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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

Valderejo Park - worth discovering
03 April 2020

A high and wide valley enclosed by steep hillsides ending in rocky cliffs is probably the best way to sum up the landscape of Valderejo (3418.5 Ha). Declared a Natural Park in 1992, the valley is located in the most western part of Alava, on the boundary with Burgos. It is almost uninhabited, which has favoured the existence of a rich and varied flora and fauna. 

The Bóveda Mountain Range and the western stretch of the Árcena Massif enclose and protect this valley, whereas deep into it the River Purón flows through large meadows and plantations. With the passing of years its waters have eroded the mountains of this singular natural area. 

Lalastra, the heart of the Park:

We gain access to the park through the Valdegovía Valley from the village of San Millán de Zadornil in the province of Burgos. The road will lead us to the town of Lalastra in the heart of Valderejo, a starting point for the routes and itineraries that the park offers. 

The Park House (Parketxea) is a beautiful building made of wood and with large windows that is located on the outskirts of the town. It provides hikers with all the information on park routes, activities and services. Visitors can also drop by the Rural Interpretation Centre, where the history of the valley and the habits and customs of its people are displayed. 

 

 

In Lalastra, we will also find a recreational area with a playground and picnic area. The village boasts a restaurant and rural tourist facilities, ideal places to get our strength back once we have finished the visit to the park. The mountains that enclose the valley offer different hiking and climbing routes. Those nine itineraries with varied length and difficulties travel across the whole parkland. Most of them cover a short distance, but some link up with others, providing long walks to more experienced mountaineers. 

 

 

Apart from Lalastra, there are three other rural centres in Valderejo: Lahoz, Villamardones and Ribera. The last two were abandoned several decades ago. An interesting walk could be to visit their ruins. 

The human being has dwelled the valley since time immemorial. The traces of that presence are noticeable in the area's cultural and architectural heritage, which accommodates megalithic monuments (the tumulus of San Lorenzo, the monolith on Mount Lerón) as well as churches and hermitages of different periods. There are remains of a road from the Roman period, and in Ribera for example, stands a Romanesque church with unusual medieval paintings. 

 



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Mallorca's mysterious river
24 March 2020

 

Found in the middle of the forest in Campanet, Spain, the Ses Fonts Ufanes is a unique hydrological wonder that only appears after heavy rainfall, like some sort of mythical natural legend. 

Asingular natural hydrogeological phenomenon in the Balearic Islands, Les fonts Ufanes are powerful intermittent water surges that come up suddenly and in a diffused manner, once enough rainwater has accumulated in the Puig Tomir massif and its surrounding areas.

These springs get their water from the rain that falls on the mountains and filters into the subsoil. Once it filters in, the water accumulates in an aquifer that sits over relatively impermeable materials. After several days of intense and constant rainfall, the aquifer overflows, and the water rushes up to the surface violently through the springs below the Gabellí Petit Estate.

The currents of these springs can go from 0 to 3 m³ /second in a matter of minutes under normal circumstances, reaching 100 m³/second in the case of exceptional surges. On average, these springs spew out an annual volume of 10 / 12 hm³. All of this water runs through the stream known as Torrent de Teló, comes together with that of other springs in the area and spills into another stream, the Torrent de Sant Miquel. From this point, the water placidly makes its way down to the flatlands of Sa Pobla, crossing the cultivation fields until it reaches S’Albufera. Here, in a radically different landscape marked by reeds and canals, the water virtually seems to stop in the final section of its course, before it flows into the sea.

 


 
The site can only be reached after a 20 minute walk through the woods, making it a well hidden marvel.
However the phenomenon is not completely unknown. In fact it has been marked as a contemporary UNESCO site, earning all the protections that affords. In addition, the property that the disappearing water flow sits on was purchased by the government in 2005, so that it could keep a better eye on it. At least when it hasn't vanished completely. 



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Is this really Spain?
17 March 2020

       
 
 
 
Who would ever have thought that this landscape could be found in Northern Spain, a land of green pastures, valley, vineyards, lakes and mountains. A terrain more akin to the wild west or a scene with Peter O’Toole blazing his way to glory in the “Arabian” desert of Almeria. But this wonderfully mysterious land is just 70km from the ski slopes of the Pyrenees and holds the title of the largest desert in mainland Europe. 
 
