Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cuenca, Castilla La Mancha

I just love it that there are places in Spain where nature & architecture blend together so well, they truly fascinate. White-washed houses built underneath rocks, cave dwellings burrowed into mountains, and medieval houses constructed in a precarious fashion hanging over a gorge? Here’s another UNESCO World Heritage site for you.

One ‘not so’ fine day (well it was sleeting), I decided to check out the famous Casas Colgadas / Hanging Houses, located in the city of Cuenca in Castilla La Mancha. These are in the old upper part of the city, or Ciudad Alta, which is perched on top a steep mountain, sandwiched between the Júcar River at the back and the Huécar River at the front.

Above left: View of the Casas Colgadas which existed since the 14th Century, from the opposite side.
Above right: The snow-covered bridge that brings you across.

Above: The Casas Colgadas with their wooden balconies projecting out over the gorge.

Such houses were known to be prevalent in this city back in the old days. However, only 3 were restored in the last century and maintained ever since. Hence they have become the emblematic monuments of Cuenca.

One of them is called Casa de la Sirena (House of the Mermaid) and it is today a tavern, while the other two are known as Casas del Rey (Houses of the King) and they’re now the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art.

Above: The iron & wooden St. Paul bridge (Puente de San Pablo) which was rebuilt in 1902.

This bridge rises 60m above the gorge and connects the old part of town to the St. Paul Convent, the building in the background above, which has been converted into a Parador de Turismo (i.e., a national chain of hotels converted from former palaces, castles, or monasteries to give them a new lease of life, at the same time boosting tourism while preserving architectural heritage).

Not far away from the Casas Colgadas is Cuenca's Plaza Mayor. This is where two of the city's most important buildings are located - the Cathedral and the Town Hall.

Above: The Cathedral of Santa María de Gracia / Our Lady of Grace.

Above: A small fountain near the cathedral.

Above: Plaza Mayor of Cuenca and the Town Hall building with the three arches at its base.

Above: The delightful, brightly coloured buildings along the stretch of Calle Alfonso VIII.

For more information on Cuenca, click here.

P/S: Truth is, my actual destination that day was to a place that was a little farther off called “La Ciudad Encantada” (The Enchanted City). We had stopped briefly in Cuenca City en route. I didn’t make it there in the end thanks to the rain followed by snow which got even heavier. I was lucky that I could even make it back to Madrid!
So, wait for my post on La Ciudad Encantada, it will happen soon...hopefully!

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