Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Cuenca

Travelling across the plains of La Mancha brought us to Cuenca known for it's hanging houses. However, before exploring this Moorish town we went up into the surrounding mountains to visit Ciudad Encantada - the enchanted city - where the limestone has been eroded into spectacular shapes by weather and the waters of the nearby Júcar river. The rock formations date back to the Cretaceous period - 90 million years ago. It was raining as can be seen from my photos, but we battled on regardless.
The limestone has eroded differentially due to the top layer having magnesium in it.
It appears that in Spain too they have received extraordinary weather this spring. The rain has been the most they have received for 55 years, and the river which gushes through Cuenca was a boiling heaving torrent.
Below this strange geological landscape sits the UNESCO protected city of Cuenca with its Moorish old town.
Cuenca's picturesque old town sits astride a steeply sided spur which drops precipitously on either side to the deep gorges of the Júcar and Huécar rivers. Around the Moorish town's narrow streets grew the Gothic and Renaissance city, its monuments built with the profits of the wool and textile trade.

Spain's abstract art museum is inside one of the Hanging Houses. It contains works by the movement's leading artists including Picasso and Eduardo Chillida.
The Cathedral was built in 1182 - 1270. It is one of the finest Gothic Cathedrals in Spain. The facade was rebuilt but is still unfinished following problems caused by crumbling in 1902. 
It was during the evening in Cuenca that we saw one of the pre-Easter processions (shown in a previous post) which departed from the cathedral and then processed through the town.
We purchased tortas Alajú de Almendras - a local honey cake filled with nuts which is eaten in slices along with pieces of Machengo cheese from the La Mancha area. The cheese is similar to a cheddar cheese but whiter and lighter. Any word beginning with 'al' in Spain, such as this honey cake, usually gives an indication of an Arabic origin.

68 comments:

  1. Dear Rosemary ,
    In today's post I see at the pictures the grandeur of nature, how beautifully formed over millions of years. Fortunately, the intervention of the people in this landscape is adapted to the environment. A beautiful city from another era!Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos !

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    1. That is very generous of you to say Olympia - I was a little disappointed with the photos due to the rain - it is difficult taking views from under an umbrella!!! The city is interesting, particularly in the way it had been built to take advantage of the gorges.

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  2. Very unusual and very beautiful. Your fifth photo is amazing, like something from another world. The colours of the buildings contrast wonderfully against the natural backgrounds. The trees in spring blossom are a gorgeous finishing touch.

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    1. The area did have an other worldly feel to it especially in the wet weather. It is a beautiful little city.

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  3. Hello Rosemary, I was really impressed with those geological formations. That balanced-standing rock looks like it is not too much longer for this world!

    The town of Cuenca looks like it was taken directly from a mediaeval illuminated manuscript.
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Dear Jim - I probably should have shown a photo with a person standing beside that rock as it has a much more substantial girth at the bottom than it looks. Eventually I should imagine it will topple over but probably not for a few centuries.
      I like the fact that you felt Cuenca looked as if it was taken from a medieval illuminated manuscript - the town certainly gave the impression that you were walking through history.

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  4. Skały mają niesamowite kształy. Miasteczko jest pięknie położone i domy na skale cudownie wyglądają. Pozdrawiam.
    Designed as rocks are amazing. The town is beautifully situated on a rock and houses look wonderful. Yours.

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    1. Thank you for kind your comment - The medieval builders were ingenious they way they could work with nature to build houses, churches, and roads on these rocks.

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  5. I think your photographs get better with every post. These are stunning Rosemary. I can't choose a favourite as they are all so beautiful. This trip must be a complete joy for you. When natural beauty and man made beauty work so well in harmony, it is just a treat for the eyes.Jx

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    1. Thank you Janice - we travelled with no particular expectations apart from hoping to see wonderful architecture and art, but had many unexpected surprises which we thoroughly enjoyed on the journey.

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  6. I'm not surprised Cuenca is a UNESCO site, it's so beautiful and as someone said above it almost looks unreal. I love your 3rd photo from the top, what a wonderful rock. It's the same in Portugal regarding words starting with "al". There's also many similarities between both countries in terms of architecture but that's not surprising.

