Castilla y León Region

Castile Leon

 

Castile Leon or in Spanish Castilla y León…Spain’s past glories are closely related to those of Castilla y León the grandeur of its army victorious in the struggle against the Muslim domination and triumphant in a thousand battles in Europe where the Spanish infantry laid down the law for over two hundred years from Naples to Antwerp.  The strength of Castilla y León is represented by Queen Isabel I who funded the discovery of the New World, directed the last victory in the expulsion of the Muslims from Granada and ultimately united the various Spanish kingdoms through her marriage to Fernando de Aragón.  The place Spain held in the world along with the conquest of the New World and the domination in Europe was a feat led by the kingdom of Castile Leon.  Its outcome, beyond all controversy, is that over 400 million people now a day’s speak the language of Castile, Castellano.

castile-leon-landscape     Somewhere in Castilla León by Tito Alfredo on Flickr.

Castilla y León is an enormous region that we will navigate with the help of some geometry, first tracing a straight line through the North from the East in La Rioja to the west ending in Santiago de Compostela.  The legendary Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) traveled by thousands of pilgrims since the Middle Ages, marks the North border of Castilla y León.   In fact, it travels through two of the region’s most beautiful cities Burgos and León with their Gothic cathedrals considered among the finest in Spain.  In addition to the Gothic splendor of these two cities sprinkled along the way are a number of Romanesque churches like St. Martin de Frómista in Palencia.  After León el Camino de Santiago makes its way into Galicia an interesting region entirely different from Castile Leon.  

 From León, a city founded by Roman legions, we draw another straight line this time north to south, following la Via de La Plata, a historic Roman road that linked the gold mines of León and Asturias to the Roman cities of Mérida and Sevilla.  Following this road heading south like the Arabs and the farmers who for five hundred years led their heard in search of fresh pastures, south in the winter and north in the summer, we arrive in Salamanca home to one of the oldest universities in Europe with an exceptional artistic patrimony.  Before arriving in Salamanca we find the city of Zamora an exceptional Romanesque compound in which during Semana Santa (Holy Week) the town holds a very austere and dramatic procession, very Castilian. 

 Now that we have formed a straight angle with its apex in León we can now close the triangle by drawing a line from the point where the Camino de Santiago enters Castilla on the border with la Rioja through the mountains south of Salamanca.  This diagonal takes us through Soria a striking Castilian city with splendid Romanesque churches located on the banks of the Duero River in the northern slopes of the Central System of the peninsula which divides Spain in two, separating Castilla y León from Castilla La Mancha.  Continuing north from Soria we reach Segovia and its magnificent Roman Aqueduct, situated only half an hour away from Madrid by the AVE train it is an excursion to the heart of Castilla that will catile-leon-segovia-aqueductnot disappoint.  Segovia’s historic quarters includes a splendid Gothic cathedral, several Romanesque churches and a magnificent Alcazar.  To the southwest on the road to Salamanca we come across Ávila an amazing medieval walled city, cradle of exceptional women as Santa Teresa de Jesus or Isabel Queen of Castilla born in the town of Madrigal de las Altas Torres.  From Ávila we are a stone throw away from Salamanca thus closing the triangle.

The interior of the region is comprised of a vast landscape among which is the valley of el Duero with the city of Valladolid as a reference.  Valladolid is the most populous city of Castile Leon and at one point was the capital of Spain.  The National Museum of Sculptures here is definitely worth a visit to really grasp the significance of the Catholic faith in Castilla.  The region is plagued with medieval castles, monasteries and convents, Gothic cathedrals, Romanesque churches and Renaissance palaces.   Besides its immense wealth of historical and cultural treasures Castile Leon offers some of the loveliest scenery with a marvelous blue sky that rises above the endless fields of golden yellow in summertime.  This ancient land has been unkind to its forests but fortunately still retains significant pockets of pine forests in Soria and Ávila as well as oaks in the northern mountains of León, Palencia and Burgos.  Soria also has numerous clumps of beech and juniper and in León ancient chestnut forests can be found.  Here roam some of the largest packs of wolves left in Europe and brown bears, found are also large colonies of vultures and other raptors.  The region has excellent trout fishing and travelers can still unearth the last remaining native crabs

Known as the land of roasts let’s not forget to mention the thousands of furnaces that roast tender lambs and piglets providing some of the most succulent dishes of the Castilian table.  Stews are also common using chickpeas (garbanzo beans) as the main ingredient as well as soups such as sopa castellana a simple but tasty soup with bread and garlic as the main ingredients.  To accompany these tasty foods wine is always a good choice as Castilla y León produces some of the best wines in Spain and the world like those of Ribera Del Duero, Toro, Cigales and Bierzo.

 

Castile Leon is the land of castles, kings and history celebrated by poets and admired by travelers, the cradle of the Spanish language and one of Spain's largest regions offering visitors not only an insight in Spain's past splendor but the greatness of its valleys, mountains, forests and incredible wealth of fauna and flora.

 

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