 
       
 
 
 Bardenas Reales Natural Park is a place of wild beauty declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. It is a semi-desert landscape covering 42.500 hectares that is breath-taking and surprises anyone who might casts their eyes over it. An surreal spectacle in south-east Navarre, despite its bare and inhospitable appearance, is an oasis of natural assets.
 
The erosion of its clay, chalk and sandstone soils has sculpted capricious forms in the landscape to create almost lunar effects, full of gullies, plateaux and solitary hills. It has inspired painters and writers and has been the scene of TV adverts, music videos and films. A unique setting that seems out of place in Northern Spain and leaves nobody indifferent. You can visit this barren land on foot, by bicycle, on horseback or even with 4X4 motor vehicles. Specialist guides are available to help you to discover unforgettable spots with echoes of legends such as the famous highwayman Sanchicorrota, who used to fool his pursuers by putting his horse's shoes on backwards so they couldn’t follow him!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bardenas Reales is a landscape sculpted over millions of years due to erosion. There are three distinct zones in the natural park which are, from north to south: El Plano, croplands characterised by very gentle slopes; the Bardena Blanca, the most photographed and visited area, where the main rock formations can be found in Castildetierra and Pisquerra. Also in this area, defined by its eroded crags, dry gullies and steppe-like appearance - in its lower part is a Firing Range used by the US Military, which explains the fighter planes; and the Bardena Negra, where the land darkens, giving way to the only Aleppo pinewoods in the area, accompanied by thicket.
 
 
 
 
 
Exceptional viewpoints show the differences between its different zones. From the Alto de Aguilares you get the best panoramic view of the Bardena Blanca. The Balcón de Pilatos ('Pontius Pilate's Balcony') is an exceptional observatory of birds of prey. These high points show the wealth of this territory, which contain three Nature Reserves: the Vedado de Eguaras, an oasis to the north of the area where the ruins of the Castle of Peñaflor still stand; the Rincón del Bu (in Bardena Blanca), occupying 460 hectares, where the eagle owl breeds; and the Nature Reserve of Caídas de la Negra (in Bardena Negra), which covers 1,926 hectares and has altitude drops of 270 metres.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Bardenas Reales Natural Park also offers more than 700 kilometres of paths, tracks and gullies that can be followed by hiking and cycling enthusiasts. Nevertheless, it is advisable to use specialist guides in your first incursion into the natural enclave. Apart from avoiding the risk of getting lost in the desert, they will help you to interpret the landscape with a flora and fauna more appropriate to an African desert than the north of the Iberian Peninsula. In the remote past it was even inhabited by crocodiles and turtles. Eagles, vultures, owls, great bustards, foxes, mountain cats, genets, amphibians and reptiles range between scrubland, sisal thickets, salt marshes and reed beds.
 
Due to the extreme temperatures and the special conditions of the land, it is recommend that one avoids going when it is raining. The best time to visit Bardenas is between September and June. On 18 September, if you have the opportunity go to the "Sanmiguelada", the day when thousands and thousands of sheep from the Pyrenean valleys make their way to this vast extension along El Paso to graze during the winter. To do this, follow the Cañada Real (royal livestock trail) of the Roncaleses which links up the pastures of the Roncal Valley with the Bardenas. 
 
Places like this are what make Spain such a special country. One could even consider Spain to be a small continent as it offers almost every terrain you could possibly imagine, the choice and wealth of nature is far beyond what most people can even imagine, but wander away from the coastline and you can discover a world that will leave its mark forever.
 
 
                               
 
 
 

           
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Tales of Mystery
10 March 2020

Spain is rich in mythology, the entire country is home to towns, cities and buildings that are renowned on account of legends involving ghosts that inhabit them, paranormal phenomena within their walls or tales of impossible love. Many have been handed down from generation to generation. Various cities organise dramatised guided tours that recount tales of mystery dating back in time, often under the moonlit sky to ramp up the emotion. This small selection of just some of these tales, some famous and others not, serves to help those visiting these cities find out a little more about their secrets.


Pedraza Castle, Segovia

In addition to being renowned for its Noche de las Velas, in which the entire town is lit by candlelight, Pedraza, which has managed to preserve its Medieval essence, is also home to a castle that serves as the backdrop to a mysterious tale of love and vengeance. Legend has it that Elvira and Roberto, lovers who lived in the town, were killed by the lord of the castle, who was infatuated with Elvira. Today, those sleeping at the castle, which belongs to the Paradores of Spain network, report having seen two mysterious figures roaming its passages whose heads are lit by a crown of fire.



