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20 sep202020

Spain in the Summer part III - León

Leòn, SpainLeòn, Spain
Third city on my journey was León located in the biggest Autonomous Community in Spain - Castilla y León. I only decided to stay there for 4 quick days, taking refuge in a tiny hotel located in the very centre of the city. I quickly realised that it may have been a mistake and that I misjudged it. Turned out León has a very colourful history starting from having been created in the 1st century BCby the VI Roman Legion - Victrix, which was founded by general Octavian in 41 BC  (14 years before he became the first Emperor).

It's not the VI Legion that has a street named after in León. It's actually VII - Gemina, created by Galba in 69 AD. They decided to create a permanent settlement around what is now Leòn, which name is derived from Latin Castra Legionis. {"type" : "www", "url" : ",_Spain", "title" : "León, Spain - Wikipedia", "date" : "20 September 2020"}
Centro de Interpretación del León Romano
One day I realised that they had a free museum about the Romans and the history of the city. It was Friday after work and of course I could not pass the opportunity to go. I usually don't go to museums or art galleries. There are two reasons for that. 

First is that art is so subjective that I do not enjoy spending 10 minutes staring at a painting of few squares and breathe heavily just because somebody would pay thousands for it. I do like going to exhibition museum but it has to be about a subject that I am at least heavily interested in. 

Second reason is also time. If there is a museum I might like, I can spend there hours, if not a whole day. I remember Jewish Museum in Amsterdam. Not only it was an amazing place to learn a lot about the history and religion but they also had a special photoraph exhibition of an artist who hasn't shown his work until recently (that was 2014). Basically they had to tell me to get out because they were closing. I would like to visit all the museums I am interested in but I wouldn't have time for anything else. I like reading all captions, taking it all in, but sometimes it's just not feasible. 
Centro de Interpretación del León Romano
It was interesting to see COVID-19 restrictions in a public place like this for the first time as well. People on the streets of Logroño didn't really care about anything and you can't expect them to while they drink, talk, and eat. In here each room had a specific number of people allowed to be inside at one time and, surprisingly, people themselves made sure nobody would go against the rules. I remember there were 5 of us in a room with 6 maximum capacity. A lady with her daughter walked in and a man who was already in that room kindly referred here to the signage and she had no problem to wait until one of us leaves.
I was pleasantly surprised by the richness of information about the history of the VII Legion, their founders, and how history of the city evolved through the Roman lens. You can say a lot about Romans. They weren't the best nation that graced the Earth but one thing is certain, to quote: The Romans have certainly left us plenty to look at and think about.

Walking around a city that has a Roman settlement in its core is always exciting for me. Thinking how everything must have looked like 2000 years ago is like a brain teaser for your imagination, especially if you then can compare it with historical evidence. I only had 2 hours there because they were closing and the next day was the best day of each visit: the hike day!
First 30km hike in my life
The previous two hikes weren't easy but I wanted to keep testing myself and see how far, literally and metaphorically, I can go. I bought a proper activity tracker that comes with GPS, which is handy if you lose your 4G signal, your phone dies, or if you want to survive only by looking at bearing and measuring distance. From that point onward I was able to get some stats about my hikes and who doesn't like a lot of data generated by oneself! I certainly do.

I developed a little framework in my head when it comes to my hike. The aim was always 40km, which I didn't get, but I am not that obsessed with numbers to beat myself over it. I decided going out of the city for maximum 10-12km is a good rule so that then I can walk another 5-8km across and come back. I tested this theory in León and it worked really well.

There weren't any hills nearby, hence I opted for walking few kilometers East and then turn North by walking on top of a plateau for about 10km and get some good views at the same time. It was barely 100m prominence but still better than nothing!
After about 3 hours of walking, I decided it would be good time to find a spot to take a small break. Little river Torío was right beside me, even though it didn't really have much water, surprised me with some nice spots. It was quiet, without any people, just the sound of water and some insects. Just how I like it!
That's when things went downhill. After an hour or two I started circling back by going west, which meant crossing some fields, villages, and small towns. I thought: "Great! I'll get a chance to replenish my water on the way!" Surprisingly, as it was only Saturday, I didn't find any places that were opened. It took me another 7km to find a petrol station where I bought so many cans of water, I looked like I'm robbing the place. You know. Stacking them on your arms like they are the most precious thing in the world. In that moment they were, believe me. 

Most importantly, I was saved! My lack of preparation didn't kick me in the ass too badly, for which I was grateful. I stopped for some time to take mental notes about where I made the mistakes. Calculations flowed through my head in regards to the temperature, how much water I took, in what containers, how many kilometres I walked, and at what pace. Every hike is a lesson after all :)

The last 10-15km weren't that great. I looked for some nature on the other side of the city, which meant I had to go through some towns, concrete roads as usual, until I found a hill with a tiny forest, where I could take a proper rest, listening only to the sound of the trees, and looking at the city.
Second break is usually where I think about the way back. I was hoping to make a bigger circle to not only hit my 30km goal but also to avoid the "civilisation" until necessary. Unfortunately I wasn't lucky this time. Google Maps wasn't very truthful about some fences ;) and I ended up walking alongside a motorway for few kilometres. Not a huge problem but technically you're not supposed to do that. I wasn't going to turn back though! "Marchin' on!", as they say...

At first, I didn't think much of León. I only booked my hotel for 4 days, thinking it would be just a quick stop between more interesting cities but it surprised me positively. The Roman history is so rich in Spain that if my Spanish were better, I would probably spend days in different museums; something I don't really do unless it's something I am really into and then I have to read every note, every sign, every poster, and every label :)

While looking at the armor of the Roman soldiers, it reminded me of the times I spent in York. I was invited by my friend Neil to be part of his archery stand at Apollo Festival and I got to wear proper replica armour for at least 6 hours if I'm not mistaken. How fun it was!
After León, my next destination was another city that has a rich history related to Romans: Lugo!
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