Medieval era doorways complete with gargoyle-esque sculptures and family crests are supported by whitewashed, plaster walls, and bordered by modern brick buildings. Open plazas in front of churches are surrounded by two story homes cobbled together of grey stone and wood. Each town is a 2 or 3 block section of winding, stone streets surrounded by brown fields and highways.
Juxtaposed with these tiny pueblos is the occasional industrial town complete with four story, modern apartment buildings, wide sidewalks, and 18-wheeler freight trucks picking up goods from a warehouse or factory. We passed a large Delaviuda Confectionary complex on the very edge of one town surrounded by nothing but dirty fields scattered with rocks. A few hundred meters later, at the next roundabout, we were back on a two-lane highway passing distant mountains following miles of nothing but power lines and dirt fields.
As the radio in the bus played the Castilla La Mancha Top 40 (fun fact: it was the same as St. Louis), we passed the occasional pen of cows or sheep. At one point a man and his dog walked along a dirt road to where their sheep were grazing. A little bit later, the terrain turned hilly, and the bright orange hills became covered in olive trees planted in neat rows that stretched as far up the side of the mountains as you could see.
Occasionally the bus pulled off the road to pick up (or drop off) a passenger. When we finally arrived at our destination, a few other tourists disembarked, and the bus quickly continued to its next stop. It was a sleepy town. For the most part, it was silent, and the few restaurants and shops I saw were closed. In the early evening, parents brought their young children out to one of the small playgrounds next to the bus station, but throughout the morning and afternoon, the only people I saw were other tourists like me: there to see the windmills.
This town is different from some of the others we passed through because perched on a hill there is a small castle and 12 windmills. The crumbling walls of the Roman fortress-turned Arab outpost-turned symbol of the reconquest of Spain fell into disrepair in the early 1900’s, but they are continually working to restore it (hence the crane in the photos).
Alongside the castle are traditional windmills, like those written about by Don Quixote, whose crazy escapades continue to fascinate people around the globe. Miles of stony, dark green land used for mountain biking and walking stretch beyond the mills into the valley. Though at one time these mills were used to provide the townspeople with flour, today they stand as a symbol of the Man of La Mancha, and remind us of the importance of belief in our own creativity, pursuing our dreams, and the power of imagination.