Andrea’s merry-go-round heralds the arrival of this year’s edition of Titirimundi, the international Puppet Festival, held in Segovia from May 10 to 15. This beautiful carousel, inspired by the fairground attractions first created in the eighteenth century, is a veritable work of art, decorated with paintings of scenes and characters from novels by Jules Verne, Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling. It is also pretty unusual in that it is made of so many different materials, such as wood, leather, glass, metal, pewter and copper. Children can ride on any number of different vessels and artefacts made from scrap metal. Airplanes, hot-air balloons, spaceships, dinosaurs, and wooden horses have taken up residence at the foot of the aqueduct.
The passers by looked like puppets in a Chinese shadow theatre with the Roman Aqueduct as the backdrop. The city center was suddenly darker because of this first snowfall of spring, and the snowflakes fell so thick and fast that I could hardly see what was happening more than a few meters in front of me. I couldn’t believe how the weather had turned like that. It has to said, however, that snow is one of the most beautiful miracles performed by nature. Beauty comes in any form it chooses. It always manages to brighten up even the darkest of days.
Snow suddenly began to fall heavily on the Plaza Mayor. All of us there ran for shelter – all except one woman. She stood stock still. A man rushed up to her, put his arms round her and gave her a kiss that seemed to go on forever. The two lovers ran off together down a small street leading off the Plaza. The scene they had played out was like something from an old novel. It made me think of the time Mario Vargas Llosa said that the most beautiful thing in life is love and literature. I couldn’t agree more, I thought.
The sun, still low in the sky, casts long shadows. They’re like the arms of the giant which, since early morning, have wanted to wrap themselves around the whole city as if it belonged to them. Sunlight and shadows go up against each other first thing in morning more than any other time of day, bathing rooftops and facades, cobbled thoroughfares, and passers by on their way to work. American author Gregory Maguire said: “The eye is always caught by light, but shadows have more to say.” There’s a special kind of magic about shadows that has always drawn me to them.
The unexpected arrival of snow transformed Segovia´s Plaza Mayor into a pointillist painting, which could have been mistaken for the work of Georges Seurat or Paul Signac. A mass of cold air and clouds laden with water had been closing in by stealth on the city all afternoon. Everything was painted white in just a few minutes. I took shelter as best I could under the archways and watched how the city weathered the blizzard. This can only mean that spring is around the corner.
Winter has let up for a while. On this February afternoon, the city is bathed in sun, which warms it up for a few hours. Although this taste of spring is just a beautiful mirage, it’s a good time to stop, maybe just rest a while, and take in the overwhelming presence of the stone giant. When I was a child, the incredible strength and height of the aqueduct made me nervous. Now I no longer find this colossus intimidating. I learnt that there’s no reason to fear giants when, after all, the slightest of breezes can move the leaves of the biggest trees in the world.
“It’s always still today,” said the poet about the passage of time. At the foot of the city walls, the spiritual heart of Machado still beats strong. The Seville-born poet who lived in Segovia between 1919 and 1932 often went for walks in places just like this, perhaps carrying a notebook that he later used to pen universal verses. Such surroundings offer a strange fusion of the dreamer’s romantic spirit and the hard realism of Castilian stone. Never doubt that Machado, one of the most magnificent voices of Spanish poetry, is still here among us.
It’s coming in dark now. The light is fading fast and it won’t be very long before a precipitous wintry darkness envelops everything. Under the archway of Santiago’s Gate, which leads through Segovia’s city walls to the San Marcos district, a couple strolls along, oblivious to everything. Picture postcards of my old city that I manage to keep capturing every day…
What stands out here are the arcades, which are home to a good number of banks, small businesses and bars. “Avenida de El Acueducto” has to be the busiest thoroughfare in Segovia. I have childhood memories of heavy traffic and the constant comings and goings of people on its pavements. It used to be a main road that went right under the Aqueduct. When local politicians decided to stop traffic going under the Roman monument, some twenty years ago, it became a pedestrian zone. Over time, it filled up with the terraces of bars and cafes so that Segovians and tourists can enjoy the spring sun and magnificent views of the huge Aqueduct.
On a blue morning I observe storks flying elegantly and mysteriously the way only storks can. They glide, peaceful and serene, circling the bell tower of the old Santa Cruz la Real campus. I find their slow, silent wing beats captivating.