OG Post: March 23rd, 2017
Denia Day3 (Tuesday) Tuesday started with a bang. We got up and ready early because we were going to go look at some Castles, and by some I mean several. We got on the road to Novelda. We took the A7 down the coast and stopped at a gas station along the way. I fueled up with doughnuts and Red Bull and then got back on the road. There were farms burning their excess trim and trash that day so the whole countryside was covered in a haze. Despite the fact it was from fires it was still very beautiful to look at. We saw a mountain with a big chunk taken out of it. The legend was that a heroic knight named Rolland did that with his mythical sword. After about 20 ~ 30 minutes we arrived in Novelda and started making our way to the Sanctuary of St Maria Magdalena.
This is situated on a hill overlooking the Vinalopo Valle and is a beautiful sanctuary built around 1918. Inside is wonderful paintings and a very unique pipe organ that is built into the building itself. It's right next to the ruins of Castillo de la Mota. In this castle, the walls are still mostly up but only two towers remain. One was closed off but the other we could go inside. They are doing some restoration in parts of it but we took the stairs up to the top of the tower and the view was glorious.
Afterward, we all jumped back in the car for a quick 10-minute ride to Petrer. Here we found the Castillo de Petrer. We didn't get to go in but again the views where breathtaking. The Castle looks out over the city of Elda and is a well preserved double-walled enclosed structure. It is situated at the highest point of the city and was built by the Arabs at the end of the 12th century. The fortress was involved in the revolt of the Muslims in 1256 until Jaime II incorporated it into the Kingdom of Aragon.
Once again back in the car and this time for lunch. We found a mall in Petrer and stopped in. Red got a new coin purse because she already filled her little one with euros. We found a very cute, well decorated Mexican food restaurant in the mall. It wasn't bad but it was as if someone described Mexican food to a Spanish person and they said, "sure I can try that, but no sazonado!"
Back in the car again we headed up to Sax. Kevin's navigation was taking us down really crazy small streets in Petrer and asking us to turn in places we couldn't. So I decided to try my phone's navigation in Sax. This was a very bad idea. First of all the "streets" in the city's are just very narrow pathways between buildings that you can't really drive a car down. Siri was trying to get me to turn the wrong way down one-way streets or trying to have me drive up staircases. Eventually, we found our way. The Castle is on top of a very steep hill/mountain. The castle is of Islamic origin. It was conquered by the Crown of Aragon in 1239 and subsequently ceded to the Crown of Castile under the terms of the Treaty of Almizra. From its position, it dominates the whole city. The keep, whose foundations are laid over a cave, and the bastion tower are the elements that have survived to the present day. We arrived on the backside of the Castle and had to climb some very steep metal stairs to the top. Even though the Castle was closed it was well worth the climb.
Back in the car once again we headed to Villena and to the Atalaya Castle. This time navigating through even smaller "streets" we managed not to get lost. We arrived at the castle just in time to get in and take a look around. Tall and stately, the three stories of Villena castle rise up proudly from the hill on which it stands, overlooking the capital of the region. Also known as the castle of the Pies Negros ('black feet') or simply Villena Castle, this is a sturdy military building of Arab origin, which was renovated and extended in the 15th century. It has no moat and is built with a double walled enclosure. The outer wall is reinforced with 12 towers, and the inner wall –which is taller– contains the imposing keep located at the southeast end of the space. The keep has a square floor plan and is divided into four sections; the two lower sections are built of Almohad masonry and the two upper levels of stonework. The first floor conserves the traditional Almohad star-shaped ribbed vault, which makes it practically unique among Hispanic military architecture. It is topped with cantilevered turrets on the corners and sides.
We spent about a good hour in there climbing and looking at everything. There is ancient Arabic graffiti inside the keep that is massively impressive. It is one of the most important graffiti in the Alicante province. The historic value of this collection provides information on the life of people who inhabited the Castle at some point in history. They are located in the interior of the donjon and all distributed on the first, second, and third floors. Also in the stairwells and at the lookout points. If there was any on the fourth floor then it was lost. All of the graffiti was made with a pointed object to score the blackened surface of the walls leaving the image in white. Except for the engraving of the Hand of Fatima. This was done while the plaster was soft. Probably by the master architect. This was my favorite one we went to. I highly recommend it to anyone coming to this region of Spain.
However, we still had two more Castles to go to. So back in the car and to Biar. More tiny streets and more impressive views. This frontier castle is Arab in origin and was reinforced and extended by the Christians from the time of its conquest. It contains a unique element in Hispanic Arab architecture. It was built in the 12th century by the Almohads and reinforced from the mid-13th century onwards due to its location on the frontier between the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. It is today in a good state of conservation and comprises a double enclosure. The exterior, which follows the shape of the hill overlooking the village of Biar, has four semi-cylindrical towers at the corners, all with battlements and arrow slits. The interior also has three semi-cylindrical towers, although its most outstanding feature is the shell keep. This building has a rectangular floor plan, 17 meters high, with a ground floor and two other floors. Its peculiarity is to be found on the first floor, which is covered by a traditional Almohad ribbed vault, the only example of its kind in Spanish military architecture. Did I mention the city of Biar itself is beautiful?
The final Castle was Castalla in Castalla. Getting up to this one was challenging not because of narrow streets this time it was a barely single lane road that winded up a cliff side and turned into a dirt path at the steepest parts. Oh, and it was for traffic going both ways. Luckily at this time of day, we were the only ones out there. Although its origins are Arab, the current structure dates from medieval times. The Torre Grossa tower was added in the 16th century in order to keep a lookout for pirate raids from the Mediterranean Sea. Set atop a hill overlooking the town, the arrangements of its walls adapts to the lie of the terrain. It is basically built of masonry work and still has various sections of wall and cylindrical towers with battlements. On the interior, a large bailey containing the remains of various elements (particularly interesting is an Arab cistern dating from the 12th-13th centuries) separates the most important buildings located at each end. One of these contains the palace, a noble residence built in the 14th-15th centuries which was conceived as a small castle within the castle. At the other end stands the Torre Grossa tower, built in 1579 to guard against possible raids by Berber pirates approaching from the Mediterranean coast towards the interior of the region. It is made out of stone blocks and has three floors crowned with a walkway with battlements.
Exhausted we returned to Denia. The trip home was at sunset and with the purple majestic mountains and brilliant colors in the sunset it was a good trip. We had Mediterranean pizza for dinner and all went to bed shortly after getting home.