Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Spleandours of Extremadura

If you know the paintings of De Chirico, you'll know the effect I'm trying to achieve here. This is a medieval plaza in Trujillo, by the way. Thats the blue foothills of the Sierra de Guadalupe in the background.

Forgotten Iberia

Right now I'm in this lost corner of Spain that's called Extremadura, a sun-struck wilderness of sierras and plateaux, that stretches from Castille-La Mancha to the Portuguese border.

It's wild and brilliant. The sun never stops beating down on the hushed little villages, the cork forests are alive with pigs snuffling for acorns, the local wine - a rough red called Pittura - is maybe one pound a bottle.

And there are more World Heritage Cities than you can shake a bandillero at. Yet there are hardly any tourists - just the odd desultory group of hungover Spaniards wandering from medieval castle to Reconquista churchyard to Plateresque cathedral to fly-buzzing tapas bar.

This whole area, Extremadura, the land of extremes (and what a fine name for this country of searing heat and purple skies), was where many of the Conquistadors came from - men like Cortes and Pizarro, who took on entire empires with small troops of unshaven soldiers armed with arquebuses - and won.

You can see why they won, hailing as they did from these parts. For a start this is a tough country, brutally arid, vast, demanding, intractable - even now there are supposedly proper roads you'd hesitate to send a tank down. This is a land for breeding cruel warriors. Moreover, this is a religious inspiring country: God unquestionably exists here. You just have to look at the iron church crosses stark against the unforgiving blue sky - God is all around, stern, mighty, quite possibly violent.

I love Extremadura. And houses are cheap. Hmm.

No comments: