The Museo de Etnohistoria of Casares has a perfect location for pulling in the punters. ALMOST but not quite at the top of the hill, one is so grateful for an excuse to stop climbing and rest a while that you just can't wait to get in there. It's dramatically located inside one of the gates of the fortress and the plaque on the way in reminds you that this place is called after JuliusCaesar, who supposedly used the nearby sulphur baths to cure him of an illness.
The museum is tiny and totally delightful. On the walls are agricultural implements and in glass cases, remains of Roman artefacts such as millsones and jewellry, found in the area. Different displays reflect various local traditions. The one I enjoyed most was the Dowry display, showing the various items of linen, crockery etc. that a bride was expected to bring to her future husband's family.
In an alcove, seperate from the rest is the piece-de resistance of social history ie, the projector and other equipment used in the local cinema in the early 20th century. Photos on the wall complement the equipment and the whole thing conjures up an atmospheric 'Cinema Paradiso' type scenario.
The museum is open Monday to Saturday and costs just EUR 2
Hans and I, along with Carmen and Stace, visited the lovely Andalucia white village of CASARES. We turned off the road, where it said "P" for parking, as the town itself was very narrow and had limite parking spots. We had lunch here and then walked over to the area where there was absolutely wonderful views of the town. It was a cool, windy day but the skies were clear enough to have good views. Supposedly, on a good, clear day, you can see the Mediterranean Sea and the Rock of Gibraltar.
Situated at the top of the village, this church was built in the 16th century on the site of a mosque. It is being refurbished and during my visit I couldn’t enter the inside of the church. It is also known as the Church of the Castle.
I didn’t go into the House of Blas Infante, but apparently it has been converted into a museum and there is also a tourist information centre there. Blas Infante was an Andalusia Nationalist Leader who was born in Casares in 1885 and executed in Casares by the Franco regime at the start of the Spanish Civil war.
As you enter the town from the south (Estepona) you will see that the local council is building a new walkway that is being built into the cliff so that no one needs to walk on the roadway. Top marks.
This path also gives a different view of the town across the valley to the town itself.
It was hard to leave all that solitude and natural beauty but eventually we meandered slowly back down the hill, enjoying panoramic views all the way. Just off the Plaza de Espana we found the village church of San Sebastian, a small whitewashed place of worship blending harmoniously with the houses all around it.
Inside this small church were several striking features. Firstly, the stained glass windows ( one of which you see in the main photo) and secondly the altar, mounted on the wall and behind glass.
This church is quite a refreshing change from the massive gothic or renaissance cathedrals one tends to visit while travelling and it certainly has a very distinct charm of its own.
The grounds of Iglesia Encarnacion go right back to the wall that looks down over the huge drop to the gorges and valleys below. This is an oustandingly beautiful view but while reading about Casares, several mentions came up of bodies being hurtled down into gorges around here by execution mobs during the civil war of 1936-'39. This is rather a chilling thought but one that is hard to sustain for long in the absolute peace and tranquility of these gardens. The photos show a section of this wild garden, the view from behind the church wall and finally, a certain VTer giving in to temptation, lying in the grass and admiring the sky.
This church is at the very highest point in Casares, and at this stage we are talking about approximately 1,400 feet above sea level. It's at the other side of the hill from the castle and to the rear is a wild garden overgrown with flowers and flanked with cypress trees and old stone benches. This church was built in the 16th century and though now in disrepair it is famous for its Mudejar-style tower, which is visible from all over the valley. The church is currently covered with scaffolding and seems to be undergoing reconstruction and refurbishment. Like the Hermitage de Vera Cruz, this church was badly damaged during the Spanish Civil War. It makes a very poignant statement, alone and deserted at the top of the hill but hopefully all that will change soon.
When you finally reach it, the castle itself (or rather what remains of it ) is a bit of an anticlimax. Nothing much remains other than fragments of the walls, archways and very fetching holes in the walls. These holes in the walls frame some very atmospheric views of the surrounding countryside but they don't give much of an idea of what the original edifice was like.
Near the ruins of the castle are the ruins of the Hermitage de Vera Cruz, a neo-gothic structure built in the 16th century. A little more of this church remains than the castle and clambering in and out, with spectacular mountain views all round more than makes up for the abscence of a large, imposing castle.
If you want to explore any further, you have to brace yourself for a long, steep climb. The castle and museum are signposted on the road leading upwards from the church and we set off a little apprehensively. It does look intimidatingly high but if you proceed at a pace similar to that of a tortoise on crutches, it's not so bad. There are constant excuses for stopping as you admire, balconies and courtyards and chat to the local cats, so it's possible to get by without needing cardiac or pulmonary assistance. These streets are so picturesque and every time you stop, the view below becomes more and more dramatic so really, despite the almost vertical climb, it is really enjoyable.
Plaza de Espana is the central square in the village and this is where you will arrive within minutes of getting out of your car. Local people do drive up and down the streets of Casares but I think it would be a very intrepid visitor who would risk driving any closer than the parking area at the outskirts. It's a pretty little space, not really a square at all, with old men and women chatting on benches and children messing with the water from the fountain. There are two bars/restaurants with seating areas in front and having a drink here is quite a good idea before you start the climb upwards to the castle. The fountain, is called 'Fountain Carlos 111 and while it's not particularly large or impressive, the water from it is drinkable and by all accounts, crystal clear and refreshing.
Opposite the fountain is a monument to Blas Infante, a local hero who championed the cause of Andalucian autonomy and was executed in 1936.
Located within the Castle Enclosure, it was built in the CVI Century. Nowdays we can visit only part of its single nave.
La ermita de la vera cruz esta situada en el recinto del Castillo. Fue construida en el siglo XVI y hoy solo podemos apreciar la parte de su nave unica.
Built in the XVI Century, it stands over the ruins of a earlier Moorish fortress, and shoes best conserved and outstanding element is its mudejar style tower.
La iglesia de La Encarnacion fue construida en el siglo XVI sobre la antigua fortaleza arabe y cuyo elemento mas destacable y mejor conservado es la torre de tradición mudejar
The ruins of the mooris wall and castle is located on the highest part of the town, they marked the boundaries of the town during the muslim period
Las ruinas de la muralla y el castillo arabe estan situadas en la parte mas alta del pueblo, senalando lo que fueron los limites de la ciudad en el periodo musulman.
Is the birthplace of Blas Infante, whose visionary ideals brought to Andalucia a spirit of purpose one that continues today. Nowdays the house is an open museum where local and regional artists exhibit their works.
Es la casa en la que nacio Blas Infante, padre de la "Patria Andaluza". Esta situada en la calle carrera y actualmente es un museo abierto al publico donde se exhiben exposiciones temporales de diversos artistas tanto locales como comarcales.