From Madrid I pull further South. Again, I arrive in the region of Castilla – La Mancha.
Piggy gets a location on the outskirts of Toledo, in the vicinity of the River Tagus (El Tajo) The folding bike is being removed from the luggage box and a first exploration of the picturesque town is made. A stunning panorama of the town unfolds from the ring road. The last hours of the afternoon I can enjoy the sun and the heat. This is perfect.
The next day the perfect weather is over. There is a rain front coming and will cover the sky for the next 6 – 7 days. So next morning the first exploration of the town is in pouring rain. Even in this time of the year many tourists come over to visit this walled town. Its narrow streets are populated with photographing Chinese, Japanese and other nationalities. I am one of them.
I visit cathedrals, synagogues, monasteries and mosques until I get tired of it. Going south from Toledo you get in touch with increasing Moorish influences.
On the way to Córdoba I make a small detour to the small villages of Consuegra and Campo de Criptana. Who says “Castilla-La Mancha” instantly thinks of Don Quijote, The Man from La Mancha. Many hilltops in this area are marked by the distinctive white windmills, known from the story of Don Quijote. The villages with their narrow, steep alleys and their white painted houses gives you the feeling of stepping into the time of this knight.
I send Piggy across the hilly landscape of rusted earth, green olive groves and still “trunky” vineyards. A very nice setting. The country roads are not busy and sometimes I feel I’m the only cruiser in this beautiful landscape. Fortunately the sun shows itself occasionally.
By then, it is over with the ”Sunny South”. After some searching I find a place next to a huge Carrefour supermarket in Córdoba. Right in the mud and puddles. I stay there for two days and explore the city, wrapped in warm sweater and rain gear, on my, meanwhile, loyal folding bike. I’m so glad I brought this bike. I keep my expensive travel bicycle for longer distances and want to prevent it from being stolen in a big city.
Cordoba has already more Moorish influences than Toledo. The gigantic mosque, La Mezquita, is one example. In pouring rain I add myself in the long queue waiting in front of the counter to buy a ticket. It’s worth waiting for. It is a huge area with horseshoe-shaped Moorish arches in which a large cathedral was built in later times after the Christians conquered the city. Thus there is a sort of hybrid origin of Muslim and Christian architecture. After more than two hours of admiration I wander through the maze of narrow streets in the old Jewish quarter.
It keeps on raining and therefore I decide to leave again. Between Córdoba and Granáda I make an effort for a bike ride in the hilly area of Luque and Zuheros, at the edge of the “Parque Natural Sierras Subbéticas”. Between the white picturesque villages of this area there was once a railway line and here a most charming cycle route is created between the endless olive groves interspersed with small railway stations. The villages are usually located on the top of a hill dominated by a castle and, of course, an imposing cathedral. Unfortunately, the rain continues so that the bike ride is really uncomfortable after a few hours.
In Granáda the clouds finally allow some sunbeams to penetrate. Slowly it gets slightly warmer and lets me feel comfortable.
Alhambra !! A collection of palaces, forts, gardens with fountains and a lesson in Moorish architecture. It sounds like a fairy tale in my ears. For a long time it is placed on my wishing list. I forgot that it is wise to buy a ticket well in advance because, of course, it is a world known tourist attraction. By coincidence I walk past a sales office where they have one last ticket available for the next day. But, alas, not for the entire complex. I shall have to wait for 2 more days to see the most beautiful part of the complex, but only at half past 10 in the evening. The timing, the lack of natural light and the returning rain make me conclude to skip this last part and decide to take a ticket only for the next day.
At half past nine the gates are open. At that time the bustle is still reasonable, but by midday it is no longer possible to make a reasonable photo without a pack of people before the lens.
Except Alhambra the city also contains other interesting locations like Albayzín, a maze of narrow alleys on the hillside next to Alhambra.It is Granada’s ancient Muslim quarter. And the huge “Catedral de Granada”
Despite the bad weather of the last few days I take the risk to visit Sierra Nevada, near Granáda. It seems I’ve made the right decision. The weather is beautiful. Sunglasses, short sleeves, window down. Piggy is guided excellently along the narrow winding roads with deep ravines of the southern part of the Sierra Nevada, the Alpujarras. At the moment I’m already five days on a nice simple camping site with a view on the white village of Trevélez. Here the Iberico ham was invented. Ham dryers are spread all over this place.
It is a peaceful place. View of the snowy peaks, cow- and sheep bells in the background. Currently I’m writing this with a swollen knee. The last 3 days I made big mountain tours together with two nice German sisters. The last day we climbed and reached the summit of the 3482m high Pico de Mulhacén. The highest peak of Spain. In particular, the descent of the steep sections have been an attack on my knees. A little rest will do wonders in this case. It is already going a lot better.