Virtual walk, run, crawl to Simmern & Lyon and beyond
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25th May 08:58
We are walking higher and higher over the Sierra Morena - a 450 km long mountain range running East-West through the Iberian peninsula. By early afternoon we are a good way across the range and at almost 4000 feet. After we complete the crossing we also cross the regional border, leaving Castilla-La Mancha and entering Andalucia region.
We are heading in the direction of Córdoba and hope to reach Fuencaliente (Means hot springs) for the night. It is not large and we will upset their neat mathematics as it has a population of 1111. The cave paintings of Peña Escrita and La Batanera are located in caves within the municipal limits of Fuencaliente and there are remains of human presence in the area since the Chalcolithic age.
24th May 23:33
We stormed through Córdoba this afternoon. I am having a 'research' holiday and Martin Cowell has kindly agreed to wear the mantle! His update on Córdoba is attached.
We’ve marched through the centre of the Madrid, capital since 16th century, city of 3.3 million + same again for the metropolitan area. It is built on the River Manzanares crossed by the Segovia bridge and Toledo bridge and is classed as the 10th most liveable city in the world (Monocle magazine). It has two famous football teams - Real Madrid & Atletico Madrid.
It is a centre of art, theatre, music and culture, with many world class museums.
The city site has been occupied since prehistoric times (Carpetani settlement), Roman villas, a Visigoth basilica and necropoleis evidence of different occupations.
In the later 9th century Muhammad 1 of Córdoba built a fortress on the river Manzanares to protect Toledo from Christian invasions but they eventually conquered Madrid in 1085. The Christians displaced the Muslims from the centre of Madrid and Jews and Muslims settled in the suburbs.
Madrid vied with Seville (North) for political power eventually gaining the upper hand.
Food 🥘 - a wide variety is represented but notables include cocido madrileno (chickpea based stew), cattle tripes, fried squid sandwiches, grilled pigs ear or chicken cooked with hard-boiled egg yolks and almonds.
There is a very active gay scene (- Spain authorised gay weddings in 2005) centred in the Chueca district. There are 500 businesses targeting the LGBT community.
I think it’s time we moved on - to Toledo. The Romans led by general Marcus Fulvius Nobilior fought a confederation of Celtic tribes near here in 193 BC, defeating them and capturing king Hilermus. They took over the Carpetani city of Toletum and developed it. There was a Roman Circus (423 x 100 metres) holding 15,000 spectators, city walls, public baths and a water storage system with municipal water supply. This became the capital from 542-725 AD of the Visigoth kingdom following the fall of the Roman Empire, there is a grand gothic cathedral and they ruled until the Moors conquered the whole Iberian peninsula in 8th century. The city has a long history of producing bladed weapons - now largely tourist souvenirs.
The history is very interesting but very involved so - moving on.......
We are now heading South and have left Toledo well behind us. We have just reached Ciudad Real (Royal City) granted a charter by Alfonso 10 (Alf the wise). During the Middle Ages, four kilometres of walls and one hundred and thirty towers protected a population made up of Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Ciudad Real became the capital of the province of La Mancha in 1691. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake destroyed many important buildings. In 1809, during the Peninsular War, French troops defeated the Spanish army and occupied the town, using the local hospital as their headquarters and barracks. Much of the centre was again destroyed during the Spanish civil war.
Miguel de Cervantes novel Done Quixote de La Mancha can be investigated in the eponymous museum here but I don’t think we’ll have time, we need to find a bar and a hotel for the night...... cheers!🍻
22th May 08:58
We have now completed 440 miles and are arriving in Guadalajara, about 40 miles short of Madrid. Lying on the central part of the Iberian Peninsula at roughly 685 meters (2,247 ft) metres above sea level, the city straddles the Henares River.
The Mexican city of the same name was named after this one.
The town became under the influence of the powerful Mendoza family until well entered the Early Modern period. The family included Pedro González de Mendoza (1428–1495), Great Cardinal of Spain and adviser of the Catholic Monarchs.
In 1937, four divisions of Italian fascist forces approached the city. Their advancing line of tanks outran their air and anti-aircraft cover. Republican aviation assets airborne in newly cleared skies found the tanks and infantry in a traffic jam on the main road heading into Guadalajara and destroyed them. The Italian forces were thrown back with casualties in the thousands. Ernest Hemingway and other war correspondents labeled the attack, "Italian débâcle at Guadalajara." Mussolini's Italian forces earned the reputation of incompetence which lasted until the armistice.
Calatayud is twinned with Nuneaton!
20th May 08:35
We have now covered 292 miles from Toulouse and at 200 metres above sea level we have come a long way down from the Pyrenees. We tarried in Zaragoza for lunch , a good idea as it is known for it's gastronomy.
