Learning about Aragon
A stay in Zaragoza, Aragon’s primate city
Nestled between Spain’s northern coastal region Basque country and the infamous Catalunya, is a region called Aragon. The name Aragon, commonly associated in pop culture with fictional tales such as the Lord of the Rings, is a region of superior significance to Spain and its establishment as a sovereign nation. Although it is not well-known as a common tourist destination for people outside of Spain, the region was once one of the two great kingdoms of Spain.
Before the foundation of Spain, there were two main kingdoms that controlled the land, Castile and Aragon. Castile and Aragon were once the major two dominating powers in Spain, which controlled nearly ever region of what it considered to be modern-day Spain. It was only after they united through royal marriage that Spain become what we commonly refer to in the present. Since that time, with the exception of autonomous governments in the major regions, Spain’s power has been centrally located.
Arriving in Zaragoza, I did not know what to expect. Much like Girona, I had passed through Zaragoza in the past, but had never had the opportunity to actually visit it.
I found Zaragoza to be a tranquil city. It was in many ways of significant historical significance as it was once controlled by the Moors and the Romans, heck even Napoleon had at once point made his mark on it. Zaragoza has been destroyed two times completely and was rebuilt both. The remains from the Romans are few, although they are noticeable if one knows where to look. Zaragoza, and other parts of Aragon, at one time belonged to the Moors and it was one of the farthest reaches in territory of the Moorish Empire in Spain. To this day, there is an Arabian style palace called Aljafería. Other notable Arabian-influenced things can be seen in architecture of several of the churches, which were built with the assistance of mudejars, or Arabs who voluntarily decided to stay in Spain after the Inquisition.
Church lovers will inevitably enjoy the allure of The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the Seo Cathedral, which both simultaneous overlook the Ebro river and Plaza Nuestra Señora del Pilar.
Nature lovers and people interested in outdoor activities would likely enjoy a pass by some of the large parks in the area. I went to a few of them such as Parque del tio Jorge, Parque del Agua, and Parque Grande. Parque del Agua was constructed for the 2008 water exposition and has been used for little since. Some locals believe that the buildings are an example of Spanish overspending on needless things. However, as one of them told me, they looked nice for a day.
The Parque del Agua was interesting to me though because you get to learn some things about how water can be used as a natural source of energy in conjunction with rivers and fast-moving systems. Also, there are water basins and delta areas that show how toxins can be removed naturally from water.
Zaragoza is not a bad stop over when traveling through Spain. It is an authentically Spanish city, which has been at the crossroads of many of the Mediterranean’s greatest empires.
Accommodation in Zaragoza
During my stay in Zaragoza, I stayed in one of Hostelling International’s two hostels in the city. I stayed in Albergue Juvenil Baltasar Gracián, which is located near the middle of Zaragoza. It is about fifteen minutes walking from attractions such as the old town area and Parque Grande. It is also very near to the university. The other hostel in the city is called La Posada del Comedador, and it is located just five minutes from the Central Market and Plaza Nuestra Señora del Pilar in the San Pablo neighborhood. It was founded in 2008 for the Water Exposition, and has been serving the community ever since.