A EUROPEAN Union rule that requires English to be the official language between pilots and air-traffic controllers has come into force – and, curiously, even applies where both parties share a native tongue that is...
Villages of austere beauty, rising above stone and slate terraces, are set between pine trees, oaks and chestnuts amid the murmur of water
The local authorities pulled at their hair... there was no milk in Las Hurdes, no goats or cows or any animal that could be milked to meet the king’s request.
But what the land couldn’t give, the people could. They served the king a glass of milk from a woman who had recently given birth.
At that time I had not visited Las Hurdes: the land without bread, the land of philosopher Luis Buñuel, and I did not even understand surrealism.
But I decided to make myself a little more grown up if I was allowed to go to Las Hurdes and find out the truth of the story and of the courage of people who dug up food from beneath the stones.
No-one from the area could tell me if the anecdote was true, but I discovered the only real truth in this area is that these people never lose heart.
Philosopher and writer Miguel de Unamuno had already said it: "If all over the world man is the child of the earth, in Las Hurdes the earth is the child of man."
All around Las Hurdes the worked terraces on the mountainsides remind us of Machu Pichu in Peru or any rice field in Asia.
To make these terraces, the field workers carried up the soil in baskets, often balanced on their heads. That is how they beat hunger. And that is how this unique landscape was born.
Hard working and ingenious, the people of Las Hurdes are upset that for many years other Spaniards used the saying ‘This isn’t Las Hurdes, you know’ every time they wanted to assert the modernity of their village.
This, on the other hand, really is Las Hurdes. In the extreme north of the province of Cáceres between the Gata mountain range and the Alagón river.... one of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable lying just a few hours from Madrid.
Verdure and water. Slate and rock-rose. Freshly-born streams that trickle over the slate quarries. Junipers, oaks and chestnuts. Natural pools. Suddenly everything seems rich and abundant in today’s Las Hurdes. And above all the flowers that burst forth everywhere in spring and invade the fields as an army of fairy lights.
Although the people of Las Hurders deny the fact, Buñuel and Unamuno gave them world fame. Even though it was as a paradise of hardship. Today’s Las Hurdes is prosperous and welcoming. Stone and slate houses, white hermitages, terraces covered in flowers. This is Las Hurdes now.
We can visit Las Hurdes at our leisure, because any starting point is a good one. We can, for example, enjoy a sweet start in Aldehuela, a village full of honey and even better houses. This is the typical architecture of Las Hurdes, with slate, stone and green serenity, where a quarter of an hour seems to last a whole hour, yet the hours are too short.
All around Las Hurdes the low stone houses with their slate roofs melt so completely into the countryside that sometimes we don’t even realise we have reached a village until we are right on top of it.
In Asegur the houses show off their open stonework that makes us feel we are visiting a picture-postcard village of the Tirol. But in fact we continue in Las Hurdes - for the good of our spirit and our tastebuds. For today’s Las Hurdes is not the ‘land without bread’, it is the area where we can enjoy excellent roast lamb with garlic, savoury breadcrumbs, cabbage stew, lemon salad and chestnuts in milk.
Before arriving at Caminomorisco, the largest village in the district, we can stop in Cambrocino and visit the church of Santa Catalina. The villages round here have an austere beauty as though they had never laughed or they had laughed themselves dry.
That is why this is a beauty that does not tire but rather becomes more enjoyable as we continue along the secondary roads always threatened by the flowers that come to meet us at every ditch as though wanting to capture us and make us stay here f
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