Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Cazorla and Quesada

In Cazorla I stayed two nights in the Hotel Limas where 25 € got me the usual en suite room. The staff there was exceptionally friendly and through the attentive waitress I discovered a new culinary delight: tinto de verano (summer red wine) or vino casera. I first thought that she had offered me "vino casero" (house wine), but vino casera is red wine mixed with lemonade and ice. Sounds horrible but tastes delicious! My new favourite drink.  And best of all: it is usually included in the price of the daily menu. Spanish cuisine is not very refined but I still like it - especially since eating out in Spain relatively cheap. To give you an example: the menu del dia in the Hotel Limas was 9 € and includes two dishes, bread, desert, a full bottle of wine and a full bottle of lemonade. In Germany 9 € wouldn't even buy you a bottle of wine. And because Cazorla is in the mountains there is a wide choice of game dishes. I had wild pig sausage for a starter and venison stew as a main dish. After a good meal and vino casera I just love Spain!

Cazorla NP, Castillo de Cinco Esqinas
Cazorla seems to live on two things: olives and the National Park. The little town is full of tour agencies offering 4WD tours into the park. I would just walk... Beside that Cazorla's claim to fame is the only church in the world with a river underneath it. But the same river brought bad luck: Rock falls dammed the river that then flooded so badly that it destroyed the church and half the village. Bottom line is that the church was never finished but with a guided tour you can visit the ruins and the very impressive subterranean river channel.

Cazorla NP
The friendly lady in the tourist information then made me change my plans. I had intended to hike through to Alcala la Real but she told me so much about Spanish Christmas traditions that I decided to just hike half a day and spend Jan 5 in Quesada. The short hike passed through Cazorla National Park and I now discovered what beauty I had missed in the last three days because of rain and fog - I just had not been able to see the spectacular limestone cliffs. There is only one hotel in Quesada and I had to pay more than usual for a room: 33 €.

Quesada by Zabaleta
I indulged in a hot bath before setting out to see Quesada's main attraction: the Zabaleta museum. Zabaleta is a 20th painter born in Quesada and I freely admit that I had never heard of him before - although he is considered one of the most important modern Spanish painters. The museum is huge considering the size of the village and plenty of paintings of Quesada itself were exhibited. I was the only visitor and the friendly receptionist told me more about this evening's events. In Spain it is not Santa Claus who brings the presents on Dec 24 but the Three Wise Men bring them on Jan 6. And this is celebrated by a street parade on the evening of Jan 5 in all Spanish cities and villages - my reason to stay in Quesada. The parade features the three kings, their servants and other Christmas participants throwing sweets at the spectators. The kids write letters with their Christmas wishes and hand them to the kings after the parade who then presumably bring them the next day.

Balthasar and I
The parade started at 7.30 pm and the participants were getting ready in the underground parking lot of the museum. And as a curious foreigner I was allowed to have a good look at them before the parade started. I even had a private meeting with one of the kings! Each year the parade was organised by a different village group, this year by the mediaeval motorcyclists. These is a bunch of motorcyclists who dress up in mediaeval clothes for whatever reason and like this they were also participating in the parade. The kings of course had a car and dozens of servants each. The local kids came prepared with plastic bags for all the hard candy that was thrown. It was fierce competition and I only managed to get two sweets - despite having been a good girl all year. The village band was playing Christmas songs that drove me away soon. I celebrated on my own with a menu del dia and vino casera in my hotel.

But now it is four days of straight hiking to Alcala la Real with a good weather forecast.


Juan Holgado said...

Well done Christine, resting in Quesada and learning about the Reyes Magos holiday quite popular among children.
And the tinto de verano, love drink. The sangria is stronger with alcohol but quite similar.
The limestone Gilillo and the range is spectacular. On my next trip there I will ascend to the top treking the GR247 on a round walk starting in Cazorla.
Good weather those days in Jaen. Enjoy the walk to Jodar, Torres and Alcala la Real.

martin said...

vino casera is great, especially in the heat of Summer. Glad you hear you enjoyed a big feast. Have fun!