My trip to Almodóvar del Río was perfectly timed. I’d been saying I’d go for months and every time I had planned it, something else had cropped up. After such a great day there on Saturday, I couldn’t have been more pleased I’d waited.
Almodovar is a village located in the Cordoba province. A twenty-minute, €1.75 bus journey from the central bus station in Cordoba city took me right to the foot of the grandiose castle that towers over the surrounding countryside and watches imposingly over the Guadilquivir.
This weekend, Almodovar del Rio held the Zoco de la Encantá, an outdoor, medieval market, which boasted a variety of artisan foods and crafts, somewhat Celtic sounding music and a touch of entertainment, however impromptu it may have been (Irish dancers, five-year old ‘knights’ gallantly sword-fighting the day away and a Shakira-esque belly dancer who sported an interesting pair of underpants beneath her see-through cloth skirt). From leather belts to baklava, the town did itself proud and the attempt was certainly made to transport you back in time.
The word zoco I am told, stems from the Arabic, souq, or open-air marketplace and although this zoco was on a much smaller-scale than would have been the case five or six-hundred years ago, it held a wonderful festive atmosphere and provided a great day out for myself and my fellow friends.
Yet despite all the frills and the efforts made to make this zoco as authentic as could be, there was nothing that could have made me feel more medieval than my visit to the castle.
The Castillo de Almodovar was erected in 740 AD and has long since lost its original function as a military fortress, however strangely, it hasn’t lost its magnificence or it’s ability to render any approaching being absolutely awestruck.
During the Almohad invasion (Moroccan Berber-Muslim rule over Spain in the 12th century), it was the site of a clash between warring Muslim factions, and later, Peter the Cruel (1334 – 1369) used it as a prison for his sister-in-law, Juana de Lara. The castle was also the scene of the battles between the followers of Henry IV of France and his brother during a time of French reign over Spain.
The Count of Torralba rebuilt the castle at the beginning of this century, restoring the exterior to the appearance of the original Arab stronghold. It is one of the few palaces in Andalucia that can still be inhabited.
The village of Almodovar del Rio itself sits at the base of the castle and winds its way up the hillside. It is one of the whitewashed villages that have come to characterise this region of Spain. Of it, I didn’t see much, and like many such villages, it didn’t seem there was much going on. Nonetheless, it was very sweet, extremely picturesque and the place as a whole is well worth a stop if you’re in the region.
Though I just have one word of advice – check, double-check and triple-check the bus timetables. Heck, call the depot if you have to. Just don’t get stranded there like we did.