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

Friday, 9 August 2019

New aspects of Trujillo - Vera Cruz graveyard

A hot summer morning for a shady walk around the Vera Cruz cemetery of Trujillo with sound effects from mournful moaning doves.
 Labyrinthine paths are lined with tombs, burial niches and mausoleums under the shadow of magnificent Cyprus trees. The area is extensive and can be seen best from the walk along the outer defensive wall near the Puerta del Triunfo which was where the Christian army breached the Moorish walls and re-conquered the city in 1232. Very soon after the church of Vera Cruz was built just inside the wall, it flourished for five centuries until destruction by Napoleonic troops in 1809. It was on the site of the ruined 13th century church and surrounding grounds that the cemetery was started in the middle of the 19th century.
Well worth a visit for the tranquil atmosphere and fascination of seeing all the family names recorded here, some unusual ones such as "Familia O' Mullony".
 The sealed niches and mausoleums with inscribed plaques were an interesting record but did not feel particularly melancholy or eerie whereas the dark underground tombs with shelves of stone caskets exposed by propped up trap doors were a little more poignant on such a sunny day.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Birthday trip to the top of the world

Surprise trip on Manfred's secret route to Guadalupe taking in spectacular views and the lovely little castle tower at Cabañas del Castillo where we have stopped for a picnic with the vultures many times. This time we continued on the route over the mountain magically ending up in Guadalupe for lunch at the Parador, a beautifully preserved convent with a lovely patio, everything delicious.

Day hasn't finished yet and look who dropped in to say hello.....


Wednesday, 24 April 2019

How to warm up whilst at La Habiba on a wet spring evening

La Habiba is our little retreat at the finca, it's a special place in seclusion surrounded by wild woods, rocks and water, at the moment nightingales are singing night and day with the eagle owl joining in at dusk. It is charming and comfortable but primarily designed as a summer house with outside kitchen. We have had a few days of mis weather so have put together a fire bowl to cheer us up, certainly romantic looking at the rain from the porch with the bowl glowing away. 

Monday, 22 April 2019

From Finca al-manzil to Montanchez via Garganta de Molinos

One of our favourite hikes, about 12 kms, takes about 3 hours over very varied terrain, a steep climb up the garganta but then fairly level through chestnut woods into Montanchez and then downhill back to the finca.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

The streets of Évora

A quick trip to Évora the capital of Alentejo in Portugal, on a beautiful day, just walking around some old haunts. 
The Roman temple of Diana still looks impressive, the Praça do Giraldo is still a bit austere but the small streets and travessas are a delight, lots of cafés and restaurants with delicious typical food and wine of the region, a very relaxed town still within the old walls. 2 hours from Finca al-manzil.


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