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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...

Mysterious Tales
Tuesday, October 25, 2022

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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Orwell and his Fight for Democracy in Spain
Thursday, October 13, 2022

Even though he was an Englishman, famed author George Orwell made it a point to head to Spain during the Spanish Civil War in order to join the fight for democracy, mainly out of idealism. Today, his path through one portion of the war is remembered by a trail of recreated fortifications.

Orwell joined the fighting of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, despite the reasoned advice of his fellow author, Henry Miller. Despite being a volunteer, Orwell wanted to head to the front lines of the war, but it was not in the cards. Instead, he was sent, with a regiment to the region of Aragon, where the fighting was rather light. There he didn't see much action, but he did encounter a great deal of hardship among the soldiers, including hunger, terrible living conditions, and a lack of supplies in general. While his initial visit was uneventful, he would return to Aragon later and be shot in the neck. He survived and managed to escape Spain, and his ordeal would go on to inform his book.



Despite a general agreement among many in Spain to let the events of the civil war remain in the past, many of the trenches and fortifications where Orwell spent time have been methodically recreated today. The trenches and bunkers along what is now called the George Orwell Route look as though they have never even been touched by time, much less war. Visitors can now walk the same hilltop path that was not only visited by Orwell, but by countless soldiers who took part in the tragic war. 

The Spanish Civil War may not be a popular subject among many, but thanks to Orwell's high-profile visit, this battlefield will not be forgotten any time soon. 


The Orwell Route Website



Ruta Orwell

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Wine, at whatever cost...
Thursday, October 6, 2022


There is no comparison with any other place in the Canary Islands, nor in Spain, nor any other place in the world. This is La Geria, a dark volcanic immensity splashed with grapevines that survive the dampness of the trade winds and the dew absorbed by the black lapilli or picón, the ash residues and lava flowing over the crater.This, in addition to the low walls that protect the malvasía plants against the incessant winds, reveal an extraordinary landscape, like an experimental farm on the Moon, and a wine that is increasingly more appreciated, because wines take on the flavour of the earth and this, most certainly, has its flavour enhanced from the volcano. Half a dozen white bodegas inhabit the lonely black landscapes of La Geria. El Grifo is a must-see. It is the oldest winery on the Canary Islands (1775) and one of the most acclaimed, with the Wine Museum and Library where texts from the 16th century are preserved.



The La Geria Protected Landscape borders the Timanfaya National Park, the 'Mountains of Fire' that razed a third of the island between 1730 and 1736, strikingly turning everything black. After passing through La Geria on the highway that joins Mozaga and Uga, go towards Yaiza, the most beautiful village on Lanzarote, which the molten lava did not quite reach in 1736. From here go directly towards Timanfaya on the LZ-67, a highway with no edges or white lines that goes through a desert of wrinkled and rough lava, like it has been smashed up with hammer blows. The only thing that breaks the solitude of the 'malpaís' (lit: bad land) so called because it is impossible to cultivate, and cannot even be walked on, is the pandemonium of the Moorish Camel Train souk, where tourists can take a walk among the camels.



Wines from La Geria, Lanzarote

The 'Route of the Volcanoes' begins on the islet of Hilario, a 14 km bus tour from which you can see the infernal panorama from the double crater of Timanfaya, 447 metres above sea level. To vary the trip, from La Geria you can return via Mancha Blanca, taking the opportunity to visit the park's interpretation centre and later going towards the south on the LZ-56, the most beautiful highway on the island, once again among lunar vineyards.


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