Chinchón, Spain – October 30, 2011
The history of Chinchón traces back to 1060 when Fernando I conquered the village. A visit to the town demonstrates it is still somewhat a sleepy village. Only about 50 minutes from Madrid, it is like stepping back in time.
When we arrived, we parked outside of the old town area and walked in toward the Plaza Mayor.
The most prominent area of Chinchón is the Plaza Mayor. Unlike so many other plazas in Spain, this one is mostly dirt to better accommodate the periodic bullfights held there. As one walks around the square, it is easy to make out the transition from cobblestones to the dirt bullring. At the edge of the stones are multiple holes in which they place the timbers for the wooden boundary of the bullring.
One can tell the buildings around the plaza are very old. There does not seem to be a plumb or square portion of any of the buildings. That provides a very quaint feel. People with rooms on the second or third level of the buildings have the perfect vantage point for the bullfights.
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. Chinchón 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 square is 3€ (US$3.65). One can assume from the sign at the Mule-Drivers’ Tavern, that mule-driving is a cherished tradition in Chinchón.
From the south side of Plaza Mayor, looking to the north, one can easily see the Clock Tower and the church, Our Lady of the Assumption; both are very large and very much the skyline signature of Chinchón. The Clock Tower was originally part of the Our Lady of Thanks Church, originally built in the 14th century. Except for the Clock 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 stood since construction began in 1534, ultimately completed in 1626.
The residents of the town are quite friendly. If possible, one should stop at a tiny shop in the northeast quadrant of the plaza. In the small, dimly lit shop were two older 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.
Leslie with the owners of the dried produce shop.
On the way out of town, the trip is not complete without a stop at the Castillo de las Condes (Counts Castle), initially built in the 15th-century. It is certainly worth the view; however, one cannot enter. During the war for Spanish independence (1808-1814), Chinchón was besieged for several days. During the siege, an artillery shot came into the castle, exploded, and burned the castle as a result. It has not been restored since; hence, no one is permitted inside.