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    1. Yes, you are right Paula - of course Portugal is part of the same land mass and as such has had the same influences brought to it as Spain. When I first looked down on Cuenca I couldn't wait to get into the town and explore it. The cherry on the cake was having an evening meal in the main square and then coming out of the restaurant to find crowds of people happily awaiting the Easter procession.

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  7. Dear Rosemary,
    What lovely photographs! I particularly like the ones where the blossom (is it almond?) is shown. The town looks like the sort of place that AGA and I would enjoy visiting I think!

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    1. Dear Kirk - I am sure that you would both enjoy all of the places we visited on this trail through ancient La Mancha. Wonderful architecture, interesting landscape and of course we saw some of the greatest Spanish art in Madrid.
      Yes, the blossom is almond, but like the rest of Europe it is late because of the position of that wretched jet stream which seems reluctant to move.

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  8. Extraordinary landscape! Gorgeous pictures again Rosemary. That 'tortas', typical for the region, looks like a very sweet treat, but then I read.... cheese....???

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    1. Dear Marian - tortas is not as sweet as you imagine, and I thought the combination looked strange when it was served to us, but it works, it is really delicious. We haven't eaten the one we returned home with yet, another little treat I am saving for the grandchildren to try, but must get some of the proper cheese to go with it.

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  9. What fantastic images from those amazing limestone structures to the almond blossom and those wonderful hanging houses - to the traditional food. It has be lovely to spend a few moments in such a beautiful place.
    Sarah x

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    1. Dear Sarah - I was so excited when I looked down from the hills on to the little old town of Cuenca and couldn't wait to walk down and explore the lovely narrow streets and admire the architecture.

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  10. Those pictures are like from a fairy tale. Beautiful landscapes. That honey cake must be delicious..

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    1. The honey cake is delicious but much less sweet than you would imagine. Glad you enjoyed the landscapes.

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  11. Hi rosemary, the ancient Gothic buildings and streets are beautiful. Their peach tree looks like mine. Thank you again for taking me along. I have been gardening all day as it is 80 degrees here. Olive

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    1. Lucky you Olive - send some of that warmth and sunshine over here. The blossom tree is an almond but it does resemble a peach tree. The streets are lovely and beautifully paved - the great thing about them is that there are not vehicles down the narrow streets.

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  12. Dear Rosemary - Beautiful photographs as always. The hanging houses look as though they would retain a lot of coolness, but with my acrophobia, I'm not sure I could live in one.

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    1. Dear Mark - when you are inside the houses it does not feel precarious and you forget that they are virtually hanging on the rocks. It looks much more dramatic from the outside looking up - I am sure you would be OK, and anyway I know that you would want to visit the abstract art museum.

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  13. Stunning photos Rosemary and some lovely views. I love the Renaissance and Gothic buildings, such a beautiful area to visit. Lucky you.
    Patricia x

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Patricia - all of us in our little group felt very happy and satisfied with the trip. It very much fulfilled our wishes of what we hoped to see - great architecture, wonderful art, and an interesting landscape to travel through.

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  14. What lovely photos - I'm particularly fond of the inverted rock formation. Amazing!

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    1. Wandering around the rock formations in the mist and rain was rather other worldly but they were extraordinary shapes and very large. Thank you for your comment and glad you enjoyed seeing the photos.

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  15. Olá Rosemary!
    Foi bom revisitar Cuenca através das tuas fotos. Estão muito boas e as explicações são importantes. Percebo alguma coisa de Inglês e com o tradutor do Google lá consegui entender.
    A natureza faz obras espectaculares, não é verdade?
    Abraços.
    M. Emília

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    1. Obrigado por seu comentário M. Emilia - fico feliz que você tenha gostado de ver as fotos de Cuenca e as extraordinárias formações rochosas geológicas.

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  16. I haven't been to Cuenca but now I remember why this town is so familiar to me. A distant relative, Fernando Zobel de Ayala created the Museo de Arte Abstracto in Cuenca. He is one of the famous Spanish-Filipino abstract painters who moved to Cuenca and founded that museum. His direct relatives manage that museum too. The train station there is even named after him. Those rock formations are amazing, so beautiful. That's a kind of town I would like to wander around. Wonderful photos Rosemary.

