Soria. Having arrived the previous evening on dusk my main priority was to buy provisions, find some wifi (at the ‘Golden Arches’ Restaurant – fast appearing in every Spanish city and town of significance) and sort out a local SIM card for my phone. Mission accomplished I then wound my way around the town and down to a large parking area beside the river and under the Hermitage of San Saturio, which stood flood-lit on the opposite bank of the river Duero (see previous post ‘Cascante to Soria – Into Castile y Leon‘).
It was a wet and blustery night, but the rain had petered out before dawn to leave an overcast morning with a chilly breeze, no doubt funnelled along the river by the low cliffs on either bank. With breakfast out of the way it was time for a quick ‘constitutional’ to blow away the cobwebs before pressing on to Coca in order to make a rendez-vous the following day at Salamanca.
A new walking and cycling path runs along the river bank and a bridge spans the river to the Sanctuary of San Saturio perched on a rocky outcrop on the cliff of the opposing bank. This was also the first time I had encountered the practice whereby local ‘sweethearts‘ attach a love [pad]lock, or pair of padlocks, bearing their initials, or sometimes their names or a brief couplet, to a bridge, railings or any other suitable structure at a favoured local spot.
The Hermitage of San Saturio dates back to the C6th. when, according to tradition, a local nobleman gave away all his possessions to the poor and went to live in poverty in some caves on the banks of the Duero river. In 1698 a new complex of buildings was erected on the site, incorporating the several grottoes, that included a cave chapel, dedicated to St. Miguel, a ‘Heros’ room and a meeting room for the Town Council.
Alas, there was no time to explore the town, and so I hit the road and struck out across plain towards Aranda de Duero, passing through a landscape, that once again, bore echoes of the wheatbelt of Western Australia.
Aranda came and went and in so doing I had to forfeit the chance to visit the labyrinth of tunnels, cut between the C12th. and C17th. to store wine and food, that lie beneath the town centre.
By mid afternoon the landscape was becoming more hilly, with ever more and larger vineyards, as I approached Penafiel. This was a small town I would have liked to have been able to spend some time exploring.
As is invariably the case the history of human habitation in the vicinity dates back into pre-history, but the current town was re-founded in 912 AD and became an important regional centre during the medieaval period.
As well as being a major wine producing region of Spain, it is also a large cereal producing region. In the 1950’s Penafiel, could boast of three flour mills and several biscuit factories, the latter employing large numbers of young women; this at a time when female employment in Spain was all but unheard of.
Perhaps the main tourist attraction is the award-winning, €36 million Winery and Warehouse of the Bodegas, ‘Protos’, designed by the British architect, Richard Rogers, that sits below the castle.
Castillo Penafiel, sits on a spur of high ground above the town and due to it’s unusual shape, it is known locally as the ‘Ship of Castile’. Being long and very thin it appears as if only one wall has been built, like a giant Victorian folly. Documents attest to a fortress on the site as early as the C9th., however the current castle dates from the C15th. There are numerous tunnels, extending for upto 200m, under the castle in which local wine was cellar-ed.
The town can also boast unusual and historic square, the Plaza del Coso, which dates back to the C14th. It is bounded entirely by private houses, to who’s balconies the Town Council has easement rights during festivals and which it auctions off to the public. In the Medieaval period the square was use for jousting tournaments and festivals and the first recording of bulls being released into the square and streets was in 1433.
Leaving Penafiel with the sun getting low in the sky I continued on through a landscape that once again open out into broad arable cropping with potatoes (being harvested above) being the last crop in evidence before the road plunged into the pine forest, in the heart of which lay, Coca.
After a fun and nostalgic run down some sandy dirt roads I reached Coca, just as the sun was setting and in time to park opposite the castle for the night.