Since 2017, Spain (alongside Portugal and France) has taken up the custom of naming bad storms, and this season we are up to ‘F’, the 6th bad storm. In this case, the storm, named Filomena, entered Spain from the south west and collided with a polar air mass that happened to be coming from the north. The result – snow. Lot’s of it, with low temperatures and snow-heights not seen in a very long time. Some call it “the snowfall of a lifetime”.
As Covid-19 has made travelling impossible – or at least pretty unsafe / irresponsible (choose your pick), plans have been pushed back again, and plain cancelled. While truth be told I still hold tickets for the Saint Seiya event in Paris in late May, I have no hope I will be able to attend. Even if the Covid crisis fades away, there’s the extra issue of the economic blow 2020 caused.
Anyway, back to Filomena – it brought something that is rarely seen in these parts. Snow. Lots of it. So before everything went to hell, I just decided to ignore the stay at home recommendation and took a couple of walks around Guadalajara for a rare sight – the monuments covered with snow. Furthermore, as the snow is expected to freeze into ice plates, I had to go out when the snow was still fresh.
I took two different walks. On the eight of January, Friday, as soon as I got out of wok I put on my snow boots (perks from the time living in Scotland) and winter coat, then threw my raincoat over it – it was a tricky movement, but I managed not to dislocate my shoulder doing so. By this time there was a coverage of a few centimetres, and I decided to head out to the outer area of town where I could sneakily take my mask off if my glasses fogged too much, which I had to do when I crossed the road, because there’s no actual crossing.
There was a surprising amount of people around! Fortunately I was able to keep my distance, especially at the times when I tried to breathe – even if I went out with the smaller glasses, at points I had to take them and the mask off to be able to breathe and see anything.
I walked up to the Toro de Osborne a winery-billboard-turned-item-of-cultural-and-visual-interest which as you can see is shaped as a bull – representing the species used in bred for bullfighting, because the Osborne winery is located in an area also famous for the livestock. It is made of metal and measures around 14 metres high, one of the 91 that remain around Spain. It stands in an area that was supposed to become urbanised but never did, so it has several unfinished alleys and corners. There has been a statue there since 1975, called El Abrazo, (The Hug), which has always reminded me of a decomposing DNA strand. It was erected by Francisco Sobrino, the most famous sculptor from the town.
I went back right before sundown, and the roads were already difficult. It continued snowing throughout the night, and when I woke up on Saturday morning, no cars could run, there were no buses, trains had been stopped and some trees had collapsed under the weight of the strongest snowfall in decades. But… temptation won. I only wanted to peek around the corner a little, but then I decided that as there was a good chance I would run into people, I could not cheat on mask policy – so I put my contacts on. That warranted for a longer walk as those are disposable, and… not cheap (≧▽≦).
First I walked down the Avenida del Ejército, one of the main arteries in town, which had already been somewhat cleaned of snow, which was good, because… well, there was a bit more of a cover than the day before
I reached the park built after the ancient Arab structure, Parque de la Huerta de San Antonio. To the left stands one of the towers of the old walls, Torreón de Alvar Fáñez.
I saw the snowed Palacio del Infantado. This palace was built in the late Renaissance style, designed by Juan Guas and commissioned by the Marquis of Santillana. Although the main construction happened between 1480 and 1497 but has been reformed in several occasions, even recently as it was turned from public library into monument and museum. Infantado is a name related to the concepts of infante or infanta, which are the Spanish terms that designate the children of monarchs who are not the direct heirs (so no the crown prince or princess). The most important feature is the main façade built with sand-coloured rocks and diamond protuberances as decoration. It was suspected to have suffered from aluminosis concrete a couple of years back, but after a small political struggle, it the palace was deemed healthy again. Magic, I guess.
Up the central street of the old town, I took a small detour to check the Iglesia de Santiago Apóstol to the left. The church, built in bricks, used to belong to a now-gone convent.
In front of the church stands the convent-turned-palace-turned-high-school Convento de la Piedad / Palacio de Antonio de Mendoza. The convent-palace represents the start of the Renaissance influence in Spain, especially the former grand entrance.
