Exploring the In-Between Spain

Sierra de Encantada
  |  Gorp.com
Page 4 of 4   |  
Cuenca, city on a hill

The next day, we left for the Serranla de Cuenca, a stretch of mountains and green-moss rivers and pine forests. We made our way to the cafi at the top of the mountain near Ciudad Encantada. We ate tapas: Manchego cheese and olives and a tuna and tomato sauce for the bread. We drank beers and then entered the Ciudad Encantada—a regional park of river-washed stones in the shapes of mushrooms, bears, and human figures. I told Laeleya that the wonder of this place compared to the bizarreness of southern Utah—hot springs and caves, and corridors and fissures. It is much like an ancient city, although the blocks of giant limestone here come from the erosion of millennia.

The hike through the Ciudad Encantada is easy and well-worn but spectacular nonetheless. In summer, this area is covered by flowers, including rare species of orchids that find their way in the deep river gorges here.

We left from the Ciudad Encantada to the walled city of Cuenca, an eighth-century Muslim fortress built on a geological "island" between two green rivers that fork into each other. Necessity crowded the city out to the brink of its cliff walls, such that the houses and apartments hang over the vegetated edges. Kayakers dotted the Rio Cuervo below. Most had begun high up in the Serranla de Cuenca. Most also stopped to hike their way to the city for tapas and rest.

Cuenca is like few other cities in the world. It blends into its mountainous backdrop, aesthetically perfect, a beautiful city with a cathedral lit in yellow and rows of tapas bars. Assimilating the mountains, native pines, and history into its aura of raw elegance, it is a defining symbol of central Spain.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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