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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...

Lugo, the Roman Fortification
24 August 2016

 

 

The walls of Lugo are an outstanding construction  which illustrates various significant periods of human history. Starting with their Roman origins and passing through the problematical Middle Ages to the innovatory and disturbed 19th century, they unite in a single monumental construction over 2 km long different proofs and facets of the evolution of the town from the original Lucus Augusti.

 

 

There was a Roman military camp here during the campaign of Augustus, and it was here that the new town, Lucus Augusti, was founded in 15-13 BCE. The original chequerboard plan did not require the town to be enclosed by a defensive wall, because of the effectiveness of the Pax Romana. The town prospered in the succeeding centuries, because of the mineral resources of the region. This administrative centre acquired impressive public buildings and luxurious urban villas, which spread over a wide area.

However, in the mid-2nd century Frankish and Alemannic invaders crossed the limes and ravaged Gaul, penetrating into Hispania before being driven out. This resulted in the construction of massive urban defences at all the towns of the western Roman provinces. Lucus received its walls between 263 and 276 (perhaps less against barbarian invaders from across the Rhine than against the local tribesmen, who had never fully accepted the Roman occupation of their lands). As in most colonial towns, the area enclosed by the walls was less than that of the urban settlement: a considerable part of the town in the south-east remained outside. Despite the strength of its fortifications, Lugo was unable to resist the Suevi when they swept into the peninsula in the early 5th century and destroyed the town by fire. They were to be dislodged in their turn by the Visigoths, who captured the town in 457 and settled it once again. The irresistible Moorish invasion of Spain saw Lugo overwhelmed and sacked in 714, but it was recaptured for Christendom by Alfonso I of Asturias in 755 and restored by Bishop Odarius. The town was to be ravaged once again in 968 by the Normans, on their way to the Mediterranean, and it was not restored until the following century.

The structure of the Roman walls of Lugo consists of internal and external stone facings with a core filling of earth, stones and pieces of worked Roman stone from demolished buildings. There are ten gates: five ancient and five recent. Five stairways and a ramp give access to the parapet walk. A number of double staircases giving access from the parapet walk to the towers have been found within the thickness of the walls, and it is assumed that each of the towers was provided with similar stairways. Of the original interval towers, 46 have survived intact, and there are a further 39 that are wholly or partly dismantled. They are spaced at irregular intervals round the walls; they were two-storeyed and most of them are roughly semi-circular in plan, the gap in the wall in which they were constructed varying in width from 5.35 m to 12.80 m.

Several take the form of slightly tapering truncated cones, and a few have rectangular plans. One of the towers, known as La Moschera, is surmounted by the remains of its superstructure containing two arched windows. There is a variety of materials to be observed in their construction, and in that of the walls themselves. The main stones used were dressed granite and, in particular, slate. There is some variety in the forms of laying the stones and in their size. In some cases the slate walls rise from foundation courses of granite; in other examples these basal courses are also in slate. Yet another common wall make-up consists of the courses in the lower half or two-thirds being of dressed granite with the remainder in slate, but with some granite blocks interspersed. The parapet is crenellated in places, but this is certainly post-Roman work. Considerable reconstruction work took place at what is now known as the Reducto de Santa Cristina in 1836- 37, to create a fort that accorded with the military architecture of the period.

The original gates have undergone a number of transformations since the 3rd century. The best preserved are the Falsa Gate and the Miñá Gate, which still has its original vaulted arch set between two towers, in characteristic Roman form; traces of the now disappeared guard chamber can be seen on the interior wall (also visible at the San Pedro Gate).

A walkway over the walls now allows visitors to stroll along the entire length. The town also has a visitor's centre dedicated to the walls, the Centro de Interpretación de la Muralla. Since the inscription of the walls on the World Heritage List in 2000, Lugo holds a popular festival called Arde Lucus each year to celebrate its Roman past.

 

 


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Like 0        Published at 16:54   Comments (2)


Montefrio, one of the villages with the best views in the world
16 August 2016

Last year an article in 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 change 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 Visgothic settlements.

