On the road to Spain – driving around the Moncayo and returning to Catalonia

It is November 2019. We are travelling in Spain. Now we leave Soria and return to Catalonia. On the way, we stop in the Moncayo area.

Source: Googlemaps

 

The Moncayo mountain and the wine area Campo de Borja

We have looked at the Moncayo from the window of our room in the Posada de Soria. It reaches about 2300m and is covered with snow.

The Moncayo is located east of Soria. We are travelling eastwards today, to Catalonia, and the shortest way means driving around the Moncayo – first north of it, than east of it. And east of the Moncayo is the DO Campo de Borja wine area. The Moncayo creates a microclimate that allows to grow wine here. The Campo de Borja belongs to Aragón and we have already reached the Ebro valley, west of Zaragoza.

We stop at a small bodega, Prados Bodega Pagos del Moncayo in Vera de Moncayo. The bodega is young and family owned. It produces wines from the grapes Garnacha and Syrah, and their “Fusion” is a blend of the two grapes. We speak with the son. He shows us his cellar and tells us that they use traditional methods to make their wine, mostly working manually. He also mentions a wind, called el cierzo. I later find that the “cierzo” comes from the north or northwest from the Cantabrian mountains into the Ebro valley and towards Zaragoza drying out the area which is beneficial for the grapes. We feel welcomed and I buy a bottle of Garnacha and a bottle of Syrah Privé, the latter being their most valued wine.

Then we look at the mountains of the Moncayo massif from the east…

… most of which is now – like from the other side, from Soria – hiding in the clouds.

We drive down to the Ebro river. I can see the snowy Moncayo massif in my rear mirror almost up to Zaragoza. We continue our way to Lleida and Flix – through the Catalan mountains and down to L’Hospitalet de l’Infant on the Mediterranean coastline, where we reach the small apartment of our friends. Here we will rest from two weeks travelling and may continue to explore the area.

Source: “Vinos de España”, Edition Larousse, Barcelona 2008, p. 201.

On the road to Spain – the Cartuja Miraflores, the church Santa Maria de Lara and Fuente de Berro

It is November 2019. After having spent four days in Burgos, we continue our journey through Spain. We drive via the Cartuja of Miraflores to the Visigothic church Santa Maria de Lara, then we look for the source of the river Duero and find the source of its short affluent Berro. We arrive in Soria, where we have booked two nights in the Parador of Soria with the great view of the white Montcayo in the mountains called Sistema Ibérico.

 

Cartuja de Miraflores or Miraflores Charterhouse

The Carthusian Monastery of Miraflores is located just 4km outside of Burgos. It is our first stop. In 1442, the monastery was founded by the parents of Queen Isabella I of Castile (called the Catholic). Her parents were John II and his wife Isabella from Portugal. This is the church of the charterhouse from outside.

The church is of late gothic style, built with just one nave. Gates divide the one nave into several consecutive sections.

The choir is decorated with the gothic altar of Gil de Siloé. He completed it at the end of the 15th century. He broke with the strictly rectangular structure of most former altars. His altar is organized around the circle with Christ in the middle and with the scenes from his Passion grouped around him. I like the airiness of this altar that breaks with traditional rules.

The parents of Isabelle are buried in front of the altar. Their alabaster tomb is decorated with many fine sculptures. I like the dog and the lion at the feet of Isabella’s mother.

There is a strong smell of incense in the church which makes me feel sick (my only allergy, since I have been a child). I leave the church and sit down on the steps of the porch. Here I listen to the monks singing solemnly – they are somewhere behind a thick wall, in seclusion.

Above me is Maria mourning under the cross decorated with the moon and the sun.

The sun accompanies us, while we continue our way eastwards.

 

Santa Maria de Lara – the church of the Visigoths built before the Islamic invasion

Our next stop is the mountain village Quintanilla.

About 700m away from Quintanilla, we find the Visigothic church Santa Maria de Lara (also called Santa Maria de Quintanilla de las Viñas). The church has been built around 700, before the Islamic invasion that happened a few years later.

Next to the church is a small wooden house. The gatekeeper is in that house, waiting for visitors. He shows us round and opens the church for us.

The bricks have been laid with precision and without using plaster. Three bands with elegant reliefs decorate the outside walls of the church.

Some are abstract symbols, some are animals.

We enter the church. Only the choir and part of the aisles are left. The horsehoe shaped arch is typical of the Visigoths.

The columns on the sides are decorated with the moon and the sun that are carried by angels. This is the sun.

The gatekeeper knows the Visigothic church San Pedro de la Nave that we have seen in Zamora. We have also seen Pre-Romanesque churches in Oviedo (Santa Maria del Naranco and more), and in the Empordá we have visited the tiny Visigothic church Sant Julia de Boada. I am always impressed by these early manifestations of Christian life.

 

Dinos were here before – much, much earlier

Just below Quintanilla we have noticed signs pointing to this shelter.

Petrified tracks of dinosaurs have been found here. They are marked with white chalk.

On the way to Soria we see more signs pointing to traces of dinosaurs or announcing museums that talk about dinosaurs. There must have been a dinosaurs’ land here,

 

Looking for the source of the Duero, ending up with the source of Duero’s little brother Berro

At Duruelo de la Sierra, we meet another old friend of ours, the river Duero. This stone shows the long route that the Duero takes from the source in the mountains of the Sierra de la Demanda at the Pico de Urbión to the mouth at Porto in Portugal.

A sign points to the source of the Duero in 11km. We feel like seeing the source of the Duero and follow the sign. 11km is not a long detour, we think. After about 6km we find this source on 1600 to 1700m above sea level.

We understand that this is not the “real” source of the Duero, but the source of one of its early affluents called Berro.

The real source of the Duero is located on 2140m just below the Pico de Urbión and it requires a real hike to get there. We are not prepared for that. We return to Duruelo de la Sierra. The Duero is still small here.

At Molinos de Duero, just before the dammed lake, the Duero is already larger.

We follow the Duero until Soria.

 

Settling in the Parador of Soria above the Duero with the view of the Montcayo

In Soria, we settle in the Parador high above the river Duero. Our window has a wonderful view of the mountains in the east…

… and in particular of the Moncayo (2314m) that is covered with snow. The Moncayo massif belongs to the Sistema Ibérico.

Again we notice, how rough the north of Spain is. From everywhere we see mountains that are covered with snow – already in autumn and still in spring.

Sources: Marion Golder, “Nordspanien und der Jakobsweg”, Dumont Reise-Handbuch, Ostfildern 2018; leaflet of Santa Maria de Lara; leaflet of the Cartuja Santa María de Miraflores (Burgos); “Burgos, Artística y Monumental”, Edilera 2018.