The Roman Empire’s influence is all over Spain, and nowhere is it more fantastic than in Segovia, a small town not far from Madrid.
Segovia has a castle that served as the model for Disney, an impressive church and a great small-town feel, but it’s the Roman aqueduct that made it a must-see stop on my trip through Spain with my sister.
It’s one of the best-preserved aqueducts in the world, and while 36 of its arches were damaged during a Moorish attack in 1072, they were restored in the 1400s, so it looks much today as it did when it was built.
Its exact build date is unknown but, according to the Spanish tourism website, it’s estimated to have been constructed in the first century.
I’d seen pictures of the aqueduct before going, of course, but like so many of the world’s other marvels, pictures didn’t do the structure justice.
We arrived in the late afternoon, and our hotel was a short jaunt from the aqueduct, so we had to head toward it past the cathedral.
As we got close, the street broadened, and the aqueduct appeared, spanning the ground between two hills, more than 28 meters tall.
My sister and I stopped for a moment and just stared. Restaurants and cafes took up the ground floors of the buildings leading up to it, and tourists and locals milled about under its arches.
Drawn to it, we dragged our suitcases over the roadway as we approached, the stones seeming to glow a golden hue in the late summer sun.
After we checked in to our hotel and dropped off our bags, we went to dinner, strolling along the length of the aqueduct as we did so. Staring up as we passed under the arches, it was amazing to me to see that it was built without mortar.
Each stone had been so precisely cut that in 2,000 years, the structure – whose sole purpose was to carry water almost 15 kilometers – survived the ravages of warfare and erosion, and it didn’t succumb to anything like an earthquake, people thieving the stones or any of the other problems that have turned so many ancient structures to dust.
After dinner – and a stop for a beer in a local pub – we found ourselves back at the aqueduct, which was well-lit. In Roman times, it would have probably been just another dark area, but it’s now one of the major reasons people visit Segovia, along with the cathedral and the alcazar – the castle that inspired Walt Disney.
The next day there was a car show under the aqueduct. It struck me as funny that signs touted the display of old cars. Cars that were made in the past 100 years seemed like infants compared to the engineering wonder the Romans built so long ago.
And that brought me to a thought I’ve had so many times when I’ve visited a roman site, be it Pompeii, the Roman Forum, or even the Arenes de Lutece in Paris: Will anything built in my lifetime withstand the test of time and display the same classic elegance as the Roman structures? Or will they, like the exact origins of the aqueduct at Segovia, be lost to the sands of time?