TENOR Josep (José) Carreras has said his soprano colleague Montserrat Caballé's funeral was 'a beautiful service', but that it was 'a shame' there was not 'a bit more ' in the readings....
If these walls could talk
The stories hidden within the castles and watchtowers on our coastline…
Most of us, when we first visited Spain, expected to find golden, sun-drenched beaches, palm trees and orange groves – and those who are familiar with Don Quijote probably anticipated mountains, castles and windmills.
Whilst we can’t promise windmills to newcomers to the Comunidad Valenciana and Murcia, the rest can be found in abundance.
Leaving the palm-fringed beaches aside for a moment, a closer look at the castles reveals an intriguing insight into the way the population of Spain lived in Mediaeval times. Many were built during the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula as a refuge against enemy hostilities and a handy place to spy on them so they could get prepared if the troops came closer, hence their typical location on top of a mountain. For the same reason, later inhabitants of Spain built a number of watchtowers along the coast, many of which remain fully-intact, apparently untouched by the hand of time and undamaged by the elements.
It is highly likely that there is at least one castle or tower in the town you live in, and that you have always been meaning to pop along and investigate. To whet your appetite, here are some descriptions of a few of the best-known castles and watchtowers in the two regions.
El Castillo de Santa Ana, Oliva
Starting in la Safor, in the south of the Valencia province, is the ruin of Santa Ana, which sits on top of a hill above the town and is reached by a colourful calvario hidden by a dense pine forest.
Oliva formed part of the Muslim kingdom of Dénia and depended upon the Castle of Rebollet at the other end of the town after the reconquest, although Santa Ana was built around two hundred years earlier by the Moors.
Little remains of it now besides a wall, cordoned off by metal fencing, although the view from the top over the entire town is spectacular and rumour has it that the entrance to a cave, found in the castle grounds, leads to a number of houses in the old town. At night, it is spookily lit-up and takes on the appearance of a haunted house.
Torre Guaita, Xeraco
Located on the Xeraco-Tavernes border on the right bank of the river Vaca (also known as the river Xeraco), the Guaita watch tower was built in the 16th century – long after the Moors had been expelled from the peninsula, but still during a time when Berber (North African) pirates were likely to attack.
A cylindrical tower, almost cone-shaped and around seven-and-a-half metres high, it has just one entrance door with a narrow window above it for monitoring the coastline.
El Castillo de Forna
High on a hill above the hamlet of Forna - which has come under the jurisdiction of the village of l’Atzúvia in the northern Marina Alta since time immemorial - and only accessible on foot, the square-shaped castle belonged to the wealthy Al-Azraq family before it was wrestled off them in 1262 in the twilight of the Moorish reign.
The castle is in a very deteriorated state but to the naked eye this is nearly impossible to tell – due to its robust construction it continues to be an impressive sight, both from a distance and close up, and the view from the top of the hill is breathtaking. The entire perimeter remains intact as do the four towers that support it, the oval-shaped entrance door and various features within it, such as wells, vaults, the staircase leading to the upper floor and the patio de armas.
Fortunately, plans are underway to restore the ruined parts of the castle to their former glory.
Whilst visiting the castle, take the opportunity to see Forna with its picture-postcard houses and narrow streets and pop into one of the small, friendly and inviting restaurants in the tiny village square.
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