Monday, 7 March 2016

Spain 2016 - Niebla

We noticed this towns name in passing as we were driving to Donana and El Rocio but the other evening Dad actually looked it up in his old guidebook and we decided it would be worth a visit.
I have found that Spain doesn't treat its tourist attractions, at least in this area, with any respect. In the south of France, Carcaconne, a walled town is touted as a major tourist attraction and a Unesco World Heritage Site, while Niebla, also a walled town is not even given anything to bring you off the major highway that goes right by. Across the river, in Portugual, the Algarve is a well oiled tourist machine with brochures, pamphlets, monthly schedules of activities, route guides etc but here in Ayamonte the tourist office is pretty unhelpful and the tourist focus is entirely on the beaches.
So, 5 weeks into our time in Southern Spain we are beginning to find something other than walking on the beach or birdwatching but we have had to work at it. I'm not objecting to that as I (and Dad) enjoy the hunt, but I think that Spain is "missing the boat" as it is more than a series of beaches!
We drove East along the highway, past the exit to Huelva and just before the exit to Donana, we turned North. Niebla is very close to the main highway.
This was taken from the castle, it is the bridge we drove into town across. It is a Roman bridge that carried traffic for 2000 years before being blown up during the Spanish Civil war. It was meticulously restored and again is the main route into town, across the Rio Tinto.
As there was no big hype about this town we weren't expecting much but were awed by the extent of the walls and that they do actually encase a town although Niebla has expanded out beyond the walls.
I drove through one of the arches, into the town and dropped Mum and Dad in the square opposite the town hall. Couldn't find a place to park so drove out and parked in the ample parking outside the walls.
A lovely, orange tree lined walkway, beside the parking. Next time we come I want to walk all the way around the outside of the walls.
Certainly the main entrance is nicely landscaped and quite welcoming.
One of 4 gates through the wall to get into the town.
Just inside the gate is the remains of the  Iglesia de San Martin which at one time was a synagogue.
The nave is still standing and
the bell tower is occupied by a pair of storks.
We ate our picnic lunch in the main square with the town hall at one end and the church of Santa Maria de Granada at the other end (it was at one time a mosque and there are remnants still there). While I went to find the castle, Mum and Dad went in search of a cafe. I was told at the castle that there were no cafes inside the walls but Mum and Dad found a "seniors centre" that served coffee (and had a bar!). We met up again and went into the castle.
The town was important enough in Roman times to create a fortification (due to mining of silver up the Rio Tinto) and this continued through Medieval times. This turret shows the different eras of reconstruction.
Through a charmingly little, arched and landscaped area and into....
the huge expanse of the castle interior.
There were a few rooms depicting life in Medieval times, like this kitchen and
bedroom area.
Although there is no English brochure, the map has some English titles and each of the featured rooms have information boards in a variety of languages, including English.
What is most impressive though is the shear size of the building stones and the extent of the castle and the towns walls.
It's used for concerts, theatrical productions and Medieval fairs. I can imagine it would be a great venue.
Castle cat, looks kind of spooky.
This door took me to stairs up a tower to the ramparts.
Looking across at the church tower with its resident storks,

down into the interior of the castle walls
and at another entrance archway.

We walked back out of the town through the gate house with its keyhole, Moorish, doorway.
Niebla is only about an hours drive from Ayamonte. Mum  wants to come back to sketch in the castle and I would like to walk the outside walls and perhaps sketch one of the entrances or the gatehouse.

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