I once read that if you want to get a feel for a country and its people you have to understand their past, and I am pleased to say that the past, in terms of architecture, culture and history, is in abundance in Extremadura. So being able to educate yourself about the past is easy and to be honest a joy.
Our little Finca is situated near to what is known as the world Heritage Triangle, made up of Cáceres, Guadalupe and Merida, and all three have been recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. We are between the two sites of Caceres and Merida.
When we had family over last year we decided to visit the ancient walled city of Cáceres, and I am so glad we did.
Caceres was declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO in 1986 because of the city's blend of Roman, Islamic, Northern Gothic and Italian Renaissance styles, fruit of the many battles fought here throughout history.
An amazing 30 towers from the Muslim period still stand in Cáceres, of which the Torre del Bujaco is the most famous.
The best way to discover this unique city is to leave your car in one of the car parks located outside the historical centre. We did this with great ease and not at any great cost, I think the parking was around the €4 mark for over half the day. We then made our way to the central square where we began our stroll. We were able to see remnants from Medieval times, Roman occupation, Moor occupation and Jewish influence.
We entered the historic centre of Cáceres by the Plaza Mayor where we went through the Arch of the Star (or Arco de la Estrella). It has the image of the Virgin de la Estrella with a star-shaped lantern, placed in a niche at the top, that gives it its name.
In the fifteenth century this arc was known by the name of the New Gate and was reportedly caused by a hole resulting from one of the many battles suffered by the wall. At this arch, guarded by the Pulpit Tower, the Catholic Monarchs were received by the Council and swore the City Charter. The current arch, modified in the XVII century, has this peculiar shape to allow for the passage of carriages.
On the outside of the arch is the coat of Cáceres and plaque awarded by UNESCO declaring this city CULTURAL HERITAGE OF HUMANITY (November 28, 1986). I find it ironic that these gates that once protected all within now welcomes strangers with open arms.
Once through the Arco De La Estrella, the ancient city awaits you, I can not write the superlatives to describe the amazing building you will find. Churches are open for you to visit, sometimes the odd door is open, enabling you to sneak a glimpse of a courtyard, or an beautiful staircase. Don't hold me to this, but I am sure I read that 38 people have the pleasure of actually living in the walled city.
There are so many interesting buildings etc. to see, I am not going to guide you through each one, however I would like to share with you one of my favorite places. Tucked away, and easily missed, it is situated in a tiny and charming street near Saint Francisco Javier's church. At first glance It looks like an ancient house. It is actually an Arab house of the XV century and is called the Yusuf Al Burch Museum. In this museum the daily life of an Arabic household is recreated. We paid no entry fee just a donation, which I think was about €1.50. Basically you wander through the rooms of the house over two floors, They are all decorated with Arab style: curtains,carpets, typical furniture, couches and other pieces of art. The owner is very nice and is happy to guide you through the rooms. Each room also has a brief explanation of the room's purpose displayed on the wall,
|Yusuf Al Burch Museum|
It is said that this museum is inhabited by the spirit of a woman who died there and many tourist state that they have seen “the ghost” while visiting the house. The spirit of the woman is supposed to be the daughter of an Arab emir that, around year 1229, fell crazy in love for a Christian captain. They used to have secret meetings in the house, but when her father noticed this was happening, he buried her alive in the walls of this building. During the restoration of the museum, some bones were found, that backed up the tale!
This isn't a formal museum by any means but it is a good way to get a feel for how an Arabic house would have been in the past. The highlight for me was the little courtyard garden,
I could see myself sitting there on warm summer evenings, listening to the soothing tone of the water fountain. This courtyard has given me the inspiration for our roof terrace decor......History coming alive at my little finca.
Well there you have it, there is more too our life here than just dogs, gardening, renovations and walking, as there is more to Spain than Sun, Sangria and beaches, there is a rich vein of history and culture throughout Spain, and how lucky are we to live in this historical region of Spain and such a little known area of Spain. Extremadura we want to promote you , but not too loudly!