Tag Archives: Gredos Mountains

Travels in Spain, Pedro Bernardo and the Tipping Point of History

Pedro Bernardo 19

The drive north from Talavera de la Reina took us into the neighbouring Province of Castilla y Leon and through the little town of Buenaventura, which was closed, towns like this are often closed in the afternoon I have found and then the climb became more dramatic as we reached almost six hundred feet when we made the approach to the mountain village of Pedro Bernardo.

We managed to stay just short of the cloud and the sun was still shining as we drove through several tricky corners and into the village and easily found the Hostal El Cerro on a dramatic bend in the road overlooking the valley below.

Although only two star it was an excellent hotel with a great room, a wonderful view and with excellent weather the ideal place for an hour or so of  enjoying the sun on the very private terrace.  After a while the grey sky started to muscle in and there was a drop or two of rain but inside there was a Jacuzzi to experiment with and after a half an hour or so it had blown over and the blue sky reasserted itself and there were good views over the rural hinterland with forests of elms, pines, chestnut and hazelnut trees and waterfalls and rivers making the town a scenic paradise.

The origins of Pedro Bernardo are not clear; the original name of the village was Navalasolana and there is a popular local legend that talks about the leaders of two groups of shepherds, Pedro Fernández and Bernardo Manso. They started to fight and struggled to get the control of the village and finally the feudal lord of the council tired of it all came up with a solution and decided to change the name of Navalasolana to Pedro and Bernardo to achieve peace and stop the struggles between the two squabbling bands.

This sounds very much to me like the spat between Steve McQueen and Paul Newman over who should get top billing in the film ‘Towering Inferno‘ and where there was an equally sensible solution – to provide dual top billing, the credits were arranged diagonally, with McQueen lower left and Newman upper right. Thus, each appeared to have “first” billing depending on whether the credit was read left-to-right or top-to-bottom.

What a silly argument and they are both dead now anyway!

Towering Inferno

In the early evening we walked into Pedro Bernardo, passing first through the Plaza de Torres and then the Plaza Mayor where groups of mainly old men were sitting in small groups and discussing the big important issues of the day.

Through the twisting narrow streets flanked by crumbling buildings with rotting timber and decaying plaster walls,  Precarious wooden balconies and barely inhabitable houses we wandered aimlessly through the streets until we arrived at the church somewhere near the top of the village.  It was nothing special and really hardly worth the walk at all so we made our way back down and stayed for a while in the main square and had a drink at a bar where there was reluctance to serve us at an outside table on account of the fact that the owner and bar staff were watching a bull fight from Seville on the television in the bar which demanded all of their attention.

I formed the impression that Pedro Bernardo was a town on the precipice, about to tip over in an avalanche of change that will achieve an instant transformation and erase a hundred years or so of history in the blink of an eye.  It is rather like one of those penny drop machines in a games arcade, one shove and it will all tip over.  One day it will all be gone.  It is a shame but it will be ultimately it will be impossible to cling on to the crumbling rotting wreckage of an old town like this and everyone despite their objections will eventually be obliged to move to the nearby featureless modern new town instead.

Old people will weep, young folk will smile.  Old people will lament, young folk will rejoice.  Property developers will move in behind them and there will soon be a new old town of modern swanky apartments and boutique hotels.

I am so glad that I saw Pedro Bernardo as it once was.

The Hostel El Cerro was a perfect place, a rare mix of rustic charm and modern sophistication and we had no hesitation in eating in the hotel dining room.  It was only eight o’clock which seemed to surprise the staff but the chef was already there (in the bar as it happened) and we tucked in to an excellent Chuletón de Ávila, an excellent cut of prime beef steak that we had enjoyed only last year on a visit to that city.

Although it was still quite early, we had been a long day and had had an early start so after the evening meal we went back to the room and sat on the balcony with a final glass of red wine and from our elevated position watched the stars twinkling overhead in the sky as though from the prow of a ship and stared into black emptiness except for the lights of the distant villages, Lanzahita, La Higuera and Ramacastanas lying like constellations in the vague immensity of Spain.

Advertisements

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

Ciudad Rodrigo in the Fog

Rio Agueda, Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain

After a couple of hours of motoring from Valladolid and bypassing the golden sandstone city of Salamanca we came to Ciudad Rodrigo, which is the last city in Spain before reaching Portugal, a fortress city built to protect the western border of the country and as we approached we could see the walls and the fortifications standing proud on a rocky outcrop in a commanding defensive position.

As a consequence of a severe Atlantic storm in the west there was a hissing wind and dark scowling clouds that the mountains of Portugal had failed to detain racing in from the west like battleships.  It was mean and moody but there was no rain so that was a bonus.

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

Ciudad Rodrigo in the Fog

Ciudad Rodrigo on a Foggy Morning:

…Actually as it turned out it would have been a whole lot better if the wind had continued to blow because when we woke in the morning there was a thick fog and the city was completely obscured from view from the hotel windows.  It was all rather spooky but above it we could make out pale blue sky so this made us more confident than we really had a right to be about the day.

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

Early Morning Stroll…

Before breakfast there was time for a walk into town where we were expecting to see a market in the Plaza de Torres but we must have got our days mixed up because the Plaza was quite empty.  We wandered around the streets that were beginning to stir into life and saw the same old men who had been there the previous night and clearly have nothing more to do all day in this tiny place than hang around the main square.

Read the full story…

Spain 2011, The Cueva El Aguila

Pedro Bernardo Spain

One of the hotel staff was very friendly and spoke good English and was interested in our travels around Spain and intrigued that we picked out of the way places like Pedro Bernardo instead of the well known tourist towns and we assured him that we liked it this way.

We told him that we were driving to Cáceres and he became quite insistent that we should take a short detour from our route and visit the Cuevas El Aguila, the Eagle Caves, in the foothills of the Gredos mountains but we had a long way to go and were not sure if we liked caves enough to go to the trouble.  When we checked out a few minutes later he reminded us again to make the visit and assured us that we would not be disappointed so it seemed rude not to go so we set off in the direction that he carefully marked on our map.

Read the full story…

Sierra de Francia in the Gredos Mountains

Actually as it turned out it would have been a whole lot better if the wind had continued to blow because when we woke in the morning there was a thick fog and the city was completely obscured from view from the hotel windows.  It was all rather spooky but above it we could make out pale blue sky so this made us more confident than we really had a right to be about the day.

Read the full story…