Since making visits to Spain by car, part of our route usually includes a stretch between Zaragoza, Teruel and Sagunto on the Mediterranean coast above Valencia. The road in question is the A-23 known as the Autovia Mudéjar. Now we were staying at the Parador in Teruel and that Mudéjar word kept cropping up elsewhere. Teruel is rich with Mudéjar architecture.
I quite like watching historical dramas just for the spectacle but not possessing an historical or political astute mind, I normally end up mightily confused after about five minutes. Such was the case with Mudéjar and it took a while before Francine could hammer it into my skull. I think I’ve got it now.
Some time ago, as in the 7th century AD, Spain was conquered by the Moors. The Christians were a bit peeved and set about reconquering Spain themselves, though it seems to have taken a while for them to get their act together. For example, Alfonso II conquered Teruel in 1171 [it says here]. It looks as if Brexit may drag on in similar fashion. Anyway, the Mudéjars were apparently those Moorish folks remaining after the reconquest who did not convert to Christianity. Being skilful chaps, what they did do was build a lot of attractive towers and assorted other piles of stones.
There are piles of old stones in Teruel which aren’t Mudéjar, though not quite so old. One such pile is an impressive-looking aqueduct, the Los Arcos aqueduct dating from 1538 [it says here, again]. If you get the angle right you can catch the dome of the cathedral (Mudéjar style – there we go again) framed by one of the aqueduct’s arches. Of course, the modern world being what it is, you’ll also catch a couple of unsightly construction cranes towering above the whole lot but they can be Photoshopped out afterwards.
The other thing that Teruel is famous for is the story of Los Amantes [The Lovers]. In the days of yore, a son and daughter of two important and wealthy families were in love as childhood playmates. However, by the time they were old enough to enjoy an active sex life be married, the chap’s family slipped up and was no longer wealthy enough so the girl’s family forbade the marriage. Cor, gold-diggers in those days, eh? Anyway, young recently impoverished stud popped off for five years to try and make his fortune while his main squeeze came of age so he could finally get his leg over win the bride. Unfortunately, he wasn’t heard from in those five years and squeeze’s daddy, who was impatient and had been counting, married his daughter off to another rich dude eligible bachelor as soon as the 5-year alarm clock ticked down and went off. Right after the wedding, so the story goes, our tragic hero pitched up at the city gates bearing untold riches. A bit late, mate. Having lost his bride by a matter of hours, he dutifully dies of a broken heart. At his funeral, she comes out in sympathy and pops her clogs, too. Curtain. Applause.
This story sounds like a Romeo and Juliet star-crossed lovers rip-off to me. Wait a moment though, this was supposed to have happened in the 13th century; it must’ve been Shakespeare who ripped this off. Crumbs.
So, this story is made much of in Teruel where there is a mausoleum to Los Amantes tucked away in a narrow alley. With access only through the mausoleum is an attached, attractively decorated church, so Francine coughed up the entrance fee for a visit and some photographic games while I went to buy a bottle of voddie and have a relaxing coffee watching the Teruelian world wander by. [I doubt that’s a word but it should be – I couldn’t find a word for inhabitant of Teruel.]
I was personally more taken by the piles of old stones at Albarracin, which is where we went in the afternoon. It’s about 35kms from Teruel and it is the first time I’ve seen old, attractive stone architecture in Spain of the sort frequently encountered in old French villages. Spanish architecture so often seems flat and slab-like by comparison. Albarracin is built on on a high outcrop protected on three sides by a severe bend of the Guadalavier river. The remaining side is/was protected by an imposing wall overlooking the town. I couldn’t get enough of it and kept clicking away happily.
Francine had grabbed a map from the tourist office and we made our way to Plaza Mayor where, we got the impression, we would find “myriad bars” for a reviver. We found one. Well, we found one that was open and two that were closed. Either way, even three doesn’t constitute myriad in my book. Anyway we dined on albondigas [meatballs] which we washed down with a caña [draught beer] while we soaked up the mediaeval atmosphere. It felt a bit odd staring at a no entry road sign in a maze of streets that didn’t look suitable for motor vehicles at all. Then a local car turned up and proved us wrong.
Here’s a few more shots that will hopefully give more of a flavour of Albarracin.