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Thursday, 6 September 2012

El Cid Route and Xàtiva Castle


 On returning from Alicante where we had dropped off some of the guests who had been staying in the Casita, we decided to drop in at a stunning castle that we could see set high up on a rocky outcrop.  The Castle can be visited at any time although it is not possible to go inside or get a guided tour without phoning in advance.  There are days that you do not need to do this - and they are posted on the gate, but the times are very specific.

 The castle is known as Castillo de Sax and there is a history of it and its defences written in both Spanish and English for tourists to read.  It was scorchingly hot and one could imagine how it must have been sweating it out up the steep access road to the fortifications in the middle ages, either on foot as a poor person or in armour on horseback.

As we came down from the castle and headed out of the town we noticed the sign "CaminoCid" which is a cultural route through Spain.  There is a really super biking blog (motorbike) with some lovely pictures taken if you want to read more about doing it this way.

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=501168

Route of El Cid is a cultural route through the provinces of Burgos and Soria, Castile and Leon, Spain.  Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (El Cid), a military and political leader, was born in Vivar around the year 1043, in a town that is known as Vivar del Cid. He was educated in the Castilian royal court, serving the prince Sancho II, who later became the Spanish king. Sancho was assassinated in the year 1072, and El Cid served now the new king Alfonso, brother of Sancho, until the exile of El Cid, likely because of entering Granada with troops and without any authorization of Alfonso. 
The influences of El Cid Campeador, the epical and historical mounted knight from Castilla (Castile), have marked traditions, customs and places through which he passed, as he left Burgos in exile towards Valencia. This route allows tourists to discover the legendary past of this universal myth.
 

Another good website to check out is:  http://www.turismoburgos.org/index.php?L=2&id=1454 where it will give you accommodation and maps of cities etc.

Having visited the castle Michael and I were determined to be "tourists" at least for a couple of days before he returned to RSA for work.  One of those days was devoted to the beautiful castle of Xàtiva - a must for anyone interested in history or who wishes to see the stunning views from the top of the castle's hill.  It is awe inspiring to imagine how anyone could build these castles in the locations where they are set - especially when one considers the time they were built, in this case, the 10th Century.  The strategic Roman Road - Via Augusta - runs below it and is the longest Roman road on the Iberian Peninsula.  It and the Camino Levante (Valencian Camino de Santiago) run together for a distance through the Province - more on that in a later blog.

In 1092, the Almoravids Dynasty took the castle. In 1145, troops following Marwan Abd-al-Aziz (the Governor of Valencia) attacked and removed the Almoravids from the castle. In 1171, Xativa Castle was attacked again, and fell into the hands of the Almohades.

On May 22, 1244, after five long months, King James I of Aragon captured Xativa Castle. Here, the Treaty of Jativa was signed by Christian King James I of Aragon and the Muslim commander Ibn Hud in Xativa. The treaty laid out generous terms of surrender to the Moors where they are allowed to hold on the Castle of Xativa for a period of two years before handing it over to the Christian monarchy.

Xativa Castle actually exists in two parts, the Upper Castle and the older pre-Roman Lower Castle. Some of the interesting parts of the Upper Castle are the Queen Mary Chapel which contains the tomb of the Count of Urgell, the Hall of the Duke of Calabria, and the State Prison of the Kings of the Crown Aragon, which once held the King of Mallorca and James of Aragon.

The Lower Castle is not as large as the Upper Castle, but there is the Torre I Balco De La Reina Himilce, which is a balcony on the Queens Tower from which one can see a great view of the Upper Castle. This tower is said to have been named for Himilce, wife of Hannibal the Roman, who occupied this castle at one time.  
(Taken from - http://www.squidoo.com/spanishcastles3)


According to the castle info - Hannibal's wife gave birth to their son in the castle from the tower where the window faces onto the Upper Castle - the photo taken above is the possible view she would have had if the location of her room is correct.  It's just amazing to stand on stones where maybe Hannibal himself stood!  Just along from this view are the castle stables - surprisingly small for the number of horses that must have been needed by the occupants but for all those who are interested in the history of horses and shoes (friends from RSA and UK will be familiar with this one) it is easy to understand why the hooves would have started to suffer under such conditions and led to humans considering using some form of shoe to protect them.  We don't know for sure if this theory is true of course, but it is entirely understandable when standing the the stables at Xàtiva castle.

View from Xativa Castle - the bull ring can be
seen clearly to the right
There is a restaurant in the castle and it is possible to drive up and park close to the entrance and even have lunch there without actually paying the entry fee and looking around the castle if you don't wish to do this, however, it really is well worth the walk.  The total distance around the Upper Castle is 1km.  It is hot and there is little shade so take a hat and some water, depending on when you go.  An ice cold beer back at the restaurant is very welcome on return and there is also a drinking fountain to replenish water bottles at the entrance.  

The town has some fascinating history including the fact that the infamous Borgia family comes from Xàtiva. Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI, 1492 – 1503) was born here and I found some information that says that every year since 2010 the city has organised a renaissance weekend which recreates Xàtiva at the time of the Borgias. The streets are covered with straw, and medieval stalls are erected where you can buy food and hand-crafted wares.  Apparently it was held mid April this year but I don't know if it is generally and April festival.  It will be something I keep an ear to the ground for though!  Some of the history is displayed in the castle along with the fascinating information that Xàtiva is also known as an early European centre of paper manufacture when in the 12th century, Arabs brought the technology of how to manufacture it to the town.  Instead of papyrus, rice and straw were used, a method apparently still used in some Arabic countries today.  Xàtiva became home to the first paper mill in Europe.

I could not of course end off this blog without including a picture of the precious girls.  Ndzilo was having a day off as she thinks she is a spring chicken but after gallivanting about often has a sore paw at the grand age of 12 and is not up to quite the length of run the girls are.  Here they are posing with my "birthday present" (I love it!!!) a bicycle.  Notice the attachment which has a quick release for the dogs.  They are getting really good now and we often take a trip into town to the PO or for shopping where they will tie up (not to the bicycle while they wait of course!!) and down stay outside while I do the chores.



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