Do you remember the foolish stories of Don Quixote?
Do you remember when he was battling against windmills?
This is one of the chapters of Cervantes’s book I like the most and I have read it over and over.
At this point they came in sight of thirty forty windmills that there are on plain, and as soon as don Quixote saw them he said to his squire: “Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have shaped our desires ourselves, for look there, friend Sancho Panza, where thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay”
“What giants?” said Sancho Panza
“Those thou seest there”, answered his master, “with the long arms, and some have them nearly two leagues long”
La Mancha, Spain
At a certain point in my life, I decided to go visit the Spanish land of windmills, just to feel a bit like Don Quixote. And to visit the beautiful Mancha region of Spain of course!
But where are exactly those windmills?
No one really knows it. Mr Cervantes was very vague in the definition of all the locations of his novel, even of Don Quixote’s birthplace.
For centuries professors have argued over the exact location of all the geographical spots cited in the book.
And it’s not only a theoretical debate. Tourists bring money. Every “pueblo” in La Mancha dreams of more visitors and tries to attract them. Statues of Don Quixote, Dulcinea del Toboso and Sancho Panza are in almost every village. But, on the topic of windmills, the debate seems to be confined between two villages: Consuegra and Campo de Criptana
Now, I don’t really know whether Mr Cervantes was thinking of one of these locations when he wrote the chapter of the book or of other unknown locations.
For example, this white lonely windmill in Mota del Cuervo is a perfect location for a cowboy movie and could also be a good source of inspiration for Cervantes.
What I know is that both these pueblos, Consuegra and Campo de Criptana, are fascinating destinations.
Generally speaking, the whole Mancha is a beautiful place for a weekend trip from Madrid or for a detour while en route for Andalucia. You’ll feel out of time and space after a short drive out of the Spanish capital.
The arid inner plateau has harsh colours on which the whitewashed houses of the pueblos shine almost unsustainably under the sun. But it’s not only a matter of desert fascination and old-time villages. You’ll find real gems here.
For example, the Plaza Mayor of Almagro. Here you can think you have been rocketed in time and space in medieval Belgium or Holland. Still in Almagro, you van visit the Corral de Comedias. It’s an open-air courtyard theatre built in 1628.
And if you’re lucky enough you can also attend a performance in the only functioning courtyard theatre still standing.
Consuegra has twelve white windmills on a row on the edge of a ridge high above the endless plain of La Mancha. They have the same age as the Cervantes novel and some of them have been converted into souvenir shops or tourist offices.
Campo de Criptana
Campo de Criptana has ten windmills, some of them as old as the Cervantes novel. The old town (Barrio Albaicìn) is a fascinating place of old whitewashed single-storey houses and silent streets. You walk through them to get to the top of the hill where the windmills stand.
Which one do you think was the real location for don Quixote’s foolish adventures?
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