Archive for April 15th, 2020

April 15, 2020

The Castle at Garcimuñoz!

So lets bring you back to a memorable dear region of mine. Many recounted in my blog over the years and this was a find. First , I have a couple of entries already in blog on the total history but this is with new pictures. We first came here on our road warrior routes in the Province of Cuenca, region of Castilla La Mancha of the Kingdom of Spain.

We were driving back home base on the Autovia del Este (east highway) or A3 when we saw this castle in the distance. Somehow castles attracts me so we took a detour to see it and it was a pleasant surprise as this is the historicall and architecturally famous Castle of Garcimuñoz actually the village also the town’s name.


Allow me to tell you a bit more on this jewel of Spanish fortress-like castles.

The Castle of Garcimuñoz is a very small town of less then 70 folks right along the expressway A-3 Madrid-Valencia at km. 156. It is at 915 meters above sea level and the town is on a descend from it.  The walls of it are 3 meters thick and built to resist the attack of artillery of the times. On the lower level, it is reinforced with a slope making it difficult to conquered it. The form is square irregular and its corners are reinforce with circular cubes. On the north side you have the main entrance tower or Torre del Homenaje; these towers has a dome in bricks and crown with casements and ample space to move artillery.


Excavations around the castle makes one think that castle existed since the 10C .  In 1177 king Alfonso VIII conquers the city of Cuenca  and two years later conquers this muslim enclave ,and the name come from the chevalier that accompanied the king  García Muñoz , and he was name mayor of the castle town and made inhabited the town by people from Extremadura and Burgos, the city is therefore simply name the  Castillo de Garcimuñoz. An important enclave in the wars of succession in Spain.

Until the first third of the 19C the Marquis de Villena were the owners of the town and castle, later with the law of 1823 it passes to the public treasury and the Marquis ends selling the lands in Castillo de Garcimuñoz. The peculiarity of the castle is that below the castle that was ordered built in 1458  exists the castle where the original owner lived in continuation of the occupancy by  Garci-Muñoz , and from which in its day the Caliph  Yusuf ordered built while in his warring in the area in 1172.

During the Arabs/Moors occupation the place was called Al-Marg Hamal. In  1177,king Alfonso VIII conquered the town of  Cuenca, and two years later takes over the place of now Garciamunoz after also taken Zafra de Záncara.  The castle took the name from a knight García Muñoz, that accompanied the king and this was confirmed in various documents of the period such as in 1167 ,and twice in 1179).​ García Muñoz  was name mayor of the Castle in charge of the population and it is for this reason that it was known with the name of castle Garcimuñoz.  The town was re populated by ordered of the king with folks from  Extremadura  and Burgos.  Later on, king Alfonso VIII took Alarcon in 1184 and made the castle belong to its jurisdiction for 138 years.

During the many wars amongst the kingdoms of Spain ; in 1296 king Jaime II of Aragon starts a war to take over some places belonging to Don Juan Manuel; this later claims they were taken in haze and ask to be returned to him. One of the compensation was Alarcon and several other villages, he obtained from the regent queen Maria de Molina priviledges given at Cuéllar in 1297 , that ,also confirm the treaty of Torrellas of 1304. Thereafter ,for most of his life Don Juan Manuel lived in the castle of Garcimuñoz, in one of the towers he kept his fortune according to his will and where he wrote many of his literary works. Probably, it is here that his daughter Constanza (wife of king Pedro I of Portugal), was born and later died in Santarem in 1345 leaving one son Fernando that later would be king of Portugal as Fernando I.

