Breezy Burgos

Monday 1 July 2019

I’d not heard of Burgos, but it was on my direction of travel towards Madrid. The two and a half hour drive from Santander felt ever upwards until, as I neared Burgos, nowhere appeared higher. Checking before I wrote this, Burgos, at over 850m, is the highest city (defined as over 100k inhabitants) in Europe. So, there you go, pub quiz fact of the day.

Perch a castle on the top,

and these are the views.

It’s all downhill from here.

I wonder if it is always windy up here? It certainly has been today, but that’s been a blessing in the heat.

Burgos was the historic capital of Castile, a large region covering central Spain and meaning land of castles.

It was mostly wide open spaces and big skies on the drive, giving a sense of the scale of Spain. It’s twice the size of the UK with two-thirds the population.

During the Peninsula Wars, Napoleon’s forces held Burgos castle, but the British army, under Wellington, and supported by Spanish and Portuguese forces, laid siege. Eventually, Wellington booted them out.

Below the castle, the old town is dominated by the cathedral,

a sprawling beast of a building,

built on many levels,

and bedecked in flowers,

as part of the Sampedros festival currently underway.

Crossing the city was this procession of about twenty brass bands, each of about twelve musicians plus supporters,

all playing different tunes at high tempo, seemingly to outdo each other. Made me smile.

The old town area is compact. This was one of the twelve medieval gates. It was rebuilt in the sixteenth century.

It features famous figures from Burgos history, including El Cid,

top right, who will always be Charlton Heston to me. El Cid, the lord, was born Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar just outside of Burgos.

There is also this statue of him. He is Castile’s national hero.

A more discreet statue was this woman overlooking the river.

My lack of knowledge about Burgos was clearly a failure on my part. Though, perhaps, diminished in recent years, it’s a city with a rich history.

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