Friday, 12 June 2015

Routes of Don Quixote (II)

I have found a very interesting and different route we are going to call 'The Z-shaped route'.

It has been designed in only four stages, as you can imagine, fully packed but perfect for people not having a lot of time to explore.

1) PUERTO LÁPICE - BELMONTE  Map 1

Venta de Don Quijote, Puerto Lápice


Puerto Lápice is a good start for this route because of its location just by N-IV Madrid-Andalucía Highway. Go to the parish church and by it you will find a 17th century inn, (venta). This is supposed to be the inn imagined by don Quixote to be a fortress and where, believing the innkeeper was a great knight, he was ordained a knight by the man.






Alcázar de san Juan








Alcázar de San JuanDuring some years there was a discussion about the real origins of Miguel de Cervantes. In 1748, a baptism certificate under the initials M.C.S. appeared in this town and some thought this was the author certificate, which would have meant, he had not been born in Alcalá de Henares. Finally this theory was refused. 

The Great Prior Turret, (13th century), and Santa María la Mayor, (parish church when Saint John's Order knights arrived to the village), are worth a visit.





Campo de Criptana: Don't miss the ancient windmills, some of them 500 years old and still working.

El Toboso








El Toboso: This is the home town of Aldonza Lorenzo, princess Dulcinea del Toboso in the book and you can visit her house. It is from 16th century and nowadays an ethnographic museum.












Mota del Cuervo: Very typical from this town are the cantareras, traditional female potters working like in old days.
Enjoy the windmills on the hills.

BelmonteThis is where our notable writer, Friar Luis de León was born and you can visit his home.
The castle, built on the remains of a medieval fortress, is remarkable.

Castillo de Belmonte


2) BELMONTE - CIUDAD REAL Map 2


Pedro Muñoz: Many years ago, the lakes in this area were no more than infectious focal points and the cause of many diseases. Today they are home for a variety of bird species such as flamingos, herons, coots, hawks, lapwings and storks.

Tomelloso: Economic capital of Castille - La Mancha, with an important wine industry. History of Tomelloso is not particularly relevant, but it started to take off during 19th century, after phylloxera plague destroyed all French vineyards and consequently wine production in the area increased.

Argamasilla de Alba: Not to miss Casa Medrano. There is a cave in it, where Miguel de Cervantes was imprisoned and it is said he started to write The Quixote in there.

Why was Cervantes in jail...? Because of his illicit love affairs with doña Magdalena de Pacheco, sister of Rodrigo de Pacheco, a very influential man and high ranking in politics at the time. She was supposed to be Cervantes' inspiration for The Quixote.

You can also visit Saint John the Baptist church by Juan de Ornero in 1542.

Manzanares: This village is set within the royal drover's road of Soria and belonged to Santiago and Calatrava Orders and later to don Alvaro de Bazán manor.

Visit Our Lady of the Assumption church from 14th-15th centuries and if you have time, you can also go to Membrilla and La Solana, smaller towns but with some nice spots like the Gothic church of Santa Catalina in La Solana, (14th century).

Daimiel: Beautiful Gothic church, Santa María La Mayor, 14th century. Saint Peter's church is most peculiar. Its tower is square at the base and it transformes into an octagonal shape in the top.

Las Tablas de Daimiel





Probably the most remarkable feature here are the wetlands know as las Tablas de Daimiel, a natural park of near 500 acres, (200 Ha). This is formed due to the confluence of rivers Guadiana and Cigüela and it hosts a great variety of aquatic birds such as grebes, herons, little egrets and many others.






3) CIUDAD REAL- VALDEPEÑAS Map 3


Ciudad Real: The first settlement of this city was in Alarcos hill, an ancient fortified town where rests form Bronze and Iron Ages have been collected, as well as from other more recent Ages.

Alarcos was completely destroyed after the battle between king Alfonso VIII of Castille against Almohad sultan Abu Yaqub in 1195. After this destruction, Ciudad Real was erected, firstly under the name of Villa Real. 