It is capital of the whole of Aragon.
The city lies on the Ebro river and in 2008 hosted EXPO. The cathedral (La Seo) and the Aljaferia Palace are part of the Mudejar Architecture that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Major festivals are a regular feature here. It is an interesting city of 750,000 inhabitants and has a colourful past:
The Romans called it Caesaraugusta from which the name Zaragoza apparently derives?? (I'm not sure I follow that!)
They founded it in about 10-25 BC where a village Salduie existed - for army veterans from the Cantabrian Wars to settle, and after 500 years it was captured peacefully by the Goths.🧛♀️🧛🏾♂️
In 1034 the Banu Hud ruled and had an alliance with El Cid of Valencia to fight off the Almoravids. After El Cid died the Almoravids took over his kingdom but the Banu Hud held Zaragoza, resisting them until 1110 when the Almoravids took over for 8 years. Then Alfonso 1st led the Aragonese and conquered the city. When Alfonso 1st died in 1134 Alfonso 7th jumped in - I don't know what happened to the other 5 Alfonsos!!!
He left the city control to the King of Navarra whose daughter Petronila - in exchange for the whole city - was betrothed to Sancho, the son of Ramiro the Monk - but she upped and married the Count of Barcelona instead!!
The inquisition was very busy here in 13th C - a choirboy martyr and the forced conversion of the Jewish population are among atrocities documented.
The Napoleonic army held the city to siege twice in 1808, but they surrendered in 1809 after the loss of 50,000 defenders!
It is now the home of the General Military Academy for the Spanish Army. In 1987 the Basque group ETA bombed the barracks killing 11 - including children - leading to massive demonstrations.
Finally some of the Vauxhalls sold in the UK are manufactured there in the General Motors/Opel factory.
It's amazing what you can learn over lunch......
18th May 23:40
Ok folks, you're going to have to concentrate hard for a few moments...:
We have walked 176 miles from Toulouse (well done all) and are now in a small town called (in Spanish) Benabarre it's in a region called Ribagorza in the province of Huesca in the autonomous community of Aragon (remember Catherine....).
As well as Spanish, they speak Ribagorçan - a dialect of Catalan - and Aragonese (and they call the town Benavarri) - I hope you're keeping up!
This was once the capital of the region but in The Spanish War of Independence (1808-14) French Napoleonic troops In retaliation created an administrative centre in a town called Graus which grew in size and supplanted Benabarre which has slowly shrunk in size to the current population of just over 1000.
We'll knock on a few doors and try to find a bed for the night, they seem nice people but they talk funny.........(like the Welsh? Ed)
18th May 12:45
We are on our way... heading over the Pyrenees through Andorra.
I have found detailed articles about Andorra and read them three times!! Unfortunately I can't make head or tail of the history & politics except it is a Principality - established in 13th Century. There are always two Princes of the Principality, one is the Bishop of Urgel (nearby Spain) and the other the French head of state - currently monsieur Macron but basically Andorra does it's own thing.
All able bodied men are on perpetual standby for the 'army' and have by law to keep a gun at home. Their last 'callout' was for a flood emergency.
Andorra's currency is the Euro and they can issue their own coins but they are NOT part of the EU! They have a custom's union with most favoured nation status; it is treated as an EU state re trade in manufactured goods!
Andorra is outside the Schengen Agreement. If you want to be totally confused, you can read up about EEA membership, EFTA and the Schengen Agreement, multilateral FAA and the relationship with EU membership of sovereign European Microstates...🧐🙄
16th May 11:44
Something has stirred the loins (?) and the legs into activity and we have surged forward and are on the outskirts of Toulouse.
This city - 4th largest in France and capital of Occitania - was founded by the Romans. It was once the capital of the Visigoth kingdom (I have no idea what that means....). It has a University founded only 20 years after Cambridge (he he he!). It is perhaps known more as the Airbus headquarters and also homes many aerospace industries. The air route from here to Paris is the busiest in Europe.
It's unique architecture of pink terracotta bricks have earned it the name of 'the pink city'.
The Basilica of St-Sernin, constructed in 11th C is the largest Romanesque building in the world with many wonderful sculptures. It is significant to the Santiago de Compostela route. There are lots of medieval buildings, churches and a cathedral but I am struck by one particular structure - the Pont Neuf Bridge - 16-17th C - it has withstood the many huge floods to which the Garonne is prone and took 100 years to build! We can easily underrate the importance of bridges - even today!!
After a suitable rest and replenishment we head off to attack the Pyrenees - to Andorra and then Zaragoza en route to Madrid.
Have a good night, go easy on the claret.....