Sep 11, 2015
|Friday, September 11th.
Like many of the larger cities Merida grew around the roman ruins. Our taxi driver took us for (a ride) a tour through town getting to our destination. He drove up and down narrow cobblestone roads, turning left then right before dropping us off in front of the Teatro Romano.
Because we were over 65 our admission tickets were half price; E6 each.
After walking through lush semi maintained gardens we came upon the Anfiteatro (or forum) built in 8 BC, to hold 14,000 spectators to watch gladiator contests. This was a much smaller arena then we have seen in Rome and Nimes and not as well preserved but still interesting in that many of the unique features are present in today’s stadiums. Status in seating choices, today it is a dollar amount; many exits; covered corridors behind the different tiers; there would have been vendor stalls and washrooms too!
Next to it was the stunning Teatro Romano built in 15 BC to seat 6,000 people.
This structure was much better preserved/restored. It was obvious where the different tiers of seating were and the stage setting was quite grand. It must have been quite a sight when it was new. Its dramatic well preserved two-tier stage building of Corinthian columns was magnificent. One of the tour guides (we counted 4 flags) jumped up on the front of the stage area and proceeded to test the acoustics we think with a speech in Spanish of course. No microphone and we could hear her voice quite clearly.
We had to trudge across Merida to get to the Roman Bridge and Islamic Fort but on the way we stumbled across some other ruins fenced in in the middle of a square. They were about 2 city blocks apart and were once part of a very large municipal centre where the city government was based, with walkways and gardens. Those Romans sure had it together. (at least the ones in power did).
The Puente Romano (Roman Bridge) was quite a spectacular sight. It stretches across the Rio Guadiana for 792 m with 60 granite arches. In its time there were gates positioned at each end to ward off enemies.
Alcazaba a large Islamic fort was built in the 9th century and was positioned on the north side of the river or entrance to the city. It was built on a site already occupied by the Romans and the Visigoths before them.
Inside the fort we walked down stairs to river level to the old cistern. The water was surprisingly clean and clear and had a small goldfish population.
Tools that had been excavated were on display around the grounds. The fascinating ones for me were the small grain grinder and the very large olive press.
The ramparts were up a rickety metal stairway with a metal railing that was very hot to the touch.
The view of the Bridge from here was fabulous. We could almost see the entire stretch of it. There were pictures on display showing some serious flooding where you couldn’t see the arches. The river was almost stagnant when we observed it not a threat to anything.
We enjoyed a light lunch of tapas. Light because one of the dishes we had mistakenly ordered was BBQ octopus. I tried one, once Bill had scraped off the suction cups, it tasted like tough chicken!!
Next we went in search of the post office as I had a few post cards burning a hole in my purse that I had been trying to mail since Madrid.
Along the way we stumbled through the Arco de Trajano. Hard to believe we almost missed it as we walked underneath. It is a 15m-high archway, situated on one of Merida’s main Roman streets and may have served as an entrance to a sacred area.
I walked into the post office feeling pretty confident these post cards were about to be mailed. Alas, a ticket had to be taken in order to be served and there were 15 people ahead of me. No mailings today.
One last thing to see before hailing a taxi was, “The Circo Romano”. The remains of a first century hippodrome, the largest of its kind in Spain, it sat 30,000 spectators and was the proving ground for champion chariot racers before heading to “The Show” (big League) in Rome.
It was just over a 2 km walk from the post office to this sight. As we approached the entrance we had a good overview of the restored arena, it was in much better shape than the one we had seen in Rome. BUT it had closed at 2pm for a siesta and would open at 5 pm. If they just went to bed at a reasonable time……..
One last thing I need to mention before closing were the HUGE stork nests we couldn’t help but notice on top of tall structures. We even saw one perched on top of a mansion over its entrance.
There were only a couple of RV’s left in the park when we returned. It promised to be another quiet night.
I enjoyed a lovely quiet and refreshing swim in the pool, before hitting the sack.