Saint Peter church is the most significant and it was built during fourteenth century, although the bell tower was not finished until the eighteenth. There is an interesting Museum of The Quixote with a great selection of books.

Parroquia de San Pedro, Ciudad Real



Typical patio in Almagro




Almagro: Some believe this city takes its name from the Arabic Al-Magreb. 

Almagro is a place of extreme temperature conditions where Arabs introduced the culture of patios, (courtyards)Its progress and early evolution happened during the domination of the knights of Calatrava Order but the real take-off was during sixteenth century, when German and Flemish bankers were granted the use of mercury mines of the nearby city of Almadén, by king Felipe II.








The Plaza Mayor, (market square), is placed along the Patio de los Fúcares, (Függer), with gorgeous stone porches. The city council is still there and it was built during sixteenth century. You can enjoy the best dishes of the area, like Almagro seasoned aubergines, gachas, (a plate made with vetch flour, paprika and pork), tiznao, (cod and dry peppers)... 

If you visit Almagro in July, you will have the opportunity to attend to the International Theatre Festival which takes place at an authentic seventeenth century Corral de comedias, (theatrical courtyard), the very place where plays by Calderón de la Barca, Lope de Vega or Cervantes were performed for the first time.

Valdepeñas: An important economic activity, mainly due to wine industry. There is a curious church, Assumption Parish, with two naves.

There is also an interesting wine museum located at Leocadio Morales old wine cellar from 1901 and it still keeps the old earthenware jars, machinery and tools.

Museo del vino, Valdepeñas





4) VALDEPEÑAS - RUIDERA  Map 4


San Carlos del Valle: Only fourteen kilometres away from Valdepeñas, you will find San Carlos del Valle, by the mountain ranges of El Cristo and La Alhambra. Until fifteenth century, there was a small shrine with an image of a Christ known to be very miraculous, reason why king Felipe V ordered to build the present church.

Its Plaza Mayor is said to be one of the most beautiful of all La Mancha.




Villanueva de los Infantes:  Prehistoric settlement, Roman city and later Arab, under the name of Jamila, (beautiful), until was conquered by Christians under the rule of king Alfonso VIII. During 13th century it was bound to Santiago Order. Later in 16th century was considered the capital city of Campo de Montiel,  officially receiving the title of city in 19th century.

Villanueva de los Infantes
At Plaza Mayor, (market square), you will see the City Council and Saint Andrew's Parish from 15th century. Not far, Santiago Hospital, La Alhóndiga, (old public house where grain used to be bought and sold), and Casa de Contratación, (House of Trade), which was later a jail and nowadays it is a cultural center.

It is also very recommendable the Casa del Arco, (House of the Arch), built by a relative of Saint Thomas of Villanueva, who was a local saint and Archbishop of Valencia. Saint Thomas original home is partially preserved and it is close to the Inquisition House.

If you want to visit the place where Francisco de Quevedo passed away, visit Saint Domingo convent, a 17th century building. It is a hostel today.

Take a walk on the streets of the historical old city: Cervantes street, Plaza Mayor, Palace of the Ballestero, Casa Rebuelta, Casa de don Manolito, Casa de la Pirra, convents...

Villahermosa: Assumption church, 15th century.

Ossa de Montiel: 16th century church. Ossa has still a pillory, of course, not in use...

Following the road to Ruidera,in 3 kilometres you will hit the cave of Montesinos, the one where don Quixote enters searching for an enchantment. In this cave, Prehistoric and Roman remais were found. Right after this, you will find Rochafrida castle, an Arab original construction from 12th century. When this fortress was taken by Christians, they changed the name into Saint Felices castle. Then it was handed over to Santiago Order and finally abandoned in 15th century.

Lagunas de Ruidera
Definitely you cannot miss Lagunas de Ruidera, (Ruidera lakes). They are fifteen lakes placed between Albacete and Ciudad Real but several of them belong to Ossa de Montiel: La Blanca, Concejala, Tomilla, Tinajo, San Pedro, Redondilla, La Lengua, La Salvadora and La Batana.