At the end of the street stands the main square and Ayuntamiento, the town hall, and main square, where the street turns into the main street, Calle Mayor. The town hall, built at the beginning of the 20th century, sports an interesting bell tower in iron.
The square Plaza del Jardinillo (square of the little garden) where the Baroque church Iglesia de San Nicolás el Real stands. You can’t really recognise him under all the snow, but there is a Neptune standing in the middle of the fountain in the square.
Main Street continues until the square Plaza de Santo Domingo. The square is half park-like, half built, and one of the trees that died in the park area was carved into a book-stash sculpture.
On the other side of the road stands another church, Iglesia de San Ginés, built in the 17th century with two towers and a Romanesque-looking entrance.
The police tape around the main town park, Parque de la Concordia, had been partially taken down and I interpreted (wrongly) by the sheer number of people inside that it was allowed to walk in. Only when I reached the other side I realised that the park was considered unsafe, and of course I did not risk any other trespassing. The park dates to mid-19th century, and hosts a gazebo-like structure built in brick and iron by Francisco Checa in 1915.
I went on to the Paseo de San Roque, only on the street area, as the more park-like one was taped off. This is one of the most diverse parks in town, and some say that it could / should have been considered a botanical garden.
I walked alongside, peeked into the park Parque de las Adoratrices, but it was packed, so I continued on. Although this park is rather recent, opened in 2009, the walls and fences were built a century earlier. The town festival used to be celebrated here, but it was moved away to the outskirts as the town grew.
At the end of the street stands the chapel Ermita de San Roque , which originally was outside the town when it was built in the 17th century, in the typical brick of the area.
I walked around the walled area of the Colegio de las Adoratrices, with some really cool views of the pantheon that stands there, Panteón de la Duquesa de Sevillano, the school building and the church Iglesia de Santa María Micaela. This whole area used to belong to the Duchess, who commissioned the architectural complex in the 19th century. The pantheon is a particular example of the eclectic architecture, with a purple dome. The church is a mixture of different styles, out of which maybe neo-Gothic would be the most prominent one.
The street I wanted to go along next was a) taped off and b) waaaay too steep for a safe climb-up, so I decided to turn towards another of the important squares in town, Plaza de Bejanque. You can guess the old fortress Fuerte de San Francisco behind it, but it was also full of people, so I walked fast.
One of the features of the square is the old gate from the walls, Puerta de Bejanque, one of the access gates through the 14th century wall. This used to be part of a house that was built around it, and it was unearthed, so to speak, in the 90s.
I went down towards the co-cathedral Concatedral de Santa María. Originally built in the 13th century, this catholic church has been redesigned and rebuilt in several styles. It is best characterised by the horse-shoe arches in the main façade.
And sneaked up towards the chapel Capilla de Luis de Lucena, a small and compact chapel built like a tiny fortress that used to be an oratory part of a larger church.
I walked past the old palatial house Palacio de la Cotilla, a palatial house from the 15th century.
The convent Convento de las Carmelitas de San José. This convent, where cloistered nuns still live (tradition says that couples that are going to marry should bring them eggs for sun on the day of the wedding) was built in 1625, and the inside is decorated in the Baroque style.
And finally reached the lookout over the park built within the old torrent, Parque del Barranco del Alamín.
I finally saw the former church Iglesia de los Remedios. Today it is used as the grand hall for the nearby university, but it was originally a Renaissance temple, with three characteristic arches guarding the entrance.
And turned back towards the Palacio del Infantado from the square Plaza de España.
It had started snowing more heavily by then and my legs were getting tired. The sloshy snow on the roads had become frozen so it was slippery, and when I was walking on the actual snow, it was up to my mid-shins, so I was feeling the strain in my legs and my back. Thus, I decided to go back home and not to return in the afternoon again because the trees had lost more and more branches under the weight of the snow. The temperature going down also meant that the snow was going to freeze and it would be more slippery as it became ice…
I mean, this is the tree that used to stand in front of my balcony… So better safe than sorry. But all in all, the snowfall of a lifetime in these latitudes!