DIESEL DRAG TO TERUEL Via the Cathedral city of Segorbe

Paul Needle has been trying the train again for a trip into the countryside behind the Mediterranean Costas and discovers two gems on the same rail route.                              


   Let’s dispose of the railway trivia at the start so everyone can enjoy the scenery and the experience. All my travels on Spanish railways until this point had been by swift, clean and efficient electric trains. The long drag from Sagunto to Segorbe then on to the edge of the Aragon plains was by diesel train and I feared the worst – remembering the noisy, smoky, dawdling diesels from my youth in England.
                The train from Valencia arrived on time and was clearly very modern – and, of course, built in Spain. The service reverses at Sagunto (where free parking at the station is a pleasant surprise) and retraces its tracks for a short distance before taking a single track which starts climbing almost at once. Under the silent gaze of the Roman fortress castle we cross the busy AP7 motorway. We recline in our comfortable seats, noticing the power points for laptops or mobile phone chargers should we forget that this is a day off. Just along the corridor is a vending machine with drinks and snacks, and the door at the middle of the three coach train opens at a lower platform level for wheelchair access and cycles. There are three lockable cycle racks inside the carriage.
                And the diesel engines power us quickly onto the first section of level track as we approach the Cathedral city of Segorbe. If you plan to break your journey and sample some of the joys of this compact gem of a city there are some trains which only go this far – these are the Cercanias (or local trains) from Valencia and their fares are even cheaper than the Regional Expresses that go on to Teruel!
                The railway line circles around the base of the city walls but, apart from some vibrations, with less devastating effect than Joshua created in Jericho. In fact there is a lovely walk under the trees around the top of the walls giving some shade from the hot sun and fine views out over the surrounding countryside. There seem to be fountains everywhere in Segorbe with the spectacular series of fountains on the outskirts of town, with each outlet supported by a coat of arms from each Province of Spain.
                The diesel train pauses briefly at Segorbe before winding up a valley with views over a reservoir and at last reaching more level ground on the fertile plains. We pause briefly at little stations, occasionally waiting to cross over another train as it is all a single track route. There are tiny townships with tumble-down walls and viaducts where the train slows to walking pace and you hold your breath until you are safely across. At one stop we saw some very English looking allotments, complete with local men gazing over the vegetation with that satisfied smile which says “I grew this. What a wonderful peaceful place this is. I’m away from my wife!”
                Two hours after leaving Sagunto we pull into the newly renovated station at Teruel and look up at the city. Why is it that the train always seems to dump you at the bottom of a hill at your destination? There is an impressive flight of steps up to the old city – or if you are patient and persevere you might discover the passenger lifts which take much less effort and deposit you on cobbled roads at the edge of the “Ciudad Antiguo”
                It is striking that many of these smaller cities in Spain manage to keep traffic flowing around a kind of inner ring road yet retain the charm of the central area where there is so much to be seen. As in Segorbe the centre-point of Teruel is the fine Cathedral which is undergoing restoration. The ceiling is stunning and visitors can sit and appreciate a Son et Lumiere presentation projected onto the altar screen detailing the history of the church and its long series of bishops – many of whom are buried in the crypt below. It is also interesting to see the choir stalls under a fine organ at the back of the church rather than in the Anglican tradition at the front.
                Every guide book will tell you why Teruel is a city for lovers, as near to the Church, in glass coffins are the mummified remains of two lovers with a story that will break your heart. In the 13th Century  Diego Garcia de Marcilla loved Isabells de Segura and wanted to marry her. The love match was stopped by her father who preferred his daughter to marry a rich merchant. Diego travelled abroad for five years to seek his fortune and apparently found it – since he returned a wealthy man just in time to witness Isabella’s marriage to another man. He died of a broken heart that day and bizarrely the following day Isabella suffered the same fate – hence they are buried together in Teruel. A marble plaque on La Escalina staircase commemorates their tragic story.
                Some fine restoration work has also been done on the city walls to the North side of Teruel where you can admire an aqueduct which dates back many centuries and remains a miracle of engineering. In the central Plaza del Torico there are some good restaurants where you can enjoy a Menu del Dia under the shade of a parasol and listen to the chimes each quarter-hour from many a tower and church.
                In the early evening the diesel train arrives at Teruel, having meandered across the plains to Zaragossa and back while we enjoyed the city. It is downhill all the way to the Valencian coast – although the train has to work hard because of some poor trackwork and bridges where we slow before a rapid acceleration to our top speed of 55 miles an hour. It may not be the fastest rail route in Spain but for scenery and two wonderful city stops it is worth the price of a ticket.

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