Teruel – city of love
Luckily, there are still plenty of authentic treasure troves in this world, bypassed by the usual tourist trail. All you have to do is find them and that’s one of the reasons why I love to travel. Teruel in Aragon/Spain is one of these insider secrets and for more reasons than one.
I arrived by train from Alicante and when I stepped out of the small station building, I already went ‘ohhh’. Spread out before me was one splendid Mudejar building after the other, but, high up on a steep hill! First order of the day was to get me and my suitcase up there. A helpful fellow traveler pointed me to a modern structure which, so he said, housed a lift taking you up to the center of the old town. Theoretically, this is true, but in reality and more often thah not, the lift is out of order.
An alternative is right next door though. An impressive art deco structure, called La Escalinata dating from the early 20th century, makes you work for your Teruel experience. I didn’t count the steps, but there are plenty and heaving you suitcase up isn’t easy either. But, I made it only to be faced with more uphill climbing until I reached my hotel near Plaza el Torica, right in the heart of things.
Teruel is a small city but densely packed with one fabulous monument after the other. My first visit that afternoon was to the Mausoleo de los Amantes. The story behind it is what gave Teruel the moniker City of Love. It’s a romantic and sad love story based on historical facts and not, like so many others, a legend.
The protagonists are Isabel de Segura and Juan Diego de Marcilla who lived in Teruel in the 13th century. Friends since childhood they became engaged to be married, but Juan’s family had fallen on hard times and he was to poor. He was given five years by Isabel’s father to amass a fortune so he could marry her. Off he went on foreign wars to make his fortune.
Nothing was heard from him and finally, Isabel’s father lost patience and married her to a rich relative. Pedro de Azagra. The next day, there was a big commotion at the gates, Juan had returned, loaded down with riches. Upon learning that his beloved Isabel was married to someone else, he managed to sneak into her bedroom, imploring her to grant him one kiss. Isabel , lying next to her husband, refused. Juan in despair, dropped dead of a heart attack at the foot of the martial bed.
The next day, at his funeral, Isabel turned up in her wedding dress and bending over her dead lover kissed him and died herself.
The lovers are buried side by side in the mausoleum, adjacent to the magnificent Church of San Pedro. Below their marble statues are their mummies, you can peer through the base and look at them.
The church dates from the 14th century and is a splendid example of Mudejar architecture. All the elements of this particular style in Aragon are present in the church and the tower which you can climb with a wonderful view over the roofs of Teruel.
A great start to a day or two in Teruel.