Interviewer: Elvis, what do you love most about Memphis?
Zamora is supposed to be a surprising city so I was curious as to exactly what was surprising about it. Everything!
Well, on the outskirts there's nothing impressive about it. On the way in you pass a very ugly cement works. But as you approach the river you see the solid cathedral blending into the stone, and then you notice a scattering of church towers standing above the rooftops, not soaring Gothic but solid Romanesque.
The town is long and narrow, stretched out along a ridge. At one end is the cathedral and other ecclesiastical buildings. At the other is the more modern city. Scattered along the ridge are 23 Romanesque churches.
The cathedral is very modest from the outside. It has two towers, the one with a cupola so low it looks like it's keeping its head down to stay out of trouble. The other is the bell tower with bells resting in openings around the sides. Inside, there is virtually no nave, for the choir with its beautifully carved stalls takes up most of the centre of the church. But all around are baroque chapels, ornate as always.
A plaza just up from the albergue had the familiar platoon of plane trees, linking arms to provide a green canopy in summer, a characteristic of northern Spain and southern France.
The plaza major has detached buildings around the sides, some arcaded, some not, and it would've been a very large place indeed, were there not a church in the middle. The plaza major in Salamanca was uniformly lined with eighteenth century buildings around the square. Here, I counted buildings in 15 different styles. And the plaza was not square.
At the commercial end of town, the streets extend in medieval patterns but are lined with more modern buildings in an incredible variety of styles. And every so often there's a church where you least expect it
In the early Middle Ages, humble dwellings must have huddled around parish churches. The churches remain, but the old houses have gone, to be replaced by more modern buildings along the old thoroughfares.
Our albergue, donativo, is elaborate, comfortable and hospitable. Like so much of the town, it is at one with the rock it is built on. As you go down to the dorms, and further down to the kitchen, parts of the walls are bedrock.
For a couple of days, I have been eating and drinking with Joerg, yet another German. He is staying on at Zamora.