Well it was a peaceful night here at the Camperstop in Merida, which looks to be an area set aside in the local bus depot.
This morning The Chef had the luxury of not just another hot shower, but as we are hooked-up she could dry her hair with her electric hairdryer - what a treat. We didn't hurry to get out as all we had to do today was traipse around some Roman ruins, the final old buildings on this trip. Because we've been let down by the weather so often on this trip and we'd had a rain shower during the night, we decided to take our macs out with us, which meant my carrying the backpack. How silly we felt as the sky cleared and we began to fry. I think the temperature today probably reached 30°C.
So a bit about Merida:
Emerita Augusta was founded as a Roman colony in 25 BC under the order of the emperor Augustas to serve as a retreat for the veteran soldiers (emeritus) of the legions V Alaudae and X Gemina. The city, one of the most important in Roman Hispania, was endowed with all the comforts of a large Roman city and served as capital of the Roman province of Lusitania since its founding and as the capital of the entire Diocese of Hispania during the fourth century. Following invasions from the Visigoths, Merida remained an important city of the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania in the 6th century. In the 713, the city was conquered by the Umayyad Caliphate, and remained under Muslim rule. The Mozarabic people of the island rebelled repeatedly against the Caliphate authorities in the 9th century and the city began a slow decline. Merida became the capital of the autonomous community of Extremadura in 1983. The archeological site in the city has been a UNESCO World Heriage site since 1993.
Among the remaining Roman monuments are:
The Puente Romano, a bridge over the Guadiana River that is still used by pedestrians, and the longest of all existing Roman bridges. Annexed is a fortification (the Alcazaba), built by the Muslim emir Abd ar-Rahman II in 835AD on the Roman walls and Roman-Visigothic edifices in the area. The court houses Roman mosaics, while underground is a Visigothic cistern.
- remains of the Forum, including the Temple of Diana, and of the Roman Provincial Forum, including the so-called Arch of Trajan
- remains of the Circus Maximus (1st century BC), one of the best preserved Roman circus buildings.
- Acueducto de los Milagros (Aquaduct of Miracles)
- Patrician villa called the Villa Mitreo, with precious mosaic pavements
- Proserpina Dam and Cornalvo Dam, two Roman reservoirs which are still in use
- The Amphitheatre, and the Roman theatre, where a summer festival of Classical theatre is presented, usually with versions of Greco-Roman classics or modern plays set in ancient times.
First we had to buy a couple of tickets to the various locations around town, the main one being the park containing the theatre and amphitheatre where gladiator fighting took place. The Chef was cheeky enough to ask if qualified for the discount price, and being over 65 we did, so instead of paying sixteen euro's each we got them for half price.
In the theatre they were in the process of setting up the lighting and sound systems for some kind of music event. I would imagine it's quite a good atmosphere in there during such concerts.
Next door was the amphitheatre which was quite large. No mention of lions and Christians on the information boards so I guess it was just gladiators fighting.
After touring the two sites we decided to have lunch. It was back to our usual - a pack of sandwiches, a cold drink and today, a doughnut as well. All for about a fiver, and just across the road from the supermarket was a bench seat and close to that was a rubbish bin. We were sorted.
Then it was off to the Temple of Diana, which unfortunately we couldn't go in because the lady at the door was just off for her afternoon nap. Then it was the Alcazaba, or castle followed by the Roman Bridge, which was a really long one.
Finally we stopped by a Roman Villa the foundations and remains of which suggest it was very grand in its day and owned by a very wealthy family. Then finally it was time for 'home'.
It had been a long and tiring day, but we weren't done yet. After dinner I noticed on the map we were just a stone's throw away from the Aquaduct and Circus Maximus sites, so off we went again. It was an effort but we were glad we did it.
We both enjoyed being at the Circus Maximus, a chariot racing venue. As you look at the complete site on the far right were the 12 Chariot Gates side by side around the perimeter. These steel gates were on the front of 'stalls', one for each charioteer. These were opened simultaneously and the contestants made their way to the start line which can be seen halfway down the track on the widescreen picture.
The chariot, pulled by the horses symbolised the sun, and the charioteers the god Apollo. The seven laps of each race were identified with the seven days of the week, and usually 24 races were carried out equalling one day.
There were four teams, or divisions, each one identified by a colour. The teams symbolised the four seasons of the year.
In its heyday the central 'island' on the track had a pool which represented the ocean and there was an obelisk located in the centre which represented the sun at dusk.
So it's Friday evening here in Spain. We have the local yoof cruising around with music blaring from their car music systems and feral brat kids bought here by their parents for a two night motorhome weekend.
On my original Travelscript which had far too many destinations on it, we're due to head west to Lisbon in Portugal, passing through Elvas and Evora on the way. But now we are going to head down to Huelva. Logically we should go to Seville first, but this being the start of a weekend we would never get a space on the Camperstop there, so we'll amuse ourselves in the bottom left of Spain and then pop up to Seville when the time is right.
So that's it, we're back on the road tomorrow. I've a mind to take the rural mountainous road rather than the motorway, thus keeping clear of Seville. I'll check the roads out on Google Maps and decide in the morning.
It's been a long, hot day, but if you're in to all this Roman history stuff then this is a good place to visit.