The extension of all the lakes is around 27 kilometres and 120 metres in slope. They are lacustrine formations in steps, linked by cascades and water streams which have been traditionaly assigned to be the source of river Guadiana. The largest lakes are san Pedro, Colgada and del Rey, with different depth but never beyond fifteen metres.

In the book, don Quixote arrives to Barcelona and sees the sea for the first time. He then remembers this oasis in the middle of La Mancha.


Argamasilla de Alba: There is a curious castle, Peñarroya Castle, whose meaning is red rock for the colour of the soil where it stands. Prehistoric remains were found and it was also an Arab settlement. The fort as we know it today, is from 12th century, after the Arabs handed it over the knights of Saint John's Order.

Castillo de Peñarroya
It was kept in good state of preservation because it houses a shrine in it, which encouraged authorities in the past to keep it in good condition.




























Thursday, 28 May 2015

Routes of Don Quixote (I)

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra is well known to be the jewel of Spanish Literature and the second most translated book on Earth, right after the Bible. It was published in 1605 and the second part in 1615, which means we are now commemorating the forth centenary of its publication.

The Quixote will take you through the rough flat lands of La Mancha in bizarre scenes in which an inn is seen as a castle, a flock of sheep as an army, a group of penitents as kidnappers, windmills as giants... all of them made up by the crazy mind of a gentleman, (hidalgo), obsessed with courtly literature.

There are different versions of the routes followed by Don Alonso Quijano, (real name of Don Quixote), but the Real Academia Española published one in 1780, considered to be the most accurate even today although new updates are always appearing. Even our brilliant writer, José Martínez Ruíz, alias 'Azorín', made an alternative route in 1905 and in 1997 another version was launched by the Asociación de amigos de Campo de Montiel.

The official route was declared European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of the European Union in 2007 and it is a 2,500 km long route, divided into ten itineraries, fifty-six stages, going along five provinces and 148 towns and cities, being the longest historical tour in Europe.

In this first post, let me take you roughly through the official route of Don Quixote.




1) TOLEDO - SAN CLEMENTE (Via El Toboso and Belmonte)

Toledo is the capital of Castilla-La Mancha. It is an amazing city full of historical, archaeological and cultural sites which deserves its own post, (some day ...). You will enjoy castles, streets and culture, as well as windmills, lagoons and lanscape on your way.
Toledo

2) SAN CLEMENTE - VILLANUEVA DE LOS INFANTES (Via Lagunas de Ruidera)

This area is one of the most important lacustrine systems in Spain, a paradise for birdwatchers to see a great variety of species on their migration to Africa and Europe.
Lagunas de  Ruidera

3) VILLANUEVA DE LOS INFANTES - ALMAGRO - CALATRAVA LA NUEVA

Market square, Villanueva de los Infantes

The limits of La Mancha, travelling through mountain ranges, and retreat place of Don Quixote.

Almagro

4) VALLE DE ALCUDIA - CAMPO DE CALATRAVA

Enjoy nature! Natural water springs, volcanos, Mediterranean forest, huge meadows, vineyards, olives and cereal fields. You can also visit some nice castles and fortresses.

Valle de Alcudia

Volcano Cerro de la Cruz 

5) ALBACETE - ALCARAZ - BIENSERVIDA

From Albacete, the most populated city in Castilla-La Mancha, this route goes by following a railway track which was never ever used. It goes into Sierra de Alcaraz until the border with Sierra Morena.
Albacete

6) LA RODA - CAMPO DE MONTIEL

From North Albacete, all the plains of La Mancha. Remarkable river canyons such as the Júcar one.

La Roda

7) CAMPO DE CRIPTANA -TOMELLOSO

Discover La Mancha from North to South, from Campo de Criptana, admiring its impressive and ancient windmills, along Sierra de la Paz.


Illescas City Council












8) ALMAGRO - TOLEDO (Via Ciudad Real and Consuegra)

Starting at the bank of river Jabalón, you will be able to see evidence of previous volcanic activity in the form of craters, lake basins and ancient drover's roads still in use.