Here comes a central figure in the history of this area and Spain, Don Juan Pacheco ordered built a new fortress at Garcimuñoz  in 1456 on top of the previous fortress of Don Juan Manuel ( when the cemetery was transfered here in 1974 due to excavation later in 2008,  you can see the lower level of the old fortress built by Don Juan Manuel. The son of Don Juan Pacheco, Diego López Pacheco, was opposed to the ruling of Isabel I or Isabel la Católica, together with the archbishop of  Toledo Don Alfonso Carrillo. The war of succession was on after the death of king Enrique IV  in which towns such as Garcimuñoz, the last remnants of the marquis of Villena falls to the infanta Isabel.  In 1480  it is signed at Belmonte  the concordat with the Catholic kings and with this ends the war  as well as the fighting utility of the castle of Garcimuñoz.

Until the first third of the 19C, the marquis of Villena are the lords of the castle and town and in charge of collecting taxes . The law of 1823 ends the lordships and the charge of taxes passing to tribunal courts or government treasury; this cause the Marquis of Villena to sell the castle or Castillo de Garcimuñoz. And it now represents the way the Arabic, Jewish and Christian cultures harmoniously live in the province of Cuenca.


This is the castle that Don Juan Manuel inhabited since 1312 and the one that the Marquis of Villena, Don Juan Pacheco had built in 1458. The first references to the castle of Arab origin date from the year 1172 when the emir Abu Yacub Yusuf, on his way to Huete, destroys it and enslaves its women and children. Restored by Garcí-Muñoz, it was inhabited by Don Juan Manuel who controlled the Lordship of Villena from there, as the successive Marquis continued to do until Don Juan Pacheco moved the control center to Belmonte.


Don Juan Pacheco’s castle began construction in 1458 on the remains of the previous one that was demolished. The Garcimunoz castle has been restored from 2010-2016 by Izaskun Chinchilla in postmodern style. A restoration where sculpture mixes with architecture, but worth visiting to appreciate the different styles of castle restoration.

The walls of it are 3 meters thick and built to resist the attack of artillery of the times. On the lower level, it is reinforced with a slope making it difficult to conquered it. The form is square irregular and its corners are reinforce with circular cubes. On the north side you have the main entrance tower or Torre del Homenaje; these towers has a dome in bricks and crown with casements and ample space to move artillery.In its heydays had two levels, one the lowel level had a patio with anti lighting crosses and on the second level on the northeast side had five gothic windows in the form of a Cross.

The windows of the first and second level shows that part of the castle had a palace aspect. The first floor windows have three centers and the middle inverse. There is a ornamental arc that is closed with a crown below it and in the center the Royal arms of king Enrique IV of Castile . The castle is peculiar because below it ordered built in 1458 there another where Don Juan Manule lived and in turn it is the continuation of the one lived by Garcia Muñoz , of which one day was destroyed by  the Caliph Yusuf  in his conquest of 1172 against the town of Huete.

Some things to see here are: On the side of this castle on a cut of it, was started to built in 1663 a Church or Iglesia de San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist) and opened in 1708. The stones and towers of the castle were used to built the Church and were the cause of the destruction of most of the castle; however thanks to the Church we have a castle stil today.  The patio was rented to the local priest for a cemetery as it was then prohibited to buried folks in Churches.

Other things to see are:  the Cross of Jorge Manrique built in 1941. it is about 3 km from the town on the way to Nava ,the place where supposely felled fatally wounded the poet Jorge Manrique in 1479. it is built from shisel stone from the Cathedral of Cuenca and it is the place to return after the procession of the Virgin. You can read in the monument: Here felled fatally wounded Jorge Manrique, fighting for the unity of Spain. It has two shields on each side and in the center an iron cross. At the foot is a deposit where the coplas song of Jorge Manrique amongst them the “A la muerte de su Padre”  to the death of his Father, today there is only a hole left.

The town also, had an hospital.  After in 1834 evicting the monks and in 1835 the sisters there was a hospital for the poor with land reaching to the castle of  Garcimuñoz  as well as two convents.  The hospital of Our Lady of the Conception or hospital de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción was founded by the parish priest in 1640.  The convent or convento de frailes de San Agustín (of monks of St Augustine) was founded by Don Juan Manuel in 1236 , and still preserve the abside of the Church in gothic style and the walls of the cloister. The convent or  convento de monjas agustinas, also known as Nuestra Señora de Gracia was founded in the 15C and restored in 1500 ; it is still in good condition inhabited by 8 families in the town.


