Travels

Zamora. Happy chances.

Thursday 11 July 2019

As I walked from the aire into Zamora, a guy about my age in a camper with a Belgian plate was pulling in his wing mirrors to get down a narrow street. I asked if he was looking for the aire. We had a brief chat but he said he was passing through. He was blocking the road so moved on.

Half an hour later, as I was sitting in the shade by the castle,

more of which later, he approached me. I wasn’t difficult to find being, as usual, the only mad dog out in the sun.

He wasn’t sure if he could get his van under an arch by the cathedral and asked whether I’d guide him through. He was Belgian, retired in Portugal, now Portuguese by marriage, going to pick up his son from Barcelona who was currently walking in the alps. Europe, eh?

Now retired, he’d worked in handling sensitive information for the EU and was totally up to speed with anti-semitism in the Labour Party, the Tories, Brexit and even the Lib Dem’s (very pleased to hear I’d joined them, saying he would have done the same). We had a long and wonderful chat about a myriad of subjects, just two guys with a shared view of the world. Between us, we could sort it out! We were in agreement that the world was largely populated by good people but not necessarily sufficiently politically aware. He said they had an expression that the lie will always get away fast, but the truth will catch up. With the current BJ and American ambassador scandal, it’s clear truth is still a good lap behind.

I watched as he moved his van and continued on his journey. The joy of travel, the joy of meeting people.

Zamora is close to the border with Portugal. I had considered driving on but I’m glad I didn’t. Founded in the Bronze Age, the town stands on a rocky outcrop,

overlooking the river Douro,

which, downstream, for a good part of its length, forms the border with Portugal.

The 13th century bridge that crosses the Douro was designed to cope with the fluctuations in water levels by letting the water through the holes between the arches. Clever.

I recent days, I’ve seen seen single cranes at a distance a few times. When I saw half a dozen in the river, I thought myself lucky.

but Zamora is crane city it seems,

with birds and nests all over.

They were flying overhead all evening, sometimes riding the thermals like hawks. Wonderful birds.

In addition to cranes, capirotes also feature in the town.

The capirote is the conical hat used in Spain as part of religious uniforms during observances and reenactments in some areas during Holy Week.

Zamora is one such place. Seventeen brotherhoods decend on the town over the Easter weekend.

Historically, the capirote was intended as a mark of humiliation and was worn by those publicly punished by Church officials for doctrinal violations – echoes of the dunces cap.

The regalia we associate with the Klan today was adopted during the group’s second iteration, in the early 20th century.

One William J Simmons of Atlanta was obsessed with fraternal societies, like those in Spain, which were very much in vogue during the beginning of the 20th century,

Simmons’ organisation, and thus Simmons himself, made his money from $10 membership dues and from selling official Klan regalia, which he manufactured, the white robes and hoods we associate with the Klan today. Having grown up with only that connotation, it’s hard to see past it.

Zamora also features the work of local born sculptor Baltasar Lobo. There is a gallery, sadly closed when I was there, but there are pieces around the castle,

in lovely gardens,

and in the castle ruins.

The ruins are open in the evening and free to access,

looking dramatic in the evening sunlight.

The castle has a medieval core,

but was extended on three separate occasions

giving it three curtain walls.

It stands across the small park from the cathedral.

which glowed as the sun set,

and an orchestra waited. The plaza of the cathedral,

with its Roman columns,

arch,

and heraldry, had been transformed into a concert venue.

A packed house enjoyed a free concert

from a full orchestra, and I had a great view, leaning on a Roman pillar as swallows swooped overhead. And, yes, that is a crane listening in.

I couldn’t help but wonder what it was making of it all.

Zamora is not a big place but has a cathedral, churches at every turn, a castle, a main square and all the other must have features to put it on the map. A must see if in the area.

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