From Teruel, you’ll wind along a narrow road along with a quiet river on one side and the edge of a mountain on the other. Sometimes you’ll see a sign and a dusty parking area where you can jump out and explore. May be you’ll find a ruin or an old Roman aqueduct. You may even find old cave paintings. The hills behind the river are quiet and rugged, unpopulated except for an occasional farmhouse and a flock of sheep.
It’s only 30 minutes from Teruel, but not knowing exactly what you’ll find around the corner, sometimes it feels longer. Eventually, you think you’re there. The road widens and a few business line the road. It isn’t what you expected though and there isn’t a parking area, so you go just a bit farther. A village drops off to the left. The road narrows again even more and to your right it’s there, this glorious medieval city on a hill with 10th C towers and 14th century walls running along the crest.
It’s colder here at 1,171 metres above sea level. If you’ve come from Valencia, you’ll hope you brought a sweater… and shoes, good ones. There’s walking to be done today.
Albarracín seems quiet and unknown, especially in the winter where the only people on the streets are the locals who live there. In the summer, people come from the coast to enjoy the cooler temperatures, camp, hike, and explore the waterfalls along the Guadalavier river which forms the peninsula on which Albarracín sits before wandering off through Aragón. Summer also brings an amazing variety of butterflies.
So why would you come to this tiny town? For the town, truly though the region around it is filled with beauty and the remnants of history, the Albarracín itself is a treasure whose history hasn’t been quiet. A Spanish National Monument riddled with awards and praise, life began as early as the 9th century here when the Arab palace was built. And though it seems insignificant, a major battle was fought here during the Spanish Civil War when more than 9000 Republican troops covered the hills.
It’s steep, but worth the walk up those hills to the old city gates and the marvelous walls with stairs leading up so that you can actually climb to the top and walk along them looking down on the town and valley below.
Albarracín isn’t typical, even for Spain. Wander along the streets stemming from the old Plaza Mayor (14th C.) and you’ll find homes made from a combination of stone, wood, and iron. They are beautiful on their own, but the iron isn’t what you’d imagine. It isn’t simple. These iron pieces are works of art with birds and snakes, lizards, and flowers adorning them.
Reach out to knock on a door and you may take hold of a tangle of snakes or a small dragon. Just running through the village searching for these special details is an exciting treasure hunt in itself.
Though most of the pieces have been inspired by the original work of Adolfo Jarreta, a few originals can still be found out in the open within the town.
Locals say that he had a vision on the street near his home and began to create Christ figures and crucifixes. Those truly are some of his most amazing work, with tiny details of fingers and hair created from a single piece of iron.
Iron is timeless. These pieces fit so well with the character of the place, the, but seem as if they’ve been a part of this town forever, but it wasn’t until 1958 that Adolfo made Albarracín his home. He was born in 1915 and began working with iron at age 12, so by the time he settled here, he he’d already been working with iron for 43 years.
Jarreta’s best work is kept together at the Museo de Forja, a small upstairs museum run by his family. His son still does iron work and a few pieces are sold downstairs in their small gift shop at Calle Azagra, 4.
Aside from soaking up the character and ambiance of the narrow cobblestone streets and unusual architecture that incorporates stone, wood, and iron, you’ll want to visit the Iglesia Santa Maria, the Cathedral, and the Palacio Episcopal.
In September, the town and region celebrate their patron saints on the 8th and 14th with special celebrations and decorations. The following week every year, there’s a traditional running of the bulls where the bulls are released to run through those same narrow cobbled streets. These are dangerous, so find a balcony or a place where you can watch from behind bars or a barricade.
If you’re hungry or just need a snack or drink, go to my local favorite. It’s simple, but quiet and hidden just behind the castle up the stairs with a view of the hills behind. Go for a sandwich (bocadillo) or small tapas. During quieter times, you can get the locals talking. This is where I learned about the vision of Adolfo Jarreta. (Cash only)
Children will enjoy the hike to the walls, though do be careful if climbing up top as there is nothing here to stop a fall. They’ll also enjoy the park by the river below where there’s a little ice cream stand to cool them off on hotter days. Ok, adults may enjoy that too. It’s only open in the summer.
This tiny town has culture and art, old ruins and history, local food and parks, and so much beyond it that it absolutely warrents a day if not two or three. The summer vacation favorite of one of my Spanish friends, it was he who told me about this place, not a guidebook. I think that makes it even more special. Lucky friend, he spends weeks here every year and still never gets bored. Yes, it’s that nice.
~Para más información de Albarracín, pulsa aquí: http://www.albarracin.org/
~Para información y más fotos de las obras de Adolfo Jarrero, pulsa aquí: http://julio-compositor-escritor.blogspot.com/2011/10/albarracin-y-el-arte-del-hierro-forjado.html