Apr 25 – So, what do hikers do when they have a day off to rest their feet? They traipse all around town to see the sights, of course!
All the sights of Mérida are associated with ruins. Established about 25 BCE as a retirement village of those who fought in the army of Caesar Augustus, Mérida (Augusta Emerita) was a big deal in the Roman Empire, and the capital of Lusitania and later Hispania. It was overtaken by the Muslims in the 700s, then captured by the Christians in 1230.
After crossing the Puente Romano footbridge, we stared up at the Alcazaba, a fort built by the Muslims by recycling the bricks from the wall the Romans had built to protect the city.
We walked up the battlement wall to look at the river below.
We went down to look at the cistern that kept the fresh water.
Next, we visited the Anfiteatro (amphitheater), where gladiators fought to the death for the amusement of the crowds. This arena held up to 15,000 people.
Right next door, is the Roman Theatre 🎭, which hosted public speeches and eulogies as well as plays and musical offerings. It held about 6,000 people. The excavation of the theatre began in 1910, and is still a work in progress.
They have some lovely gardens too.
While we were there, a group of high school aged kids were setting up to put on a play later in the day. I spotted some sheep and a babydoll among their props, and concluded that they were a church group staging a Nativity play. Then they turned on the sound system, and the girls lined up to do a bump and grind the Lady Marmalade’s “Voulez Vou Couchet Avec Moi”. So much for my theory! We’ll never know what the play was about, but the music was great, and the kids were having a good time. We hated to leave!
After all that excitement, we took it down a notch by visiting the antiquities museum.
I’m partial to mosaic tile floors that last 2000 years.
Then we were off to the Basilica of Santa Eulalia, a twelve year old virgin martyred for her Christian beliefs in the year 304. Story goes that she taunted the Roman court and dared them to kill her. They tried to talk her out of it, but ultimately obliged by burning her at the stake. When she died, a dove flew out of her mouth. The actual church was not open, only the Crypts below.
So much to see in this town! To be continued…