The mystery of the girl in the cave and the Pyramids of Güímar, Tenerife


Tenerife is home to various tales, including those involving UFOs. The most famous, however, involve the Badajoz Ravine, in Güimar and the pyramids in the same town. According to an old legend, at the end of the 19th century, a girl went for a walk in the ravine and entered a cave, where she spoke to a strange being. When she returned home, her friends and family had all aged significantly while she remained exactly the same. There is also a legend about the pyramids in the same town, similar to the Egyptian pyramids although somewhat smaller: despite having been studied and various theories debated, their construction remains a mystery to this day. Could it be possible that this island in the Canaries has been visited by extraterrestrials on more than one occasion? 


Santa Bárbara Castle, Alacant


This imposing fortress offers the best panoramic views of the city of Alicante and the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to the famous “Face of the Moor”, a giant rock in the shape of a man's face, the castle is the setting of another tragic love story. Apparently, when these lands were governed by the Moors, the castle was inhabited by a Caliph and his beautiful daughter. She had two suitors. One promised to open a trade route with the East to bring her silk and spices. The other, a young man from a noble family, aimed to win her affections her by opening a dyke and bringing water to the city. The princess gradually fell in love with the latter, but it was her father's wish that the man who set off to India take her hand. The young man then went crazy and threw himself from a ravine. On the same spot, the earth miraculously opened up, with water springing from the mountain, filling what is known today as the Tibi Dam. In her grief, the young bride also threw herself into the abyss from what is now known as the Salto de la Reina Mora (Leap of the Moorish Queen).


Salamanca Cave (Satan's classroom), Salamanca


In reality, this cave currently serves as the sacristy of the Church of St Cyprian, in Salamanca. A variety of different tales focus on this site. It has been said that it is the entrance to an underground maze that connects the entire city and is even cited in the works of Cervantes and Calderón de la Barca.  Legend has it that here, the devil taught classes in the occult. These classes were attended by seven students, who studied for seven years each. After finishing their studies, one was chosen at random to remain at the service of the devil as payment for his teachings. One of these chosen students was the Marquis de Villena, who fled from the macabre figure; unfortunately, during his flight he lost his shadow, leaving the town's inhabitants to conclude that he worshipped Satan.

 

La Cruz del Diablo, Cuenca


This city is bursting with mystery; in fact, it is one of the cities where guided night-time tours are offered to discover more about its legends. One of the most popular tales is about La Cruz del Diablo. According to local residents, a brash young man, known for his party animal spirit, met a beautiful girl. His plight to win her affections in order to prove his heartthrob status finally won her over. Their date took place on a cold, stormy night. Lightning struck nearby, lighting up what should have been the girl's beautiful legs; however, what the man actually saw were claws. He fled in terror and reached the Convent of the Barefoot Carmelites, where he hung on tightly to the cross, asking for divine help to prevent him from being taken by the devil. To this day, his handprint can be seen on the cross.


Linares Palace, Madrid


The Spanish capital is home to numerous enchanted buildings that set the scene for entertaining tales. Linares Palace, located in Plaza de Cibeles, is just one example. Apparently, a scandal concerning the romance between the Marquises of Linares, who were supposedly siblings on their father's side, resulted in a daughter who they locked in the palace to prevent gossip. Legend has it that the spirit of the girl haunts the palace's rooms, singing nursery rhymes and calling for her parents. With or without its ghostly inhabitant, this emblematic Neo-Baroque building in Spain's capital is spectacular.


The Legend of Cambaral, Luarca


It is no surprise that this town, with its deeply-rooted seafaring tradition, is home to various tales involving pirates. Cambaral, renowned as the fisherman's district, was named after a famous pirate that terrorised the region's residents until he reached this Asturian town. Here, he was captured and badly injured. A beautiful young local woman was responsible for healing his wounds during his captivity. They fell in love and decided to run away together; however, they would meet their demise at her father's hands, as he would decapitate both of them in their escape. The story goes that they remained in an embrace while their heads rolled into the sea. The Puente del Beso (Kissing Bridge) was built in the town in their remembrance; those visiting the bridge at night report having heard the sound of the lovers speaking to one another from the bottom of the sea.



