Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cuenca and Ciudad Encantada

     After spending another week in Madrid and visiting some of my classes at the high school, Ben and I went on a second weekend trip. This time we rented a car with Emir and Camille and drove to Cuenca (Ben drove), famous for its "Hanging Houses." But our destination for the night was nature, and we needed to find a place to camp. 

Ben and me in Cuenca
     We drove along a beautiful road that wound around the rocky landscape, ate dinner on some rocks, and then looked for a place to leave the car and camp.

    We wanted to see the place known as Ciudad Encantada (Enchanted City), but got to it too late that night, and ended up camping a couple miles down the road. Camping was peaceful, full of stars, and very cold. Cuenca is one of the coldest places in Spain and, as we know, I don't exactly have the warmest gear. But I survived. In the morning we set off for La Ciudad Encantada. It is famous for its enormous rock formations. They're featured in a scene in the original "Conan the Barbarian," a movie my brother loves (see the clip here at 7:42). 
     We were perplexed upon arrival to see the part with the rock formations fenced off, and an admission being charged for entry. Who owns 90 million year old rock formations? 

     After hopping the fence we saw some gorgeous rocks. They are enormous, and in a relatively concentrated area. Where we camped a couple miles down the road there was a rock formation or two, but nothing like what was in the park. 

Pine cone baseball 
      The place was astonishing. Spain continues to impress me with its variety of topography and geological features. For such a small country (it is smaller than Texas), its diversity seems more like that of an entire continent. 
     After the Enchanted City, we went back to Cuenca to see what it had to offer. The "Hanging Houses" are its most popular site. They are houses constructed on a cliff, some of the balconies perilously perched over the edge.

Ben, Emir and me in Cuenca
The Hanging Houses

Plaza Mayor in Cuenca

     We were in Cuenca for the sunset, and it was a good one. Cuenca is high above the surrounding land, so you have the opportunity for a great evening sky. 

Ben, Camille, and Emir on top of a castle dating back to the 10th century
A street in Cuenca at sunset
The sky just kept getting better
         Back in Madrid...after nearly a month in the city, it was time for Ben to fly to China. We had a phenomenal time together. We managed to go to all the best museums, concerts (including classical, jazz and flamenco), and eat great food. For his going away dinner we cooked a lamb stew that was succulent. And if that wasn't enough, we successfully ended my seemingly endless search for the perfect flamenco guitar. More on that to come.