Tag Archives: Extremadura

Travels in Spain – Trujillo and Francisco Pizzaro

“…the breed of men who conquered a continent with a handful of adventurers, wore hair shirts day and night until they stuck to their flesh, and braved the mosquitoes of the Pilcomayo and the Amazon” –  Gerald Brenan

In the hilltop town of Trujillo standing above the sunburnt plain there stands a statue of a man who changed the course of history – Francisco Pizarro the illegitimate son of a Castilian soldier who, five hundred years ago,  left his home to seek his fortune in the New World.  With fewer than two hundred troops and a few dozen dogs and horses, he conquered the vast empire of the Incas and the Spanish colonisation of South America had begun.

It is a magnificent statue, matched only by that of mighty El Cid in Burgos, and I challenge anyone not to admire it.  Here is the gigantic figure of Pizarro  sitting astride his proud giant of a horse dominating the entire square of Trujillo, head up, beard jutting and plumes flowing as though trying to stay attached to his helmet whilst at full gallop.  The statue captures and epitomises the flare and the audacity of the conquistadors and in his hand he carries a menacing sword but in a message that here was a man who lived and died by the sword the statue has no scabbard which seems to suggest that he rarely ever put the blade away!

Catalonia Wooden Door Detail

Trujillo is a city on the Tozo River, a tributary of the Tagus and is sited on the only hill for miles around about forty kilometres east of Cáceres.  Although the Autovia passes close by it is not an especially busy tourist city so when we drove in and followed signs to the Plaza Mayor we found parking unexpectedly easy just a few metres away from the main square.

The pace of life in the plaza was delightfully slow with a just a few visitors wandering around and others sitting with local people in the bars and cafés around the perimeter. It was pleasantly warm but I would suspect that in high summer this large exposed granite space can become almost like an anvil for the sun and it would be important to find a spot in the shade.

Trujillo has apparently always been a tough old place. “Its inhabitants normally survive on pillage and trickery…” wrote El Idrisi, an Arab traveller, in the fourteenth century – and pillage and trickery were what the Conquistadors did best.  They sent back shiploads of plundered gold and filled their home town with elaborate mansions.

The city was built and funded by gold and silver from the New World, the blood of the Incas weeps from the walls of the palaces of Trujillo.

All around the square there are grand  mansions and outside the sixteenth century Iglesia de San Martín in the north-east corner is the reason why, a great equestrian statue of the famous Spanish conquistador.  It is an interesting coincidence that many of the sixteenth century explorers and adventurers who carved out the Spanish Empire in South America came from Extremadura and as well as Pizzaro, Hérnan Cortés, who defeated the Aztecs and founded Mexico, Hernando De Soto, who explored Florida, and Pedro de Almagro, who accompanied Pizzaro, all came from this harsh south-west corner of Spain.  Extremadura translates as ‘extremely hard’.

Francisco Pizzaro was born in Trujillo and became a conquistador who travelled along much of the Pacific coast of South America.  I imagine he wasn’t an especially pleasant man – with an army of only one hundred and eighty men and less than thirty horses he encountered the ancient Incan empire and brutally and quickly conquered it, killing thousands of natives, including the Inca King Atahualpa and stealing immense hoards of gold, silver, and other treasures for the King of Spain and for himself including the Inca King’s wife who he took for a mistress.

As a consequence of Pizzaro’s adventures, Spain temporarily became the greatest, richest and most powerful country in the world and as well as conquering Peru and founding the city of Lima, he also added Ecuador and Columbia to the Spanish Empire thus providing immense new territories and influence and spreading Roman Catholicism to the New World.

TheMission-Filmszene-16836

We walked out the Plaza Mayor and followed the steep cobbled lanes as they twisted their sinuous way up past buildings constructed of attractive mellow stone, past the inevitable Parador and more churches and mansions until finally we were at the top at the Alcázar of the Moors who controlled this city for five hundred years before the Reconquista.

Inside the castle we walked around the high stone walls glinting in the sunshine and stopped frequently to admire the uninterrupted views over the sun-baked dehesa of Extremadura spreading endlessly in every direction in a ragged patchwork of agricultural green, gold and brown where distant villages float on the vastness all the way to Portugal and stunted oaks and olive trees provide the only cover in a harsh terrain.

