Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Tale of Two Pueblos

This weekend, Amanda and I went on day trips to two different Spanish cities.  Soria is a small city in the community of Castilla y Leon, and Manzanares is a town in the northern end of the community of Madrid.

Ermita de San Saturio
Soria was first.  This excursion was a mandatory part of two Instituto Franklin classes.  In her Oral Traditions of Spain class, Amanda read poems by Antonio Machado that are set in the town, so the trip highlighted places featured in the poems.  I’m in neither of the classes, but there was extra space on the bus.  So, I signed up to go anyway, because who turns down a free trip to a new part of Spain?

Soria is up in a cooler, wetter part of Spain, but we were lucky.  While it rained all day in Madrid on Friday, it stayed dry in Soria.  The two main highlights of the trip were the ruins of the 12th century monastery of San Juan de Duero and the Ermita de San Saturio.  The latter was one of the most interesting and impressive buildings I have ever seen.  The hermitage is built right into the mountain over the river and incorporates the natural caverns, so when you enter the building, it’s actually like walking into a cave.  But as you go up the stairs, you gradually climb out of the caverns and into a building, with an ornate sanctuary and some classrooms with hardwood floors.  The view from the top over the River Duero was beautiful.

Castillo Manzanares El Real
(After it stopped raining!)
On Saturday, Amanda and I set out on our second solo adventure, this time to a town called Manzanares.  We began with plenty of time, but due to the fact that the bus station at Plaza Castilla in Madrid is a multi-level labyrinth in which you could accidently wander for days, we barely made it onto our bus.  It was a rainy morning, which made it difficult to see through the cloudy windows on the bus, so we nearly missed our stop, but we luckily did stumble off the bus in Manzanares.  A helpful lady in the tourism office pointed us in the direction of the castle.  A short walk later, we found shelter from the rain within Castillo Manzanares el Real.  Built in the 1400’s and restored at various times over the last 70 years, the castle is a truly impressive structure with panoramic views of the mountains on one side and the reservoir on the other.

What’s even cooler than a medieval castle?  A medieval castle full of dashing Spanish swordsmen! (and swordswomen!)  On Saturday, Manzanares played host to la Jornada de Esgrima Antigua, or a day of antique fencing.  Part exhibition, part lecture, and part social gathering, this event drew fencers from various historical fencing schools and clubs across Spain.  Many fought in costume from the same era as their weapons, although many wore contemporary athletic clothes, protective gear, and Nikes.  We got to watch a fencing class and later a demonstration of battle in full armor.  One of these armored knights agreed to pose for a UCF picture with us!  He was super nice and chatted with us in English and Spanish for quite some time, and even encouraged us to take up fencing when we returned home to the U.S!

My favorite part was that this event was very casual.  During siesta time when there were no official demonstrations going on, most of the fencers hung out together up on the wall top or other parts of the castle, either chatting or sparring or goofing around.  This sword fighting in such a picturesque setting was like spending a day on a movie set.  You could turn around a corner and stumble upon an epic battle for control of the tower.  Everyone we met was friendly, and the fencers and spectators alike all seemed to be having a great time.  It was so much fun!  I would definitely recommend Manzanares to any traveler to Spain, especially if such a visit could coincide with this event!


  1. Looks like you guys are having a great time! You won't want to come back to UCF!

    But you should. We would miss you too much..

  2. I would be up for fencing classes :D