Today we started our trip from the south of Spain to the north of Spain, along the famous Silver Route.
For more pictures of our journey along the trading route from Seville in Andalucia, up to the north of Spain click here.
25 Jan 2013 – I am revisiting this Blog entry as an article of mine has been published about this amazing journey. You can see the clipping here. Below is the text:
Travelling the Silver Way BY ANDREW FORBES
From the Andalusian warmth of Seville to the cold waters of the Cantabrian Sea, the ‘Ruta de la Plata’ is one of Spain’s great journeys
Looking out there is nothing but the silvery grey sea, stretching to a distant horizon;
whilst above me, casting a huge shadow is a colossal yet elegantly curved structure
of concrete some eight metres above my head. Immense in size and weight, yet somehow
it is just suspended there, framing a view of ever changing light.
I’mstanding beneath Eduardo Chillida’s modern sculpture ‘Elogio del
Horizonte’ (Eulogy to the Horizon) on Spain’s Cantabrian
Coast. It’s a modern landmark in the historic port of Gijón and this moment
of tranquillity, whilst admiring the view and this striking sculpture, marks
the end of my trip. A journey that took me through some of Spain’s most beautiful
scenery and remarkable UNESCO World Heritage sites that punctuate the ancient
‘Ruta de la Plata’.
South to North
It started in Andalucía, as I began to follow in the
footsteps of the Romans that established a road that connected the south of the
peninsula at Seville through valleys, between mountains and across plains to
the Spanish northern coast here at Gijón. The
‘Silver Route’ is one of Europe’s early trading and pilgrimage ways, linking
the Bay of Biscay in the north with the mighty Guadalquivir river in the south.
This historic way threads together some of Europe’s most beautiful cities,
pearls in the architectural and cultural history of the Iberian peninsula.
Spain’s ‘Silver Route’ provides a wonderful structure for a
holiday of discovery; usually as a self drive or fly/drive. Within a week to
ten days one can see a great deal, although many people revisit the route,
discovering different portions in greater detail. There are some iconic Parador
Hotels along the route, most in historically significant buildings, together
with both hip and quaint boutique hotels, making it easy to plan a flexible
Developed over thousands of years, it is not
exactly clear how the route got its name. At first it was thought to be
referring to the silver mined in both Andalucía in the south, and also in Asturias
in the north, but now historians believe the name ‘plata’ evolved from a
corruption of the Arab name for paved or wide road.
The journey from Andalucía’s capital Seville,
through Zafra to the former Roman Iberian capital city of Mérida is a pleasure
by car; the motorway is new and the scenery is of rolling countryside and oak
Almost like an open-air Roman museum Mérida, the
capital city of Extremadura, offers surprises at every turn. I don’t think any
other city in Spain can boast so many Roman monuments. Walk out of a small café
and suddenly you will be confronted by a Roman temple, and then a Roman
Triumphal Arch. Then tucked around a corner from a shabby apartment block you discover
one of Europe’s finest Roman Circus’. Yet, in my mind, the most impressive
place is the Roman Theatre that remains a remarkable centre piece to the city’s
contemporary arts and live music scene.
The next World Heritage City in the route is Cáceres, a little further north. Here you find a fairytale style walled city with fortified
towers. The old town combines Roman and Arab architecture with romantic
Renaissance churches and palaces; all remarkably intact.
Depending on your schedule and available time, Trujillo is also worth a visit; a stunning
medieval town of aged sandstone buildings, cobbled streets and a main square
that’s a perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine and soak up the atmosphere.
Having arrived in the region of Castile & León, one is in the heart of medieval
Spain; a land of knights and conquerors. A modest extension to the silver route
will easily take you through some of the most striking cities of the Iberian
Peninsula. For example, Segovia is a seductive mix of fantasy castle
architecture, medieval streets and of course that world famous Roman aqueduct.
Ávila is built on a huge rock outcrop. It dominates the landscape like a story book citadel.
Some 88 towers punctuate the ancient walls protecting a huge number of palaces
and churches, as well as narrow streets and the huge gothic, 800 year old
cathedral. Considered to be the first gothic cathedral in Spain, the building
looks more like a fortress than a church, with its battlements and sturdy towers.
Yet most don’t come here for the architecture, but instead for the region’s gourmet
delicacy, ‘cochinillo asado’ or roast suckling pig. The waiter brings it to
your table on a huge platter and theatrically divides and serves it with merely
the edge of a plate, as a demonstration of its tenderness.
Heading on I reached Salamanca, one of Europe’s finest university cities; a rich
extravagant mix of Roman, Arab, Gothic, Baroque and ornate Renaissance
buildings and impressive squares that resonate with the energy and vibrancy of a
As you reach the end of the route, hopefully also having had time to explore the
Romanesque cities of Zamora & Astorga; the splendour of Léon and the
culture of Oviedo, one is truly intoxicated by all the architecture and history
of this great journey.
Yet this extraordinary trip is more than just an architectural history lesson; it’s
a fascinating and inspiring insight into the diverse cultures of Spain. From
the passion of Andalucía to the kingdoms and castles of medieval Iberia. Each
region boasts a strong gastronomic identity, from the tapas of Seville, the
hearty stews and roast game from the heart of Spain, to the seafood and fish of
the north; all complemented by distinct wines that reflect the regions.
Now standing looking out at the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian Sea, reflecting on
this great journey, it’s hard to believe that in such a short time I’ve not
only travelled the length of the Iberian Peninsula, but I have also travelled
through time, through the rich historical landscape of Spain’s ancient cities