Hoteis de Charme em Castilla-la-Mancha, Espanha
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The very name Castilla-La Mancha instantly conjures up romantic visions of windmills and castles, as alluded to in the Miguel Cervantes masterpiece “Don Quixote de la Mancha”, the most widely printed book in the world after the Bible.
Many of those characteristic windmills Don Quixote “fought”, mistaking them for giants and armies, are still present to this day.
Castilla-La Mancha is located right at the very centre of Spain and dominated by a characteristically flat expanse known as the “Meseta”, but it also includes mountainous landscapes as well as some absolutely fascinating monumental towns such as the World Heritage city Toledo, Cuenca and Ciudad Real.
Gastronomy Much of the Castilla-la-Mancha’s cuisine is based on fresh produce and the abundant supply of game, both large and small. Dishes tend to be nourishing and strongly flavoured.
Typical cuisine include pisto manchego (ratatouille), migas (breadcrumbs fried in oil and garlic with diced ham, bacon and sausage), gazpacho de cazador (a variation of the Andalusian cold soup, with the garlic-flavoured base being garnished with diced cucumber), tortilla a la magra (ham omelette) and sopa castellana (consommé with egg and bread); meat dishes include partridge and quail casserole, venison, boar, caldereta de cordero (lamb stew), and cuchifrito (well-seasoned fricassee of kid or lamb).
Other tasty dishes include "atascaburras", especially good on very cold winter days and made with boiled potatoes, cod, oil and garnished with slices of hard boiled egg and nuts. Partridge, so abundant in the area, is served either in stew or with beans or cold. The "pisto manchego" and "salpicón" are two more dishes the area is famous for. Fine pastries include "flores manchegas", "delicias de Almansa" and "miguelitos de La Roda".
History Castilla-La Mancha has been populated since pre-historic times, as evidenced by the Palaeolithic remains in Alpera and Minated (Albacete). The Roman occupation, which began in 192 BC, left many legacies, not least roads, aqueducts, theatres and cities such as Segóbriga, Valeria and Toletum.
By 711 AD, however, the region had come under Moorish control and under their auspices it flourished, both economically and culturally. Alfonso VI took control of Toledo in 1085 and by the 13th century the Christian reconquest was completed with the taking of Montiel in 1233.
Following a period of upheaval Castilla had become exhausted by the 17th century, suffering doubly from high inflation caused by the importing of precious metals from America and an ever-decreasing population. It remained a largely rural area despite some steps towards industrialisation.
From the 1950’s onward there was widespread emigration to Madrid and the major coastal cities. Since 1982 it has been an autonomous community.
Culture Toledo's most important celebration is held to mark Corpus Christi (which falls on the Sunday of the ninth week after Easter). Forming part of a timeworn tradition that goes back eight hundred years, it is the only day in the year when the monumental silver-gilt monstrance, made by the Gothic silver- and goldsmith, Enrique de Arfe, and normally displayed in the Cathedral Museum, is taken out and paraded through the town.
Lending colour to the solemnity of the procession are the uniforms, habits and gowns of the different military orders, guilds and brotherhoods. Many streets along the route are roofed over with white awnings, whilst the ground beneath is carpeted with flowers and fragrant herbs.
Easter Week is witness to various processions: the most famous being the Silent Procession on Good Friday, in which a 13th century carved figure of Christ is borne through Toledo's narrow streets amidst an awe-inspiring silence.
Handicrafts Talavera de la Reina and Puente del Arzobispo have been producing pottery and ceramics since time immemorial, worked in clay, fired in polychrome glazing and decorated with a wide variety of themes such as animals, historical scenes, plant motifs and heraldry. Damascene - metal inlaid with gold thread - has its roots in the Middle Ages and, as its name implies, comes from oriental-style artisan work done in Damascus; it is one of Toledo's best-known handicrafts. In the Oropesa and La Jara districts there is a long tradition of embroidery - tablecloths, sheets, table runners, etc. - sewn by the women-folk on linen and cotton fabrics with Lagartera being the hub for this type of needlework.
The Centre for the Promotion of Handicrafts holds exhibitions as well as providing comprehensive information on the handicrafts of the region. Monuments In truth, the city of Toledo is a grandiose monument in itself. The Tornerías Mosque, a late 11th century building, epitomizes all the magic of Moorish architecture with its slender columns and horseshoe arches. Toledo Cathedral is an admirable example of Gothic with touches of Mudéjar, Baroque and Neoclassical.
Also worthy of note are The Palacio de Fuensalida, the Presidential seat of the Castile-La Mancha Regional Authority, and the Church of Santo Tomé (St. Thomas), built in the Mudéjar style in the 14th century at the behest of Don Gonzalo Ruiz de Toledo, Master of the House of Orgaz. In the Jewish Quarter, one finds the El Greco House-cum-Museum, which occupies 15th c and 16th c buildings near the site where El Greco once lived with his family.
Over the way stands the Tránsito Synagogue, founded in the 14th century with its singular display of the architecture and art of Iberian Jewry - a synthesis of influences hailing from Islamic, Gothic and Mudéjar art.
Activities For art lovers, and of El Greco in particular, a visit to Toledo is a must. Visit, for example, the House-cum-museum of El Greco where he painted many of his masterpieces. Many other "artistic jewels" await the visitor looking to become acquainted with the major world movements in art (Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque).
The Hospital de Tavera museum, for example (1542) includes a first-class collection of paintings, including Tintoretto, Ribera, Caravaggio and Lucas Jordán – and, of course, El Greco! This is also the land of Quixote, so fans of historical literature will not be disappointed and have many expanses and towns so indelibly portrayed by Cervantes to visit.
Follow, for example, the "Route of Don Quijote". Today you can still see many of those characteristic windmills that Don Quijote “fought off”. Other routes include the “Route of the black villages” (so called due to the use of slate in their traditional architecture) and the “Route of the Castles” amongst others.
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