“Castilla y León” is the Spanish name of the region just south of “Green Spain”. Much of the area is dominated by “La Meseta Central” (Inner Plateau), surrounded by the Cantabrian Mountains and “El Sistema Ibérico”.
Rivers cut through this mountainous region. Along them, and their estuaries, are the provincial capitals:
- Ávila. Sometimes called: “The City of Stones and Saints”. Its medieval walls still stand, erected in the Romanesque style, which together with Gothic, dominate the scenery, from the churches to the bars. Spanish writer, José Martínez Ruiz, described it as: “perhaps the most 16th century city in Spain”.
- Burgos. The historic capital of Castile sits on the confluence of the Arlanzón river estuaries and forms the principal crossroad of northern Spain along “El Camino de Santiago”. Its Cathedral was declared a “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO in 1984. Yet it is not the only building worth seeing. There are Las Huelgas Reales Monastery and the Cartuja of Miraflores Abbey, the parks outside the city… Not to mention the cheeses made with whey and black pudding (morcilla).
- León. The entire city has been declared a “World Heritage Site”, thanks to its position along “El Camino de Santiago”, its Cathedral, Basilica, Monastery, silversmith inspired architecture (plateresque) and modernist building, “Casa de los Botines” designed by Antoni Gaudí. Then there are the famed Semana Santa (Easter Week) processions, followed by “Las Fiestas de San Juan y San Pedro” which take place between June 23 and June 29 to kick off summer with some all night parties and music. And of course, food.
- Palencia rests in the north of the central Spanish plateau. The Carrión River merges with the Pisuerga, turning the city into four tiny islands. On them you will find a Visigoth crypt with works of art by the preferred artist of Queen Isabella I and an archeological Museum with Celtiberian ceramics. A short drive away, the village of Baños de Cerrato, with the oldest church on the Iberian Peninsula.
- Salamanca. Its old city, with its Baroque and Romanesque churches, covenants and squares, is another “World Heritage Site” for the region to boast about. But not the only thing. There are the gardens, the universities, the palaces and palatial homes.
- Segovia. Buildings influenced by by Catholics and Jews are a testament to this city’s long history for tolerance. But its main attraction is the Roman built aqueduct. On October 25, the city celebrates its patron saint, San Frutos. Local pastry chefs bake desserts invented especially for the day.
- Soria and Zamora. The fireworks display to mark “San Pedro” in June attract people from the world over to stroll Soria’s ancient streets, with a blend of architectural styles. Zamora rests on a hill and with 24 Romanesque churches, it is a museum dedicated to that architectural school.
- Valladolid. A major economic center or Spain, the city boasts an array of sights and a tradition for serving “lechazo” (suckling baby lamb). Over roasting on a wooden oven, its served with a salad, containing the local mushrooms and asparagus.
Amid these historic and culturally rich cities, rest lakes and lagoons, such as “La Laguna Negra” (The Black Lagoon) in “Los Picos de Urbión”. Overlooking this rugged scenery are Templar castles that gave the region part of its name. And like their neighbors in Castile-La Mancha, the locals are either, “Castellano-Leoneses”, or just “Leoneses”. They speak a Spanish close to neutral as well as “Leonese” and “Galician”. Their food is known for its “guisos” (cooked dishes) and its “asados” (roasts). Before a main dish, a platter of “embutidos” with local cheese and meats. To accompany the meal, a hearty Toro wine, good enough to have royal privileges since the 12th Century. What another type? “Un vino tinto de la Ribera del Duero”, or “un vino blanco de Rueda”, or “un clarets de Cigales”…t