Thursday, October 23, 2014

Living in a fairy tale

Alcázar in Segovia. Photo taken by Flick user 'Iapidim' on April 24,
2004. Taken from Flickr. Link: CC license.
For the past few weeks I've been living in a place some would consider as coming right out of a fairy tale. And yes, I am referring to Castilla y León, the autonomous community of which Salamanca is one of the provinces. In my opinion, the name of the region could be freely translated as ‘the land of castle and lion’ and it is exactly that (especially when it comes to castles and medieval fortresses, I haven’t seen a live lion running around yet). 

Castillo de Peñafiel. Photo by Flick user 'Ana Ramirez de Arellano' on
  August 9,2012. Taken from Flickr. Link: CC license.
If you think your life needs a little bit of fairy tale all you need to do is come to Castilla y León and you won’t be disappointed. Whether you visit Ávila, Segovia or Toledo (Salamanca is a given must-see of course) you will feel that you just went hundreds of years back in time. However, if you like a bit more than that then you can always visit the beautiful castles scattered around the region. Since I would need to write a book to mention all of them I will focus on the ‘top’ 5 (although there are many others worth visiting). 

Alcázar de Segovia, Segovia
Alcázar de Segovia. Photo by Flick user 'Gerwin Filius' taken on October 10, 2014.
Taken from Flickr. Link: CC license.

One of the most famous castles in the world is El Alcázar de Segovia, after all, it has been one of the inspirations for Disney’s Cinderella castle. The castle itself had many uses, it went from being one of main castles of the Castilian royalty to being a prison, then a military academy and now it is a museum showing how it looked in its prime. However, do not forget, this building served one main purpose – it was a military fortress and although it looks just lovely from the outside, the ambiance of a fortress meant to protect its inhabitants can still be felt. 

Castillo de Coca, Segovia 

Castillo de Coca. Photo by Flick user 'Jose Javier Martin Espartosa'
taken on  August 3, 2013. Taken from Flickr.
Link: CC license.
Only 50km from Alcázar de Segovia, still in the province of Segovia, you can find another treasure – Castillo de Coca. It was built in the end of the 15th century and served as a place for great fares and celebrations with many important people in attendance (such as Charles, duke of Berry, the brother of Louis XI of France). In the very beginning of the 16th century the castle was expanded and several defensive systems such as doors with ‘security’ bars were added. With a bit of imagination you can see yourself walking on its walls defending it against many of its attackers and enemies of its inhabitants. In the early 19th century the castle fell into disrepair and after being occupied by the French troops it was effectively a ruin. However, in the first half of the 20th century it was declared a national monument and the repair works had started transforming it into the castle you can see today. 

Castillo templario de Ponferrada, León

Castillo templario de Ponferrada. Photo by Flick user 'juantiagues'
taken  on June 28, 2012. Taken from Flickr.
CC license.
As the name of this castle suggests, it is, or was, closely connected to the Knights Templar. However, it was not built by them. At first, this structure served as a simple fort and then as a citadel and only in 1178 was it given to the Order of the Temple. The knights made a lot of additions to the original structure, namely strengthening its defences and adding more living quarters. For many years this fortress has served as protection of the pilgrims travelling to the holy place of Santiago de Compostela.

Castillo de Peñafiel, Valladolid

Castillo de Peñafiel. Photo by Flickr user 'el perdido en el entierro del
hombre invisible' taken on September 15, 2013.
Taken from Flickr. Link: CC license.
By visiting this distinctively shaped fortress you can connect doing something interesting with something pleasurable since in one of the rooms there is a Provincial Wine Museum. The castle was commissioned in the 10th century although the shape and construction as we know it now is the work of the Infant Don Juan Manuel who has finished his alternations to the construction in the first half of the 14th century. The shape of the castle has been compared to that of a boat, it is 210m long and 35m wide. 

Castillo de la Mota, Valladolid

If you want to have the region of Valladolid in your palm then you need to visit Castillo de la Mota and climb up one of its towers (you can use stairs). This fortress has had a very turbulent history since the day it was built in the late 11th century. You can still see its interesting past on its walls which stand as witnesses to the many battles that were fought outside, inside and around it. In the late 15th century the keep has been turned into a rather prominent prison with many important figures 'staying' inside its walls, such as Hernando Pizarro and César Borgia. The latter is known for escaping the prison by climbing down the keep’s nearly 40m high tower using a rope. 

Castillo de la Mota. Photo by Flick user ' Dmitry Shakin' taken on December 25, 2008.
Taken from Flickr. Link: CC license.

So you see, living in Castilla y León is (almost) like living in a fairy tale,you just need to know where to go to see those magical places where history took place and I really hope that this post has given you some ideas ;) Now, the weekend is soon upon us and I know where I am going to go next. Do you? 

No comments:

Post a Comment