Walking back down to the plaza was a great deal easier than the energy sapping climb but we got lost in the cobweb of tiny streets and surprised ourselves by emerging at an unexpected entrance to the square which was jam-packed with cars on account of it being the end of school for the day and parents were collecting their children to take them home.

It was a little past lunch time and we were overdue something to eat so we examined the menus at the pavement restaurants and when Kim was satisfied with our choice we found a seat in the sun and ordered some local dishes and a glass of cold beer.

Francisco Pizarro

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory

“…the breed of men who conquered a continent with a handful of adventurers, wore hair shirts day and night until they stuck to their flesh, and braved the mosquitoes of the Pilcomayo and the Amazon” –  Gerald Brenan

The Conquistador, Francisco Pizzaro…

It is a magnificent statue, matched only by that of El Cid in Burgos, and I challenge anyone not to admire it.  Here is the gigantic figure of Pizarro  astride his proud giant of a horse dominating the entire square of Trujillo, head up, beard jutting and helmet plumes flowing as though trying to stay attached to his armour whilst at full gallop.

The statue captures and epitomises the flare and the audacity of the conquistadores and in his hand he carries a menacing sword but in a message that here was a man who lived and died by the sword the statue has no scabbard which seems to suggest that he rarely ever put the blade away!

Francisco Pizzaro was born in Trujillo and became a conquistador who travelled along much of the Pacific coast of South America. With an army of only one hundred and eighty men and less than thirty horses he encountered the ancient Incan empire and brutally and quickly conquered it, killing thousands of natives, including the Inca King Atahualpa and stealing immense hoards of gold, silver, and other treasures for the King of Spain and for himself including the Inca King’s wife who he took for a mistress.

As a consequence of Pizzaro’s adventures, Spain became the greatest, richest and most powerful country in the world at the time and as well as conquering Peru and founding the city of Lima, he also added Ecuador and Columbia to the Spanish Empire thus providing immense new territories and influence and spreading Roman Catholicism to the New World.

Francisco Pizzaro Trujillo Extremadura

Entrance Tickets – The Castillo at Trujillo

Castillo Trujillo

We walked out the Plaza Mayor and followed the steep cobbled lanes as they twisted their sinuous way up past buildings constructed of attractive mellow stone, past the inevitable Parador and more churches and mansions until finally we were at the top at the Alcázar of the Moors who controlled this city for five hundred years before the Reconquista.

Inside the castle we walked around the high stone walls glinting in the sunshine and stopped frequently to admire the uninterrupted views over the sun-baked dehesa of Extremadura spreading endlessly in every direction in a ragged patchwork of agricultural green, gold and brown where distant villages float on the vastness all the way to Portugal and stunted oaks and olive trees provide the only cover in a harsh terrain.  But although it sounds bleak, this dramatic landscape has a barren beauty –  this is Spain’s unspoilt heartland.

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Entrance Tickets – Iglesia de Santa Maria, Cáceres

Cáceres Iglesia de Santa Maria

It cost just €1 to climb to the top of the bell tower so we paid and took the stone spiral staircase to the top where there were good views of the old town and beyond which we shared with all of the Storks that had built their untidy nests at the highest possible points.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

Temple of Diana, Merida, Extremadura SpainTemple of Diana, Merida, Extremadura, Spain

The Temple of Diana, Mérida, Extremadura, Spain

We were looking now for the Temple of Diana and we found it tucked away behind the main shopping street and next to a small museum.  The Temple was a sacred site constructed by the Romans in the first century A.D. and remains well preserved mostly because in the sixteenth century some local big-wig built a palace inside the rectangular ring of Corinthian columns.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

Talavera de la Reina, Spain

Talavera de la Reina, Castile-La Mancha, Spain

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Talavera achieved great recognition, thanks to its ceramics. Wonderful pieces of pottery and Talavera tiles are found in the main museums of the world and in the most luxurious palaces all over Europe.  The city is internationally known for its products, which King Philip II used as tiled revetments in many of his works, such as the monastery of El Escorial.

The nickname of Talavera de la Reina is ‘The City of Pottery’ and Mexico’s famous Talavera pottery was named after it.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

Francesco Pizzaro Trujillo Extremadura Spain

Francisco Pizzaro Trujillo Extremadura

“…the breed of men who conquered a continent with a handful of adventurers, wore hair shirts day and night until they stuck to their flesh, and braved the mosquitoes of the Pilcomayo and the Amazon”                                                        Gerald Brenan

In the hilltop town of Trujillo, above the sunburnt plain of Extremadura, there stands a statue of a man who changed the course of history. Francisco Pizarro was born here, the illegitimate son of a Castilian soldier. Five hundred years ago, he left to seek his fortune in the New World. With fewer than 200 troops and a few dozen dogs and horses, he conquered the vast empire of the Incas and the Spanish colonisation of South America had begun.

