on a tower
To Horcajuelo de la Sierra,
Buitrago del Lozoya
with its Picasso museum
This excursion was arranged by Club Bilingual who planned activities for English-speaking and Spanish-speaking people to help each person learn the other's language. We met that Saturday morning at the Templo de Debod not far from Plaza de España. This is a real Egyptian temple given to the Spanish in good will for helping to build the Aswan Dam. The temple, if not moved, would have been totally covered with water after the dam began operating. Shortly we left the temple in a small bus to see the towns of Horcajuelo de la Sierra and Buitrago del Lozoya. The country north of Madrid is wide-open, and many of the high towers (usually church towers) were popular with the stork population in the area. The picture (top, left) is the best photo of several I took of these big birds and their nests.
Almost to our destination we had a rest stop. As we were reboarding the bus, I snapped this picture to give you an idea of the scene (left 12K). The smiling lady is Justine who grew up in San Diego continuing her eduction to a master's degree in journalism. She had been in Spain then for about five months learning Spanish as a life's experience. She and Manuel were Club Bilingual's very able translation facilitators.
Horcajuelo de la Sierra is representative of many old towns to the north of Madrid. According to one Horcajuelo website, its name comes from horca (fork) meaning that it a town between two forks of a river. Upon arriving there we viewed many of the old buildings. I give you a representative model here (right 16K).
At the end of the 19th century, Horcajuelo had about 250 inhabitants, one of which was a blacksmith. It had been necessary to clear trees from the land for farming and grazing of livestock. The wood, in turn, fed the great industry of Carboneo (charcoal-making). The charcoal, in turn, fueled the blacksmith's forge. We entered an old building to find Horcajuelo's historic forge (left 2 pictures, 44K). Grabbing the blacksmith's hammer, Justine (right 20K) was ready to strike the blow to shape the metal. Timing is the very essence of this work, for you must "STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT!" - (Any metal is more difficult to work when cold.)
We visited an interesting restoration in progress: Paroquia de San Nicolás de Bari (St. Nicolás de Bari Parish) (left 32K).This church dates from the fifteenth century with baptismal records going back to 1528. The style is variously described as baroque or gothic. From studying the pictures on the Internet in 2004, I see differences from my picture confirming that they were still working on it then.
Our guides for this tour were two knowledgeable ladies from the area (right with Manuel 24K). While we were exploring the countryside just outside of town to learn about the flora of the region, I pointed out a perhaps appetizing mushroom growing in the grass. With great glee the ladies told me the common name for that mushroom was Pedo de Lobo (Wolf fart). I still can't tell you whether the mushroom is edible or not. I suspect not!
Before it got too late in the afternoon, we stopped at a typical Spanish restaurant (left 20K) especially chosen by Manuel, the one who organizes these outings. Afterwards we filled up on another craving: art. We stopped at a one-of-a-kind art museum in Buitrago devoted to paintings by Picasso. At the top of this page, you see my photo of a poster just inside the museum. And without flash the other paintings did not photograph well either. If you click on the thumbnail photograph of our group entering the museum (right 24K) you will be able to read a short history of the museum.
Buitrago has been declared an historical monument. This town, about 40 miles to the north of Madrid, was created by the Moors in the 11th century before being recaptured by the Spanish during the "Reconquest". It features high defensive walls with additional protection of the Lozoya River (left 36K). That automobile in the entrance gate shows the scale of Buitrago. The French took it over in 1808 for a brief period, and there are still French cannonball holes in some roofs (right 28K)
I stopped to peer over the parapets to see what was happening (left 20K). About a thousand years ago this town was on the frontier with the Moors whom the Spanish were fighting. It took more than 700 years to completely recapture Spain town by town with final victory occurring in 1492. They celebrated by giving Columbus a shot at a new trade route.
This closeup of the parapets (right 24K) was taken from just inside of the passageway through the watch tower (left).
It was early evening before our bus full of tired but enlightened explorers returned to Madrid.