First of all we walked to the town’s market place and I was distressed to find scruffy dog following us again. Christine had been fussing it and it must have considered this to be an invitation to tag along. I tried to get rid of it, Kim tried to get rid of it, but we both failed. I’m not sure just what Micky did but he took it around the corner to get rid of it and we didn’t see it again for the rest of the morning. Micky has an understanding with dogs it would seem!
Tag Archives: Spain Castles
Finding a castle to visit is not difficult in Spain because, according to the Official Tourist Board there just about two thousand five hundred. For comparison there are eight hundred in the United Kingdom and whilst France claims roughly five-thousand this figure includes a lot of questionable small Chateaux in that number.
My blogging Pal Brian has some interesting observations on French Chateaux and I think you might be interested to visit this post and then more of his site…
When or if you come back click on an image to scroll through the gallery…
It was a glorious morning and although it was slightly chilly there wasn’t a cloud to be seen in the perfect blue sky and we interpreted this as a really promising sign and although this was November dressed appropriately in summer linens and short-sleeved shirts. After all we were in Spain!
Together with a lot of local people we had a traditional breakfast at the Goya and this made a nice change from the usual hotel buffet arrangement that we usually have. It was a simple affair with a choice of toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and a thin tomato puree and topped off with thin slices of cured ham or alternatively, for those who didn’t care for the ham, toast and marmalade made from finest Seville oranges.
After breakfast we prepared for a drive to the city of Córdoba about a seventy miles to the east along the River Guadalquivir. Córdoba is a moderately sized place today but once it was the largest Roman city in Spain and later became the thriving capital of the Caliphate of Córdoba that once governed almost all of the Iberian Peninsula. It has been estimated that in the tenth century it was the largest city in Western Europe and, perhaps, in the whole world with up to half a million inhabitants. If this is true then only Constantinople and Rome would have previously been bigger and even today a population that size would be in the top three in Spain.
As always of course, be wary of biggest, highest, widest claims!
We didn’t take the direct motorway route because we thought the alternative may be more scenic and anyway we were worried about paying unnecessary road tolls. This proved to be a mistake on both counts because it wasn’t especially picturesque and there weren’t any tolls either.
First we drove to the town of Lora Del Rio along a road that took us through an agricultural landscape with fields all freshly ploughed and waiting for next year’s grain crops. Although the highest mountains on the Spanish mainland are in Andalusia most of the Province, which stretches from the deserts of Almeria in the east to the Portuguese border in the west is a flat plain in the valley of the Guadalquivir, which at nearly four hundred miles is the fifth longest river in Spain and is one of the country’s most important because it irrigates a fertile valley, and creates a rich agricultural area.
Lora del Rio was an unexceptional working town and there was nothing to stop for so we continued along the road through the similar towns of Palma del Rio and Posadas. On our left, to the north, was the Sierra Morena mountain range that separates Andalusia from the central plain of Castilla-La Mancha and there were some worrying accumulations of cloud that looked a little too close for comfort. Eventually we came to Almodóvar del Rio where a large castle was perched strategically on the top of a hill and this looked well worth stopping for.
The Castillo de Almodóvar is a grandiose Caliphal fortress erected on a high mound along the Guadalquivir. Square towers flank its towering walls and the entire castle is surrounded by a large moat. During the years of occupation it was a Moorish stronghold and after the reconquest it became the medieval home for members of the Spanish nobility. It gradually fell into disrepair however and much of it was plundered for convenient building material by the people of the nearby town but the Count of Torralba rebuilt it a hundred years or so ago restoring the external appearance of the original Arab fortification.
The castle was used as filming location for the TV series Game of Thrones where it was used (if anyone is interested, I know that I’m not) to represent the castle of Highgarden, the seat of House Tyrell in the Reach on the Mander River.
At its elevated position there was a spectacular view of the plains to the south and the mountains to the north and although the sun was shining it was getting cold and the clouds were getting closer. We visited the castle in the company of a school outing who were enjoying an interactive history lesson which must have been highly entertaining judging by all of the laughter and giggles.
It was a good castle and well worth the €5 entrance fee and we climbed the towers and walked the ramparts and when we had seen all there was to see we left and continued the drive to Córdoba.
Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…
The pavement bar with the seriously restricted menu options was close to the centre of Alcalá de Henares so after our short stop we walked through the red brick city to the expansive tree lined Plaza Mayor, here called the Plaza de Cervantes, so named because the Spanish novelist and author of Don Quixote who was born here in this city in 1547.
