It was sad to depart from Spain’s bustling capital of Madrid and the ancient town of Toledo, but with the idea implanted in my brain of what adventures were ahead of us, I happily boarded the bus that would take us to our next stop, Zaragoza.
The bus’ true destination was actually Barcelona, a seven hour drive from Madrid. However, Jesus explained we’d be making a brief pit stop to the city of Zaragoza, where we’d witness its famous cathedral and experience the bustling street life that occurs day in and day out. Zaragoza was about the halfway point between Barcelona and Madrid, so that meant it’d be about three and half hours until we reached it, which also meant a three and a half hour nap (hey, a man’s gotta sleep, right?).
Along the way, Jesus pointed out other small villages and some castles within the hills, and we even came across a giant windmill farm that powered almost all the electricity in a nearby town. He also explained the topography of Spain and how much of it was extremely mountainous which explained the constant rolling hills our bus drove across. Although it was fascinating to listen to, my inability to stay awake caused me to only comprehend that much information before I finally shut my eyes. When I opened them, what lay before me seemed to be one of the most pristine buildings I had ever seen, the cathedral in Zaragoza.
Called La Seo Cathedral or the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, the structure was built in late 1600s in dedication to the Virgin Mary. Legend says that the Virgin Mary appeared to the apostle James and gave him a small statue of herself to him, telling him that he was to build a cathedral in that very spot, the heart of Zaragoza (which at the time was called Caesar Augusta). James accepted the task of building a small cathedral there, and in later years it would become what thousands of tourists see today.
The site is also known for a miracle that occurred during a time where Spain was ravaged by war. In the early 1900s, two bombs were dropped into the cathedral by enemy airplanes who flew across Zaragoza, proceeding to bomb the entire city. The two bombs crashed through the ceiling and into the cathedral, but instead of detonating on impact, they failed to explode. The people of the cathedral proclaimed it a miracle of God, and upon disarming the bombs they hung them on the walls to remind them of the day God protected their most prized building in the city.
Our tour of the cathedral was on a Sunday, so we respectively walked through the ancient building during a service where it seemed the entire city was in attendance. The interior was littered with ancient mosaics, paintings and other craftsmanship that was extremely detailed and tantalizing. We exited the building after about twenty minutes, and then we were given about two hours to roam around and explore.
My friends and I decided to walk to a nearby restaurant and split some lunch. We ordered a couple of pizzas and drinks, and after lounging around and enjoying our food, we paid the bill and continued our walk through the city. We stopped by a local gelato shop, and after finishing our desserts, we made our way back to our meeting point where Jesus and the other groups stood waiting. We caught a final glimpse of the city and the cathedral that stood dominating the skyline as we boarded the bus and continued to Barcelona, our final stop in Spain.
Although it is a small and not well known town, Zaragoza was a beautiful and quiet town devoted to its faith and its culture. The people were friendly, the food was delicious and the atmosphere was inviting, making Zaragoza a perfect attraction for tourists looking to experience the true culture of Spain.