One of the places in Spain that I definitively wanted to visit was Las Médulas, an ancient Roman goldmine. Luckily it fell nicely along the route we needed to travel to reach Santiago de Compostela where we were to start a walk we’d booked.
The hotel we stayed at was a gem — one of the outstanding places of the trip. It was almost 800 metres up in the mountains, with stone walls and shuttered windows, and an excellent evening meal.
The dining room had been a barn and the original slate roof had been kept, though covered over with modern materials.
08 September 2015: In roughly the top left corner of Spain, in the province of Castille y Léon, is an area called Las Médulas, famous for its bare red rocks.
I relive last year’s fantastic holiday by bringing posts over from the trip blog. This doesn’t aim to be identical to the trip blog, but an improvement, with text edits and more / better photos. Find all these posts under the tag: Spain2015.
The red soil is common throughout this landscape, but the bare rocks were created when Romans spent a couple of centuries mining the land for gold, extracting around 5 or 6 Kg in total. And of course, by Romans, we mean slaves of the Romans.
Huge canals were created, bringing water from as far as 100 Km away. That water was then used to remove the aggregate layered in between the gold-bearing strata.
On the one hand this was the largest open cast mine in the whole Roman Empire, with the mining clearances reaching 3 kilometres in its maximum extension and more than 100 metres deep. Also, Las Médulas is, above all, an exceptional example of a historic process. It is the best specimen, although not the only one, of the profound change that Roman gold-mining produced on the communities that inhabited the north-west of the peninsula.
… The more than one thousand hectares transformed in the Roman era gave the territory a new articulation. The artificial plains created by the wastes from the mines created new access routes to the zone. The Carucedo Lake, produced by blocking up a valley with these wastes later became a valuable fishing resource and is today a protected wetland. The old courses of the canals that carried the water used in the gold-mining process were re-used as “lanes” or routes for communication and moving cattle by the inhabitants of the zone. The crops introduced during the Roman era, particularly the chestnut, have survived and become an inseparable sign of identity of Las Médulas.
As I walked around the area today I was amazed at the huge area of land that the Romans had transformed. Of course, Deb pointed out that the Romans tended to do things on a grand scale.
There were so many chestnut trees around. As I wasn’t familiar with the trees before now I was very struck by the interesting trunks of so many of them. Huge trunks were hollowed out, twisted, almost sculpted, in so many forms. Apparently chestnut trees can live for up to 450 years. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some I saw were that old.
I took so many photos of red rocks — from the Mirador, the lookout point a mere 1.7 Km from our hotel at Orellán, from down in and around Las Médulas village and the 3 hour walk we did to the Encantador cave and Lago Sumido.
There are swallows around in one part, a whole flock of them, flitting around, swooping through the air, never settling.
It was a gorgeous day, of blue sky and clear air. In one photo the rocks look like cardboard cutouts, two-dimensional shapes sharp against the blue of the sky.
While Las Médulas didn’t have the magic of Montserrat, it was still an interesting place to visit and I’m so glad we went there.
Other bonuses: lunch in the village of paella (first course) and fried chicken breast (second course) for €10.50. It was delicious, and cheap. Deb and I shared one meal.
Our hotel: O Palleiro do Pe do Forno. Our host Isabelle is wonderful, and speaks superb English. The room is very comfortable and the setting just gorgeous.