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The Fallen Angel
04 March 2020

 

Though Spain may have loaned its name to one of the most famous Christian witch-hunts in human history, the country’s capital city holds unique bragging rights for having what is commonly acknowledged as the only public monument to the Devil himself.

Located in the gardens of the expansive Parque del Buen Retiro, the statue of the Fallen Angel (Ángel Caído) is set atop a marble pillar in the midst of a fountain. Lucifer is depicted at the moment he is cast out of Heaven, as inspired by a passage in John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

 

 

 

Sculptor Ricardo Bellver cast the statue in bronze for the third World’s Fair in Paris, after which point the piece was acquired by the Museo del Prado. The statue was later donated to the city of Madrid and inaugurated at its current location in 1885.

The statue is renowned equally for its discordant subject matter, as well as Bellver’s ability to imbue a sense of tension and anguish in his rendering of Satan.

The statue is within easy walking distance of the city's "Big Three" museums (Prado, Reina Sofia, Thyssen-Bornemisza) and is accessed by the Atocha metro station.



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The Village in Spain with the Best Views
26 February 2020

The National Geographic declared Montefrio, a village in the Granada province, one of the 10 villages in the world with the best views. This unexpected accolade was the beginning of an avalanche of tourists that has changed the village forever, bringing tourism to the local businesses and revitalising what was a dormant Andalucían whitewashed mountain village.  [ Go to National Geographic article ]

The visual power of the landscape and architecture of Montefrío are stunning. The imposing monumental structure that forms the Arab fortress and the Iglesia de la Villa, located on top of a rock are quite striking. Furthermore, Montefrío is set in a location of natural diversity. From the road that links Montefrío with Íllora, you can access the Peña de Los Gitanos, a natural rock that is bordered to the south by the Sierra de Parapanda.

Montefrío is located in the northwestern part of the province, in the heart of the Montes Occidentales that form the central sector of the Cordilleras Beticas mountain ranges, between the Sierra de Parapanda and the Sierra de Chanzas. Its district has one of the most diverse and spectacular landscapes of the region, where the areas of steep vegetation contrast with carved crop and olive fields.

The hilly area is ideal for walking and taking part in sports such as cycling, riding and climbing.

 

The climate of Montefrío is typically continental-Mediterranean. During the summer months, the town gets hot, into late 30, early 40 degree temperatures. The economy was mainly agrarian, with olives as the main crop, now, however, tourism is growing quickly. What was a relatively limited industry that revolved around agricultural processing such as oil and dairy products, has now all changed with new businesses and establishments opening up to serve the visitors. Near the town is a vast archaeological site known as Las Peñas de Los Gitanos, famous for its prehistoric tombs and remains of Roman and Visigothic settlements.

Montefrio is an upbeat, friendly destination, ideal for those looking for a rural retreat, with lots of space and fresh air, but not too far off the beaten track that you can’t visit the coast or cities of Cordoba and Granada.



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Spain's Most Beautiful Plaza
21 February 2020

      

The Plaza de España in Sevilla is a plaza located in the Parque de María Luisa. It was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 and almost bankrupted the city. It is a landmark example of the Renaissance Revival style in Spanish architecture.

1929, Seville hosted the Ibero-American Exposition World's Fair and the Plaza de España was the centre piece of the show. The entire southern end of the city was redeveloped at great cost into an expanse of gardens and grand boulevards and at the heart of the project lied the Parque de María Luisa, a park resembling a Moorish paradise with a half mile of: tiled fountains, pavilions, walls, ponds, benches, and exhedras; lush plantings of palms, orange trees, Mediterranean pines, and stylized flower beds of immense beauty. Numerous buildings were constructed within this heavenly complex for the exhibition.  But a price was paid for this spectacular enclave. The estimated final cost of the exhibition works was 27 times more than the original budget, which was presented in 1914, totalling a massive 17,000,000pts. It may not sound like much but in today's money, it would come in at over 200,000,000 pounds sterling, a fortune for a city like Seville, which was going through financial difficulties at the time. It was the most expensive and the hardest construction of any fair to that date, employing on occasions more than 1,000 workers simultaneously. It seems that construction budgets have never been a Spanish forte, but in this case, we’ll let it go, as the result was a masterpiece for anyone’s eyes.

