Life in a bar in Arevalo
Two old men sitting, leaning against the bar. Five minutes ago they were jointly facetimng a friend, and giggling like little boys as those on both ends of the line made the noises of a Spanish farm: sheep, donkeys, chooks etc. Now they are gossiping, occasionally involving a third old guy reading the paper while sitting on a stool between them and the large window to the right of the doorway.
On the left of the doorway, six women, clearly longstanding friends, are sitting around a small table and bulging out into the entrance. They are leaving, coats on again, buttoned up. Outside is nippy, the temperature must be about 5C.
The coffee is good in this old section of Arevalo. Smaller glasses of coffee here, as in Avila. They usually cost between €1 and €1.50. So, good, cheap and I need another one!
The train trip here was easy. Biggest problem was being ready and watching for the stop, 19′ after we left Avila.
Avila, Arevalo and then Medina del Campo
The importance of the area between Avila and Medina del Campo derives from its association with the Catholic Royals, Isabella and Ferdinand (known henceforth as ‘Fred’). She is renowned for having bankrolled Chris Columbus and hence having facilitated the colonisation of central and southern America by Spain in the late 15th century and particularly in the 16th and 17th. Oh, and via Chris’s lot, the introduction into Europe of potatoes, tomatoes and maize and more gold than could be imagined. And then there was syphilis, a not so blessed, or always mentioned, part of the cultural interchanges.
The Catholic royals led the final phases of the expulsion of the Moores, the Muslims living in the central and southern parts of Spain for a few hundred years after about 800, when they supplanted the Visigoths. The most important final location of the Moores was Granada and the Catholic Royals included a granada, a pomegranate in english, in their joint coat of arms in recognition at their successful expulsion of the Muslims.
From the perspectives of the Jews and later, the wrong types of Christians, this period was the antithesis of a golden age with its expulsions, pogroms and later the inquisition. And no expulsion after hundreds of years of mixing with the local Spanish could be complete, just a political change and a forced exchange of residents in castles and big houses.
So this area and Isabella? She was born in Medina del Campo, spent lots of her life around there, and some here, in nearby Arevalo where her mother saw out her days. I think she was partly educated in Avila. Basically, she favoured this region, and the city of Medina del Campo especially, as it was integral to her existence, to her birth, education and life.
This potted history is not only very incomplete, its errors no doubt reflect more on my world views and ignorance. No chance of my checking ‘facts’ though as I’m having tech problems. Do NOT install iOS system 9.3 update whatever you do.
Ahh, lovely Avila, with the best Parador I’ve stayed in, and Semana Santa. I was sad to leave there. Decided enough was enough. The rain confirmed travelling by train was the way to get to Arevalo, 19′ down the line or 50km up the track by foot.
Even as I walked to the station on Easter Sunday the final processions were still tracking. Fireworks preceded one and, unusually, two women carried the front of one ‘float’. More little ones in this precession, looking gorgeous in their red and white.
The outskirts of Arevalo are ugly. Train tracks, roads, large flat and unfenced cultivated areas sown with grain and as you walk into town, many empty furniture factories and showrooms. The frogs have benefitted from someone’s extended preparedness to build at one site, once a large basement dug out and ready and now with enough water and weed to keep many frogs very happy looking for mates. And many apartment blocks look ill kempt and have individual apartments to sell or rent. All in all, not the best face.
Keep walking and the better part of town arrives. This includes four or five churches in a comparatively small older section (largely rebuilt)
The fascinating thing about the castle is its nearly 9 lives: as castle, as ruin, as silo for national grain storage and now, as grain storage is no longer nationalised, as a museum for the castle and grains. The number of varieties of wheat and rice in the museum was absolutely astounding and they were beautifully displayed.
Isabella spent a few years in this town, Arevalo, as a girl and later visiting her mother (Isabella de Portugal) who lived out her life here. It’s not quite like the number of drops of blood of Christ or bits of bones of Peter scattered around and with enough for a couple of bodies and bits left over.
No, the records don’t seem to need Isabella to have lived more than her 53 years for the time each city claims she spent in it. I remember seeing statues of her, with or without Fred, in Granada, Avila, Arevalo and now in Medina del Campo. And I am certain there are many more I’ll never see.
Fred seemed to be running wars for much of his life. Maybe she was politically brilliant. One of her aunts had taken over her education leaving me to wonder if it was because she had talent, evident at a young age, and a smart aunt and luck on her side. So, interesting, as Spanish queens are not usually remembered as she is, for major political successes with enduring implications.
The hotel I stayed in in Arevalo, Posada Real Los Cinco Linajes, was very pleasant with nice staff and located near the interesting part of town, the old section. Quiet except for the noisiest floor boards I’ve ever trodden. I suppose they were like the very old steps up to the rooms with their equally old supporting beams. An old building tarted up many times over the decades, with the rooms built around an inner courtyard.
The best part was its restaurant. For €12, 3 courses or 2 with coffee. And the food was really nice. I had two first courses, asparagus soup and a local bean and chorizo mix, followed by a white chocolate mousse. Hmmm. By 3pm the dining room was near full. This was an ordinary old work day so it was obviously widely recognised as a good restaurant.
Two nights in Arevalo and then off, again by train, to Medina del Campo, a city central to Isabella and historically important.