Zaragoza, Spain — July 15, 2016

It’s difficult to believe that I will be flying home in just five days. I have two more nights here in Zaragoza and three in Madrid before I head for the airport and begin the torturous return trip with two stopovers, Washington DC and Chicago.

I arrived at the hostel in the late morning yesterday, and once I got settled in, I thought it was time to wash some clothes by hand and hang them in the patio to dry. I travel very light and basically have two sets of clothing: One set to wear while the other is being washed. My two shirts are identical, so some people may think that I wear the same unwashed shirt for weeks at a time.

I’ve managed to restrain myself from adding selfies to this blog so far, but today my restraint bit the dust. Here I am in front of the immense fountain that is located at one end of the Plaza del Pilar.

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The plaza is located just a few blocks from where I am staying and just a stone’s throw from the Rio Ebro, the river that runs through the city. Here is a shot of the Plaza itself. Naturally, there is a church steeple in the picture. It’s difficult to take a photograph in any Spanish hamlet, village, town, or city without getting a church in the picture.

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I crossed the Rio Ebro several times last summer when I hiked the Camino de Santiago, but I crossed it farther upstream where it was narrower. This is the first time I have seen the river this wide. Of course, it’s not one of the major rivers of the world, but by Spanish standards it is big. Away from the Pyrenees, Spain is a dry country, and there is not that much runoff for the rivers to carry.

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I photographed a lot of old bridges in my book about walking the Camino, but most of them were dark and looked very old. The stone  bridge in Zaragoza has been sandblasted, which stripped away centuries of grime and brought back the original color of the stone.

I had a hard time getting a clear view of the bridge, because the river through town is lined with trees on both banks. I took this photo from a lookout point hanging out over the river bank. More on that at the end of this blog post.

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I mentioned in one of my posts from Paris that it was once the custom for lovers to lock a padlock to the railing of one of the bridges over the Seine and throw the key into the river. The lock was to remain there forever, and the couple’s love would last as long as the lock was in place.

I also mentioned that the City of Paris now cuts the locks off, because the weight of the millions of them (no exaggeration) was threatening to collapse the bridge railings.

Apparently some loving couples have brought the custom to Zaragoza. I did find some isolated spots where padlocks were fastened to the railing along the bank of the Ebro. Written on them in indelible black ink were words such as “Our love is eternal,” but written in Spanish of course.

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I find it astonishing that Spain, a country with a history of cruelty to animals and that still tolerates the torturing of bulls to death as public entertainment is developing a sensibility about household pets. This sign basically asks people not to dump their animals when they go on vacation. There is an alternative by calling or emailing the Municipal Animal Protections Society.

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One thing that amazes me about Western Europe is how highly developed the infrastructure is compared to ours in the USA. Here there are smooth highways and high-speed trains covering the country plus an urban transportation system that means that you’re seldom more than a few blocks from a bus stop, light rail station, or subway station. I think much of the credit goes to the European Union.

However, things are not perfect. Here is a picture of the overlook from which I took the earlier picture of the stone bridge. Not only is the bench overturned, but in several places the floorboards are broken. The overlook appears to be new. Its construction must have been awarded to the lowest bidder.

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