The villages of Valladolid. Travel in the Spain of Don Quixote
The Spain of Don Quixote
Have you read Don Quixote?
If so, you will have read about whitewashed villages lost on the plateau of Castile. With houses and inns of clay bricks. Where Don Quixote and Sancho Panza stopped.
And if you have gone to Spain, you definitely have said it has changed a lot since the 17th century.
And yet, the Spain of Don Quixote still exists.
By chance, my acquaintance with it was also my first experience of the country.
I was participating in a voluntary program of monument restoration. In Tordehumos (Tower of Smoke).
It’s a village in the province of Valladolid, on the plateau of Castile, in the north-west. Hundreds of kilometres from tourism.
At first glance, one realises that this village, at least as an image, has stayed unchanged for centuries.
Tordehumos. As in the time of Don Quixote and even older. Photos from the steeple of “our” church
Note the courtyard with the earthen walls. Like the inns where Don Quixote stopped. You can also see the donkey (?) of Sancho Panza
Huge earthen walls. Unchanged from ancient times until today. Great insulation. We slept in such a room in the municipal hostel (all together)
The object of our work was the church of St. James (Santiago), of the 16th century (Renaissance).
Since the village has three churches, they had decided to turn St. James into a School of Fine Arts. In a village of five hundred inhabitants. But it’s the seat of the municipality, which includes other villages too.
But the church would keep its original form. Thus, under the guidance of professionals, we cleaned the ossuary and the carved screen.
The church of St. James. Here we worked
The central part of the screen is what we cleaned. I think the good work we did shows
Living in the province of Valladolid
The municipality hosted us in the municipal hostel. Every day, the cooks were preparing local dishes for us. So we met the authentic Spain also from the gastronomy point of view.
To understand how it was there, think that the inhabitants had never seen foreigners. And suddenly they saw 15 people from different nationalities of Europe (France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Romania, Greece of course), plus a Mexican.
And since they didn’t know when they would see strangers again, they didn’t waste the opportunity.
In the municipal hostel, there was also a tavern. And every night we had a fiesta with the villagers. Regardless if on working days we had to wake up early, since we worked in morning hours because of the heat (it was July).
And I assure you that the fiesta in the unknown Spain is like in the known one: till you drop.
But on Saturdays, when we didn’t have to wake up early, the village was not enough for the festive mood of the team.
Then the nearby city, Medina de Rioseco, was taking over. There were regular bars, which “occupied” us until 7 am. Many bars, not one. And when we say town, we mean 4000 inhabitants. Better not calculate how many bars per inhabitant…
Here surely we are no longer in the Spain of Don Quixote. It seems that this exists now only in villages of up to five hundred inhabitants. The number of Tordehumos.
Besides all this, we also τοοκ walks around the village. Up to the castle, for example.
The view from the castle
Tordehumos from the castle
A walk around the village. A pigeon house of mud bricks
Inside the pigeon house
Visiting the province
But we didn’t see only Tordehumos. They gave us bikes and we visited the whole region. Castile is mainly a vast plain, so moving was easy. Besides, we also had cars for the most distant places.
One of the most interesting villages we visited was Urueña. Still closed within the walls, like in the Middle Ages.
Urueña. Walking on the walls
Urueña. Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Anunciada (Hermitage of the Annunciation). It dates from the 11th century, therefore it’s one of the earliest Romanesque monuments of Spain. Such monuments exist only in northern Spain since the south was liberated from the Arabs centuries later, during the Renaissance
Another visit was to the monastery of Santa Espina (Holy Thorn). It was founded in the 12th century (although the current buildings date from the 16th). It’s called thus because one of its relics is a thorn believed to come from the Crown of Thorns and arrived here from the Holy Land.
Santa Espina, 16th century
But I left the “best” for the end.
Wamba is the only place in Spain whose name contains the letter W.
But that’s not the only peculiarity of this village.
Wamba is mainly known for its ossuary, one of the largest in the world.
Inside the church of Santa Maria, from the 12th to the 18th century, the bones of thousands of people were gathered.
The church of Santa Maria, of the 12th century. Romanesque again
After seeing them and shuddering as much as possible (namely, not too much, since even in the ossuary of St. James we found several bones while cleaning it), we returned to Tordehumos.
Where another fiesta awaited us in the municipal hostel. To celebrate our presence in the world of the living.
About the author
Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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