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    1. Dear Pamela - that is really interesting information - the gallery is wonderful and contains many interesting paintings and prints. We enjoyed seeing Fernando Zobel de Ayala paintings. I also discovered many other works there that were unknown to me, and was particularly taken with the work of Eusebio Sempere who I had not heard of before. In fact I bought a copy of one of his paintings home with me.
      You have a very good reason to visit Cuenca with your strong connections which I hope that you may have the opportunity to do in the future.

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  17. So many ancient cities are built on and out of stone, so different from North America. We are all about wood. Such great pictures Rosemary, I love seeing the unusual rock formations as well as the hanging house dangling at the edge of the cliff - Yikes!

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    1. Dear Rosemary - it is those differences that make our world such an interesting place to be a member of.
      I wonder why they were built so close to the edge? I suppose when you look at the photos you realise that the main house is built into the stone itself and the hanging parts are actually the wooden balconies.
      The pictures of the geological formations could have been better if the sun had shone, but the rain and mist added to the atmosphere.

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  18. Lovely photos and interesting how the rocks have formed over the many years. Lovely to be able to see these photos through your eyes.

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    1. I am pleased that you are still enjoying the photos of Spain - I do not want to create overload on Spain - I still have two more posts to go!!!

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  19. This is just fantastic! You have opened a window on yet another part of the world I would like to visit! Wonderful place, fantastic images!

    My mum used to make the sugar and nut sweet. We called it "Torrone" I can taste it as I speak! Talking about interesting places, have you been to Herculanium (Ercolano, in Italian) It's near Pompeii (I saw a documentasry on TV) We have a holiday home not too far from there, and I intend to visit, soon!

    BUONA GIORNATA! You must have had a wonderful time in Spain! Beautiful Country and wonderful people!

    XXX ANNA XXX

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    1. Dear Anna it is a little world that is not far away from us.
      I have had something similar from Sienna, but it was more chewy than this honey cake - perhaps you could do a post on your mothers Torrone?
      Yes, I have been to Herculaneum, and loved it. In some ways it is even more interesting than Pompeii because of the wonderful architecture still visible from the remaining houses. Strange that you should ask about Herculaneum as I have mentioned it in my next post!!!
      Thank you Anna for your very kind comments.

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  20. Such a marvellous place !!! I loved every photo and the stories behind them. Thank you so much for sharing this beauty with us, Rosemary !!!

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    1. Thank you Dani - it was different from what we expected - a much more interesting and exciting place to visit, and especially because the landscape was so dramatic too.

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  21. What a beautiful town and that honey cake looks divine! x

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    1. Amazingly we have yet to eat ours - saving it for the grandchildren to share. We were served some at a restaurant for dessert and with the cheese it was surprisingly lovely. Although it is made with honey it doesn't taste too sweet.
      I made your daughter's green Thai curry last night - it was very good.

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  22. Super photos, Rosemary and those rock formations are truly extraordinary. I understand that the high pressure which has given us our long spell of easterly winds and unseasonably cold weather has pushed the jet stream south, so that Spain and other Mediterranean countries have been receiving the rain which normally falls on us.

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    1. I have the sense that the weather is on the turn Perpetua - today is feeling like a proper spring day, no cold air, no wind, very nice.
      I hope I am not boring everybody with too much information about the La Mancha area of Spain - I will say it quietly but there are still two more posts to go!!!

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    2. Never! Your posts are always interesting and you have a wonderful eye for a striking image.

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    3. Thanks for the reassurance Perpetua - much appreciated.

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  23. Towns that have retained so many different cultural influences from past centuries are fascinating. The Norman facade of the cathedral is interesting and the hanging balconies overlooking the gorge across to the bridge must have been quite an experience as is any
    view high up. Your photos of the area are stunning. I would be wanting to explore the town, too, especially the churches and convents if they were open to the public. I see from further internet information one of the convents is now an hotel and that's where I would love to stay and soak in the historical and cultural atmosphere of the town!

