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.


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


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.


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


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.

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