to the young Domingo that was said to have been murdered by Jews – which was taken as a reason for pogroms. Later it was concluded that the crime never took place which makes me feel bad. Why do we invent crimes and make someone guilty for them?

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The Lonja (bourse) 

The Lonja (bourse) was built in the 16th century to provide a public space for traders that so far have used the churches for trading.

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It is Renaissance in style. Ursula focuses on some details of the façade.

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Iglesia Parroquial de San Pablo

Outside of the old town wall we look for the Iglesia Parroquial de San Pablo from the 13/14th century. It contains Mudejar elements, in particular the octagonal tower. It has been UNESCO world heritage since 2001. Unfortunately we find the church closed.

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This is the Puerta Tramontana with Christ in the middle and Maria, Saint John and Saint Blasius. One of the saints cannot be identified.

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Ursula’s photographic eye spots the lamp with the ornaments.

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In the Calle San Pablo we have delicious tapas in a friendly small bar. We have chat with the people from the area and with a lady from Vladivostok in Russia – far, far away from here.

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More sights in the city center: The Central Market, the Roman Wall and the Museum of Goya

The Central Market was built in 1903. Plants on the roof add to the decoration. The market is now closed – it is afternoon.

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Across the market a shop sells traditional regional clothing.

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In front of the ruins of the Roman Wall Augustus watches a caroussel being demounted. Augustus gave his name to Zaragoza (Caesaraugusta).

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We finish visiting Zaragoza with the Museum of Francisco Goya (1746-1828). He is from Aragon. First he painted for churches, then portraits at the court (pretty realistic portraits) and in his last years he made engravings of the war with France that was a nightmare for him (Zaragoza was occupied by the French from 1809-13). Goya is considered to  be a predecessor of the Surrealists.

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We take our car out of the garage (rather a spacious garage, if I remember right) and drive back home – another three hours. It was a long day. Zaragoza was worth visiting.

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