There are some excellent sites for finding hotels of all descriptions, in the major cities, in the smallest of towns, anywhere in Spain and I presume, anywhere in the world. I was checking out accommodation in a small provincial capital, Soria. With limited choices, the sites will offer you places within a certain distance. As a result, I found this village, 30 km from the city.
Calatañazor, tucked away on a promontory, with its own castle, overlooking fields that have been cultivated for at least most of the second millennium. The church is 12th century. The site is legendary; a battle between Christian forces emerging more and more from the north and the Moors led by Almanzor, the scourge of the Christians, victorious in 57 rampaging campaigns against them, might have taken place here in 1002 and might have resulted in an injury which led to his death. It looks very rustic, but my small hotel was very comfortable and, as they say, beautifully appointed. The highlight of my dinner was a salad with marinated wild rabbiit, partridge and quail. Second course was merluza (hake – when I say this word, I feel that I need to apologize for ‘this chronic cough’) in a green salsa with shrimp and clams. I didn’t have my camera with me.
Every building was different, constructed in whatever materials were available, most of them are inhabited, many with new windows but still with their distinctive chimneys. This is still an active farming community.
This is my hotel; it has been given a new roof and the chimneys are similar to others in the village. You will notice that there are cliffs on one side of the village, typical of the location of so many villages and larger towns, for defensive purposes. In the other direction, farmland.
These are located just behind my hotel.
Here’s one where so many different materials have been used in the walls. There is a small shop specializing in local cheeses; La Casa de Queso.
Main street with its arcades from the other direction.
And oh yes, there is a castle.
Orson Welles filmed scenes from Chimes at Midnight in Calatañazor back in the 60s. And now for some more tapas, some snippets from my ramblings.
Spain has needed to build dams to create reservoirs. Looking at maps of Spain, most of the lakes have been formed in this way. For irrigation, for hydro. This has inevitably led to the displacement of villages and populations. I was crossing through a particularly beautiful part of the country, the Sierra de Demanda, winding roads, incredible vistas, and came across a beautiful man-made lake. The water levels are down by this time of the year, after the long, hot summer and vestiges of the old village start to reappear. The foundations of the village church and a building closer to shore. Eerie. No, double e. Not the big lake back home.
In the 30s, 600 people lived in this village. Less than one hundred live in the new village on higher ground. Progress. And apparently it was not well handled by the powers-that-were. Que sorpresa!
This is a famous monastery, Suso. Its origins are Visigothic in the mid 6th century. Some of the building dates to this period, with Visigothic horseshoe arches. I was, of course, very excited but not allowed to take photos in the interior. Much of the present building is mozarabe, from the 9th century, built by Christians who had been living in the south and who were beginning more and more to come up to the northern parts to join up with the Christians already living there.
I did sneak this one from the outside looking in , could not resist and the wonderful guide was preoccupied with questions.
In the scriptorium of this monastery, the Spanish language in its written form was born. Spanish would have arisen in the streets, a village version of Latin. In the margins of a 9th century manuscript, monks a few centuries later wrote short comments in the margins in three different identifiable languages, Latin, Castillian (Spanish) and Basque. This document still exists.
I had had to take a small bus from the village to this location; I was able to walk back through the forest after the tour.
Moving through the early morning mists, the remnants of a rainy night, into the sunshine.
One final photo. I just made mention of the Basque language. Scholars have no idea where it comes from. They have tried to connect it to the Indo European roots of most of the other European languages. They have even suggested from it is a survival from early forms of humans, Cro Magnum possibly. Here is a sign in a village where I have been staying, in Spanish and in Basque, both official languages in this part of Spain. The big word is town hall. You will understand the rest of the Spanish but look at the Basque – there is no connection at all.
Looking forward to your comments.