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



Like 2        Published at 12:56   Comments (6)


Extremadura in Summer...Who needs a coastline?
09 August 2016

 

With over 1,500km of freshwater coastline, Extremadura is the first Autonomous Community with the prestigious Blue Flag awarded to a fresh water beach on La Orellana and has maintained it for four consecutive years. 

 

 

Contrary to what many might think, there are many ways to enjoy a refreshing summer with water playing a central role in Extremadura, so don’t rule it out because it doesn’t have a coastline: water sports in the wetlands of Badajoz, natural pools in the region of la Vera, Jerte, El Ambroz, Las Hurdes, Gata or La Siberia, a river cruise along the international section of the Tagus or a descent down the Alagon river are just some of the options available.

 

 

In the province of Cáceres lies one of the jewels of the “Valle del Jerte”, within the Nature Reserve “Garganta de los Infiernos”, known by the locals as  “Pilones” which is a long stretch of natural smooth stone bathtubs created by water erosion of the rocks over centuries. These natural bathtubs are filled with clear crystalline water coming down from the Sierra de Gredos. The natural pools, lakes, waterfalls, streams and water gorges in Extremadura comprise more than 60 attractive opportunities to go bathing in the Summer and escape the suffocating heat or do aquatic activities.

 

 

The Blue flag beach of Orellana in the heart of Extremadura, is the only river beach in Spain to have achieved since 2010, a Blue Flag rating. A singularity that is due to its water quality, location in a protected environment and infrastructure available. Located in the region of La Serena, Badajoz, Orellana Beach offers the opportunity to swim in freshwater waves and enjoy a poolside snack bar, a small marina and of course, lifeguards. 

Aquatic Adventures in Alqueva is celebrated during the summer season and runs up to mid September and is organised out of towns such as Chels, Villanueva del Fresno, Olivenza, Alconchel and Táliga in the Badajoz region. All activities are tied to the great lake Alqueva, which Spain shares with Portugal. Amongst the activities on offer are sailing, astronomy and star watching, safari in kayaks, multisport activities on land and water involving walking, cycling, canoeing to mention just a few.

You can also sail through international waters along the Tagus. A protected area totalling 50,000 hectares, with 47 species of mammals and 181 species of birds, including some endangered species and other which are rare sightings such as the black vulture. These are just some of the stunning and attractive reasons to justify a visit to  “Tagus International”, a joint venture between Spain and Portugal, which is waiting to be recognised internationally as a Biosphere Reserve Natural Park. No doubt it will be very shortly.

 

 

Descending down the river Alagon is an event that gains more and more fans year after year. With a distance of 18.8 kilometres running from the bridge of  Macarrona Riolobos to the town of Coria, in the province of Caceres, it takes approximately four and a half hours and is an event that seeks to offer you an entire day of enjoyment for all the family. 

 

 

 

The Valley of Jerte, Caceres is a superb area to practice “canyoning” or as it is known locally 'gargantismo' (waterfall rock climbing) can be done throughout the area. However three main areas are normally used the Nogaledas, the Hoyos and Papuans which are equipped with climbing anchors, diverters , public railings and guided rappels and there are different companies in the area that offer this activity. 

 

 

And why not some inland sailing? It is also possible in Extremadura, where there is a total of four yacht clubs, three in Cáceres (Tajomar, Lake Gabriel y Galán and Barlovento, located in the reservoirs of Alcantara, Gabriel y Galán and Borbollón) and one in Badajoz, the Guadiana Club Nautico de Orellana by the reservoir. 

 

 

Extremedura is also a paradise for sport fishing. Between the lakes and reservoirs within the autonomous community there are also fantastic opportunities for fishing enthusiasts. Reservoirs such as Alange, Orellana, García de Sola and Cíjara in the province of Badajoz or Alcantara , and Gabriel y Galán in Caceres are great for black bass, pike and many other sporting species.

 

 

For the kids there is also a water park located within walking distance from the border with Portugal. ' Lusiberia ' has slides, wave pool, playground and terraces and leisure activities designed for all ages.

So if you were thinking that Extremadura wasn’t an option because it doesn’t have a coast line…think again it is one of the most beautiful regions in Spain.



Like 1        Published at 12:32   Comments (2)


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