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30 jul202030

Spain in the Summer Part I - Zaragoza

Zaragoza, SpainZaragoza, Spain
It's Good to Be Moving Again
I was never a creature that liked to be caged and kept in the same place for too long. The lockdown showed most of us how terrible such life would be, when you can only walk around your home, from one end of the apartment, to the other (I'm excluding the lucky few with gardens and terraced). Personally it me the hardest when I realised that it's exactly what all the animals in zoos feel like but instead of 4 months we are talking years. Some people will argue that since they were caged since birth it's what they're used to. I don't think so. Even if I were to believe in it, it takes much more than one generation locked in a cage to remove the inherent need to be free. I was secretly hoping that this lockdown might have a positive impact, at least on some people, if they come to the same realisation. The rest probably won't give a fuck. I do, hence I stay away from them...

4 months spent in one place is definitely too much for me. Don't get me wrong, I don't have to change a continent every six months, though it would be terrific, wouldn't it? Being able to get on a train or a bus to a city 20km away can give you as much pleasure as going 1000km away, provided that you adopt the right attitude. When you can't leave at all, the appeal of the hills 5km from you grows every day to a point where you use your 1-hour slot for walking outside to go to those hills and hide yourself away from the world from 4 hours. After all if nobody saw you during the other 3 hours, it doesn't count, does it?

I forgot that at times you get the not-so-awesome experiences, especially when the probability of a person in front of you reclining their seat is so low and yet it ends up being the only person doing it. Thankfully Alsa has buses with enough room for my long legs. Thankfully I didn't have any food or drinks at my little table, not that the person in front of me would care. While travelling, you have to be prepared that you will encounter people who live in their world without so much of a second thought to anybody else's comfort. One of the many things in life you just have to survive.
 
First Impression
To be honest, I am not a fan of first impressions anymore. Whether it be people or places, what counts is how long the impression lasts after you leave, how much you talk about it, and with how much passion. I decided to walk from the bus station to my place in Zaragoza. Walking for 45 minutes, in 30°+ weather, with a bloody mask on your face, turned out to be a challenge. Good workout though! The mask makes things harder, there is no doubt about that.

What I liked the most about Zaragoza, even before I had arrived, was the fact that there's a river going through it. I love water. Even if humans are animals, I am more like a plant. Give me sun, give me water, and I will be a happy being.

Ebro is the second longest river in the Iberian peninsula with the length of 928km and begins in the region of Cantabria about 80km south from Santander. I will be able to see this river again in Logroño, therefore I don't have to say goodbye just yet :)
South-East view of the river Ebro
Zaragoza is located in Aragòn - one of the17 autonomous communities in Spain, and it marks my 4th region I've visited so far in Spain, after Valencian Community, Community of Madrid, and Catalonia. Aragòn is actually 4th least in regards to the population density.  Zaragoza, as its capital, wasn't founded by Romans but it was Augustus who setup a kind-of colony here for army veterans after the Cantabrian Wars and named the city Caesaraugusta, from which the present name is derived. {"type" : "www", "url" : "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaragoza", "title" : "Zaragoza - Wikipedia", "date" : "30 July 2020"}
 
The Walk
Wherever I am, I always try to spend at least one day, or most of one day, to have a really long, detailed walk around a city and/or its outskirts. Such a walk always gives me a great opportunity to see different neighbourhoods, sometimes meet unexpected people, and also do what I like the most - observe, walk, and learn about places and people's history.

I like parks. Parks are great, don't you agree? When you live in a city, those round or rectangular, small or large green oases bring what you need the most - nature, peace, and also a lot of dogs to play with :)  Everything amidst the chaos of a concrete/brick jungle. When I go for my walks it is never along the route of museums or bars, it is always along the green spaces.