Read the full story…

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Trujillo, Extremadura and the Conquistadors

“…the breed of men who conquered a continent with a handful of adventurers, wore hair shirts day and night until they stuck to their flesh, and braved the mosquitoes of the Pilcomayo and the Amazon” –  Gerald Brenan

The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope.  The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited and having completed that I thought I might come up with a personal alternative twelve.

The Official Top Twelve only went to the south-west once (to Merida) but for my number two I have included Trujillo in Extremadura…

Trujillo Plaza Mayor

In the hilltop town above the sunburnt plain there stands a statue of a man who changed the course of history – Francisco Pizarro, the illegitimate son of a Castilian soldier who, five hundred years ago,  left his home to seek his fortune in the New World.  With fewer than two hundred troops and a few dozen dogs and horses, he conquered the vast empire of the Incas and the Spanish colonisation of South America had begun.

It is a magnificent statue, matched only by that of El Cid in Burgos, and I challenge anyone not to admire it.  Here is the gigantic figure of Pizarro  astride his proud giant of a horse dominating the entire square of Trujillo, head up, beard jutting and helmet plumes flowing as though trying to stay attached to his helmet whilst at full gallop.  The statue captures and epitomises the flare and the audacity of the conquistadores and in his hand he carries a menacing sword but in a message that here was a man who lived and died by the sword the statue has no scabbard which seems to suggest that he rarely ever put the blade away!

Trujillo is a city on the Tozo River, a tributary of the Tagus and is sited on the only hill for miles around about forty kilometres east of Cáceres.  Although the Autovia passes close by it is not an especially busy tourist city so when we drove in and followed signs to the Plaza Mayor we found parking unexpectedly easy just a few metres away from the main square.

Trujillo 02

The pace of life in the plaza was delightfully slow with a just a few visitors wandering around and others sitting with local people in the bars and cafés around the perimeter. It was pleasantly warm but I would suspect that in high summer this large exposed granite space can become the Sun’s anvil and it would be important to find a spot in the shade.

Trujillo has apparntly always been a tough old place. “Its inhabitants normally survive on pillage and trickery…” wrote El Idrisi, an Arab traveller, in the fourteenth century – and pillage and trickery were what the Conquistadors did best.  They sent back shiploads of plundered gold and filled their home town with elaborate mansions.

It is an interesting coincidence that many of the sixteenth century explorers and adventurers who carved out the Spanish Empire in South America came from Extremadura and as well as Pizzaro, Hérnan Cortés, who defeated the Aztecs and founded Mexico, Hernando De Soto, who explored Florida, and Pedro de Almagro, who accompanied Pizzaro on his adventures all came from this south-west corner of Spain.

Francisco Pizzaro was born in Trujillo and became a conquistador who travelled along much of the Pacific coast of South America.  I imagine he wasn’t an especially pleasant man – with an army of only one hundred and eighty men and less than thirty horses he encountered the ancient Incan empire and brutally and quickly conquered it, killing thousands of natives, including the Inca King Atahualpa and stealing immense hoards of gold, silver, and other treasures for the King of Spain and a percentage for himself including the Inca King’s wife who he took for a mistress.

As a consequence of Pizzaro’s adventures, Spain became the greatest, richest and most powerful country in the world at the time and as well as conquering Peru and founding the city of Lima, he also added Ecuador and Columbia to the Spanish Empire thus providing immense new territories and influence and spreading Roman Catholicism to the New World.

TheMission-Filmszene-16836

We walked out the Plaza Mayor and followed the steep cobbled lanes as they twisted their sinuous way up past buildings constructed of attractive mellow stone, past the inevitable Parador and more churches and mansions until finally we were at the top at the Alcázar of the Moors who controlled this city for five hundred years before the Reconquista.

Inside the castle we walked around the high stone walls glinting in the sunshine and stopped frequently to admire the uninterrupted views over the sun-baked dehesa of Extremadura spreading endlessly in every direction in a ragged patchwork of agricultural green, gold and brown where distant villages float on the vastness all the way to Portugal and stunted oaks and olive trees provide the only cover in a harsh terrain.  But although it sounds bleak, this dramatic landscape has a barren beauty.  Far from the crowded beach resorts, this is the unspoilt heartland of rural Spain.

