Day 26: Exploring MéridaMarch 13, 2017 in Spain
Shandos managed to get up early and visit the local supermarket, so we were both well fed and relaxed by the time we headed out. Lots of ruins to check out today!
First up we headed to the Circus Maximus which was right near our apartment, and bought ourselves a combination ticket which grants access to the five main ruins of the town. The Circus Maximus is the horse racing circuit (think Ben-Hur chariot racing), and it's still remarkably well-preserved - apparently the best preserved one outside of Italy. It's 400 metres long, 60 metres across and on race days would've held up to 60,000 spectators which surely would've been everyone in town.
I should note that the town itself was founded around 25 BC by Emperor Augustus, and was originally called Augustus Emeritus - built to house former soldiers from his legions during the conquest of Spain. It was actually the capital of Lusitania province, an area that covers basically the south-western quarter of modern Spain and Portugal. So a pretty important city back in the day.
Next up we walked over to the amphitheatre and theatre, both of which are still standing and incredible. The amphitheatre is a lot like the Colosseum in Rome, though smaller, and the theatre is modelled after one in Pompeii (that also still exists). Both seemed very large for the size of the city, holding around 15,000-20,000 spectators, but I guess it shows the importance of theatre and spectacle.
The amphitheatre would hold gladiator bouts and show "hunts" (eg two men vs a lion), while the theatre was for plays, comedies and so on. Again both were really well preserved, and with lots of good information signs in English, Spanish and Portuguese. There was a large museum holding a bunch of statues and stuff as well, but it was closed on Mondays so we couldn't go in.
Outside we stopped at a cafe for a lunch baguette (though our intended quick lunch became a long lunch when our food took 40 minutes to materialise), then headed across town to check out a few other things. We saw a snow well, which is where snow (or probably large ice blocks, I was dubious of the translation) was kept during summer, along with some partially buried manor houses, thermal baths, a ridiculously long low bridge over the main river (760 metres long!!), and the original main entrance gate to the city. There's now a small fortress there called the Alcazabar, as it was built by the Arabs after their conquest in the 800s.
After a long day we headed back to our apartment for a rest, though we headed back out soon afterwards to give Schnitzel a run around. Poor little guy had been confined to the apartment all day while we'd been exploring! Spent the rest of the afternoon/evening in the apartment doing work. I was feeling inspired and put together a video of the past two days!
It's also time now that I can reveal my secret new project - aiming to visit every UNESCO World Heritage Site in the world, and doing brief YouTube videos on each one. I've so far done Seville, Cordoba, Ubeda/Baeza and was finishing up today on Merida. Still need to do Alhambra and the dolmens of Antequera, and then keeping up to date on the future ones we visit! Spain has the third-most sites behind only Italy and China, so I'll be very busy for a while! I don't know whether I'll actually finish the journey as there are some extraordinarily difficult ones (Yemen, Saudi, Syria, Libya, Niger to name a few), but it'll be fun and exciting seeing how close I can get!Read more