One evening last month, when I should have been finishing off my lesson plan for the next day, I found myself making a list of the places I'd like to visit this academic year. With much of my disposable income, er, already disposed of, I decided to focus on day trips rather than weekends away, and that was how I came to consider Consuegra.
I first heard about the town ages ago but, having seen the windmills at Campo de Criptana, I didn't feel the need to hot-foot it to Consuegra for more of the same. Now, with Consuegra back in the picture, I started doing some research and soon discovered that the best time to visit the town is in October when the saffron fields turn purple. When looking for some images, I learned about La Fiesta de la Rosa del Azafrán. And I was sold.
|Lovely landscape of La Mancha|
I work every other Saturday so the very second I got my timetable, I checked to see whether I was a green (first) or yellow (second) Saturday. If I was green, I would have the whole weekend off whereas if I was yellow, I would have to choose whether to go on either the Friday or Sunday. Argghh! Of course I was yellow. Nonetheless, I was determined to see at least some of the festival.
The next problem was getting there. Unless you have a car or are prepared to rent one, you have to go by bus. The name I'd been given was Samar, seemingly the only company covering this route. Unfortunately, the bus times were all but useless. Convinced that it had to be possible to arrive in Consuegra before 13:35, I did some digging which turned up AISA. And thus I found a bus leaving Madrid at 09:30 from Estación Sur (aka Méndez Álvaro) and arriving in Consuegra at 11:30. Let the fiesta begin.
Or not as it turned out. Despite several sources on the internet saying otherwise, the fiesta would not be starting until the following day, and I would be at work. So there I was, two hours south of Madrid for a festival that wasn't. With nothing else to do, I spent a couple of hours getting acquainted with the windmills instead...
|Having scrambled up a grassy hill, the first windmill I reached was Mambrino|
High above Consuegra, rising up from the plains of La Mancha, stands the Cerro Calderico ridge, and running along its spine are the windmills made famous by Cervantes in his iconic novel, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (The ingenious gentleman Quijote of La Mancha). Originally there were 13 windmills; today, there are 12, all modern-day reconstructions that have been christened with names taken from the Don Quijote.
|Map of the ridge|
|Mochilas (left) and the aptly-named Sancho|
|Up close and personal with Sancho|
|Sneaking through a gap in the wall|
Halfway along the ridge is La Muela, a 12th century castle. Built on the remains of a 9th century Arabic fort, the castle was alternately occupied by the Moors and the Christians from 1083-1183.
In 1183, the castle was back in the hands of the Christians, and King Alfonso VIII (r. 1158-1214) gave it to El Orden de los Caballeros del Hospital de San Juan de Jerusalén (The Order of the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem), who turned it into a Grand Priory. Over the years, the castle underwent several restructures before falling into disrepair in the 19th century. In 1985, it was finally restored and today it's open to the public.
|Standing near the castle looking back towards Vista Alegre|
|The 12th century castle|
From the castle, it's an uphill walk to the other seven windmills. When you think of Consuegra, it's these particular mills that come to mind, probably because almost all of the photos on Google images feature this group. Having seen these from the road on the approach to Consuegra, I couldn't wait to start exploring...
|What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster?|
|Seven of Quijote's 'giants'|
|Sunlight behind one of the mills|
|Looking back towards the castle|
Thanks to some very poor bus times (the ONE bus back to Madrid leaves at 15:15!), I only had a couple of hours to spend in Consuegra. Obviously, I would have loved to have seen the fiesta I'd gone all that way for, but there are worse ways of spending one's time than wandering around the windmills. It was a gorgeous day, the landscape was stunning and the site was surprisingly tourist-free. Three hours, twelve windmills and three hundred photos later and I was ready to call it a day. Consuegra, done!