Anything But Paella

Burgos – much more than morcilla!

Burgos claims to be the cradle of humanity in Europe. A few kilometres from the city, the Atapuerca archeological site is considered to be the birthplace of the first Europeans. It is a city steeped in history and a wander through its streets made for a delightful late afternoon and evening. This was made even better by a former student of mine from my days in Pamplona. Kim, a native burgalesa, agreed to be our guide and show us the city from her perspective. She even took us to a fabulous bar to try some morcilla de Burgos, but her insight demonstrated the city is so much more than the black pudding that bears its name.

Burgos, as seen from the castle

Our tour began in the park which runs alongside the Río Arlanzón. It is extremely picturesque, and popular with locals and tourists alike. Nearby is the impressive Museum of Human Evolution which looks an absolute must if you are in the city for longer or the weather isn’t so kind. The strange evolution sculpture isn’t far away and the bridge over the river is guarded by statues of ancient figures.

The bridge leads to the impressive sight of El Cid on horseback. Arguably the city’s most famous son, this medieval knight and/or warlord certainly made his mark on Spain. The man, the myth, the legend has given rise to a famous film by Charlton Heston in 1961 as well as many poems and songs. There is also a long distance route following his journey all the way from Burgos down to the province of Alicante. This can be followed on two wheels or four, and of course on foot if ultra-long-distances are your thing.

The tight maze of streets forming the city’s medieval quarter was expertly navigated and soon we were climbing up to what remains of Burgos castle. Truth be told, there’s not an awful lot of the castle left but some of the walls are impressive and the views out over the city are amazing. An archaeological dig is still in progress and you can see what has been uncovered in an interesting display underneath a large permanent shelter. Once upon a time the castle would have been an imposing sight but it’s still worth making your way up either the slope or the steps.

The remains of the castle

We descended down the steps to the cathedral district. From the passing motorway, the flamboyant gothic Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos dominates the landscape. It can be seen from miles away. It seems incredible that its construction began way back in 1221. Almost 800 years later and the city is preparing to celebrate its very special anniversary with various projects organised by Burgos 2021. Lady luck was shining on us as Kim announced that we had to hang around the grandiose church until sunset. As darkness fell more than 15,000 candles were lit to illuminate the streets. We got to participate too, as it was always going to take a lot of people to light that many candles! Soon we were walking through candle-lit alleyways with live musicians helping us on our way with some beautiful tunes.

Burgos Cathedral
Music in the streets

Kim then took us to Bar Pancho where we had some pintxos, Northern Spain’s answer to tapas. Many people turn their noses up at morcilla because they have memories or misconceptions of black pudding from the UK. Actually, we love that too, but even if you don’t you have to give morcilla de Burgos a try. The flavours are divine and it is stuffed with rice giving a completely different texture to what you may imagine, or fear! Nearby the Plaza Mayor and its surrounding streets are full of bars and restaurants to delight every taste.

It was busier than normal because of the candle lighting!

All too soon it was time to leave the city behind. We were staying at the OYO Las Vegas hotel, about 25 minutes away by bus. It was a simple and cheap journey, but try to have some loose change to help the driver. They cannot change notes greater than €10. Staying out of the city kept the price down but did not affect our enjoyment of the day. Thanks once again to Kim, our excellent guide.

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