Small enough to visit all in one day, great enough to leave the impression that inhabitants are proud of its full glory. Town Alcala de Henares, one of the oldest cities in Spain is located on the river Henares, 35 kilometers northeast of the city of Madrid, historical center is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Urban area stands out for its civic duty to pronounce who was born here, since as the author of timeless novel said “Every man is as Heaven made him, and sometimes a great deal worse.” Miguel de Cervantes spent there 4 years before his family moved to Valladolid, which was not their final destination. With some beliefs, souls even unconsciously are choosing their place before birth, according to that, it is easy to say Alcalá is a town with interesting, poetic soul. Anyway more prosaically reason to claim that, is the experience of architecture bearing traces of Roman and Muslim culture, traditions, monuments and even something what is always alive – nature. Eventually man creates the culture, then culture creates the man, in sociology science is well known as phenomenon of acculturation. On top of that aesthetic impression of this area is worth to see especially when You are nearby Madrid.
Most important places to see in Alcala
- Universidad de Alcala
- Plaza Cervantes
- Torre de Santa Maria
- Plaza de las Bernardas
- Murrallas de la Ciudad
- Romana de Complutum
- Convento de las Clarisas de San Diego
- Archbishop Palace
- Catedral de Alcala de Henares
- Teatro Salón Cervantes
- Cathedral of Santos Ninos
- Capilla del Oidor
- Palacio Laredo
Siesta weather forecast – taking a brake in Cafe Bar Amapola
Moving by car it will take you around half an hour easily to get there. The best time to go there is Saturday when the actors dressed in costumes of the eighteenth century will entertain us, reciting quotes of “Don Quixote” and serving regional specialties. First thing which will help us to set up our tour is the map close to Cafe Bar Amapola, from where you can start your journey around the city. This location is close to the most important must-sees. If you are a fan of hop beverage with foam definitely you should drop by here, for energetic refreshing elixir. Moreover, is recommended to choose right moment for sightseeing in this area likewise in most of Spain. This country is well known for the afternoon “siesta”- not without a reason. If you’ve heard that Spanish people are lazy, do not like to work and have non-stop siesta definitely you need to come here and not only for vacation! Fighting with the heat around 4-5 months of the year is totally different story than coming for vacation for two weeks!
Spanish and all stereotypes
Focusing only on the fact that the siesta is a two-hour break in the middle of the day for sleeping, it is very superficial, unfair approach to the subject. As well as the hard work can be a sign of laziness that prevent rising to a higher level of creativity but kicking against the pricks. Thinking in stereotypes is like biting an apple in a computer game – it seems that you are doing something and theoretically you exactly know what, but you do not really know what it means until you get a real taste of it. On the other hand two can play at that game, everywhere are people who are unconsciously acculturated to the point they are not even aware of it, to some extent we are all inevitably from it. That is why spreading consciousness help us to understand eachother. First of all not so long ago there was no air conditioning, so the layoff during hot months was necessary. Moreover, walking in the ovens sun in the afternoon suck all the human life force, light breeze is felt on the skin like a blast from the hot oven. Althought is also related with stamina, sooner or later it will have impact on your frame of mind and even healt. From my experience definitely everyone should take it into account if they want to spent nice time enjoying any place in this hot country. Passing by Mérida I had only chance to take up in afternoon which was the worst time to enjoy. Mérida called “Spanish Rome” is full of ancient and beautiful views, but for me every time I speak with someone how marvelous it is, first what comes to my mind is heat, which I was dying from. Of course, I managed! I saw all recommended points to visit, but if you remember the moment when you have to read book in school which you are not interested about, that is something similar I struggled. There are some books from school I have appreciated after finally no one makes exams from it, and I am sure this is similar issue when not considering local weather in the journey, like I did in Merida.
Birthplace of science – university
Apart from that Alcalá was perfect for me! The city stands out for its rich archaeology and was one of the first bishoprics founded in Spain. Its rich legacy of monuments, consisting of churches, convents and university buildings, brings us a picture of life in Castile during the Spanish Golden Age. One of the largest university towns in Spain and in southern Europe. The first university in Alcala de Henares was founded already in the fifteenth century. The main building is really impressive, nearby is green square with cafe and next building someone can get married. University of Alcalá is a very dynamic center of educating thousands of students each year, including many foreigners.
Expedition to America
An example of the importance of Alkali is delightful archbishop’s palace from between fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Here there was a first meeting with Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella. They talked about the expedition to India, which ended in America. The palace was destroyed twice by the Communists during the civil war in 1936 and after the great fire in August 1939.
The cathedral of Plaza de los Santos Niños founded in the late fifteenth and sixteenth century by Cardinal Cisneros is the one of those sacred very popular, well kept buildings all the country with marvelous architecture design. In the old town you will also find “Hostería del Estudiante” which belongs to the famous hotel chain Paradores de Turismo de España. Those are hotels that always combines at least two elements: great location and time – honored buildings.
Tapas – Spanish food
Walls of more than 400 year old history create the perfect atmosphere for tasting the best local cuisine and drinks. King of capitalism is also located here but I need to admit that design is decent and not disturbing the beauty of the rest of the city. When you are living in Spain “fast food” change the meaning, here are so many decent bars which are serving much more tasty and healthier food than global brands, there is no such remorse eating it. I think everyone has heard about the delicious Spanish cuisine, rich in all kinds of tapas and tortillas. Being in Alcala de Henares you have to try the almond caramel, it is sweet local dainty, traditions of this delicacy reach the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra house
Cervantes Birth House-Museum where you can find an important collection of furniture, ceramics, and etchings and paintings from the period, as well as an important library collection and see the layout of the building in which he lived. Entrance is free. A front is a remarkable monument – bench with the figure of Don Quixote in a knight’s armor, who speak to his servant Sancho Pansy. Duty of every tourist is to take a picture with these characters, if you will come in rush hour, you will need to wait a “bit”.
Alcalá citizens -storks!
Relevant with nature feature in this town are unusual citizens –storks! Over a hundred pairs of them are nesting on the towers of churches and the roofs of great buildings, thanks to the extensive river and wetlands, which can feed a large population of these birds they can be seen as a huge cloud when they are coming back to town from feeding.
Don Quixote adventure
The final rest You can take in alluring Cervantes square seems like made for taking a break and confront the thoughts are chasing us daily. When it comes to the cobbled streets, you feel the breath of the old world and people who influenced the history of Europe and the world. Old houses are renewed, they are restoring for luster. Structures which you can share this journey to the past, the wonderful color combination of warm red brick with gray stone and white grout has beauty and it becomes even more beautiful especially surrounded with delightful gardens and flowers. This transition between future and past can be reflection of words of its greatest dweller: “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote