On the footsteps of Quixote: beat down the windmills!

Consuegra Windmills at dusk

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”

At a certain point in my life I decided to go visit the Spanish land of windmills, just to feel myself a bit like don Quixote. And in order to visit the beautiful Mancha region of Spain of course!

But where are exactly those windmills?

No one really knows it, because 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 and 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 really don’t know whether Mr. Cervantes was thinking of one of these locations when he wrote the chapter of the book or of other unknown locations.

Windmill in Mota del Cuervo # 3

For example, this white lonely windmill in Mota del Cuervo is a perfect location for a cow boy movie and could also be a good source of inspiration for Cervantes.

But I know 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 just after a short drive out of the Spanish capital. The arid inner plateau has harsh colors on which the whitewashed houses of the pueblos shine almost unsustainably under the sun. But it’s not only matter of desert fascination and old time villages. You’ll find really gems here.

Almagro - Plaza Mayor

For example the Plaza Mayor of Almagro where 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, 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 theater still standing.

Almagro - Corral de las Comedias

Or the beautiful Cuenca and its Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses), standing high above a river creek since the 15° century.

Casa colgada in Cuencas

But now back to the two windmill villages:

Consuegra Windmills at dusk

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 office.

Modern Sancho A windmill and a motorbiki in 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.

Sunset in La Mancha - Campo de Criptana

Which one do you think was the real locations for don Quixote’s foolish adventure?

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