River Dulce canyon

9) ESQUIVIAS - ILLESCAS - CARRANQUE

North of Toledo we find the beautiful Sierra de Lasagra. You have the opportunity to visit Miguel de Cervantes' home in Esquivias. Do not forget to go to Our Lady of Charity Shrine to admire several paintings by El Greco. Finally, there is an interesting archaeological park in Carranque.

House of Miguel de Cervantes

Archaeological site in Carranque

10) HOZ DEL RÍO DULCE - SIGÜENZA - ATIENZA

Atienza
This is the northern limit of Castilla-La Mancha and you will love the landscape and various exponents of Romanesque Architecture.
Sigüenza castle




Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Chinchón

At around 46 km heading Southeast from Madrid city center, lays the city of Chinchón. It is a small town full of historical places and references, which was granted the title of "Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Chinchón" by King Felipe V of Borbón, after his visit to the city on February 25th, 1706.

Plaza Mayor


Plaza Mayor
Definitely the spot which defines Chinchón is its Plaza Mayor. Oval shaped, it is closed and surrounded by three storey buildings. Its origin dates back in 1499 when Castilian Council started to celebrate annual cattle fairs and they decided to buy some buildings and create the City Council. Today it is still placed in the very same place as in fifteen century.

In 1552 H.R.M. Juana I of Castile and her husband Felipe of Augsburg visited the city. By that time the square was not yet closed, what happened in 1683, leaving open space only for the processions and carriages to pass by.

In the lower ground, the arcade shelters different shops, great restaurants and bars, some of which also occupy the upper floors and above it, you can admire the three storeys with their wooden balconies, called claros.

Plaza Mayor has been used as corral de comedias, (theatrical courtyard), as stage for religious plays, slippery cane climbing and bullfighting arena, particularly during the month of August, when they celebrate the town fair.


Agustinian Convent



Today a Parador, this old convent was founded by the Counts of Chinchón during seventeenth century. It was an important centre for education in humanities during eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, until the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal, time when it was transferred for public use as a Court. 

The old convent chapel, Our Lady of the Rosary is still attached to the parador and is also worth a visit.


The parador-convent is one of the best picks to stay and eat during your visit to Chinchón. Cuisine at Paradores is always a delicacy, whose specialities are roasted lamb, cocido madrileño and sopa de ajo.

It's remarkable cloister takes in a good number of loquats.


Clock tower


It is the tower belonging to Our Lady of Grace church, the oldest in town, from fourteen century, unfortunately destroyed during Peninsula War against France at the dawn of nineteenth century. The tower is the only remaining part of the church.

There is a local say which states: "Chinchón has got a tower without a church and a church without a tower", referring specially to this Clock tower.



Lope de Vega theatre




This is a building from 1891, erected on the ruins of the Palace of the Counts of Chinchón, which was destroyed during War of Spanish Succession.

It was named after our great Golden Age writer, Félix Lope de Vega y Carpio as he wrote his comedy El blasón de los chaves de Villalba while staying as a guest at the Counts' Palace.




Counts' Castle


This castle dates from fifteen century and was destroyed in 1520 after a Commoners attack during the War of Communities of Castile.

The third Count of Chinchón, don Diego Fernández de Cabrera y Bobadilla, rebuilt it using the materials from the previous castle, the works taking around eight years at the end of sixteenth century. It was kept in perfect condition until 1705.

Once again a war conflict, War of Spanish Succession, hammered our heritage and during the three days of siege of Chinchón in 1808, it was sacked and burnt down.

Later on, the ruined materials were employed in the build and restoration of roads, fences and houses. 



House of the Chain






This was where Felipe V was accommodated during his visit to the city in 1706. It is a Baroque building .













Casasola Castle


This gothic castle from fifteenth century was designed on an unusual triangular floor. It also has a beautiful stone bridge and several turrets. It was used as accommodation for politicians and soldiers supporting King Alfonso XII during nineteenth century and today it is a private property.





Thursday, 16 April 2015

Sangria: the real version

I've got two news for you. 


One: Spaniards don't particularly love sangria. You have to assume it. We only drink it in rare occasions and, as good wine lovers we are, many of us find simply disgusting the idea of swallowing a sort of sweet wine with fruits. 

