Central Spain - The Heart of Spain
The trip starts and ends in Madrid. 7½ riding days and 7 overnight stays.
During the trip we will pass impressive towns and monuments dating back to these ancient times. And not to forget, will of course see ourselves in the impressive Spanish nature with landscapes far away from the pulsating traffic crossing or driving along several smaller, but impressive mountain ranges – in fact, we will literally drive from mountain range to the next.
The Gredos Mountains and Ávila - World Heritage City
We will leave Madrid in the afternoon and drive to one of the more impressive World Heritage towns of Spain, Ávila, and stay for the night. The town is the highest situated provincial town of Spain and is surrounded by the longest and best maintained ring walls in Europe.
The next day will drive in the Gredos mountain range – we will have numerous curves ahead of us, we will cross passes with excellent views and for the night we reside in one of the most picturesque villages in the region and we will enjoy the local food and atmosphere. The following day we continue in the Gredos mountains, we will stop for café con leche in a small village now famous for its Jewish quarter- it was here that some Jews chose to live when the catholic monarchs instigated their reign in the late 15’th century. We move on to one of the larger towns in the province of Salamanca which can be described as a frontier fortress. Founded in 1150, we find another splendid walled fortified city and we will stay overnight in a 14’th century palace.
The following day we bike towards the south and continue to pass though small mountainous areas and small villages. We will stop for lunch in the most picturesque village in the region. We continue to our destination which is a larger village which fathered several of the conquistadors, the noble men who went to the Americas to conquer the new land. We stay here for two nights.
Cáceres, another World Heritage City
Ahead of us on this roundtrip-day we stop for lunch in another of the World Heritage cities, Cáceres, which unmistakably has character of both Christian and Moorish architecture. The old part of the town will take you 500 years back in time. Also, as a part of the days itinerary, we will – in the middle of nowhere, no tourists in sight – make a stop at the highest Roman bridge ever built. It still stands there, proud and majestic, and once and in while a local car or tractor pass this wide monumental bridge.
The isolated Toledo Mountains and Toledo
We move onwards to Toledo, the city of three cultures. On our way we bike over wide plains and later through the Montes de Toledo mountains which are famous for their beauty and the atmosphere of desolation - during the day we will drive along a stretch of 70 km will pass no village at all – we are far away from civilization. We arrive in Toledo where will stay for two nights. We take a walk in the city in the evening and find a good local restaurant.
The following day we do a round trip to some of the high lights of the region in which Toledo is situated, Castilla la Mancha. We pass impressive villages and fortresses and not least the famous wind mills so well described in Cervantes’ novel ‘Don Quijote’.
The last driving day, the route will takes us to the destination, the pulsating capital, Madrid. Once there we will have a fare-well dinner in a one of city’s oldest restaurants, right in the middle of the old part of the city.
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A bit of spanish history - Romans and Moors
From early in the 8’th century until late 15’th century large parts of Spain were occupied and ruled by the Moors. The Moors, which were Berbers from Morocco, had in only 4 years conquered most of the peninsula.
Some centuries earlier – from around 200 B.C. to approx 400 A.C., the Romans were in power – they called the country Hispania which means the ‘far-away country’. From the Roman times, a large number of monumental and impressive sites such as theaters, roads, bridges and aqueducts remain. Early during their reign, large amounts of silver and gold were excavated in the north eastern region of Spain. The Romans built a road, the Silver Route, which connects Gijon in the north with Merida in the south, in order to be able to protect and transport the vast amount of the precious metals to Seville in the South for shipment to Rome.
When the moors had invaded Spain in 711, the Christians began within a few years to retake the country – the reconquista - step by step. As a consequence, numerous fortresses – castillos – were built, especially in the region north of Madrid, Castilla y Leon. It is estimated that around 7 – 8.000 castillos were built during the reconquista. The ruler of the Moors, the caliph, resided in Córdoba in Andalusia and during this period culture, trade and science flourished. Also it was characteristic for the period, that Christians, Moors and Jews lived peacefully together and specifically Toledo is famous for this and hence is called the city of three cultures.
When the last Moors were expelled by the Christians in 1492, a new and pronounced period began – the times of the empire - which lasted towards the end of the 17’th century - as well as times with an exceptional focus on Catholicism. The rulers who won back the final regions of Spain from the Moors, the Catholic Monarchs, gave an ultimatum to both Moors and Jews – convert or leave. Many left with severe economic consequences for many cities and some chose to stay. Those who chose to stay, often went to live very in isolated villages in order to be able to continue to practice their own religion.
Coincidently, the same year as the last Moors were expelled, Columbus discovered what later would be named Las Americas. The era of the empire had begun and over the coming decades the king gave concessions to numerous noble men to conquer local tribes and establish themselves as governors of new states belonging to the Spanish throne.
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