Sunday, April 7, 2013


Sigüenza is a city in the north of Guadalajara, on the banks of the Henares.  A strange city.

Guadalajara itself is a strange kind of place. The eponymous provincial capital is the sort of place that no one has ever been to, or comes from, and the province is now a part of the Autonomous Community of Castilla-La Mancha, despite having no historical connection to it. When Spain was carved up into Autonomous Communities with their own parliaments and the rest of it, in the late 70’s, the motivation was to recognise the historical identity of Galicia, Catalonia and the Basque Country. The rest of Spain wasn’t so easy to partition. Andalucia was fairly clear, and so was Valencia, I suppose, but there were lots of areas that didn’t have any obvious boundaries, or that appear to fit anywhere in particular.
León was put into Old Castille, Murcia and Cantabria were given their own identity, and no one had any idea what to do with the Alcarria. It would have been ridiculous to make it a community in its own right, Old Castille was quite big enough, and Madrid’s dignity required that it not be lumped in with another area, even though they are more closely linked historically speaking. On the other hand, the Alcarria is defined to a certain extent by not being Madrid. So the least absurd solution turned out to be to put it with Castilla-La Mancha. That, in any case, is what was done.

So I found myself last week in a city of only 3,000 inhabitants with a monumental Gothic Cathedral of a size and grandeur that comes quite a surprise, with a dozen or so side chapels and an impressive structure in the centre bounded by a rectangle of carved stone to the ceiling and panelled with sculpted wood, contained the barred high altar and the facing choir stalls, in the high mediaeval tradition. And this, despite being central to the history of Castille, is politically part of the same Community that I live in, 300 miles to the south.
The city/village of Sigënza has a castle on the top of the hill, a walled mass of mediaeval streets jus

t below it, and a complex of rundown Baroque streets nearer the river. It has five churches of varying age and architectural interest, two convents, one of which makes and sells excellent chocolate, and a modern area which is still growing. It also has a railway station because, in the late 19thC, it seemed that it was still a place that mattered.
Everything worth seeing there can be seen in a day, and our intention was to spend another couple of days walking in the hills and through the surrounding villages. There are several villages within a few miles, and I do mean villages, where only a few dozen people live, with castles and one with a mediaeval wall 20 feet high, for no apparent reason, as there’s really nothing to protect.

And a river valley with a burbling stream, with spring colours, overhanging rocks and eagles and vultures circling overhead. We were chased by dogs at one point, and if they ever get together with the birds there could be trouble.

A pleasant few days. It rained a bit, in fact it hailed twice, once just after we lost the dogs, but as I say to Mrs Hickory at such times, ‘Rain is a state of mind.’ She doesn’t always look convinced. Anyhow, photos.

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