After a cooler and breezier day in Placencia again, it was time to head back into the countryside and to press on along the southern edge of the Sierra de Gredos. As if, in acknowledgement, the breeze had departed and the sun was out making it a gloriously bright, almost hot, late autumn day.
Driving to Jaraiz de la Vera along the EX-203, I turned northward up into the hills through the remnant yellows and gold of deciduous oak and chestnut forest to the small town of Garganta la Olla. Small fig and cherry orchards abound as well as some raspberry production under poly tunnels, along with the ubiquitous stone-walled terraces, although the latter often appear to have become redundant.
As is the pattern with most of the villages and small towns in the hills, the historic core lies behind more modern expansion. The streets are deceptively wide on the approach through the modern development, but typically contract suddenly into the narrow, tortuous medieaval streets and lanes that are a nightmare for the unwary van lacking local knowledge!
Having long-since learned that the proverbial ‘discretion is the better part of valour’, I look for a suitable parking spot at the first hint of trouble ahead and venture on on foot.
The beauty of being on foot in the the narrow streets, where traffic is severely restricted in terms of access and speed, is that you can wander about gazing aloft where all manner of curious architectural features can be seen, from subtle Arabic crescent moons on roof finials, to rustic balconies and ancient timbers.
Looking out over the roof-tops of the old village at the church tower I was left wondering if it was sporting a ‘garderobe‘!
There is apparently a rich local folklore concerning human-like little green goblins that cast oaths (spells), a beautiful water nymph who offers men three golden daggers, or to love her (the greedy ones who take the valuable daggers wake up with them in their back!) as well as a large, milk-stealing hairy snake with horns called ‘The Bastard’, and numerous tales of visitations by the Devil, with the legs of a goat.
Finally there is the legend of ‘La Serrana de la Vera’; a beautiful amazon-like woman in the form of a hunter, possessing super-human strength and certain supernatural powers, who lives in the mountains. She is said to take the men who encounter her to her cave in the mountains where, after getting them drunk or having made love to them, she kills them and then keeps their bones.
‘Placencia to Losar de la Vera via Garganta la Olla, a Monastery and a Graveyard – Part 2.’ can be seen here.