Thursday, 31 October 2019

Battle of Arroyomolinos re-enactment: the French retreat

Every year on or around October 28 our nearest village of Arroyomolinos re-enact different aspects of the battle fought in the village in 1811. The British, Spanish and Portuguese troops made a surprise attack on the French who were occupying Arroyomolinos on the morning of October 28 during a torrential thunder storm. Several thousand troops and cavalry were involved, the French were soundly defeated, nearly all captured but a small contingent escaped over the mountain to Trujillo, their base at the time. The re-enactment this year portrayed the efforts of the allied forced to cut off the retreat across the rugged terrain of the mountain side. 
As usual the local population of Arroyomolinos made a wonderful effort with convincing costumes and very loud canon fire. 

 After the battle…...

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

An echo from the past- abandoned village in sierra setting

About half way in between Caceres and Plasencia is the busy village of Cañaveral, the edges of the village soon segue into countryside and a winding camino climbs high into the sierra, with each bend the views get more and more extensive and very contrasting. At one point there is a birds eye view of the new AVE train track sweeping across the land, another few bends and there is a far view of the Alcantara lakes.
Finally the track runs out at the entrance to the ancient settlement of Villa del Arco with a backdrop of the dramatic crags of the Sierra del Arco.
There are no constant inhabitants of the village, they all moved out around 20 years ago to seek more profitable employment than the traditional agricultural work of sheep and goat herding, cheese making etc. However, the houses are well preserved and maintained, the owners and family coming back sometimes throughout the year, especially for the summer fiestas which revolve around the charming church of  La virgen de la Asunción.

The most wonderful aspect of the village is the gushing water, fuentes are fed from the abundant springs of the mountain. There are large ponds built to collect the water and channel it into the village where it runs in channels through the cobbled streets, the delightful aroma of mint explodes at every step as it grows exuberantly between the cobbles. Walled gardens are luxuriant with pomegranates, lemons and oranges spilling into the streets.  There is a small plaza with the remains of an ancient mighty elm tree, now a phantasmagorical collection of writhing limbs and grotesque excavations but there are plenty of thriving trees shading the village creating a cool and pleasant atmosphere.

There is no café or bar or shop, just peace and the sound of the wind, stunning views and Griffon vultures soaring above the peaks.

 A glimpse of the past but not the reality. It must have been a bustling little community once,with a school, a communal bread oven, animals in the fields and the corrals of the village, births and deaths and the lives lived in between. Now it's a really special sanctuary, charming and a little melancholy.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Megalithic Sun Temple revealed as Extremadura reservoir waters recede

As waters at the Embalse de Valedecanas, outside Peraleda de la Mata in the Caceres province receded due to the current drought, a circle of megalithic standing stones emerged from the deep.
The stones, that date from the second and third millennium BC, form the site of a sun temple on the banks of the River Tagus and were last seen by locals six decades ago before the area was flooded during the Franco-era to create a reservoir.
Excited locals have been making trips out to view the stones that had formed a part of local legend.
The collection of 144 stones, some of which reach two metres high and have engravings of serpents, are arranged in circles, but like Stonehenge, it is unclear exactly who put them there and for what purpose.
The site would have been created over thousands of years, using granite transported from kilometres away.Similar to Stonehenge, they formed a sun temple and burial ground. They seemed to have a religious but also economic purpose, being at one of the few points of the river where it was possible to cross, so it was a sort of trading hub. The stones began to emerge from the receding waters earlier this summer and now stand on dry land, for now.
There has been no rain this summer, the drought and also a policy of extracting water to send to Portugal has combined to lower the water table and reveal the stones but that can all change very quickly once the autumn rains start.
There is a  group of local residents campaigning to move the stones to a site on dry land before the waters rise again and they are lost. They say “If we miss this chance it could be years before they are revealed again and the stones, which are granite and therefore porous, are already showing signs of erosion and cracking, so if we don't act now it could be too late.”
They hope that the regional government of Extremadura will step in to move the stones within weeks to a nearby site.

The Romans were the first to value the site which was then left neglected until Hugo Obermaier, a German priest and archaeologist enthusiast visited it in the 1920s. He excavated the site and took whatever treasures could be moved back to Germany where they are displayed in a museum in Munich.
The stones themselves were left in situ and disappeared beneath a reservoir when a dam was built in 1963.
We also visited a Roman site, Augustobriga, further along the shores of the lake. Originally the site of Augustobriga was further down by the banks of the Tajo river, it was moved stone by stone to its present site when the valley was flooded to make the reservoir unlike the fate of the menhirs.
 All that is left are some columns belonging to the temple of La Cilla, know locally as Los Marmoles even though the construction is of granite


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