Cervantes wrote a dozen or so major works and his most famous is Don Quixote, a sprawling epic novel regarded as the most influential work of literature to emerge from the Spanish Golden Age. It is the story of a man who believes that he is a knight, and recounts his adventures as he rights wrongs, mistakes peasants for princesses, and “tilts at windmills,” mistakenly believing them to be evil giants.
As one of the earliest works of modern western literature, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published.
In 2002 a panel of one hundred leading world authors declared Don Quixote to be the best work of fiction ever written, ahead even of works by Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Hemingway. Cervantes has also been credited with shaping modern literary style, and Don Quixote has been acclaimed as “the first great novel of world literature”.
Since publication in 1605 it is reputed to be the most widely read and translated book on the planet after the Bible. I tried to read it once but found it rather heavy going so gave up quite quickly but as we walked around I resolved to have another attempt upon returning home. So that is the two most translated books in the history of the World that I haven’t read! The third is ‘Listen to God and Live Forever’ by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and not surprisingly I haven’t read that either.
The Plaza is a supremely handsome square surrounded by tall University buildings decorated with untidy Stork nests. There was a lot of activity in the nests today because the population of these birds in Spain is rising, from six thousand seven hundred pairs thirty years ago to an estimated thirty-five thousand pairs today. In fact there are so many White Storks in Spain that it is now second only to Poland who with fifty thousand birds has always traditionally been the country with the most pairs of the birds in Europe.
On three sides there are medieval colonnaded arcades and in the centre on a tall column stands a statue of Cervantes with quill held delicately in his right hand as though poised to begin writing a masterpiece. We walked through and around it and then explored the University district before returning to the main shopping street the Calle Mayor.
All along the Calle Mayor there were shopping distractions for my travelling companions so while they looked at shoes and cakes and sparkly things I made my way to the end of the street to the birthplace museum of Cervantes and waited in the company of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza for them to catch me up.
I had a mind to visit the museum especially as the web site said that admission was free but at the entrance I was greeted by an attendant who explained that there was a charge of €10 which I judged to be rather expensive for just a handful of rooms so I purchased a couple of postcards and left. Maybe I made the right decision because I read subsequently that there is some suggestion that this is not his birthplace at all and the house was built some time after Cervantes birth, an accusation that is strenuously denied by the museum of course.
And so we left Alcalá de Henares and resumed our journey along the Autovia towards Sigüenza. We drove for several kilometres as far as Guadalajara along a perfect motorway surface through a ribbon of industrial units, shopping outlets and roadside diners to the left hand side and to the right nothing but the breath-taking vastness of La Mancha. We were driving through La Alcarria, a natural region in central Spain extending from Guadalajara to the south of Madrid and east to Cuenca.
La Alcarria is a desolate, barren landscape noted for its honey, allegedly the finest in Spain, due to the abundance of aromatic plants such as rosemary, thyme and lavender. Once past the high-rise domestic suburbs of the Provincial capital we left the urban landscape behind and drove into open countryside with high hills, jagged rocky outcrops, holm oak forests and green meadows all liberally decorated with dainty Spring flowers until we reached the small town of Torija, basking in the sun and spread out under the protective walls of a splendid medieval castle.
Finding a castle to visit is not difficult in Spain because (according to the Spanish Tourist Board) there are over two thousand five hundred of them (for comparison there are eight hundred in the United Kingdom)* and in the Province of Guadalajara alone there are one hundred and twenty in a region fiercely contested during the period of the Reconquista.
Sadly, Torija castle was closed this afternoon so we had to be content with a walk around its towering walls topped with towers and turrets and in my opinion looking exactly like a castle should look. It turned out that most of Torija was also closed this afternoon so having established that there was nothing here worth stopping longer for we left and completed the final few kilometres to our destination.
Eventually we left the A2 Autovia and took a minor road for the final twenty-five kilometres to Sigüenza and as we did we began to climb because we were entering the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, part of the Sistema Central which is one of those east-west mountain ranges that extend through Spain that before high-speed rail and modern motorways kept the Spanish people historically separated.
We climbed gently to over one thousand metres to an elevation that even in mid-April had suppressed the first signs of Spring and then without warning we turned a corner and there sitting handsomely in the natural folds of the landscape was a towering castle (a Parador hotel of course), medieval walls and a honey coloured cathedral surrounded by a mantle of terracotta roofs and ribbons of tiny streets.
Having been here before navigation proved no difficulty through the maze of tiny streets and shortly after arrival we were booking in to the Casa Rural Posada los Cuatro Canos and making ourselves at home.
* France however claims over four thousand seven hundred.
The medieval castle of Atienza in Central Spain stands on top of an impregnable fortress hill. On the top of he highest tower is a flagpole…