June 12th, 2018 – Madrid, Spain to Zaragoza, Spain: ~200 miles
Vy and I explore an inhabited ghost town.
Did you miss Day 10? Vy and I do our best Quixote impressions.
It was slow going as we left Madrid thanks to traffic…and tourists in Seat 600s. Different people have different ways of coping with the traffic. Here, a scooter shoots through the gap.
The first (and only) BMW C Evolution (electric scooter) I’ve ever seen out in the wild. I didn’t recognize it at first, due to the custom paint or wrap that makes it look like a Transformer. The C Evolution had a super short run in the US (2017-2019), but it’s still available in other markets where a scooter with 100 mile range makes more sense.
That’s more than enough range to get to our first destination for the day: 40 miles northeast of Madrid is Ciudad Valdeluz, a city that was only built because it could be on a high speed rail line so residents could pay suburb prices but still get to Madrid for work or fun in less than 20 minutes. I’ve mentioned the ghost towns of Spain that came from the 2008 economic crisis a few times on this trip, but this was one of the most interesting to me. Note how the giant sign welcoming you is missing the second “d” in Ciudad? That should give you an idea of what to expect.
But after 2008 crashed the Spanish housing market, Valdeluz could lay claim to only 1,000 residents. Development stopped in 2008, leaving many portions of town as nothing more than unfinished roads dotted with light posts.
In this lonely part of town, we found a solitary home that had presumably been abandoned for a decade. Inside we found blueprints from 2004, back when there must have been plenty of optimism around this project.
You may not be surprised to find out that our Lonely Planet book did not have much to say about highlights of this town. A few months after we visited, the New York Times had a story about Valdeluz, suggesting that it was now “coming alive.” I hope that’s the case!
This gas station attendant had all kinds of questions about the BMW, which I’m sure I answered inadequately due to my lack of Spanish fluency. Still, he seemed to appreciate the big German sport-tourer.
I didn’t realize until I looked it up later, but the fountain is designed to be viewed much farther away from a specific angle – at which point you’ll see all of South America! Oops.
One of Zaragoza’s highlights is Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a Roman Catholic church that is claimed to be the first church dedicated to Mary. Many churches have been at this site – construction of the current one started in 1681. It’s a hell of a building.