This is the  Association Infante Don Juan Manuel to safekeep the castle in Spanish: Castillo Garcimuñoz association Don Juan Manuel

The tourist office of Castilla La Mancha on the castle in English: Tourist office of Castilla La Mancha on the castle

This is a really nice castle very sober on the outside pretty much like a fortress it was intended in reconquest times ,but inside very nicely renovated and stylish.  The Castillo de Garcimuñoz is a very good detour indeed, recommended.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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April 15, 2020

The little train of Cuenca!

Ok here is a subject of diverse opinions. I have mentioned before these are good for an initial trip on a city so we may come back for in depth look after. However, on some hilly towns they are a good way to move especially if you can get off and on. Let me tell you about one of our favorite after many visits to the city of Cuenca and its little tourist train! Tren Turistico de Cuenca, in the Province of Cuenca, and Autonomous region of Castilla La Mancha!

In Castilla-La Mancha is located one of the treasures of Spain. The city of Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will make us fall in love with its impressive historic center, its Cathedral, the Casas Colgadas or Hanging Houses and its cobbled streets. Religious music, art, history, adventure sports, among many other charms of the place will invite you to discover Cuenca in detail and style. One of the best walks you can do during your visit to this city will be on board the Tren Turistico or little tourist train. This picturesque and handsome vehicle will take you to some of the most visited monuments.

The Cuenca little tourist train offers you a single route that lasts 60 minutes and passes through the main attractions of the city. The tour begins at the old Castillo de Cuenca, passing by the Plaza Mayor, calle Calderón de la Barca ; Plaza del Trabuco and the Auditorium. The route of this train allows you to get off near the tourist attractions such as the San Julián Park, the Cathedral or the Casas Colgadas.


Do so with the family and it is sublime, Cuenca and especially the noted Unesco sites are on hills , steep and cobblestone streets walking is sublime but after a long day , taken a ride on the little tourist train is awesome. Hope you enjoy it too.

The official Tren Turistico webpage in Spanish is here: Tren Turistico de Cuenca

The tourist office of Cuenca on the routes to take even on foot or train: Tourist office of Cuenca route walks

Bear in mind early 2020 it was decided and agreed by the regional government and RENFE to offer more of this trains in a bigger scale call ‘Tourist Trains of Castilla-La Mancha. They will be an addition to the one already in existence at Sigüenza which from May 2020 will connect destinations such as Campo de Criptana, Almagro and Valdepeñas in the province of Ciudad Real; Albacete and Alcalá del Júcar in the province of Albacete; and in Cuenca. These of course pending the new health situation worldwide that is affecting greatly Spain.

Hope you enjoy taking one of these rides in the future, we do look forward to get back to them and go up those hilly steep streets of Cuenca with the Tren Turistico.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!



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April 15, 2020

Monasterio de Uclés, part II

Ok as usual I do a post on a general basis and then need must come back for more. This is the case of the Monastery of Uclés.  See the update on part I.  I try not to repeat the text but need to provide my new readers with a beginning. The photos are new, not on the first post.

Again in my beloved Spain, and favorite region of Castilla La Mancha, of Don Quijote dreams and stories! One can never have enough here in the my Spain, everything under the Sun! I have written bits on Uclés ,but needs a special attention and this is the follow up. I will tell you a bit more on the Monastery,castle of Uclés in the province of Cuenca.

