And so my time in Trujillo begins to draw to a close…
The sunsets here continue to be pretty spectacular, but for some reason the sun now sets in the northwest instead of the southwest which is what Austin and I are accustomed to and it sets later every day. Currently the sun sets at about 9:45pm, with the last light leaving the sky at 10:45pm. For those of you who remember Spanish meal times, you will note that that is right during dinner time which is inconvenient for Austin and I as we have to eat dinner super early or super late in order to watch the sunset over the hills.
A few weeks ago Austin and I spotted our first baby stork in Trujillo (pictured below). Ever since, every nest in Trujillo has been populated by one or two baby storks that we have gladly watched grow up into teenage storks. One of our friends in town told us that occasionally the baby storks try to leave the nest too early and fall down into the plaza below where the police pick them up, take them to the vets for a once-over and then place back in their nest. D’aawwwww.
Austin and my’s final trip together was over his birthday weekend to a city north of ours by about 45 minutes called Placencia. Despite being relatively close, it’s incredibly inconvenient to go up there as it involves taking a bus and a train. A forty five minute car ride turns into a four hour ordeal. It’s worth the trouble to spend a weekend up there because the views are incredible. It’s situated in a river valley so everything is green, unlike Trujillo, and the hiking is amazing.
Like most old towns in Spain, Placencia has its own old city walls, but the city itself is much bigger than Trujillo. The population is 40,000 making it four times bigger than Trujillo by population.
The old city of Placencia isn’t quite as picturesque as that of Trujillo but it does have a cool old cathedral that Austin and I took a tour through. The old cathedral of Placencia was built in the 13th century and located right next to the new cathedral. The old cathedral doesn’t have nearly as many of the fancy trappings and architecture that you find in the 15th and 16th century churches that Austin and I are accustomed to seeing around Spain. Going from old to new, I expected the new church to be built in the 1800s or 1900s, thinking that must be what they meant by new.
But no, the new church was built in 1420 and is similar in architecture to the church in Trujillo, it even has a dark skinned Jesus on the wall. The picture below shows the old paintings on the ceiling of a funeral area in the courtyard between the new and old churches. Photography wasn’t allowed inside of the churches so I don’t have any photos from inside.
Our first afternoon in Placencia was meant to be spent wandering around the old city and seeing the sights but we were waylaid when we arrived at our hostel by the arrival of a group of 17 welshmen who didn’t speak a word of Spanish. The receptionist for the hostel didn’t speak much english so Austin and I translated between the two. That was highly amusing for me because I was so used to speaking Spanish that instead of translating whatever Paloma said into English, I would just rephrase it in Spanish. I always got halfway through my sentence before realizing I was still in Spanish and then switching back to English for the poor welshmen. Needless to say, I let Austin do most of the translating after that.
We also met the other auxiliars who are living in Plasencia because they were good friends with Paloma. We spent the afternoon chatting with them, comparing stories, and hearing about their plans for next year. By the time we finally left the hostel, we didn’t have too much time to sightsee. Instead, we did the church the next morning before catching our bus out to Jerte Valley for an afternoon of hiking.
It was a beautiful day for hiking and Austin and I had a few hours so we hiked up la Garganta del Infierno, the Inferno’s Throat. We expected it to be similar to what we found in Argentina since that was the Garganta del Diablo, but this river was far tamer. To get to it, we climbed almost straight up the mountain and then down the other side, it took us about an hour to climb up and my phone calculated us as having climbed 25 stories. We were exhausted. Our destination was the “New Bridge” which I expected to be some semi-modern bridge, but as with the church, that was not the case. Unfortunately the internet doesn’t have any information about this bridge so I don’t know how old it actually is.
We stopped and at an early evening snack before turning around and heading back down. We only had a few hours, sadly, so we weren’t able to do the entire loop which would have taken about 6 hours.
On Sunday morning before we left Plasencia we walked to the edge of town and then hiked up to a hermitage that was nestled into the hills above Placencia. When we were near the top we found this little kitty.
From the top of the hills we had an amazing view out over the Jerte Valley, to the left of the mountains opposite in the photo below was where the photos above were taken the previous day.
We had been told that it occasionally gets windy at the top of this hill but we had no idea how windy it could get until we were up there and were almost blown off of our feet.
The area we were hiking in was famous for the Cuevas de Boquique or the Boquique Caves which were named after a soldier who took refuge in them in the 1800sish. There are a bunch of caves in the area formed by the huge rocks so Austin and I had a blast trying to find the main cave and exploring all of the others on the way.