 

 

The initial idea of holding a World Fair in Seville was promoted in 1909 with the aim of opening the city and, especially, to modernise it. It would be the perfect occasion to achieve civil works, thus improve employment, promote the tourism, enhance the image of Seville and strengthen relationships with American countries. The fair was initially going to be inaugurated on April 1st, 1911. It was then delayed to 1914 but World War I (1914-18) and political issues between Morocco and Spain delayed it even further and it was finally held from May 9th, 1929 to June 21st, 1930.

 

 

The Plaza de España, designed by Aníbal González, was the main pavilion building built on the edge of the park to showcase Spain's industry and technology exhibits. González combined a mix of 1920s Art Deco and 'mock Mudejar', and Neo-Mudéjar styles creating an atmosphere which was out of this world. The Plaza de España complex is a huge half-circle with buildings continually running around the edge accessible over the moat by a series of beautiful bridges representing the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. In the centre is the Vicente Traver fountain. By the walls of the Plaza are many tiled alcoves with benches, each representing a different province of Spain and served as meeting points.

 

    

 

In 1926 Anibal Gonzalez resigned from his position and the Plaza de Espana was finished in 1928 by Vicente Taverner, who added the central fountain. It was also the place where King Alfonso XIII inaugurated the Fair.

Today the Plaza de España mainly consists of Government buildings. The Seville Town Hall, with a slight redesign, is located within it. The Plaza's tiled 'Alcoves of the Provinces' are backdrops for visitors portrait photographs, taken in their own home province's alcove. They are still a meeting point for tourists. Towards the end of the park, the grandest mansions from the fair have been adapted as museums. Ánibal Gonzalez was also the chief architect of the event and designed other buildings such as the Mudejar Pavilion (better known today as the Museo de Artes y Costumbres), the Fine Arts Pavilion (transformed later in the Archaeological Museum) and the Royal Pavilion. All of them can be found in the Maria Luisa Park, at the America Square (Plaza de America).

 

 

The farthest, the Archaeological Musem, exhibits Roman mosaics and artefacts from nearby Italica. Nowadays the complex still remains a magical place with a style that recreates de Arab constructions of 10 centuries ago and that emphasises the regions of Spain and its union with America.

The Plaza de España has been used as a filming location, including scenes for the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. The building was used as a location in the Star Wars movie series — Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) — in which it featured in exterior shots of the City of Theed on the Planet Naboo. It also featured in the 2012 film The Dictator.

 


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La Jayona - a monument of nature
13 February 2020

 

There are few more mysterious places than an abandoned mine. You are not often presented with the opportunity to visit one, but in La Jayona, in the mountain range that separates Extremadura from Andalusia, you have the only chance to do it. Walking through the passages of this excavation you can see how the hands of man and nature have joined together to create an unequalled landscape, steeped in history and mystery.

Right in the middle of the La Jayona mountain range, about five kilometres from Fuente del Arco, an experience steeped in nature, history and adventure is waiting for you. The La Jayona Mine closed down in 1921. Until then, hundreds of long-suffering miners had laboured to extract iron ore. At first they worked with the help of horses, later with that of an overhead cable connecting the mine with the railway station.

 

 

More than seventy years passed before the mine was rescued from oblivion and declared a Natural Monument in 1997. During the dark years of excavation, nature had taken over the abandoned galleries to create a rich ecosystem that today coexists with the mining remains of the cavity. Fern, climbing plants, moss, insects, bats and even birds live in the rocky recesses of the mine.

Inside, the galleries follow the natural veins of the mineral, which enables one to observe geological phenomena such as fold hinges, karstic processes, striation and slickensides. Each one of these formations, blended with nature's exuberance and the sunlight that peeps through small cracks and cavities will make your tour of the mine an exciting, magical experience.

Before visiting La Jayona - admission is free - you need to telephone the Fuente del Arco Town Council (667 756 600). The council organises the groups and a guide shows you the three galleries that are open to the public, although there used to be 11 in operation. Outside, the remains of the rubble and munitions dump still bring back memories of the area's industrial past. 

The mine is Fuente del Arco's main tourist attraction, a small village that still lives around its Plaza Mayor, where you can see the parish church of Our Lady of the Assumption.

The most important building in the municipality is the chapel of Nuestra Señora del Ara, (topic of my next post) located a few kilometres away in the mountains. It is a Mudejar and Baroque inspired church which is unremarkable from the outside but leaves visitors literally speechless when they enter. The walls and vaults are covered in frescos of great beauty and colours which certainly remind one of its “big sister” in the Vatican.

