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Flag of ExtremaduraCáceres

The lands of Extremadura are steeped in history.

The paintings in Maltravieso Cave are traces preserved of man in the earliest stages of mankind. There the Celts settled, and in the 1st c, the proconsul Cayo Urbano Flaco founded one of the five most important colonies of what used to be Lusitania, which was later destroyed by the barbarians.

After rebuilding it, the Arabs called it Quazri, from which the name Cáceres is derived, and built the walls which still stand today. In 1170, for a short time the Fratres de Cáceres (Friars of C.), the first members of the Order of St. James, took over the city.

This turbulent period in history came to an end in 1227 when Cáceres became part of the Kingdom of Leon under the rule of Alfonso IX. But it is much later when Cáceres and its towns and villages partake in the great Hispanic exploit during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, viz. the Discovery of America.

Cáceres: The city

It lies 498 m above sea level, and its average temperature is 9.5o C in winter and 24,6o C in summer. It has around 68,000 inhabitants. Although the modern part has its merits because it is clean, well laid out and has a lovely park, it is the old area with its historic sights that will draw the visitor's attention since there are many palaces, churches and residential buildings which are perfectly preserved and turn this part into a real jewel of art, especially of the 15th and 16th c. But there are also older traces, such as the beautiful Carvajal Tower of the 13th c.

The curtain walls of this area date from the times of the Almohads and preserve some Roman sections. Twelve of the thirty towers protecting the enclosure still stand and especially outstanding are the ones called Redonda, del Pepito, del Horno, de la Yerba, del Portigo and de Bujaco, without forgetting La Estrella Arch, the former Puerta Nueva or New Gate, which was built by Churriguera in the 18th c. A leisurely visit should be paid to the 15th c Las Cig?ñas House with its crenellated tower, the only one of the city built by royal privilege; Las Veletas House and its Baroque facade on the site of the former Alcázar or Moorish fortress; Santa Clara Convent of the 17th c, with beautiful coats-of-arms and a Renaissance frontispiece; San Mateo, which used to be the main mosque and stands at the highest point of the city, with its Plateresque portal and richly decorated sepulchers; the so-called Casa del Sol (House of the Sun) of the 16th c, with its important facade and the coat-of-arms of the Solís family; the Palace of the Golfines de Abajo, which combines Gothic, Mudéjar and Plateresque and includes beautiful battlements along the facade, and after all those sights, Santa María Square, framed by suggestive architecture, such as a Gothic church, which was finished in the 16th c, where an impressive series of famous natives of Cáceres lie buried, immortalized by tombstones, statues and aristocratic coats-of arms. On the same square stands the Episcopal Palace with its Gothic and Renaissance facade, the Plateresque Ovando House and the Gothic Mayoralgo Palace. This complex of historic sights is further enhanced by other buildings and monuments in its flagstone streets: Los Espaderos Tower, El Socorro Arch, La Plata Tower, the Palace of the Golfines de Arriba, the home of the Sánchez Paredes family and that of the Pereros family, the so-called Casa del Mono (House of the Monkey), which houses the Provincial Museum of Paintings, Sculpture and Religious Art with interesting memorabilia of the city. But not all the monuments remain inside the walls. Many more of them beautify today's Cáceres outside the walls: Godoy Palace, the Palace of the Duke of Abrantes, the Palace of La Isla, the homes of the Carvajales and Galarza families, the Church of Santiago (St. James), cradle of the order of the same name, where a magnificent reredos by Berruguete is found, Los Caballos House, which is today's Museum of Contemporary Art, San Francisco Monastery, the Mudéjar Hermitage of El Espíritu Santo and the Sanctuary of its Patron Saint, La Virgen de la Montaña de la Montana, which towers over the city center.

Itineraries from Cáceres: Trujillo and Guadalupe, Plasencia and Coria

Those who reach the lands of Cáceres from the Spanish east come across a rich village in the region of Arañuelo: Navalmoral de la Mata, and a little further on a famous place: Trujillo, whose sons were the authors of unbelievable feats in the history of America, such as Francisco Pizarro, who conquered Peru, Orellana, who discovered the Amazon, García de Paredes, whose exploits are legend, etc. In Trujillo, the Church of Santa María la Mayor has a valuable reredos and moving aristocratic sepulchers. San Martin is a 16th c church. And there are many residential buildings and palaces. In the center of the Plaza Mayor stands the equestrian statue of the conqueror, twin of the one in Lima. A huge Arab castle dominates the city, which also has a Parador.

Guadalupe witnessed the documents certifying the departure on the American adventure. And there the first Indians were baptized. Proof of all this are the famous monuments, which turned it into the Marian Sanctuary for all of the Spanish speaking world. This dates from the miraculous appearance of the Virgin, its Patron Saint, around the year 1300. The huge Monastery combines Gothic, Mudéjar and Plateresque in unusual grandeur. There are admirable paintings by Juan de Flandes, Zurbarán and Lucas Jordan, apart from the miniatures of its choir books, the rich collection of ornaments and the buildings which used to be a hostelry, hospital and royal fortress. Guadalupe has the Parador called "Zurbarán", which is an invitation to rest after admiring so much beauty.

On the approach from the north, there is Coria, a town surrounded by solid Roman walls, with an interesting castle and pretty cathedral. It lies on a rich fertile plain amidst tobacco and cotton plantations. Plasencia lies on the banks of the Jerte. This is another town of monumental sights reminiscent of past grandeur, with small, picturesque streets, aristocratic palaces, a cathedral an a hunting museum, the latter of the Marquisate of Mirabel and very beautiful monumental and heraldic signs on its facades, churches and small hidden places.

The nearby Yuste Monastery cannot be left out on a visit. It was the last home of Emperor Carlos I of Spain and is breathtakingly austere. Other places of interest include Jarandilla castle, where the emperor and his entourage stayed before his definitive retirement (it is a Parador today), Baños de Montemayor, Hervás, which has an extremely interesting Jewish quarter, Garrovilla, with its arcaded main square, El Palancar Monastery, Brozas with its beautiful palaces, Valencia de Alcántara with the remains of a citadel and castle as well as the magnificent Roman bridge at Alcántara, perpetuating the cradle of the famous Order. Apart from all these places, there are many more dotting the lovely scenery of the plain where many dolmens which have survived from prehistoric times can still be found.

Climate, Traditions and Cuisine

In general, the climate is dry with hardly any rain and mild because of the winds blowing across neighbouring Portugal from the Atlantic. Popular traditions are Best observed in the large number of "romerías", i.e., festive excursions to a saint's shrine, and in the regional costumes which are sober for men, but very colourful for women, especially the skirts and flowery kerchiefs and above all the rich, many-coloured hat of braided straw, the one from Montehermoso.

There is a great variety of fish and game: Boar, Red deer, Spanish Ibex, Pheasant, Bustard, Heron, Crane, a lot of Partridge and Rabbit; and in the rivers, Carp, Tench, Trout, Pike and Perch. Game and fish provide the basis for an uncomplicated way of cooking, which is very tasty with many recipes coming from its important monasteries. Especially outstanding are el frite, la caldereta (a lamb stew) and the typical migas con torreznos.

To round off this list of specialties, special mention must be made of the famous Montánchez hams and sausage products as well as of the local wines which are proof of the wine production of Cáceres.

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