Extremadura Trujillo Alcazar

Walking back down to the plaza was a great deal easier than the energy sapping climb but we got lost in the cobweb of tiny streets and surprised ourselves by emerging at an unexpected entrance to the square which was jam-packed with cars on account of it being the end of school for the day and parents were collecting their children to take them home.  It was a little past lunch time and we were overdue something to eat so we examined the menus at the pavement restaurants and when Kim was satisfied with our choice we found a seat in the sun and ordered some local dishes and a glass of beer.

As the Plaza slowly emptied and peace and quiet was restored it was nice sitting in the sunshine enjoying the sights of the square in a city blessed with great architecture and a theatrical history but mercifully not overrun with tourists. It was lovely and if I was planning the trip again I am certain that I would squeeze at least an overnight stop in Trujillo into the itinerary and we would have stayed longer this afternoon but we had a long drive ahead of about two-hundred and fifty kilometres because now it was time to start to drive back east towards Castilla-La Mancha which was going to be about a three hour drive.

Trujillo 09

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Twelve Treasures of Spain – Roman Theatre at Mérida

Roman Theatre Merida

The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope. The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited.  Eighth in the competition was the Roman Theatre at Mérida in Extremadura.

Extremadura is considered to be the traditional boundary between Moorish and Christian Spain and Mérida itself has previously passed between Christian, Moorish, and even Portuguese control.  Because of its rich and varied history it was declared a UNESCO World heritage site in 1993.

On our visit to the city we walked first along a busy main road towards the crimson and saffron coloured Plaza de Torres where tattered bull fight advertising posters were peeling from the pot-marked walls and near here was our first excavation to visit.  We bought an all sites pass for €12 each which seemed like a good deal and went inside to see the remains of a house that had been the home and office of an important Roman citizen in the first century A.D. and after that we visited an adjacent ancient Roman burial site and cemetery.

It was getting hot as we made our way to one of the main attractions, the amphitheatre and theatre and as we walked we were aware of hundreds of school children arriving in buses, far too many for this to be a normal school trip occasion and we wondered what they were all doing here.  We found the entrance to the site and all was revealed because today, and all week, there was a production of the Greco-Latin Youth Festival Theatre which meant that the theatre was in use and access was restricted.  I was annoyed about that and wondered just how restricted?

Merida Spain Roman Theatre

We went first to the amphitheatre which was completed in 8 B.C. and was able to seat up to fifteen thousand spectators within the elliptical stadium.  The previous month we had visited the amphitheatre at Pula which accommodated twenty-thousand spectators but this seemed just as huge.  It wasn’t in such good shape however because a lot of it has been subsequently dismantled for alternative building projects, some of it as far away as Cordoba in the east.

Mérida was the capital city of the most westerly Roman Province of Lusitania so this was an important place and the amphitheatre here would have been on the main gladiatorial and events circuit of the Empire and it continued to be used for this purpose until the fourth century.  Today, on account of its past, Mérida is a sister city of Rome.

The site was beginning to fill up now with chattering school children and the volume levels inside the Roman Theatre (Teatro Romano) were beginning to build so we left the amphitheatre and walked the short distance to the theatre next door.  Two thousand years ago this would have been a massive entertainment centre for the city and today we were going to see it being used once more for its original purpose.

Although we couldn’t get down close to the stage area and the columns and the statues and the central seating area was full of excitable school children we could make our way around the upper circle and visitors were invited to stay awhile and watch the production.  We sat and watched for about half an hour but it was a three hour show and struggling with interpretation we finally left and moved on.

Merida Roman Theatre

And next I have to move on straight to number ten in the competition and leave out number nine because I have never visited the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia and to be honest – probably never will!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Kiss

Talavera de la Reina Ceramic Art Spain

Set In Stone – Impossible to Separate but Destined Never to Kiss:

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Talavera de La Reina achieved great recognition, thanks to its ceramics. Wonderful pieces of pottery and Talavera tiles are found in the main museums of the world and in the most luxurious palaces all over Europe.  The nickname of Talavera is ‘The City of Pottery’.  We could have guessed this because after lunch we walked through the old city towards the River Tagus and our route took us past a succession of similar ceramics workshops and shops.

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