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    1. You can see the San Pablo Convent which is now a parador on my photo number 9 - it is the large building in the foreground. In the main town square, Plaza Mayor, is the only remaining convent which is still used - Las Petras convent, but it is not possible to visit. It is a closed order and the nuns are never seen. Unfortunately we were unable to go into the cathedral - we tried to gain access but were barred. Our local guide made a telephone call to discover why, and discovered that the Bishop had decided not to open!!!
      I am pleased that you enjoyed the post sufficiently to look further on the internet.

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  24. Hello, rosemary. You took advantage of the rainy weather and misty background made your shots look more attractive. And nice capture of raindrops! The houses on the steep cliff is like Laputa. I’ve learned “al” means “red” in Spanish like Alhambra. Thank you for sharing the spectacular landscape.

    Yoko

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    1. That is a good comparison Yoko - Laputa - castle in the sky.
      I would really have preferred that it had not been wet, it is so difficult trying to hold your umbrella whilst taking photos to prevent the camera getting wet. However, the photos worked out better than I thought they would - they made the geological landscape look rather other worldly.

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  25. We never went to Cuenca .
    What a fascinating region of spain. Those hanging houses are incredible.
    the rock formations.
    Spain and Portugal are experiencing the same weather.. Its just becoming so depressing now.
    I cannot remember when it was last like this. Its rained again today.
    We have a similar 'nougat' as the cake that you showed with the honey. We can buy it only when the fair comes around.
    Your photos are stunning Rosemary.
    val x

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    1. Dear Val - it is that wretched jet stream that is lying down in the Bay of Biscay that is creating all of the problems. It is very dry here but strangely we now need the rain. I have just had the lawn fertilised and some weed killer applied and need it to rain to activate it.
      Cuenca was a very interesting visit, next stop, gradually edging closer to Madrid.

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  26. Wow! I too have never heard of this area of Spain. Those rock formations are amazing and I would love to see those hanging houses!Were they built on the edge like that are did the earth erode away...leaving them hanging?...Janey

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    1. Dear Janey - They were built like that - medieval builders were astonishingly skilled and clever. They used the hard magnesium rock as their foundation for the houses. The hanging bits are really the elaborate wooden balconies.

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  27. Hello, what an interesting post and I love your photos.
    Thank you for popping over to my blog and leaving a lovely comment!
    xxx

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    1. Thanks for your visit Lyn - glad you enjoyed the post and photos.

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  28. Hello Rosemary

    I am ready to pack my bags and travel to Spain and travel in your footsteps.

    The images and description is calling me. Thank you Rosemary for another informative post

    Helenx

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    1. Dear Helen - the weather wasn't perfect but nevertheless it was a cultural and visionary feast - all of us in the little group thought it was a great trip.

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  29. Spectacular photos, a place really worth visiting !

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    1. Thanks Jane - we were delighted to see so much wonderful architecture and art.

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  30. Very special and super rock formations.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. The geological rock formations were really interesting to see.

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  31. I just love geology, and those formations are amazing! The town is incredibly beautiful, too. The picture of the town with the trees framing the top looks like a painting. I can only imagine how fabulous it must have been to see such amazing architecture, and smell and taste all the local foods.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment - we knew of course that we were visiting a medieval town built on rocks, but until we actually got there could not envisage it. What we didn't realise was how much the town had been shaped by its situation within these geological formations and how clever the medieval builders were to accomplish it.

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  32. What a strange and harsh landscape. I wonder - are the people harsh and suspicious of strangers? The architecture is beautiful, but also harsh - harshly beautiful.

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    1. I suspect that normally it all looks much softer, but like the rest of Europe all the greenery, spring flowers etc are way behind this year.
      When I first caught sight of the town from the hills I thought that it looked like nowhere I had ever seen before, and couldn't wait to get down there and see it properly.

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  33. Those limestone rocks and boulders are just fantastic! So sculptural and a bit eerie, too! Thanks for sharing all your amazing photos. I know how much time it takes to sort and prepare them for each post. You are a brilliant photographer, Rosemary! Cheers, Loi

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    1. Dear Loi - you are so very generous always in your comments. I agree that the geological formations do look rather eerie but helped along by the rather wet misty weather too.

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