The autonomy made famous in Cervantes’ Don Quixote sits in the heart of Spain, high on the southern “Meseta Central” (Inner Plateau).
The Montes de Toledo, with peaks such as La Villuerca, rise above the flat barren landscape of Castilla-La Mancha. At sunset the shadows of medieval castles loom on the horizon, relics of the era when there was both a Muslim and Christian Spain. To the northwest, the Sistema Ibérico, karstic activity is especially strong, creating landscapes such as the “Ciudad Encantada” (Enchanted City).
Castile–La Mancha is divided into 5 provinces named after their capital cities.
- Albacete. Strategically located in La Mancha, between Madrid and Spain’s east coast. The capital of the same name rose into the vital trading center it remains today.
- Ciudad Real. Where most of the La Mancha region resides. The windswept plain of Cervantes’ windmills and the home of “queso manchego“, vineyards, sunflowers, mushrooms, olive groves.
- Cuenca. The Old Town of the capital sits between two river gorges with waterfalls and 15th Century “hanging houses” (casas colgadas), over the cliffs. The city also houses the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, one of the finest of its kind in the world.
- Guadalajara is the region to find the aforementioned Sistema Ibérico.
- Toledo, was once the capital of the Kingdom of Castile. The city was so impressive that it inspired the expression, “Holy Toledo!” when the it rose to the center of Christian culture, after its liberation from the Moors in 1085.
The local people are either, “Castellano-Manchegos”, or simply “Manchegos”, depending on which side of the region they live. In the home of Don Quixote, everyone speaks a clean Spanish compared to other regions. Sheep’s milk is the base of the famous cheese, “Pisto Manchego” (vegetable type of ratatouille served with a meal or a fried egg and bread) is the traditional from the area. “Gazpacho Manchego” is nothing like its Andalusian namesake. It, like most local stews, contains meat and no tomatoes. Sheep, goat or lamb are all often cooked with rice. The grape vineyards on the battered plains of La Meseta Central give the variety wines a local flavor, especially home-brewed sacramental ones known as, “pitarras”.
A video entitled, Castile-La Mancha, an amazing destination.