The photo of me in the rock crevice above is actually an amazing optical illusion that Austin and I didn’t see until I uploaded my photos. While it looks like I’m perched precariously tens of feet above ground and could easily fall to my death, I was actually only about 4 feet off the ground, once I straightened my legs out, they were about two feet off the ground.
Looking back into the history of the rocks reveals that they are actually caves that were first inhabited in the Bronze Era and that all sorts of old artifacts have been found there and moved to museums. Austin found this altar rock and joking said that this was where they probably sacrificed people. When I went hiking with my school we found an almost identical rock that one of my teachers, who was acting as our guide, said was indeed a sacrificial altar, so the photo above is likely of a sacrificial alter.
On our way out of Plasencia we walked through the Puerta de Trujillo, which I had to take a picture with since it’s our town’s name. It was a very impressive city gate, and much bigger than most of Trujillo’s gates.
When our schools go on field trips they take Austin and I along when they have space or if they think it’s a field trip that will interest us. My bilingual sections went to Merida last week for a city tour in English and they invited me since they knew I hadn’t been to Merida. Merida is an old Roman city founded around 1 CE and was originally named Emerita Augusta after Augustus Cesar. It was the capital of the Roman province Lusitania, and it has some of the best preserved roman artifacts and locations in all of Spain. It’s also the capital of Extremadura so it’s important to the region.
The above picture is the Roman theater, the largest and best restored Roman theater in Spain. During the summer they hold concerts there in July and August. The picture below is of the statue in the center of the Roman theater that reigns over all of the players. According to our tour guide, she is the Roman goddess Ceres, god of agriculture.
This is a copy of the original sculpture which can be see in the Roman museum of art in Merida. The photo below is of the Roman amphitheater where the gladiators fought.
It has also been pretty well preserved and restored and they have different displays giving more information about the gladiator fights. The students were not at all interested in these areas beyond a quick once over. They told me that they see Roman ruins so often that this is just sort of “meh” for them. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
As in Trujillo, Merida has storks that spend nine months presiding over everything that occurs in the main plaza and silently judging the humans walking down below. This stork pair lived on top of the government building, and if you look closely you can see two baby stork heads popping out of the nest as well.
The last bit of our field trip was through the Roman museum of art where all of the original pieces of art found by archaeologists were located. The students practically speed walked through the exhibits and had multiple guards shush them, at this point they were ready to eat lunch and be done with the field trip. I was a little sad because I would have loved to stay longer and admire all of the intricate mosaics.
Back in Trujillo, Austin’s friends arrived to visit us for the weekend. We had long viewed this visit as something that would happen right before we were going to leave Spain and, of course, would never actually happen. But, of course, they came, and we’re about to leave Trujillo, and it’s a little shocking, but it was a great excuse to go visit all of the Trujillo monuments and sights and admire them again; something we haven’t done since we arrived.
We even took them on a segway tour where we once again learned new things about Trujillo from our guide. It was fun for Austin and I to compare the difference between our first tour with him, our tour with him in February, and then again this week. Each time we understood him more clearly. This last time we never had to ask him to repeat anything.
We also took Austin’s friends to Caceres to show them the “big city” and walk through the old city. Luckily for them, the fair was in town and we walked through it looking at the stalls the gypsies had set up to sell toys, discussing the merits of portable amusement park rides, and trying not to buy all the fried food. We did eventually get buñuelos, but who can pass up buñuelos?!
We also were there during siesta and it was funny to see the entire fair take a siesta too. Because most of the fair was shut down for siesta, we stopped by a food tent to grab drinks and wait out the siesta and saw the sign below.
The whole thing pretty much sums up the attitude towards most things here, no rush, take your time, don’t forget to interact with each other, and it made Austin and I laugh when we saw it.
Then of course they ended up playing a few songs that Austin and I know so we were singing along and a guy at the bar noticed and laughed and for a second I thought we were going to make a new friend, because he talked to us a little bit. But then he started staring at me and wouldn’t stop, and then he started pointing at me when the lyrics talked about the pretty girls and such, and then we decided it was a good time to leave. I would have thought that being surrounded by three young men would deter the strangers, but apparently not.
Now that Austin’s friends are back on their way to the States, Austin and I have one week left in Trujillo. One week left of classes with our students. It’s weird for me to go to class knowing it’s my last week with those students, for some of my classes that’s a relief, for most of my classes it’s a little sad. My eighth graders have a surprise planned for me so I promised I’d stop by their class so they could give it to me before I left.
All that’s left is the very familiar routine of packing up my belongings, cleaning out the apartment one last time, watching the sunset, and saying my goodbyes to all of my friends around town. Then it’s time to climb onto an airplane and I’m off on my next adventure.