Chinchon – So Close to Madrid
The history of Chinchon traces back to 1060 when it was conquered by Fernando I. A visit to the town demonstrates it is still somewhat a sleepy village. Only about 40 minutes from Madrid, it is like stepping back in time.
The most prominent area of Chinchon is the Plaza Mayor. Unlike so many other plazas in Spain, this one is mostly dirt. That is because bullfights are held in the plaza periodically. As one walks around the plaza, it is easy to make out the transition from cobblestones to the dirt ring. At the edge of the stones are multiple holes in which the timbers for the wooden boundary of the ring are placed.
The cobblestones run from the edge of the bullring back toward the myriad restaurants and shops that line the plaza. Each restaurant has numerous tables and umbrellas handy. By about noon, the tables fill up with the locals and the tourists as they sample the local cuisine. Chinchon is known for its chorizo sausage. They are also well known for their Anis liquor. The percentage of alcohol in the several types range from a low of 35% to a high of 74%. That may be reason enough to skip a sample!
On the weekends, it is not unusual to see a “train” of small donkeys. The lead donkey pulls a small two-seat cart. Behind that follow five or six donkeys, all tethered one to another. Riding around the plaza is a treat for the children. A ride once around the plaza is 3 Euros.
From the south side of Plaza Mayor, looking to the north, one can easily see the Watch Tower and the church, Our Lady of the Assumption; both are very large and very much the skyline signature of Chinchon. The Watch Tower was originally part of the church, Our Lady of Thanks, which was built in the 14th
century. With the exception of the tower, the remainder of the church was destroyed during the war for Spanish independence between 1808 and 1814. On the other hand, Our Lady of the Assumption has been standing since construction began in 1534. The church was finally completed in 1626.
The residents of the town are quite friendly. If possible, one should stop at a very small shop in the northeast quadrant of the plaza. In the small, dimly lit shop are two old men that spend their time
weaving baskets from local plant material, and drying produce such as chili, corn, garlic and gourds. They are more than willing to talk to those that come in despite the level of Spanish
language skill of the visitor.
On the way out of town, the trip is not complete without a stop at the Castillo de los Condes. It is certainly worth the view; however, one cannot enter. The castle was built in the 15th
century. During the war for Spanish independence, Chinchon was besieged for several days. It was during this time that an artillery shot entered the castle and exploded and burned. It has not been restored since; hence no one is permitted inside.