Tuesday, July 8, 2008
ZAHARA: June 23
From Seville, we headed east toward the Andalusian white hill towns. They are named that because of the many villages across the hills that are made up of all white buildings, so when you're driving up to them from afar, it just looks like a big white hill. The name is rather lacking in the creativity department, but I guess it's pretty accurate.
One thing about the white hill towns is that not only are they white, they're in the hills. Big hills. More like mountains, really. And the roads through them are 2-lane jobs that end in huge cliffs on the sides. While Gramps and I were fine, Mom and Nina were not doin' so hot next to these cliffs. So instead of doing a tour of a couple villages, we only went to Zahara. But it was pretty awesome in itself. When we got inside the city, I honestly don't know how we got out of there with the car in one piece. Because as previously mentioned, Gramps was a little rusty w/ the ol' stick shift, and this town was one big-ass hill in all directions. There was a hint of clutch in the air of Zahara by the time we left, but we did in fact manage to leave.
The main attractions in Zahara (pop. 1,500) are the amazing views of the valley and lake below, and the ruins of an old castle with its remaining Homage Tower. Dating from the 13-15th centuries, the only remains of the castle are some low portions of walls, and the Homage Tower, which is still standing at the highest point of the hill on which Zahara is built. I went up alone because it was pretty hot, and getting up to the ruins was a LONG uphill walk. I didn't cross one person on my way up, and I only saw two other people from the tower trying to make it up - I never saw them on the way down. Anyway, once I got to the top of the hill, it was amazing. The tower was way bigger up close, and it was eerily quiet with no one around. Once I went inside, it was pretty creepy. There were no working lights, and because it was a watch tower, there were only a couple small windows, so it was pretty dark. Going up the stairs, you actually had to put a hand on the wall or ceiling because it was pitch black. So for the second time in just three days (see the "Car Elevator Incident" in Seville), I was pretty sure that I was going to be killed in Spain as I climbed the dark, silent tower stairs, far away from anyone else. But when I got to the top (alive), the 360-degree view of the entire valley was absolutely awesome. And it was so high up that it made the valley look like a painting because all the different colors below just kind of blended together. It was definitely one of the highlights of my entire time here.
On my way down, I remember Nina saying that she read in Saint Ricky's travel guide that there were ancient Roman ruins also discovered on the hill side where the castle used to be. So being alone and relatively clueless as to the topography of the mountain, I went off the path to find them. And I was lucky I did - I actually found some really cool rooms and even better-preserved walls and rooms that had been excavated. It was pretty sweet to stand in a room that was 1500 years old or more, and not have a security guard yelling at you not to touch anything or other tourists getting in your way. While exploring there, I also found a bunch of fragments of all different-colored glazed pottery that I smuggled out of Zahara by cunningly wrapping them up in my undershirt. I'm sure none of the locals were suspicious of a guy covered in dirt and swear coming down from the ruins with a shirt full of what looked like rocks. They could be 20 years old for all I know, but I'm gonna imagine them being ancient (plus it makes for a cooler story).
So after I descended from my excavation site, I grabbed some drinks outside a bar with the fam, then we headed out of Zahara. We headed for another hill town further down the road, but the ladies soon nixed that idea, so we turned around to look for wider, straighter, less-tall roads to our next stop - Ronda.
View from the top of the town before heading up the hill.
The largest remaining wall of the castle - it's hard to tell from this photo, but it was HUGE and went a looooong way down.
View of the tower on my trek up toward it.
View of the village from partyway up the hill before reaching the tower.
Top of the hill.
Top of the hill.
View of the valley from atop the tower.