Second: I can assure you that 99% of the foreigners have never drunk a proper sangria, if they have tasted it in a bar or a restaurant. The probability increases proportionaly to the number of foreign clients the bar or restaurant have, I mean, the place where they make it specially for tourists because they like it this way.

Although when we were crazy youngsters we might have added some other spirits, the fact is that the only alcoholic drink a real sangria contains, is wine. But not any wine. It must be the cheapest red one you can possibly find. This is commonly called vino peleón in Spain and comes with a 100% guaranteed Iwanttodie headache if it is consumed on its own. But if in spite of my recommendation, you still need to add something else, first try my recipe and if you didn't change your mind, add a bit of white Martini or cava, but this will be your sangria, not mine.

A sangria accepts creativity with some limits. Basically, you have to macerate fruits into the wine, but not all fruits are adequate for this. Best ones are peach, (skinless), apple, pear, orange and lemon and make sure they are not soft. The harder, the better or they will spread pulp all over and your guests will ask you to get them a fork to actually eat what they should be drinking. Never use watermelon, melon, lime, grapefruit, banana, avocado, berries, (other than strawberries if you cannot live without them), and generally speaking, no fruit which can be easily crumbled when soaked in liquid.

A good sangria needs caster sugar in an amount which satisfies your taste. The only limit is just to remind you are not making syrup. Please, don't use aspartame, saccharine, fructose or any other similar rubbish, (I saw it once).



Cinnamon... When you come to this point, there is always someone asking you about your near future plans with him/her. It is said that cinnamon is a powerful aphrodisiac, but till this point of my wide empirical analysis regarding parties and alcohol, I am in a position to state that sangria without cinnamon is equally aphrodisiac. Between you and me, it is alcohol, (in low doses, of course), what is been helping people to have sex since the beginning of times. 



Before I get to the point, I must warn you. Although it is only wine and it is mixed with soft drinks or cordials, there is a lot of sugar and fructose involved. Moreover, it is nice sweet and refreshing cold, great for the Mediterranean summer heat, which will softly push you to start drinking, continue drinking and drinking more, no realising how many glasses you have taken in the end. It is even worse if you eat the fruit, which is delicious, by the way. By the time you start singing Greensleeves out loud standing in the middle of the room, (table), you have gone too far. Expect a headache in some hours.

Now all these is clear, let me give you my fantastic sangria recipe:


INGREDIENTS:
  • X litres of wine and X litres of sparkling lemon, orange, 7up or Sprite, as you prefer. Make sure both X are equal.
  • Caster sugar as much or as little as you like
  • One or two cinnamon stick and extra powder cinnamon, depending on your intentions...
  • Fruit
METHOD:
  • Take a wash tube. You can pristine wash it or buy one to be dedicated to your sangrias
  • Wash the fruit and cut into big pieces. Leave the skin on except for peaches and that kind of hairy fruits. Put all the pieces into the wash tube.
  • Empty all the wine and all the soft drinks together with the fruit and mix with a wooden cooking spoon.
  • Add the sugar and cinnamon and mix until there are no cinnamon lumps to be seen.
  • Leave it to rest for at least 4 hours in a cold place.
  • When it is time to serve, add a good quantity of ice cubes to make it chilly.
  • Drink it all and enjoy the party




Friday, 3 April 2015

Moors and Christians, Alcoy, (Alicante)

Moors and Christians is one of the most thrilling and colourful celebrations in the whole country. Three days of an originally religious festivity which added some pagan celebrations later on, to become a gorgeous reminiscence of the events happened during the Battle of Alcoy in 1276.

HISTORY


On April 23rd 1276 during the Battle of Alcoy, the Christians defeated the Moors troops commanded by Al-Azraq at the very gate of the city, with the assistance of Sant Jordi, (Saint George). The legend says Sant Jordi appeared riding his white horse on the city walls and decided the course of the Battle to the Christians. 







From that moment, Sant Jordi became the saint patron of the city.


