Except for the growing moss within the gaps indicating its long existence, it is very difficult to imagine the age of the stoned bridge because it remains in excellent condition. This good condition is really amazing, especially because we are accustomed to seeing ancient buildings in decayed states, as is the case for the Roman ruins in the Forum Romanum in Rome. Even the famous Porta Nigra in Treves, that like Merida, was built around 30 before Christ and is relatively well preserved, appears to be older than the Roman bridge. It seems the Puente Romano does not want to betray the secret of its age and insists on reminding us about these glorious Roman times, when the legions occupied the city and the rest of Western Europe.
Visiting Merida truly feels like travelling through the time: Merida is history revived. You get the feeling of Merida not only thanks to old bridge, but also due to the ancient archaeological excavations. If you walk the long way from the amphitheatre to the Roman theatre, you have a good promenade across the Plaza des Espana in the centre of the city where the fabulous City Hall dating from the 19th century stands, passing through the shadowy Calle de Santa Eulalia, going uphill and finding over there many souvenir shops. Sculptures of former emperors were all headless, so they just needed to build the head for the statue of the next emperor who had died. A 17 metre high stage area encloses the backstage room. It is erected in marble that originated from Portugal. At this place 2,000 years ago, actors performed comedies for the Roman legionnaires sitting comfortably in the auditorium. Merida was created especially for these soldiers of the Roman Empire. They had to stay there in order to secure the Roman occupancy in Western Europe. In the present Roman theatre you still have this ancient feeling as if the soldiers have been there recently. It remains the scene for performing actors, who willingly play there still today. Thus, during the summer the Roman theatre is the scene for theatre, opera, concerts and modern music. This use distinguishes the Roman theatre of Merida from its peers in other places, because the latter only allow the performances of Latin teachers and pupils within their walls.
From the end of June to the end of August, 5,500 spectators are invited to attend excellent performances that have been sophisticated over the years. The festival of Merida can be compared to the opera festival that takes place each year at the arena di Verona. However, Merida is a small city and the atmosphere at its festival is familiar and cosier. During the festival at daytime, while drinking the delicious café con leche at the Plaza Espana, you could happen to benext toone of the opera singers or see a group of dancers performing their last rehearsal before the next performance. In history, the forerunners of these dancers were recognised as performers through the masks they wore while staging a play. Some few precious examples of these masks are exhibited in the museum for Roman art. The biggest and most renowned museum of Extremadura was built in 1987, the year when Merida celebrated its 2,000th year of existence. The art and architectural treasures of the Roman province of Lustania were not within the walls of the relocated museum, but the museum was built around the original monuments. The aqueduct soars over the huge halls of the museum and the Roman cobbled paving serves as the floor. The whole surface from the Roman playing stages to the museum has been a World Heritage Site since 1993.
The Roman Bridge of Alcantara is as impressive as the Roman aqueduct in Merida. It stretches across the Tajo, west of Caceres, not far from the Portuguese border. The Alcantara Bridge is far and away the most well preserved bridge dating from the times of the Roman Empire, and even without this accolade it is a breathtaking edifice. The eight metre wide road on the bridge ascends 50 metres over the riverbed. The six arches have a width of up to 30 metres. The gigantic dimensions of the bridge let you imagine how much of a megalomaniac the Roman emperor Trajan could have been as he ordered its construction for the connection of both western provinces of the Roman Empire. Whoever crosses the Alcantara Bridge today must pace the 14 metre high arch of triumph in the middle of the bridge, and thus pay tribute to the Roman emperor who came from the vicinity of Seville. The buildings are so well preserved and beautiful that they are worth it.