Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sigüenza, Pelegrina, and La Ruta de Don Quijote

     After a month and a half in Madrid, it was time for some fresh air. So Emir, Camille, and I took the train to Sigüenza, a small town 130km north in Castilla-La Mancha. The priest in Cervantes' Don Quijote was from there, and it has the typical cathedral growing out of the city's center, and the typical castle rising high above. We went there as a starting point for some hiking. As I mentioned previously, I've started a 20th century Spanish poetry discussion group, and the previous week we read two poems titled Castilla, by Ramón Machado and Miguel de Unamuno. It piqued our appetite to get out of the city and see the "Tierra nervuda, enjuta, despejada..." (Sinewy, dry, spacious land). So we picked a couple poems from Antonio Machado's book Campos de Castilla and next thing we knew we were hiking in the Fields of Castilla

     The plan we decided on was to hike from Sigüenza to a very small town called Pelegrina, about 10km away. The way there happened to be part of the ruta de Don Quijote, and took us through Castilla's arid land. 

     After losing the trail for a while (appropriate for the Machado poem we were reading about there not being a trail to begin with), we came across a shepard who directed us in the right direction. We walked to the ridge to which he pointed and saw Pelegrina in the distance. 

Pelegrina in the distance
Pelegrina from the campos de Castilla
     There are 19 inhabitants in Pelegrina. At the top of the village there is a XII century castle in ruins that met its demise during the war with Napolean toward the beginning of the 19th century.

Flowers on the way to the castle
The ruins of Pelegrina's castle

     The best part of seeing the castle was probably the ascent, because there was a fig tree with low hanging fruit. It was just one of the edible wild fruits we snacked on during our hike. The others included blackberries, Italian plums, and rose hip. 

     From the town we descended into the ravine, yellow with poplars lining the river. 

The ravine
     The sun was setting as we hiked out of the ravine and looked for a place to sleep for the night. There were goats, feasting on berries. 

Dining goats
     We had lentils, rice, muffins, and delicious figs for dinner. The night passed well, though very cold. It was worth it to see the stars. The next morning we packed up and headed back to Sigüenza to catch the train. 

View of Pelegrina from the ravine
Outside Sigüenza
     The hike was a success, as was the poetry discussion, which lasted more or less the entire trip because of our proximity to the subject matter of the poems. Below is Antonio Machado's poem about "el camino." In Spanish, the word for "walker" caminante and the path he follows is the camino. The direct relation of these words is much more evident in Spanish than in English, which makes for a lackluster translation. But now that you know the meaning of caminante and camino, I will give you a half-translation of the last two lines.

"Caminante, there is no camino,
but wakes on the sea."

     Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar. 


  1. would you like to trade some fig tree branch cuttings? if so please email me at I have several varieties and would be happy to trade a few 6-8 inch cuttings with you

  2. Hey Daniel, I wish I had some cuttings to trade with you! Unfortunately, we were just passing through and I don't have any. Thanks for the thought though. Best of luck!