Tag Archives: tagged Castilla y Leon

A to Z of Balconies – Pedro Bernardo in Spain

Pedro Bernardo is a village located in the province of Ávila, Castile and León high in the Sierra de Gredos.

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.

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.

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Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Salamanca

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 winning twelve included five Cathedrals, but I have only one – at number eleven – Salamanca.

Salamanca is one of the most magnificent Renaissance cities in all of Europe.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and a European City of Culture in 2002.  Sandstone coloured buildings overwhelmingly fill the city, earning Salamanca the name of La Ciudad Dorada (The Golden City).

We arrived  just after midday, easily slipped into an underground car park and made our way into the city.  On every visit to Spain I seem to be visiting a new World Heritage Site so when I counted them up I was interested to discover that I have now been to sixteen and that is over a third of them.

In 2005 I visited Barcelona in Catalonia and saw the works of Antoni Gaudi and Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de Sant Pau. Then in 2008 I saw the Historic Centre of Córdoba,  the  Caves of Altamira in Cantabria, the Old Town of Santiago de Compostela and the Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville.  In 2009 in the motoring holiday around Castilian cities I visited the Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct, the Historic Walled Town of Cuenca, the Historic City of Toledo and the Old Town of Ávila.

It was still misty even though the sun was struggling to break through as we walked through cobbled streets and buildings of rich caramel coloured Villamayor stone and directly to the centre of the city.  Then around the busy  University buildings and visited the public library and after that the centre of the city and the inevitable Plaza Mayor where because it was too chilly to sit at a pavement café groups of men were wandering around deep in conversation discussing the important matters of the day.

Elderly men are a way of life in Spain because just as Gerald Brenan explained in ‘South from Granada’ “…almost every Spanish peasant becomes wise when he passes fifty.”

It was a good Plaza, but despite being the second largest in Spain after Madrid with vast  harmonious arcaded space designed by Alberto Churriguera in the eighteenth century we did not consider it one of our favourites, but still worth a visit and when we had finished admiring it we left through a stone arch and looked for a bar and somewhere for lunch and we found what we were looking for just outside the square so stopped for tapas and a beer.

It was easy to conclude that there is something special about Salamanca almost as though in every street, with every building and in every Church and Palace that this represents the real Spain that we have been searching for and this may well be because it has the oldest University in Spain which rivals in historic importance that of Oxford and Bologna and houses one of the oldest libraries in the World and is considered to be the source of the ‘pure‘ Spanish language and associated culture of Old Castile.

As we ate an optimistic old lady passed by selling sprigs of rosemary and I didn’t know why until later when I looked it up.  Rosemary, apparently, is widely thought to be a powerful guardian and to give power to women and therefore it is used by many people to ward off evil in the home and bring good luck in family matters. If I had known this at the time I might have bought some to see if it might improve the weather because the mist wasn’t shifting when we left and went to visit the cathedral.

I should say cathedrals because Salamanca has two, an old one and a new one that are joined together into one massive structure.  We paid €3.50 each for tickets to visit and then commenced a tour of the towers and the balconies that involved an awful lot of spiral staircases and a labyrinth of stone corridors took us from one to the other.  It was a spectacular building and well worth the money but it was a pity about the weather because the drab overcast sky and persistent patches of mist spoilt what would certainly have been spectacular views from the top.

Salamanca Roman Bridge and Cathedrals

After the visit we returned to the streets and walked to the 1st Century Roman Bridge across the River Tormes, which was flowing west towards the Embalse de Almendra that we had visited yesterday and then with no real prospect of weather improvement we abandoned Salamanca to the mist and returned to the car and set out for Vallodolid.