Monday, August 16, 2010
In a place of La Mancha, whose name I would not like to remember...
In el Toboso, the village where el Quijote's imaginary lady Dulcinea lived we went to a small museum full of hundreds of copies of the various editions of the book, in every conceivable language, signed by the famous and infamous alike including names like Margaret Thatcher, Benito Mussolini, Nelson Mandela and Carlos Fuentes. On the museum wall a painting showed a thin bloke, lance in hand, riding a skinny horse and by his side a tubby man riding a mule. The four figures are dwarfed by a dazzling azure sky and the parched earth that stretch on and on for ever.
We've crossed through la Mancha several times on our journeys to and from Madrid or up to Albacete. That painting tallied exactly with my impression of the landscape - flat, featureless and dusty - dotted with mean villages and tedious towns. A landscape that I've read has its charms - but only after long acquaintance.
Our weekend started in Campo de Criptana with a tour of a winery, a meal and our hotel. The windmills were there looking as they should and the town gleamed in blue and white. El Toboso village was stone, sun and silence whilst the Ruidera Lakes were a hubbub of hundreds of people shattering the peace and quiet. In Alcaraz's magnificent town square we wondered where the money had come from. We climbed hills and dropped into deep valleys, we drove across kilometres of vineyards, through stands of oak and olive, we passed castles, rivers and streams - a varied and often changing landscape.
Alonso Quixano and his trusty sidekick Sancho Panza must have seen a thing or two as they rode into the heat haze all those years ago