From Fuente del Arco there are several possible itineraries for getting to know the rest of the towns in the region of Campiña Sur. For example, the remains of the Roman Regina theatre are in Casas de Reina. The town of Reina is notable for the Arab fort that towers over it. You can also take advantage of your stay in the area to follow the routes of the different royal droving rights of way used by shepherds to take their flocks of sheep from Extremadura to Andalusia. The border character of this land is reflected in its gastronomy, which is a mixture of hearty mountain fare and dishes of Arab origin. So if you happen to be in the area stop by and take a look.



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Cáceres Museum
06 February 2020

The Cáceres Museum is housed in two historic buildings in the historic town centre of Cáceres, declared a Human Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The 'Casa de las Veletas' (Veletas Palace) houses the Archaeological and Ethnographical sections; it is a building which originates from 1600 by and was built by its owner, Don Lorenzo de Ulloa y Torres, in a site which may have been once occupied by a Muslim fortress which has now disappeared. The beautiful square patio with its eight Tuscan columns dates from this period. Nevertheless, the house was redesigned by Don Jorge de Cáceres y Quiñones, who introduced the gargoyles and the beautiful enamelled pottery ornaments on the roof, as well as the large shields on the main façade.

The Fine Arts collection can be seen in the Casa de los Caballos, which was a stable and later a dwelling until its conversion into a museum; after a recent renovation, it was opened to the public in 1992.

Although the first Board of the museum was set up in 1917, the concept of its creation arose in 1899 when a group of scholars of the history of Cáceres began to collect objects of archaeological and artistic interest and keep them in the Grammar School. In 1931 the Palacio de las Veletas was rented to house the Museum, which after an architectural refurbishment, was inaugurated on 12th February 1933.

After the later acquisition of the building, it was renovated in 1971 and the permanent exhibition was improved, a task which was repeated in 1976 in the Ethnography Section. In 1989 the Ministry of Culture transferred the management of the Museum to the Government of Extremadura, retaining for itself the ownership of the building and part of the funds. 

 

 

It is the Archaeological collection which gave rise to the Museum itself, beginning its formation at the end of the 19th century. It occupies five rooms on the ground floor, and two more rooms in the basement of the same building which house the mediaeval collections, plus a third one with information about Muslim cisterns.

The chronological development of the archaeological exhibition extends from the Lower Palaeolithic to the beginnings of the Middle Ages.

The  visit  starts in  the  hall  itself. This houses a big white marble sculpture which represents an androgynous genie (of a benevolent nature) coming from the Roman colony “Norba Caesarina” which gave origin to the present city of Cáceres.

Room 1 presents various lithological industries belonging to the Palaeolithic period, coming from river terraces of the province. Objects from the Neolithic period are also shown and others excavated from various megalithic tombs.

Room 2 provides a global vision of the most representative elements from the Bronze and Copper Ages, the collection of standing blocks as well as objects from the first Iron Age.

In room 3 we enter fully into the world of pre-Roman settlers. Amongst its most representative productions are the boars.

Rooms 4 and 5 are dedicated to Rome and occupy the most extensive space showing various aspects related to urban development, economy, religion and the funereal world.

The basement of the Casa de las Veletas houses the medieval collections, plus a collection of Roman epigraphy.

In room 6 objects and decorative architectural elements can be found related to funeral and liturgical spaces of the Late Roman, early Christian and Visigothic Ages.

The rooms 7 and 8 show a representative part of the important collection of Roman inscriptions reunited throughout the province, with inscriptions of three types: funerary, votive and honorary.

The epigraphic collection of the Museum, with about 150 copies, is among the most important in Spain and gives us a wealth of information on aspects such as social class, religious rites, geographical origins, etc.

Here you can visit the Islamic cistern - water deposit, dated between the 10th and 12th centuries, which was located in the basement and is the largest water deposit created in Spain under Arab rule, heir to the grand byzantine reservoirs of Constantinople. It is 14 metres long and 10 metre wide.