In Zaragoza I managed to visit: Parque Miraflores, Pignatelli Park, Parque Grande José Antonio LabordetaJardín Botánico, Parque OliverParque de la Sedetania, and Parque del Tío Jorge. Some of them are just tiny parks within a neighbourhood or, like Parque Grande's name suggests, a big one for everybody. Thankfully Tuesday midday is not really a time for people to want to have a walk.
One of my favourite things was an enclosure built especially for the duck family living in the Botanical Gardens in Parque Grande. It features a house for the ducklings and they have their own pond, not to mention a scultpure to address their cultural and art-specific needs.. 
Once I came out of the main park I started following a path that leads you even more away from the city. Even though I still had 10 hours until sunset, I knew I couldn't go too far. I definitely wasn't prepared to spend the night in the forest :D

After I had left the park and walked for about 700m I noticed these amazing sculptures made out of, well, everything. I'm not much of an art person. I can appreciate somebody's talent, yes, but put me in an art museum to look at somebody's squares and circles, and I will get bored quicker than I can blink. And I can blink pretty fast. This is different. Not only because it was hidden, which means you actually had to make an effort to see it but also the fact that the sculptures were so random. Each character came with a message, a description of what's their name, where they came from, and sometimes a little bit of a story. 

Then the fun part began. I was about 5km from the city centre and ran out of water. I know I know, how long have I been doing this? I just forgot that one water bottle (~750ml) might not be enough for more than 2.5 hours of walking in such weather. I ended up walking by Canal Imperial de Aragón. Unrelated to my love of water I like walking by rivers, streams, and canals. I think it has something to do with our primal instincts. If you were stranded in a forest or somewhere, the river gives a good point of orientation, possible food, and maybe even a source of drinkable water. Perhaps there are other reasons but I always do that. 
By that time the sun was at its peak with temperatures way over 40°C (104°F) and I realised I really need to drink. (Un)fortunately I ended up in a quite a pijo-like district of Zaragoza called Casablanca. It was quiet, very colourful with all the flowers growing by the canal, and something else - benches. I mean an abundance of it. Not just your regular benches. Benches you could very easily have a nap on..
Who would not want to have a nap here?
I did not find any shops here but since it's a poshy place, I found random water fountains along this path and oh my world I was saved! I didn't mind the water was warm, I didn't mind that I looked like I haven't had a drink in three days, it was glorious :)

Another 2 hours later I managed to get back to the river. This time the different side of Ebro where I found myself walking past the reminisence of the Expo 2008 that was held in Barcelona. It was a mixture of feelings. On one side you have amazing views of the bank of the river like this:
And then you realise that something is amiss. Oh yes. The park is abandoned, rusty, decaying, clearly not built to last 12 years. That is a long time for a person but not for something you build, just "talk" to the Egyptians or Romands for crying out loud. It's sad to watch. In the background on the right hand side you can see this bulging building. It's called Pabellón Puente that was also constructed for Expo 2008.  It was a beautiful piece of modern architecture designed by Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid. Right now it's closed and fenced off and in a horrible state. I took a break sitting under that bridge and started noticing details. Broken windows, rusty entrances, missing elements of the construction, and even ropes hanging fro the top, almost like the there were cleaners there once and they decided it's not worth it anymore. The irony is that the subject of the Expo was "Water and Sustainable Development". 
Rusting away - the benches in the Expo 2008 Park
After 7 hours of walking I began to develop a headache and decided that 23km was enough. My idea was to wait for the sunset but it was still at least 3 hours away, hence I decided to postpone it to the following day. The clouds that started appearing in the afternoon were a good sign that more clouds might come the next day, which would make the sunset even better.
 
The Only Hunting I Do
It's the sunset hunting. I rested, then I worked all Wednesday, went to coffee shop to do more work but I had to leave because apparently Starbucks decided to limit their Wifi, at least in Spain. Left to my own devices I came to the river near the city centre, put my music on, started eating my sunflower seeds, spitting the hulls like a crazy person, kept thinking about witches, and waited until the sun starts to hide behind the horizon.

Interesting fact. Did you know that the biggest producer of sunflower seeds is Ukraine? You didn't? Well now you do! 27% of the global production in 2018. Thank you Ukraine :) {"type" : "www", "url" : "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower_seed", "title" : "Sunflower seed - Wikipedia", "date" : "30 July 2020"}

Simply put, my hunting was very successful. I took so many pictures I couldn't wait to get home and see how they turned out but at the same time I wanted to stay to not miss any potential colourful displays the sun and clouds could serve us.
View of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar
I have no idea why it's called Florence of Spain. I have never been to Florence, therefore no way of making the comparison. Maybe one day I will go and start calling Florence the Zaragoza of Italy, who knows. 

There have been many other places in Zaragoza, especially related to the Roman presence in the Iberian peninsula. I decided to leave out the details related to history  and make a long post about everything Roman related after I will have visited all the places :)

Next step is Logroño in the community of La Rioja - the smallest of all!
 
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