Last Tuesday I took a day trip to a town pretty much in the middle of nowhere on the road between Madrid and Valencia called Cuenca. It took a little over 2 hours to get to Cuenca by bus; but I really wanted to go, after all, it is a world heritage site within easy reach of my apartment. When the bus got to Cuenca, it dropped us off at the station and I asked around to get on my way to the “casas colgadas” which means hanging houses. Cuenca is well-known for the stretch of buildings which topple out over the edge of a steep cliff and beautiful views. This was all I really expected to find there, but I found so much more!
The first thing I did was hike up to the top of the center of the city, going right underneath the hanging houses and then right up to them. One of the main houses has been transformed into one of Spain’s most respected contemporary arts museums, so I visited there first. After checking out some eccentric and eclectic art, I continued uphill to the city’s cathedral. I didn’t know much about the cathedral, but as it turns out the place was a cultural and historical minefield, full of bits of info! You can pick up an audio guide in English on your way in, and the audio guide provided commentary about all of the churches chapels and architectural features. I especially enjoyed the unique ceilings in some of the church’s meeting rooms.
After visiting the church, I continued my hike uphill to the ruins of an ancient castle, and stopped there briefly. But my main goal was a rock outcropping at the top of the hill which was the perfect spot for my lunch picnic. The rock jutted out of the cliff and overlooked the valley, the bridge, the old town, and the casas colgadas. It was an absolutely breathtaking view. After my ham and cheese, chips, & an apple I hiked around a little more, before heading to the Plaza Mayor in the old town. Next, I crossed over the bridge for a panoramic view of the area, then hiked down and around the town, peering into old churches and climbing to the tops of the hills for gorgeous vistas.
After a while, I was hungry again so I headed back up towards the top of the hill to a place called El Cano Restaurante, where I got an amazing meal of Castillian soup, pisto manchengo, and torrejas for desert all served with some tasty wine. I decided it was time to go wine tasting. The area around Cuenca has a lot of vineyards, so I wanted to try as many local wines as I could. I headed to a couple of different bars and got great samples for about a euro fifty each. I did some shopping along the way; in addition to my requisite postcard and shot glass, I picked up two glasses of Cuenca wine to enjoy later.
I watched the Spanish version of Bear Grylls in a bar, met a super cute dog who followed me all over another bar, met a cute little Spanish girl named Sofia whose dad opened another bar, and finally walked back to the center of town. I stopped at a bakery for a slice of cake and then went to Central Cafe since I still had about a half an hour. I’m so glad I did because the bartender was a super nice older guy. He told me a lot about the history of Cuenca, complete with some pictures in a collection of books he kept behind the bar. He was very emphatic about how much better living in Cuenca was than living in Madrid and I would have to say I agree with him. There were very few tourists in town, and the tourists who were there were mostly Spanish. Everyone was super friendly, and dogs and children played freely on the streets. I really enjoyed my day of sightseeing, hiking, and wining in the town of Cuenca.