Cuenca is a province in Castilla La Mancha, halfway point between Madrid and Valencia. I’ve unfortunately only been to the capital once, but I have criss-crossed the province by bus (and a few times by AVE) between Valencia and Madrid more times than I care to count. Castilla is the land of Quijote, and even today you can still imagine our favourite knight in crazy armour crossing the hot and dry (or cold and dry in the winter) land in search of ways to impress his beloved Dulcinea (most of the important places are in neighbouring Toledo though).
My visit to Cuenca was a Sunday in May in 2011 right before I was about to leave my beloved Valencia. I caught an early train from the San Isidre station, as they were still working with the then recently-opened AVE that runs between Madrid and Valencia (it’ll already celebrate its fifth anniversary this year?) . The train ride was about two hours. Now I could catch said AVE (and probably could have that day but was running low on cash). I walked around town, having my tostada con tomate and café con leche in a run-down bar near the Plaza Mayor and walked around some before arriving at the Hanging Houses. The houses were amazing, as is the Casco Viejo or Cuenca Alta. I hiked a little bit around the river to see some of the most amazing views of the city, and I crossed the bridges a ton to look at the city from different angles. I was tired so I caught an early train back, vowing to return with a fresh face. I am still waiting for that return visit.
I found this in my private journal from the day I went. I doubt myself too much, as that self-doubt still happens! It is sometimes good to look back and see how I’ve grown as a person and hopefully as a writer (although the private journal *is* for my eyes only!).
I went to Cuenca today. It was a three-hour train ride from Valencia. I nearly didn’t go. I couldn’t sleep last night. I woke up in a bad mood. I kept giving excuses not to go. I got to the train station to find out it left from Sant Isidre and not Valencia Nord. And the automatic ticket machine kept refusing my card (I need to get my new card before I move). So I caught the metro again. I stood there looking at the schedule not sure if I should go. And then I made myself buy the ticket. I slept some on the train but not much. Cuenca is a beautiful city in the mountains, very green, and very Medieval. It has “casas colgantes” and beautiful views. I ended up eating at 100 Montaditos, a now former fave because of all the changes they have made that are not conducive to my diet. Ah well. I caught the early train back due to all the metro issues in Valencia and because of how tired I am.
One thing I must point out to non-Spanish speakers here. Be very, very careful how you say you’re looking at Cuenca when describing it to a peninsular Spanish speaker. There is quite a difference between “estoy mirando ir a Cuenca” (I’m looking at going to Cuenca), “Estoy mirando Cuenca” (I am looking at Cuenca right now” and “Estoy mirando para Cuenca” (I want this site to stay work safe so I’m not saying!)
Las Casas Colgadas
High above the Río (River) Huécar, these hanging houses are Cuenca’s most famous landmark. In the 15th century, this type of architecture was quite common in Cuenca. Today, only a few remain, and these three are the most famous of the few. Today they house a mesón (restaurant) and Museum of Spanish Abstract Art (I thought that was unofficially the Guggenheim? [ /ignorant sarcastic remark about art ])
In 1996, Cuenca (population 57,000) was named a World Heritage Site for its historic centre, Cuenca Alta. Cuenca has castle ruins, the Mangana Tower (Torre Mangana), Paseo de Huécar, Arco de Bezudo and many miradores and plazas to enjoy. It’s a great place for a Sunday afternoon stroll.
Ciudad Encantada (Yet to be discovered)
La Ciudad Encantada is not an actual enchanted (or haunted) city but a place where nature (weather and the Júcar River) have created some pretty interesting rock formations, such as the Mushroom Rocks, the Stone Sea or the Hippopotamus. The rock formations date back to the Cretaceous Period. It is located near Valdecabras, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Cuenca capital.
Alarcón (Yet to be discovered)
Alarcón, population 159, is a tiny hamlet 87 kilometres (52,2 miles) from the province capital on the Río Júcar. It boasts of a castle that is on the list of Spanish Bien de Interés Cultural.
Castillo de Belmonte (Yet to be discovered)
The Castle of Belmonte is part of the Ruta de Quijote and has been a National Monument since 1931 according to the Bien de Interés Cultural. Construction began in 1456 and is one of the best conserved castles in the peninsula. They sometimes reenact medieval battles.
La Ruta de las Caras (Yet to be discovered)
La Ruta de las Caras is a path in Buendía, population 438 according to Wikipedia on March 8, 2015, that passes by many faces sculpted into rocks. Some say it’s the Rushmore of Spain, but to me, the faces are quite different. I just found out about this awesome route today while researching Cuenca, and I may have to go back to Cuenca just to see these faces carved into the rock. It’s an easy route that takes about an hour to complete, and Buendía is located about an hour from Cuenca capital (83 km/49.8 miles). It looks like you need a car to get there, unfortunately for those of us without a car.
Segóbriga (Yet to be discovered)
The archaeological park of Segóbriga was once an important Roman city and the ruins are one of the most important on the Spanish mesita. It’s another National Monument on the Bien de Interés Cultural and has been since 1931. It’s located near the village Saelices, 76 kilometres (45.6 miles) from the province capital. It has a Roman amphitheatre, theatre, fountain, acropolis, aqueduct and circus.