Tues. April 30. Day 14. Segovia to El Burgo de Osma.
See Travel Itinerary for a rationale of this trip, a who’s who of those travelling, and our itinerary.
After an excellent buffet breakfast in a room where one wall was completely taken up by a terrific photo of Segovia silhouetted against the sky, we started on our way to El Burgo de Osma, about 144 kilometres north east.
En route, we circled Segovia, stopping near the meeting of the two rivers, Eresma and Clamores, to take photos of the Alcázar from below. It’s from here that you’ll usually see shots of the Alcázar, dramatically outlined against the sky.
On our way out of Segovia, we had a last look at the aqueduct and then we were on the N 110. In the rolling green fields dotted with trees breaking into leaf, we saw a lot of cattle grazing, and in the distance the snow-covered Guadarrama Mountains glistened under the sun. Beyond the junction for the beautiful old village of Pedraza de la Sierra (where Margaret and I had once stayed), the land became stonier with large areas of scattered cedar trees. Later, around Ayllón (about 94 kilometres from Segovia), cereal fields signalled the southern edge of the fertile Duero valley.
We arrived in El Burgo de Osma in the early afternoon, and quickly settled in to our hotel, II Virrey Palafox, conveniently located in the old town, to one corner of the Plaza Mayor (Main Square).
The hotel has lots of old world Spanish charm. The foyer has dark polished woodwork, coffered ceiling, some kitschy cherubs, chandeliers, large leather seats, low marble tables and a sweeping staircase.
The rooms are modern and pleasant, and we were delighted that ours overlooked the Plaza Mayor. Outdoor parking is available.
El Burgo de Osma (burgo is a cognate of the English “burgh” as in “Edinburgh” or “borough”) is not on the usual travel route, but is both an interesting town in itself and an excellent centre for day trips. Once straddling the buffer zone between Christian and Moorish lands, the land around El Burgo de O is full of medieval castles and villages.
This is the land of the Cid, Castile’s most famous hero; it also witnessed the death of one of al-Andalus’s (Moorish Spain) most famous leaders, al-Mansur. Al-Mansur, the 10th-century scourge of the Christian north, seized El Burgo de O in 989. He is said to have been wounded in battle at nearby Calatañazor in 1002, and died from his wounds shortly after in Medinaceli en route to Córdoba. His defeat and death precipitated the collapse of the once-mighty Umayyad caliphate of Córdoba.
Located on the Ucero River, El Burgo de O has a population of just over 5,000. The town boasts one of the oldest bishoprics in Spain, dating back to the late 6th century, and was once important enough to have its own university (Santa Catalina, 1555).
Much of the history of El Burgo de O is encapsulated in the ancient, arcaded Calle Mayor, between the 13th-century Gothic cathedral (on the irregularly shaped Plaza de San Pedro) and the 18th-century porticoed Plaza Mayor. There are old mansions, an episcopal palace, and in the Plaza Mayor itself –and facing each other– the Hospital de San Agustín (now a cultural centre and tourist office; look for the storks’ nests on its roof)
and the Town Hall. Just where the Calle Mayor meets Calle Universidad is the 16th-century university of Santa Catalina, now a luxury hotel.
It was late-afternoon when we wandered down the Calle Mayor towards the cathedral. The weather was pleasantly warm with a few light clouds crossing the sky. At this hour the street was empty, shops closed and restaurants shut. In one restaurant about to close, we grabbed a hasty lunch under the impatient eye of the waitress who was clearly eager to shut shop.
We then continued our walk past the cathedral and through a gate in the ancient walls, pausing for an fond look at the historic Posada del Canónigo where Margaret and I had stayed in 2008. (The wall behind our bed was part of the old walls.) Once through the gate alongside the Posada, we stopped on an old bridge over the River Ucero. The area running alongside the river is parkland, and there is a lovely tree-lined bicycle path where you can walk beside the river towards an old Roman bridge. On your way, you’ll pass below El Burgo de O’s castle keeping watchful eye atop a steep cliff to your left.
After spending some time admiring the old walls and the lofty 72 m/235 ft, 18th-century cathedral tower that dominates the town, we retraced our steps along the Calle Mayor. It was early evening by now, and some shops were open. We stopped at a pastry shop just opposite the entrance of our hotel to the Calle Mayor, and bought a wide selection of goodies. We had decided to eat in our rooms that evening because we wanted to watch an important soccer match that all Spaniards would be glued to: the second leg of the semi-finals of the European Champions League between Real Madrid (RM) and the German team, Borussia Dortmund (BD). We had missed the first leg on April 24th, when Real Madrid was soundly beaten 4-1 in Germany. With home advantage (and an away goal, which counts for two in an aggregate tie), there were high hopes that RM could overcome the deficit.
John, Leslie, Andrew and Alex squeezed onto one bed; I took a chair alongside them (Margaret stayed in our room reading). It was an exciting game punctured by shouts of encouragement from us (in between munching our pastries) but, despite our vocal support, RM fell just short, winning 2-0. If they had won 3-o, their away goal would have been the tie breaker, and they would have gone on to the final.
Exhausted after a busy day and a cliff-hanger soccer game, we were all ready for bed. A last look out on to the Plaza Mayor where restaurants/bars were still busy, and it was time to draw the curtains.
The main square of Burgos de Osma is attractive and the streets that go from there to the cathedral square have the same overhang style that I have found beautiful in a number of European towns. We arrived in the early afternoon and you could have safely shot a cannon down the streets without any worry of hitting someone. This did, however, make finding a place to eat a challenge as most of the cafes were closed for lunch and would not be opening until around 8 p.m. It was very different going down those same streets at 9:00 pm as then the streets were filled with people of all ages…I have to admit that I preferred the more solitary feeling as I have never been a fan of crowds.