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Cinderella’s city

Cinderella is a fairy tale. Legend has it when Walt Disney saw Alcazar’ at Segovia, Spain, once home to 22 kings and queens, he found his inspiration for the castle at Walt Disney World, Florida.

Published: 02nd June 2012 10:10 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2012 11:53 AM   |  A+A-

Cinderella is a fairy tale. Legend has it when Walt Disney saw Alcazar’ at Segovia, Spain, once home to 22 kings and queens, he found his inspiration for the castle at Walt Disney World, Florida.
Alcazar — ‘royal residence’ in Arabic, thanks to Moorish rule in Spain — has stood for centuries,  guarded by stunning mountain ranges and situated  beside the rivers Eresma and Clamores. It was in this Alcázar that Queen Isabella promised Columbus support for his voyage to America.
Alterations to make Alcázar bigger started around early 13th century. King John II (1405-1454) enlarged the defensive moat which reached a depth of 26 meters and spanned by a drawbridge in front. He also enlarged the east tower which was named after him.
“Now you are standing where King Phillip II  married his fourth wife, Anne of Austria,” Mariano, our guide said. “Phillip fashioned the patio in the Herrera style and covered the roofs with conical slate spires which were popular in Central Europe at that time,” Mariano continued.
Alcázar contains medieval mysteries that were typical of those intrigue field times: multiple underground levels and secret passages that connect the castle to other palaces of Segovia as well as one to the river bank. Recently, a hidden passage was discovered that led to the discovery of a Roman stronghold that existed in of ancient Segovia, thanks to a document found in the Vatican’s Library. It is built of the same stone as the Aqueduct.
Roman Aqueduct: The amazing symmetry of the aqueducts have survived natural and man-made calamities. “In earlier times, it was meant to bring water but today, of course, the aqueducts bring more tourists than water,” laughs Mariano. A relic of the Roman Empire, the Aqueduct is the most famous symbol of Segovia and probably the finest example of its kind in existence. It is 813 meters long and looms 28 meters (92 feet) above the Plaza del Azoguejo. It is made of granite rocks and consists of 166 arches and 120 pillars arranged in two levels. The steps of the Plaza Azoguejo run alongside the arches of the aqueduct. The village square below is often cheerful with music and dance: men on stilts, puppet festivals, children riding merry go rounds and tourists milling about — a fairy tale that meets Nikkon.
Iglesia de la Vera Cruz: Church hopping is part of Alcazar’s charm. The 12-sided Iglesia church was built in the early 13th century by the Knights Templar and based on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Legend has it that a piece of the Vera Cruz (The True Cross) was housed in Iglesia.  “Now it is in the nearby village church of Zamarramala which can be viewed only at Easter,” said Mariano. The curious two-storey chamber in the circular nave (the inner temple) is where the knights used to conduct their esoteric rites and where they stood vigil over the holy relic. The views of the town and the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains are breathtaking if you take the path uphill behind the church for approximately a kilometre.
Adventure Sports: Nobility and clergy apart, Segovia has other adventures. The calm waters of Duratón river, with willows, alders, ash trees and wild rose bushes  growing along its banks, are perfect for canoeing. The area around the Duratón shelters one of the most beautiful creatures of the Iberian Peninsula, the Griffon vulture. Dozens of nests hide in its ravines; one of the major vulture colonies in the peninsula. Mariano explained: “Smaller than the black vulture, the tawny vulture is the most common of the Spanish vultures. It reaches a wingspan of 280 cm and can weigh up to 7.5 kg. Its favourite nesting place is the rocky ravines such as the ones in San Miguel de Burney, where more than 200 pairs of vultures have settled forming one of the biggest colonies in the country.”
Cochinillo, or Suckling Pig: The speciality of Segovia is cochinillo, or roast suckling pig. Serving this dish is a ceremonial act for the Segovians. The piglet is allowed only 21 days of its mother’s milk, before it is prepared. The flesh is so soft that it is cut with a plate and not a knife. As the cutting plate is thrown on the floor as part of the ceremony, and the succulent dish is served, the room is filled with the sounds of gastronomic glee. Vegetarians can try a popular Segovian soup made with flat white beans from the region. For dessert, locals recommend the ‘Ponche Segoviano’ — a liquer-dipped custard-filled cake frosted with marzipan. Food is often accompanied by the two wines of the region: Ribera de Duero with young clarets and great Rueda red and white wines. Even restaurants have history as a client: the popular Casa Duque, has been serving cochinillo since the 1890s. The other great option is Mesón de Cándido, next to the aqueduct.  
A walk through Segovia is a stroll through history. Over the centuries, various civilisations such as the Romans, Arabs, Jews and Christians, have left behind a complex canvas of artistic heritage. Segovia is a confluence of architectural styles. The majority of ancient buildings and villages in Segovia are well preserved. Restoration projects are almost everywhere. The Castilian landscape hasn’t changed much in the last 400 years. Either time forgot Segovia, or likes it so much it has refused to move on.
FACT FILE
To reach: 30 minutes by High Speed Train at Chamartín Station, Madrid. From Segovia’s train station, the bus (line 8) ride to the Roman aqueduct is a few minutes. The tourist information office is located at the Plaza del Azoguejo right below the aqueduct. Walking is the best sightseeing method in Segovia.
Things to do:
Climb to the top of the Tower of Juan II at The Alcázar  for panoramic views of the city.
Enjoy Spanish Omelette in its diverse flavours. Every eatery will have a different preparation.
Sangria in Segovia is a drink for all seasons.      
Every restaurant serves vegetarian dishes.
Get pretty laces, handmade candles as Segovia souvenirs

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