An early start saw me back at Madrid’s Chamartin station to catch a 9.15am train that’d get me to Zaragoza just after lunch. Some people dread the idea of sitting on a train for over four hours, but I absolutely love it! When I finally arrived in Zaragoza, a slight mix up and huge amount of stubbornness on my part meant I waited another 50 minutes for a train into the city centre, followed by a tram – yay, tram! – and then a short walk to the hotel I’d booked. It had been a last minute booking and was super cheap, so I was so surprised when I found that it was really central and a nice room!
After such an early start, I spent my first afternoon in Zaragoza relaxing with a coffee and catching up on a bit of life admin and planning my time in the city. As it turns out, Spain really goes for it with Easter celebrations, and I spent a good while of the evening hunting out somewhere to get some dinner as many places were closed for Maundy Thursday. Then followed the main reason I was in Spain – the Semana Santa processions! At first, the outfits and banging of the drums made my heart race and I’ll be honest, I was a little scared. I’ve grown up relating the outfits to the KKK, but once I’d overcome that connection in my mind I really started to enjoy the processions. The first evening was just a little introduction, but I was so tired I had to head back and get some sleep.
Having learnt my lesson yesterday about how everything closes for Easter, I made my way straight to the shop the next morning to stock up on supplies in case the shops were closed again over the weekend. And then…exploring! Finding that many of the churches were closed for the Easter celebrations, I made my way across the bridge and enjoyed a wander before coming back and seeing some of the processions. They were happening at regular occurrences, many of them taking different routes across the city, and I came across many as I walked around exploring the city. With not much open, I spent the afternoon relaxing with a coffee before stopping in at the cathedral to find it was open and then getting caught up in the Good Friday service.
After relaxing in the hotel for the evening, thinking I was done for the day, I could hear drums. I’m definitely one of those who doesn’t want to miss out on anything, but I didn’t think I’d get changed and out in time to see it so just stayed inside. After an hour, I realised this was a serious procession and made my way to the main square, conveniently just outside the hotel, and watched part of the huge procession with hundreds of people taking part.
Easter Saturday isn’t as much of a big deal as the Thursday, Friday and Sunday, so the next day I was finally able to explore more of the city with things being open. Add to that glorious sunshine, and I had a great day popping in and out of the different churches, soaking up the atmosphere in Pilar Square, taking photos for a million and one tourists and finally finding Mercado Central and having a mooch in there.
Venturing a bit further out, I made my way to the bullring to see if I could take a tour. Walking through the quieter area of town made me feel a little uneasy, especially as there were quite a lot of people standing on the street corners doing absolutely nothing but watching. Eventually arriving at the bullring, it was so so quiet but I saw signs about scheduled bullfights so thought it might be open for tours too. No such luck, so made my way back to the city centre and Plaza España.
I’d intended to spend my afternoon at the photography exhibition, but what do you know…closed! Shocking haha. Instead, I opted for the Goya museum which was interesting but not really my kind of thing. And the joy of travelling on my own, I sped through it, stopped for the parts I liked and skipped the bits that I didn’t without having to wait for someone else to see it all.
Time for one last coffee at my new favourite coffee spot in Zaragoza – Divino, if you’re interested – before popping to the shop to pick up provisions for the train tomorrow to Bilbao. I didn’t feel like I’d really got to experience Zaragoza because so much had been closed, but it was a nice to get a taster for the city and know I’d like to come back.