After the transit issues in getting to Segovia, I made an extra effort to make sure nothing went wrong with my stop in Avila. In the morning I made sure to get to Segovia’s bus station and when the bus finally showed up (running fifteen minutes late) I double checked to make sure it was the right one. It only takes about 45 minutes to reach Avila from Segovia and rather than read, I spent the time looking out the window and keeping careful track of the bus’ progress. Central Spain is fairly flat except for a few scattered hills and mountains puncturing the landscape. When I got to Avila I bought a ticket for the 5:00pm bus to Salamanca to give me the rest of the morning and the afternoon to explore the town. There was supposed to be some sort of luggage storage in the bus station but I couldn’t find it. Consequently I would have to haul around my full backpack the entire time, resulting in a day of unplanned endurance training.
Exiting the bus station, I knew I needed to move west but I didn’t know exactly which road to be on. I had loaded part of a map of Avila onto the Google Maps on my phone while I had wifi in Segovia, but I hadn’t loaded far enough east to see where I was. Thankfully, heading directly east from the bus station brought me onto the map and after ten minutes of walking I reached the medieval walls of Avila. The walls are the main draw of the town because of how preserved they are, though there are a few other things worth seeing besides them. Before going into the old city I went around to the south side of the walls to get a photo of the surrounding countryside and then entered through one of the south gates, making my way up to Plaza Mercado Chico and then on to the small indoor market. From there I went on to the town cathedral. Avila’s cathedral was the first Gothic cathedral in Spain, but more notable (for me) is that parts of the church are built with a type of rock called “blood stone.” The type of stone has reddish patches on it, like it has been stained with blood, and I don’t remember any other churches in Europe that used this unique looking stone. It may be that blood stone is only found around Avila, or maybe nobody else liked the look of it. In any case, it makes an otherwise average cathedral stand out a bit more. Having skipped breakfast, I was starting to feel hungry when I left the cathedral. I remembered there was a Burger King just outside the city walls on Plaza de Sta Theresa, and my mind made a quick rationalization for doing more “research.” In the plaza I passed by what appeared to be a student group leading a small protest. I couldn’t full read all their signs, but I believe they were demanding some sort of educational reform. After eating, I returned to the old city and went up the city walls, starting at the middle gate on the east side, and slowly going along the east, north, and west sides until I got to the west gate, where I had to come down. I climbed a lot of stairs and went up nearly every turret that was open along the walls. With the added weight of my backpack my legs got a significant workout and my quads would end up feeling strained for a day or so after it was all done. I got lots of photos up on the walls and when I came down on the west side I walked through town back to the east side. There I went up one more small section of the walls and then came back down. At this point in the day it was getting close to when I needed to start making my way back to the bus station. I returned to Plaza de Sta Teresa and bought a box of yemas, which are soft boiled egg yolks that have been sugared/candied. I know that might sound disgusting but they’re actually quite tasty. With the box of yemas stowed in my backpack I started walking towards the bus station, and then I had a scare. I looked at my watch and it was now just after 5:30pm. A panic came over me. How did this happen? How did I allow another screw up? I’m not supposed to make these kinds of mistakes! But then, I realized that I actually wasn’t in trouble. My watch was showing the current time in Istanbul, Turkey, which is (strangely only) one hour ahead of Spain. The truth was that I was exactly on time to get to the bus station and catch the bus. Relieved, I continued on to the bus station and when the bus came, I got on. It was Thursday, and I remember the bus to Salamanca only being half full, perhaps because it was the off-season for tourism. Whatever the case, I left Avila behind and continued my journey.
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