Have Bag, Will Travel
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Kim doesn’t always share my enthusiasm for Museums. She sat this one out but from the garden outside caught me looking at the exhibits through a window.
It was going to be a long day so we woke early ready for a quick start and as usual my first job was to check the weather.
The air felt fresher and from the hotel window I could see cloud to the east, which was a bit of a worry but the lady on Spanish breakfast television seemed confident that it was going to be fine and out to the west it was clear blue and that was the direction in which we were heading.
We drove first to the town of Alcázar de San Juan but this wasn’t because of any sort of thorough pre travel planning on my part just an instinct that it would be interesting based on what seemed to be a rather promising name. I should have carried out some proper research because when we got there it didn’t seem very appealing at all, there wasn’t a castle to be seen and the clouds that were quicker than us had caught up and overtaken and there was a bleached out sort of chalky whiteness to the sky so we rather rudely carried on without stopping.
Back at the hotel there had been pictures of a castle and a row of windmills at the next town of Consuegra so as it came into view we left the main road and headed towards the top of the ridge where they stood like regimental sentinels overlooking the town. Across the crest of the hill they marched like giants. No wonder the delusional Don Quixote pulled his sword and charged in combat to fight these creaking monsters.
The windmills stand in line and look down on the flat red dirt plains of La Mancha, their once free flowing sails now arthritically stiff, tied down tightly and no longer spinning in the wind. They are almost smug in what is now their supremely safe tourist protected environment, they no longer have to work you see.
Originally, there were thirteen whitewashed windmills lining this hilltop. Now only eleven remain of which four still retain their working mechanisms. Known as “molinos” in Spain, the windmills are each named — Sancho, Bolero, Espartero, Mambrino, Rucio, Cardeno, Alcancia, Chispas, Callabero del Verde Gaban, Clavileno and Vista Alegre.
Each imperious windmill is actually nothing more than a tall cylindrical tower capped with a dark cone and four big sails and until relatively recently local farmers would haul their grain to these rural factories for grinding into flour. I was surprised to learn that they remained in use until as recently as the beginning of the 1980s. One is now an inevitable gift shop.
The windmills and the skills required to operate them were passed down through the generations of millers from fathers to sons. Windows placed around the tower of the windmill provide wonderful views today but that was not their original use. From these windows the miller could keep watch on the shifting winds and when the winds changed he would have to move the tiller beam to turn the mill. If he didn’t a sudden strong wind could strip the sails, rip off the top and the whole building could be destroyed in a moment of carelessness..
In fact the weather was rather wild this morning on this exposed ridge high above the low lying plains as the wind moaned through the singing sail wires and as we walked between the sunburned black timber frames and admired the bulk of the brooding castle nearby we drew strange glances from bus tourists who were wrapped up in coats and scarves and gloves that were much more appropriate than our linens and short sleeves.
From below, the castle looked magnificent but on close inspection it too was in a bit of a sorry state of disrepair but from here there were terrific views over the great plain of Castile and it was easy to see why this was once a very important military place as it guarded the direct route from the south to Toledo and Madrid. The castle was once a stronghold of the Knights of San Juan, the Spanish branch of the Knight’s Hospitallers of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
After escaping the wind and leaving the rather untidy town of Consuegra we rejoined the road and headed north to Toledo and on the way the clouds evaporated and the sun poured through and we passed more castles at Mora and at Almonacid but we didn’t stop again. The scenery began to change too as it became more untidy and scrub like as we left the chequerboard fields and their delightful colours behind.
Just before midday we reached the outskirts of Toledo and at the top of the city we could see the Alcázar and the Cathedral and we followed the signs to the historical centre and found a very large and convenient car park right on the edge of the city and in my league table of Spanish city car parks Toledo went straight to the top.
At the bottom by the way remains Seville!
This is the castle of Jadraques near Guadalajara in Castilla-La Mancha.
There isn’t a castle in this part of Spain that doesn’t make a claim that El Cid made a visit.
There is no absolute way of knowing if El Cid or his contemporary Alvar Fáñez de Minaya ever really did pass this way but there is a quotation from ‘El Cantar de Mio Cid‘ to provide the evidence that he did.
One thing is for sure – if El Cid did turn up at all the locations that claim that he did then he certainly covered an impressive amount of miles and spent an awful lot of time in the saddle.
“And thank God for home-sweet things, a green and friendly hill,
And red geraniums aflame upon my window sill.” – Martha Haskell Clark
Two pictures taken in the village of Bárcena Mayor in Cantabria in the far north of Spain. In Green Spain in the rain and the mist the geraniums are not quite so extravagant as in sun-burnt south, they do not bloom so freely but they have a rustic elegance nevertheless!
Three fishers went sailing out into the West,
Out into the West as the sun went down;
Each thought on the woman who lov’d him the best;
And the children stood watching them out of the town;
For men must work, and women must weep,
And there’s little to earn, and many to keep,
Though the harbour bar be moaning.
Three wives sat up in the light-house tower,
And they trimm’d the lamps as the sun went down;
They look’d at the squall, and they look’d at the shower,
And the night wrack came rolling up ragged and brown!
But men must work, and women must weep,
Though storms be sudden, and waters deep,
And the harbour bar be moaning. – Charles Kingsley
I recently posted about the fisherwomen of Portugal and how they are celebrated and remembered in street art.
In case you missed it…
For International Women’s Day I have featured one aspect of the life of a fisherwomen…
The long day waiting for the fishermen to return home safely…
A tough job for sure!
It is claimed by some to be the finest single ancient monument in this part of Turkey and this is a part of Turkey which has an awful lot of ancient monuments.
I can confirm that it is very impressive indeed although little of the original structure remains standing; it was destroyed by the Persians in 494 BC, ravaged by time, rearranged by earthquakes and plundered over the centuries for convenient building material, but regardless of the damage I found this to be a stimulating place with history literally oozing out of the cracks and fissures in the columns and the stones.