April 7 Arnes - Navijas

Hill villages: a church bell tower, ruined castle walls, or both; spied atop a hill in the distance, or surprising us as we round another bend in the road, each one beckoning, tempting immersion in their Romanesque, Gothic, or Renaissance cityscapes. We could not hope to explore them all, but as the anient and imposing fortress of Morella slowly resolved itself, surrounded by terraced fields and olive groves and growing more and more massive as we approached, we could no longer resist. Rounding the hill on which the fortress and town walls stood, the remains of a 14th century Gothic aqueduct directed us to the town walls and the imposing twin towers guarding the city gate.  Occupied or controlled consecutively by bronze age Iberians, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Romans again, Visigoths, Moors, and finally, with the Reconquista, the Catholic Monarchs, Morella lived through the pageant of recorded European history. El Cid is reputed to have rebuilt the Castle for the Moors in 1084 and to have fought and defeated Sancho Ramirez of Aragorn in 1117. Sancho finally captured Morella, only to lose it to the Moors again. Even after the Reconquista, the area saw battle from the 17th century through the Spanish Civil war but seemed at last to be enjoying a period of relaxed tranquillity when we visited. Once through the gates, we entered a maze of layered and stacked buildings: homes, shops, iglesias (churches) and catedrals, the whole crowned by the ruined but still imposing mass of the castello. We spent a few hours on foot circling up, around and down the town enjoying the maze of streets. Gaps between buildings or terrace plazas framed viewscapes of medieval buildings and terraced fields, olive groves, and pastures below. On the plazas and along shady restaurant-front arcades people went about their business. A few local men sat and gossiped in the local bar, a talking-head looking down on them from a flat-screen TV. The tables of the cafe fronted arcades were set but empty. Woman exchanged gossip on their doorsteps. Many of the tourist-oriented shops offered local food specialities: truffled cheese (the fungus not the chocolate kind!), many varieties of honey, and (real) chocolate. We (Sheila especially) feel badly about not supporting the local economy, but the van is too small to collect many souvenirs or to store a large honey jar and supporting the local tourist industry is beyond our means, so we purchased a bar of chocolate. A little footsore and weary, we were the road again. We relented and took the Autovia (non- toll freeway) before exiting to cross the Sierra Espadán on a narrow, twisting, hilly, tertiary road, striped “scenic green” by Bib the Michelin mascot. For once we agreed with Bib, it was indeed scenic. At each switchback we could look back at the increasingly smaller village of Eslida below, but there were no pull- outs and stopping on blind corners was dangerous. When she could bring herself to let go of the armrest, Sheila took pictures on the fly, twisting backward in her seat and shooting out the side window. Our arrival at camp in Navijas was enlivened a strange lady began jumping about, waving her arms, and shouting. By happy coincidence, it turned out to be Birgit (who we had met in Puerto de Mazarrón). She was holding a pitch for Robert who was bringing up their van and caravan to set up a base for their bicycle explorations of the surrounding mountains. It was a pleasant reunion over coffee and dessert.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map
Valderrobres tempted us but we had kilometers to cover The ancient fortified town of Morella loomed in the distance Street, Morella Apartments below Morella Castle Local specialties The village of Eslida grew smaller as we climbed the Sierra Espadán

April 7 Arnes - Navijas

Hill villages: a church bell tower, ruined castle walls, or both; spied atop a hill in the distance, or surprising us as we round another bend in the road, each one beckoning, tempting immersion in their Romanesque, Gothic, or Renaissance cityscapes. We could not hope to explore them all, but as the anient and imposing fortress of Morella slowly resolved itself, surrounded by terraced fields and olive groves and growing more and more massive as we approached, we could no longer resist. Rounding the hill on which the fortress and town walls stood, the remains of a 14th century Gothic aqueduct directed us to the town walls and the imposing twin towers guarding the city gate.  Occupied or controlled consecutively by bronze age Iberians, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Romans again, Visigoths, Moors, and finally, with the Reconquista, the Catholic Monarchs, Morella lived through the pageant of recorded European history. El Cid is reputed to have rebuilt the Castle for the Moors in 1084 and to have fought and defeated Sancho Ramirez of Aragorn in 1117. Sancho finally captured Morella, only to lose it to the Moors again. Even after the Reconquista, the area saw battle from the 17th century through the Spanish Civil war but seemed at last to be enjoying a period of relaxed tranquillity when we visited. Once through the gates, we entered a maze of layered and stacked buildings: homes, shops, iglesias (churches) and catedrals, the whole crowned by the ruined but still imposing mass of the castello. We spent a few hours on foot circling up, around and down the town enjoying the maze of streets. Gaps between buildings or terrace plazas framed viewscapes of medieval buildings and terraced fields, olive groves, and pastures below. On the plazas and along shady restaurant-front arcades people went about their business. A few local men sat and gossiped in the local bar, a talking- head looking down on them from a flat-screen TV. The tables of the cafe fronted arcades were set but empty. Woman exchanged gossip on their doorsteps. Many of the tourist-oriented shops offered local food specialities: truffled cheese (the fungus not the chocolate kind!), many varieties of honey, and (real) chocolate. We (Sheila especially) feel badly about not supporting the local economy, but the van is too small to collect many souvenirs or to store a large honey jar and supporting the local tourist industry is beyond our means, so we purchased a bar of chocolate. A little footsore and weary, we were the road again. We relented and took the Autovia (non- toll freeway) before exiting to cross the Sierra Espadán on a narrow, twisting, hilly, tertiary road, striped “scenic green” by Bib the Michelin mascot. For once we agreed with Bib, it was indeed scenic. At each switchback we could look back at the increasingly smaller village of Eslida below, but there were no pull-outs and stopping on blind corners was dangerous. When she could bring herself to let go of the armrest, Sheila took pictures on the fly, twisting backward in her seat and shooting out the side window. Our arrival at camp in Navijas was enlivened a strange lady began jumping about, waving her arms, and shouting. By happy coincidence, it turned out to be Birgit (who we had met in Puerto de Mazarrón). She was holding a pitch for Robert who was bringing up their van and caravan to set up a base for their bicycle explorations of the surrounding mountains. It was a pleasant reunion over coffee and dessert.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map
Valderrobres tempted us but we had kilometers to cover The ancient fortified town of Morella loomed in the distance Street, Morella Apartments below Morella Castle Local specialties The village of Eslida grew smaller as we climbed the Sierra Espadán