It was a religious celebration until 16th century, time when some other non-religious celebrations were also permitted. The three days on row celebrations comes from 18th century and with some logical variations aroused with the time, today they are mainly equal. At the end of that century, the filaes start to appear and they grew in number till today, when we count with twenty eight filaes, fourteen on each army.





A filá, (plural is filaes), is a group of people with the intention of taking active part in Moors and Christians feast. Each one of them has their own premises where they gather and arrange whatever necessary for the feast, including their flashy gorgeous outfits whose cost varies between 300 to 550 euros approximately.





















MAIN EVENTS


Although there are many other events, the most popular and thrilling ones are:


ENTRANCES DAY 


First the Christians around 10:30 and later at 17:00, the Moors, armies make their entrance in the city with a huge parade of fantasy and sumptuousness and display of dances, riding, weapons, animals, amazing make-up, suits and dresses. The first man in front of every army is the Captain, followed by the standard bearer and then the rest of the men. 



SANT JORDI DAY 


Several religious celebrations during the day to praise the saint. 


ALARDO DAY 


This is a day of recreation of the fights. There are guerilla battles all over the city, sword fights, dialectic fights between Moor and Christian ambassadors, fights with arquebuses, capture of the castle... loads of gunpowder and noise until in the evening, when Sant Jordi appears in his horse to recreate the scene of the miracle in 1276.

 

Everything comes to an end with a final dinner, the Soparets, and the filaes members dine altogether out of their premises.







To learn more about Moors and Christians and for more information about dates and celebrations, please visit: Saint George Association

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Drums of Calanda

In the North of Teruel, region of Bajo Aragón, very near the confluence of the rivers Guadalope and Guadalopillo, lays the town of Calanda. 

Calanda has been a town since 1360, time when it depended on the banner of Calatrava Order and there, Christians and Moors lived together in a relative peace until the latter where expelled from the town in 1610. 
Miguel Pellicer




On March 29th, 1640 the Miracle of Calanda took place. It is said that the youngster Miguel Pellicer, who was very devoted to Our Lady of the Pilar, went to bed after a hard day of work. When his mother passed near his bed, she discovered two feet appearing under the sheets. This would not be very strange unless considering that one of Miguel's legs had been chopped off some months ago. 





According to Mr. José Repollés, the origin of the tradition of the drums in Calanda, comes from 1127. During the celebrations of Good Friday, an Arab razzia was discovered by a shepherd who was keeping his flock in the mountains. He could see the cloud of dust they were making as they galloped and decided to play his tambourine as hard as he could to call the attention of another shepherd who did the same... until people in town realized what was happening and they could prevent the attack of the Arabs. 

After this, shepherds started to gather every Good Friday to recall the event, hitting goat and sheep tanned hides until in 1550, Brother Pedro Merlo prohibited this, considering it extremely inappropriate for the religious moment, the Holy Week. 

The drums were silenced until March 30th 1640, a day after the Miracle of Calanda, when Miguel Pellicer's family, friends and definitely the whole town of Calanda, went out to celebrate his recovered leg with a procession to a small shrine where they kept an image of the Virgin of the Pilar, playing drums and tambourines. Once more, every year this was repeated. 

Later on, on the first half of the 20th century, another religious man, father Vicente Allanegui decided to organize the processions in a proper way and gave to the drumming a meaning of mourning of nature on Jesus death. 


PARTICIPANTS


CUADRILLAS
: Friends and family playing the drums together. They get a fixed place at the square for the big day. Ideal proportion is five drums for every one bass drum and this is a tradition passing from parents to children. 

PUTUNTUNES: Roman Guard. Since 1643, this army watches over and parades in the processions. 

LONGINOS: The man who stabbed Jesus Christ with his spear, is represented in the processions by a young man from Calanda, turned eighteen and chosen by raffle, as they are selected to be a putuntún. He wears 43 kg armour given by king Felipe IV to Miguel Pellicer and him to the Putuntunes. Longinos can never turn his back on the sacrament, so he must walk backwards and that's why he is popularly known as the crab

Holy Saturday ends with a sword fight between Longinos and the centurion at the passion play of the Sealing of the Sepulchre. 


