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Avila

August 5, 2014

            In Mironcillo, on our way to Aunqueospese, three cheerful women greet us—“I grew up in this town. Used to walk up with only water and a loaf of bread, spend the day. What a shame no one cares for it now.” From there, we tread up a long dirt road, split from erosion, and dig in to park when the grade steepens. Lula, off her leash, charts a course up the ridge, reaches the castle walls first. They built it all smartly—not just on the hill—right into massive boulders that comprise the hill. A rock, a fortress. And with a conspicuous rusty metal door over the entrance, now even more so. María, annoyed, tells us, “When I was 15, we just walked in…” Mike makes a brief investigation. No easy entries. A ditch-crawl-space has been hazarded under the door and broken ladder chairs line some of the walls, so we shimmy under or climb over and… in the centuries-old insides… an overgrowth: construction clutter, jagged metal roofs, broken wooden planks, trash heaps. Even the graffiti seems petty—just scattered names of today’s 15-year-olds. But when you touch the old rock walls or tilt upward, seeing them impressive against the sky. Or look across the courtyard to how a window gives upon a vast expanse. Or you see how they welled out a water basin right into the rocks or how on that ledge you might feel the same fine breeze, see it spread across the arid valley so... for a moment, glimpses… as if the Duke of Alba.

            After lunch, Ávila and an atrium lobby, where two stories above an old café an older cathedral looms. A kiss with the glass reflection, another within its reflection. During the day, we travel old narrow streets, east and west with the sloping hill or along the Paseo Rastro, amid vacant buildings overlooking central squares, cathedrals, quaint plazas. Under no secrecy, tourists in a tourist’s town, abandoned now of visitors—la crisis, someone gripes. By night, we run south or north, volleying the large castle walls, wondering how the sun will set, will the light fall? To the south, a steeple foregrounds a low mountain sky and a light coloring haze of horizon. In the north, too late for the clouds out the west. But still, a white-etched moon rises over the sun-dried stretches of Castilla y León, and always, the murallas shine, with or without projected flood lights, and the whole valley settles, darkens into cool blue night.

 

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