Badajoz is one of the two provinces in the comunidad autónoma of Extremadura (Extreme and hard if you translate literally two of the words) , which is one of the most surprising places to visit as the Spanish seem to ignore it or make jokes about it. Located in the southwest corner of Spain near Portugal, Castilla La Mancha and Sevilla in Andalucía, Extremadura was a joy to visit, even if it was one of the last comunidades autónomas I visited. I would love another chance to travel to Badajoz to know the province capital and more of the comunidad.
I had stepped foot in Extremadura on the way back from a summer camp in 2011, but it wasn’t until March 2012 when I had a chance to spend a weekend. It was either the penultimate or the last comunidad I crossed off the list, depending on how you look at it, and I was already learning the value of “more time in one place is better than little time in many places” by the time I reached here. My time in the Badajoz province was short, only one day, and it was limited to the capital extremeño of Mérida.
Mérdia is known for its Roman ruins and is the main tourist site of the province. I woke up early Saturday morning after the worst train ride ever (it was after this experience I discovered that Renfe refunds any ticket of trains more than 30 minutes late) to take the train to Mérida. I arrived, had my tostada con tomate and café con leche, and set off to explore the ruins. The Roman Theatre is the most impressive for me. I explored the town and had lunch before heading back to explore Cáceres, where I was staying. As it is prone to do at important places (The Alhambra, on the flight to Ireland, etc), my camera decided to stop working, so my iPod Touch (Jordi I. I am now on Jordi IV) had to suffice.
Badajoz is the largest province in Spain and one of the least densely populated provinces. Its total population is around 700,000 habitants, smaller than cities like Sevilla and Zaragoza. For any New Mexican readers out there, there is a town called “Alburquerque” located in the province.
Teatro Romano y las ruinas de Mérida
Without a doubt, the Roman ruins (especially the Roman theatre) are the most important attraction of the province of Badajoz and one of the most important Roman archaeological sites in Spain. The capital of Extremadura (58,000 habitants) is well worth a visit for any history buff, and even those bored by history would most likely be impressed by the ruins that are still here today. The name comes from Ermerita Augusta, which is Latin for retirement home of Augustus’ soldiers. It was the capital of Lusitania province (The name Lusitania is more connected with Portugal today) and has more Roman monuments than any other Spanish city, including the theatre, the longest still-in-existence Roman bridge, an aqueduct and amphitheatre. Despite all of this, it remains more or less undiscovered by the masses, who opt more for Madrid-Toledo-Segovia, the Andalucía coast or the Catalan and Valencian coasts. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Alcazaba de Mérida
The alcazaba (fortress) of Mérida is also on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is a 9th-century Muslim fortress which has fantastic views of the city and surrounding countryside, including the Guadiana River. It was the first Muslim alcazaba built by Abd ar-Rahman II of Córdoba.
Badajoz y su alcazaba (yet to be discovered)
Also located on the Guadiana, Badajoz is the capital of the province with 152,000 habitants. It’s located very close to Portugal. The main attraction of the capital city is its alcazaba, a Spanish national monument since 1931. It boasts a number of Moorish buildings and its cathedral is unique for having one Gothic window, one Renaissance window and one Plateresque window, which architectural geeks would love. It also has a replica of the Sevilla’s Giralda and the Puerta (Gate) Palmas.
Zafra (yet to be discovered)
Zafra is a medieval town of 16,000 habitants located between Badajoz capital and Sevilla. It had an important role in the Reconquista as it was important to the Moors for its location. Today you can still see the Torre de San Francisco and the old Puertas de Jerez and Badajoz. It also has a Parador.
Jerez de los Caballeros (yet to be discovered)
Another link to Spain’s Moorish past, Jerez de los Caballeros (Sherry of the Knights! This is why you should not translate names into English) is located in the south of the province about 12 miles/20 kilometres from Portugal. It is surrounded by Moorish walls and has six gates. It also has a castle. The local legend says that in Torre Sangrienta, condemned men were executed by having their throats slit. A bit of guts and gore.
Siberia Extremeña (yet to be discovered)
Located in the northwestern part of Badajoz, La Siberia is home of 20 villages near the provinces of Cáceres, Toledo and Ciudad Real. The villages are isolated and a step back into time and offer beautiful landscapes. They are a taste of Extremadura. Puebla de Alcocer is the capital of the comarca, and the comarca has 30,000 habitants.
Castillo de Luna de Alburquerque (yet to be discovered)
The namesake of New Mexico’s most famous city (Breaking Bad is a series, not a city!) has an extra “r” in its name. Alburquerque supposedly comes from the Latin for “white oak”, and the village of 5600 people boasts a castle, Castle of the Moon, which was declared a National Monument in 1924.