Alarcón, Belmonte, Segóbriga, Pastrana, and Cuenca
From Valencia we drove westward, into the interior of Spain and towards Madrid for our return flight. But we still managed in the couple of days we had left to see an interesting range of sights in eastern part of what is the region of New Castile (Nueva Castilla).
We drove through the up-and-coming wine region of Utiel-Requena to the
sleepy town of Alarcón. Many of its buildings date back to the Middle Ages.
You enter Alarcón through the medieval town gate. Its castle, on the hill behind the gate, is now a government-run luxury hotel (parador).
The public buildings of Alarcón show that it was once wealthy: it served as a military base during the early part of the Reconquista.
The tower and main portal of Alarcón's main church.
A medieval portal.
Alarcón we continued westward to the medieval castle of Belmonte, built
in the fifteenth century.
Unfortunately, the castle was just closing for the midday siesta, so we didn't get to go inside.
On a nearby hill stood old windmills, a traditional sight in Castile.
Belmonte we turned northward to the ruins of the ancient Roman town of Segóbriga.
By the time we reached the ruins it was mid-afternoon, and it was such a hot day
that it was difficult to imagine anyone--Romans or otherwise--wanting to settle here!
The ruins of the Roman forum, or main square of the town.
The ruins of the amphitheater, which once sat two thousand persons.
The ruins, partly reconstructed, of the Roman bath house.
Segóbriga had an efficient sewer system: you can see here the uncovered stone slabs
laid out overtop the underground channel that carried water away from the town.
From Segóbriga we continued north to the town of Pastrana, where we spent the last two nights. It was only an hour's drive from the Madrid airport, which is why we chose it, but there wasn't much going on in the town, nor was it as picturesque as we had hoped.
Our hotel windows looked out over the bullfighting ring.
Thankfully, none took place while we were there.
an hour's drive east of Pastrana was the town of Cuenca,
so on the day before our flight we drove there and spent the day.
Cuenca is best known for its hanging houses, perched on the cliff edge of the town's natural defences.
Down in the valley below is a Renaissance monastery--now also a parador hotel.
Cuenca has lots of charming narrow streets.
The cathedral of Cuenca is also striking. Although begun in the Middle Ages, it was completed only at the end of the nineteenth century by
an architect who took the Gothic style and reworked it in unusual ways (note, for example, the arches on the upper level open to the sky).
Close to Cuenca is an interesting group of natural rock formations called the
Enchanted City (Ciudad Encantada). Wandering through these made a nice afternoon hike.
Many are these worn "mushroom" shapes (you can see how big they are by the people standing in the photo on the left).
The pathway also takes you between some of the larger rock formations.
This group is called the fight between the crocodile and the elephant.
This viewpoint is called the Devil's Window (Ventano del Diablo).
The mountainous area around Cuenca was a beautiful way to end our trip to Spain.
Well, the end for all but Matt, who stayed on for another three weeks doing research.
Close this page or click here to go on to see photos from Matt's continuation of the trip.