Cuenca, the City where Buildings Grow from Rocks

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the city of Cuenca with a fellow teacher and friend, Alberto; his wife Maria and her friend Anna.  We left Saturday morning at 10, arrived at 11:40 and left on Sunday around 5:30.  A little back story.  Over the summer, I took out a Fodor’s travel guide from the library and skimmed through it to get an idea of what Spain was about.  I wanted to learn about the different regions, places to see and things to do.  While reading through it, I came across the city of Cuenca and was instantly mezmorized by a picture of a house built into a cliff.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen.  I put it down on one of my places to visit when I arrived.  From reading, I knew it was about an hour and a half from Madrid and from Tomelloso.  I didn’t know when I was going to be able to see it or even how.  Anyway, I forgot exactly how it happened, but I was talking to Juanjo about places I wanted to see and mentioned Cuenca.  He told me one of the teachers was from Cuenca and that maybe he would take me.  Fast forward a couple of days. I was talking to Alberto ( at the time I didn’t know he was the teacher from there), Cuenca came up, he told me how is was from there and that he was going the following weekend for a festival and invited me to come along.

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The festival is a four day festival that celebrates the reconquering of Cuenca from the Muslims back in the 1100’s.  This took place on September 21st (the last day of summer).  It is a four day festival that consists of eating, drinking, parading and running from young bulls.  The bulls are attached to ropes held by people, but it is still dangerous.  They still have horns, they’re still fast and people have gotten injured and died in the past from them.  I didn’t do any running and only saw the bulls briefly.  The festivities are held in the old part of town. One of the ways to access this part is from a 33m high bridge with an incredible panoramic view of the buildings on one side, mountains on the other and a valley between them.  Alberto showed me around the whole area and it was incredible.  There is a main plaza surrounded by a very old city hall and a gorgeous old Gothic cathedral.  There’s small alleyways and cobblestone roads running through out the whole area.  Old buildings from the 14th and 15th century flank both sides of the street.  North of the Plaza there are remnants of a castle, in which only the north wall and I believe the prison still stand.  The top of the wall gave an  amazing 360 degree view of the area.

The day passed by quickly as we explored the area.  There was meeting with friends and enjoying of the festivities.  As  night came around the city became even more alive.  The streets became more crowded and the thrum of voices and music filled the air.  There was a concert in the main plaza that lasted well into the night.  Packed with at least a couple thousand people, it was the place to be.  The show ended around 5:30 in the morning and we didn’t make it home till about 6:00.  Spaniards definitely know how to make it a late night (or early morning).  The following/same day we lounged around the house for a little and then went to lunch.   We had lunch with Alberto’s Mom and Dad (who were very hospitable and extremely nice for letting us stay at their house for the night), his brother and his girlfriend.  Of course, I didn’t understand most of what was said, but enjoyed a great meal.  After the meal, we said our goodbyes and hit the road home.  It was an awesome weekend in an incredibly unique town with great people.

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