On September 14th I was invited to go to a small town of 3,500 about 90km away from Tomelloso called Calzada de Calatrava. I went with JuanJo, his wife Ana Maria and their three children. Calzada de Calatrava is the birthplace of Ana Maria. A religious festival was taking place there that is important to her family. I was told to meet at their house at 11 am , so I left my house at 10:40 am. We didn’t end up leaving until sometime after 12 and I returned home sometime after 11 pm so it was a full day experience. We arrived sometime around 2. I met some of the family and then JuanJo and I set off to visit a Castle from the 13th century that was just outside of town. We arrived at the castle around 2:45 only to be told that it was closing at 3, but would reopen again at 5. So we went back to the house and waited for food to be served. While the food was good, I can’t say that it was the most comfortable experience. For most of the time I was sitting unable to understand everyone. Occasionally, somebody would asking me a question that I was able to answer, or Juanjo would translate and explain to me what they were talking about. But for the most part, I was silently observing, trying to decipher their conversation. The reason why it is so difficult to understand is because their Spanish is spoken so differently than Spanish anywhere else in the world. They pronounce: c’s, z’s, th’s all as th, so it is incredibly difficult to understand the words they are using. It’s literally like another language. A lot of Spanish people I have met also speak incredibly fast, so their sentences sound like one long word. They also use a tense (vosotros) that we never learned in school. To say the least, it was mentally exhausting.
Later, Juanjo and I went back to the castle around 6. That castle is situated on top of a mountain probably somewhere between 100-150m. The road is a windy and extremely bumpy cobblestone-like road. It isn’t exactly cobble stone because it is made up of rocks of all sizes placed into the surface of the ground. It’s as if you can imagine a road 800 years ago. Visiting the castle was an amazing experience for me. Having the chance to walk around something that was 800 years old was incredibly. The construction and durability something must have to last that long is mind blowing; the thought, the ingenuity and the precision! The castle had so many different levels and areas to explore. The ground floor consisted of everyday activities needed to support life back then, such as the area for vendors, the grainy and the ovens. The oven room was a rectangular barrel vaulted room, pretty much in darkness except light shining through the door. On one side were the ovens and on there other small platforms for the bakers to sleep. Aside from the whole castle itself, one of the most breathtaking aspects about the castle was the Romantic and Gothic styled church. Because it was a defensive castle for a covenant of monks, the church was one of the most important buildings. The entrance is adorned with a massive flower shaped glass window(there is no longer glass in it), that according to Juanjo rivals that of any cathedral throughout Europe. Inside, red volcanic rock was used for the basis of the groin vaults. The walls at one point were decorated with murals, but have long ago faded. Only faint traces of them remains. The castle also boasts an amazing view. Situated on top of a mountain at the start of the Sierra Moreno mountain range, it was meant to prevent the spread of Islam (Moors controlled the southern part of spain) to the North. From any part within the castle you can see in every direction for hundreds of kms. The view was by far the best once atop the castle. Accessed by a really cool spiral staircase. The views and the castle were unbelievable. To walk through hallways and rooms that were used so long ago and imagine what is was like, what they thought, how they lived and what they felt.
*Note, the castle has been undergoing a restoration process, however a lot of it, like the cathedral has been preserved. The original plans are being used to make it as accurate as possible.