 

 

Situated on the first floor of the Casa de las Veletas, the Ethnography Section explains different processes and shows various objects which inform us about the models of cultural development in the province of Cáceres. Room 9 is dedicated to the production of resources, particularly agriculture, stock-breeding, hunting and grazing with interesting examples of farm implements and tools for caring for stock. Following the visit, we pass to room 10, where we can contemplate objects related to the production of resources –river fishing– and its transformation, through the production of oil, cheese and wine and the craft of carpentry.

 

 

Room 11 instructs the visitor on aspects relative to work, through activities and trades such as filigree, including the main components of a goldsmith´s workshop from Ceclavín, as well as the typical pieces of jewellery for the summer costumes of Cáceres, and mechanisms related to textile manufacture from a traditional loom to combs, carders, a winding machine or a spool. Room 12 presents a rich collection of costume, from linen undergarments to holiday and everyday clothes of Montehermoso, Serradilla, Malpartida de Plasencia, etc.

Continuing the visit in room 13, we reach a collection of items of domestic use shown together with other large objects, such as the bench and stocks for prisoners from Guijo de Granadilla, the still from Guadalupe or the mule cart from Zorita. In the showcases can be seen pottery from Talavera, Puente del Arzobispo or Manises and also examples from Extremadura, as well as objects made of horn, bone and wood. Room 14 is dedicated to beliefs and musical expression.

 

 

The Fine Arts Section consists of two rooms in which different artistic collections are placed. In room 15 the most outstanding items from the collection of Contemporary art are shown, which began with the creation of the Cáceres Prize for Painting and Sculpture in the seventies and eighties, and the works it acquired at the time and which the Junta de Extremadura continues to acquire. Exhibits representative of Contemporary Spanish Art of the 20th century can be seen, with works by artists belonging to the most representative artistic movements such as “El Paso”, with Saura, Millares or Canogar, or the Grupo Crónica. Near them are creations by key artists such as Picasso, Miró, Clavé, Genovés, Guinovart, Guerrero, Lucio Muñoz, Barjola and Tàpies. The sculpture  of the 20th century is represented by Alberto, Chirino, Palazuelo and Oteiza, among others.

The collection can be described as the most important in the region relating to this period in Extremadura and, no doubt, one of the most representative of the Spanish avant‑garde, with the presence of the best known artists.

In room 17 examples of Medieval and Modern art are installed. They include sculpture (in wood, ivory and alabaster), goldwork and painting. The key piece of this room is the picture of Jesus the Saviour by El Greco, which comes from the Convent of Agustinas Recoletas del Cristo de la Victoria, of Serradilla.

The museum is very much worth a visit and not particularly well known, so if you happen to be in  the area pay it a visit. It is free for all EU citizens. 

 

 



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I Spy with my little eye....
29 January 2020

In Cádiz there is a Moorish palace which was built in the 11th century - Casa Palacio de los Marqueses de Recaño. This building responds to the characteristic typology of civil gaditana Baroque architecture complete with a vaulted mosque, a system of wells, elaborate gardens filled with fragrant trees and even a multi-room hamam.

Being in one of the highest areas of the city, it is the highest of all the watchtowers in Cádiz, located 45 meters above sea level and in the centre of the historic town. Because of its height and privileged location, it was the official watchtower of the port of Cadiz in 1778, receiving its current name - Tavira Tower - which was its first watchman, D. Antonio de Tavira. 

Apart from the architecture, it provides a unique tourist attraction: the "Camera Oscura". It projects a vivid and moving picture of what is happening outside in real-time. It is a relatively simple optical principle, already known in times of Leonardo da Vinci. The system comprised of two lenses and a large periscope mirror was installed on the very top of the tower. This optical contraption is controlled from below by a pair of long wooden-handled levers, to cast live images of the surrounding town onto a large parabolic table around which people can gather. In a modern age where the resolution of the images we see on our screens are constantly questioned and improved, the lenses’ projected picture on the table before the viewer is surprisingly sharp and focused. The mirror swivels around and zooms in on incredibly small details around the city and the fields beyond.

 

 

In the tower, there are also two exhibition halls. In addition to the exhibition halls and the Camera Obscura, the monument also has an amazing viewpoint to enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the entire city.

The guide who is also the lens-operator speaks English and uses the Camera Obscura not only to show the incredible architecture but also to discuss the history of the development of Jerez.  The tour costs an extra two euros on top of the normal price of admission to the palace grounds and is worth every penny. If you manage to go, make sure it is on a bright and sunny day to enjoy the best results.

 



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