In our road warriors trips  in Castilla La Mancha region we stopped at a wonderful in country off the beaten path hilly and countryside Monastery of Uclés. This is located on the cutoff almost of the A3 highway to Madrid-Valencia.  We did the trip by car and did it across sunflower fields of dirt/stone terrain to reach it by the south side where it can be seen in its entire splendor.  However, for the less daring….you can come here on the A3 autovia Madrid-Valencia if coming from Madrid exit/salida 90,and from Valencia exit/ salida 91,  You can do so easier by the road from the A40 ( Autovía de Castilla-La Mancha)  exit or salida 244. Follow the first two traffic circles direction Carrascosa del Campo. On the third traffic circle take the first exit towards Uclés, continue for about 12 km, crossing the town of Rozalén del Monte. Once you reach Uclés, take a right road bordering the town (see signs posted) until you see the access road to the monastery.

The webpages were posted in the first post on the Monastery of Uclés but again for the new readers and ease of use I will post them here again.

The official Monastery of Uclés in Spanish: Official Monasterio de Uclés

The tourist office of Castilla La Mancha on the Monastery with text in Spanish: Tourist office of Castilla la Mancha on the monastery

The city of Uclés on the Monastery in Spanish: City of Ucles on the monastery

Further information and history on the Monastery of Uclés, a must to visit!

The convent castle in Uclés has under its foundations a Celtiberian fort on which the Visigoths built a castrum that the Moors rebuilt and that, after the Christian conquest, the Knights of Santiago took advantage of to raise part of their buildings.


The enclosure extended its walls and defenses around a square km of surface, which left the town in darkness an hour before the neighboring towns. The loss of the military character of the Santiago order after the Christian push accelerated the transformation of Uclés into a monastery. Its construction lasted more than two centuries.




To access the complex, the traveler must cross a first basil wall that protected the orchard, watered by the Bedija river, leaving behind a second wall arranged in a rack, to reach the convent itself, built between 1529 and 1735. This Plateresque style construction started in 1529 by Carlos V , succeeds a Herrerian-style church 16C, an extensive parade ground 17C, the north and south wings and the main door, churriguresca style from 1735 built under the reign of king Felipe V.


The tomb of the poet Jorge Manrique and his father Don Rodrigo Manrique, master of Santiago, is located in the church of the Uclés monastery. Inside its walls Santo Domingo de Guzmán, founder of the Dominicans, took the habit.


Across it, there is still the ruins of the Castle for its defense. The conventual Castle of Uclés stands on an elongated hill in the upper part of the town. It has its origin in the Islamic citadel, since it is known that Alfonso VIII gave the Order of Santiago “villa and castle” in 1174, on which they built a fortress in the 15C; it consisted of Patio de Armas, four, drawbridge next to the corresponding warehouses, warehouses and rooms. Most of the building today is under the current monastery built in the 16C. Today , remain standing the Torre Albarrana, Torre Palomar and part of the remains of the canvases that close the castle to the south.

For a few years, the Order of Santiago had a headquarters in San Marcos de León that rivaled that of Uclés, until king Fernando III el Santo joined the two in 1230. Since then, Uclés has been considered the headquarters of this order to which illustrious artists such as Velázquez  and Quevedo belonged. It is a place with a lot of history and past, without a doubt. It is the motherhouse of the Santiago Military Order. On the one hand it is a convent and on the other castle. Built on part of the perimeter of the fortress of which the Torre de la Plata (Silver) and Torre del Homenaje (Homage) towers are preserved, the complex was donated by King Alfonso VIII to the military order to house the hosts that would fight in the Reconquest. This, with the arrival of the first master Don Pedro Fernández, turned it into a monastic fortress.


Inside the Monastery of Ucles ,there are rooms dedicated to the local founding on Roman and pre Romans artifacts and remains of the old Arabic castle as well as the history of the Order of Santiago.


It is a wonderful imposing building you think you are coming to a city in the clouds high on a hill when coming from the sunflower fields awesome. Once there, the work still is impressive with a sober architecture but huge in history. Highly recommended to all.

And now I feel better that i have told you all about the Monastery of Uclés. Remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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