Pons Ferrata

Or Ponferrada (entry on English Wikipedia), in the Spanish region of O Bierzo (roman Bergidum), close to the frontier between Gallaecia and the Tarraconensis province, and western borderline between Province of León (from the old Legio VII Gemina fame) and Lugo (of Lucus Augusta fame), at about some 60 km from Astorga (old Asturica Augusta; the remaining capital town of Gallaecia being Bracara Augusta, nowadays Braga in Portugal).

It's a very beautiful region, a big plain surrounded by mountain ranges all around, where the Romans took huge quantities of gold, specially from the mines at Mons Medulium (nowadays known as Las Médulas, an UNESCO World Heritage Site), with important historical facts from the start. The most remarkable feature nowadays is probably the medieval Templar Castle, probably the last one in existance and in good conditions, at least in Spain, and probably in all Europe (although I know there are others in France, but not the state of conservation).

This is a picture taken from the small road to the entrance, where part of the moat can be seen. At the other side, view from this POV, some 60 meters lower, goes the river Sil, which is the main affluent to the Miño river, which forms the natural frontier between Portugal and Galicia nowadays. The other side, to my back when I took the picture, leads to the other side of the hill, where the 'old town' mostly lies nowadays, including the St. Mary of La Encina church, the Major house, etc...

This is a detail of the main entrance, where the Templars "T" (tau) can be easily seen. The castle walls are in pretty good shape, including some architectonical disasters in recent times. The innards, though, are a different story. Until the 40's in the XX century, the castle was in quite good shape, but in those years the inner chambers and walls were destroyed or covered to build a soccer playing field. Fortunately this was cancelled in recent times and recovery or reconstruction works are underway, proviso the council is trying to get some economical return from the investment by constructing a little bit anachronical conventions center, using wood and questionable materials. The final result, however, is quite pleasing and I'm not that sure it's incorrect: heritage is very expensive to care.

This is a pretty wide view of the innards of the castle, with a big square with a water well, at the far end --they look small but the height is well over 20 meters, over a 4 stories modern building-- and the center place, where horse stables and other stores and rooms can be guessed from the rest of walls. At the right end part of the new conventions center can be guessed as well, which is where the residential tower was.

This is a view of the castle walls at the opposite side of the river, almost from the Major square. In order for you to get an idea of the scale, the holes in the tower on the right are about the size of one person, which got perfectly covered when hiding behind the wall.

You can also see the double walls hinted in the first picture, but considering the castle was built in different phases, it's quite logical. That tower has some shields carved on the wall, but only the one over the window can be easily seen from this POV.

Anyway, we got great weather, lots of fun, museums and other niceties, besides being with friends. So, no writing this weekend, but some healthy sosializing activities... :-)


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