COCOTEROS: These people are in charge of the perfect progress of processions, making sure everyone is in their places and wearing accordingly. 


HEBREAS Y SIBILAS: From 1907 the hebreas, (Hebrew ladies), are ladies playing the roles of biblical characters and they carry representative objects from the Passion, such as nails, vinegar, spines... Sibilas, (sibyls), were introduced a bit later by nuns. They are twelve girls dressed in Oriental style. 

DESPERTADORES: At 6:00 on Palm Sunday, a choir of men gathers at market square, one of them holding a small lamp called lamp of dawn. They sing to announce the start of Holy Week. 


LA ROMPIDA


This is the name given to the moment on Good Friday exactly at midday when, after the last stroke of the clock at the Square where all the drum players wait patiently, they start to play their instruments in the most exhilarating and impressive way. They will continue going all over the village for exhausting hours until they are commanded to stop.





Friday, 27 March 2015

The descent of River Sella,

Bridge over river Sella in Arriondas


THE ORIGIN

Mr. Dionisio de la Huerta was born in Barcelona in 1900, the city where he died at the age of 95. He was the son of a very prosperous business man who immigrated to Cuba and could enjoy a wealthy life. He combined his profession, (he was a lawyer), with travelling, sports and adventure, his real passions. He never got married nor he had any children.




In 1929 he was going to catch a train in Barcelona to go to his father’s summer cottage in Coya, Asturias, via Madrid. He passed by a grand store, Almacenes EL Siglo, and he saw a foldable canoe exposed in one of the shop windows. He immediately though of the convenience of that kind of canoe, which was giving him the opportunity to take it with him in the trains to Coya. A few days later he was canoeing in El Molino dam, near Coya.

Dionisio, together with his friends Dr. Benigno Morán and Manés Fernández, who had made a K-1 canoe at home adding lateral floats, decided to do a river descent from Coya to Infiesto. This was the first precedent of the Sella descent in the Piloña River.


Later on, but during the same summer of 1929, Dionisio, Manés and another friend, Alfonso Argüelles, took a canoe with lateral floats and went down the river until they got to Arriondas, followed by a bunch of friends by road. It was a real adventure and they had to stop to bail out the water several times and have some snacks to recover. Dusk surprised them seven hours later after having gone over 14 kilometres, at the town of Soto de Dueñas. That was the end of that year’s adventure, but they repeated in 1931 starting at the point they had finished the previous year, Soto de Dueñas, (entering the river Sella in Arriondas), ending in Ribadesella, 25 kilometres and 4:12 hours later.

Finally, in 1932 the final route was set between Arriondas and Ribadesella bridges, completing 20 kilometres of which, last five are rowed in a creek. This year was the first competitive edition of the descent with thirteen oarsmen coming from different places in Asturias.

The Sella descent continued every summer till 1936, when the Spanish Civil War broke out. It resumed in 1944.

The first foreign oarsmen participated in 1951 and they were the Italians from Circolo Canottieri Tirrenia di Roma, the Portuguese of Las Mocidades and the French from Club Tonneis, and we had to wait till 1955 to see the first competitor from another continent with an oarsman from Cuba.

Nowadays and since 1994, one thousand and four hundred canoes take part in the Sella descent and there is no room for a single one more. There are different categories and two itineraries of fifteen and twenty kilometres each.


THE DESCENT


Everyone is welcome to participate in the August Sella descent, as far as you have a proper canoeing license for the year and you register in advance.

The descent starts at noon but all the oarsmen have to be ready in their assigned places at 11:00. This assignment is done by draw and the judges will pass to check everyone is their correct position before the descent starts.



Fifteen minutes before the time, all the oars are blocked in special devices which will not be opened until the beginning of the descent, when the signal turns from red into green, The moment when all the participants will run to the water holding their canoes and start the descent to Ribadesella.

The finish line control will be closed thirty minutes after the first canoe had passed through it.






To learn more about Sella River descent, please visit Sella descent