Sacred Heart - Castril
Don't look at the view - Castril, Spain
All the steep and winding routes up to the Andalucian town of Castril are those nightmares for drivers, where passengers keep yelping; “Oh look at that view! Oh look at that!” etc. But even a millisecond of attention to the view from the driver would result in a plunge down the mountainside to doom for all concerned.
Once the car is parked and the driver has soothed their white knuckles and shaken out their nervous system, then they can appreciate the beauty of Castril and surrounding mountains.
About 150 kilometres from Granada, this elegant little town is well worth the fright of the journey. Every whitewashed street ends in a view of the mountains; the pavements are bordered with subtle water features or hollowed tree trunks filled with lavender plants and cobblestones underfoot are flashed with occasional coloured glass tiles.
Despite the attractive features around the town, the eye is constantly drawn outward to the highest mountain peak, topped by a religious statue of the Sacred Heart. There are regular processions to this statue and hardy individual walkers can make the ascent with permission from the Town Hall Tourist Office. It’s not an easy ascent but the view from alongside the statue takes in the village, the mountains and the turquoise water of reservoirs beyond as a reward.
The Sacred Heart statue is even more impressive when one reads on a wall plaque that it in 1951 it was carried to its very, very high platform on local men’s shoulders.
In the heart of town, another wall plaque, outside the small, atmospheric Café de Emilio, commemorates the establishment’s opening on the same day the statue was placed. It praises the genial host’s forty three years behind the counter and also serves as a memorial for bars in Castril that have closed down – eighteen establishments are mourned. Fading agriculture and the drift to the cities from rural Andalucia seems to be the explanation for the demise in bar numbers but including Emilio’s there are still seven bars operational in Castril, so the explanation I really wanted was - what was going on here before that needed so many bars, in a place that barely makes it from large village to town status? Perhaps the effort of getting the holy statue up the mountain meant that everyone had to drink heavily for several years afterwards.
Just below Castril is a riverside walk through a deep gorge, where birds swoop in and out of the cool air and nervous visitors grip tightly to the guide ropes on a long wooden suspension bridge. Drivers should ensure that all their passengers cross this swaying bridge, just to get their own back before the return journey.
Annie Caulfield www.anniecaulfield.com
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