The medieval Castle of Castellar de la Frontera is sitting, proudly on the heights of the Natural Park of Los Alcornocales, in the Cadix province. The road from Algeciras is winding, even a little bit dangerous with its hairpin turns. From afar, the stone towers are quite impressive. I don’t know this yet, but the true jewels lie within the walls. Because this XIIIth Century castle isn’t really a castle.
Thanks to its proximity to the big Guadarranque reservoir, the quite difficult access from the cities, and its clear view of Gibraltar, Algeciras and the surroundings, the Castellar Castle has a strategic position from its green hill. That’s most probably the reason why the Muslims founded here a citadel around the VIIIth Century, during the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. As for the castle, it was built all around it, during the medieval times, in the XIIIth Century during the Reconquista, when Christians reclaimed the peninsula.
After passing under the watchtower, it feels like entering a dream. Under my amazed eyes, a little whitewashed village. The paved streets are narrow, and my Andalusian friend, Jessi, is explaining to me that this specific kind of Arab architecture allows the streets to maintain freshness under the boiling sun. The narrower the streets will be, the shadier they’ll be.
The inhabitants abandoned the village at the end of the 1970’S, they went to the actual Castellar de la Frontera village, 10 km from the Castle, a place which was way more accessible. The place was still repopulated and restored in the 1990’s, considering its both touristic and historical interest. It’s quite obvious now, thanks to the restaurant, the hotel, and the guest houses that are scattering this tiny village. But under the November sun, we’re almost alone in the streets of the Castillo.
Strolling into this village gives a surreal impression of being outside time, in some kind of fairy tale’s village. Brightly colored painted doors, potted flowers, bougainvillea arches, stone benches and stray cats begging for a bit of our pestiños (delicious Andalusian Christmas pastries) picnic, here’s the stunning picture disclosed by the Castillo.
El balcon de los amorosos, the ‘lover’s balcony’ offers the only view of the outside of the castle. This tiny balcony is hidden at the back of a typically Andalusian patio and overlooks the Guadarranque reservoir and the nearby lowlands. The lake is milky blue, the ray of lights are dancing with the clouds and I settle myself, my legs into the void, to enjoy the view with my friends. Why is this balcony called this way? I’m asking myself, gazing at the golden shores of the reservoir. Was it the secret meeting place of some Romeo and Juliet from another age? Did another Rapunzel untie her hair here to allow her lover to join her in the fortress? Maybe it’s just some kind of ideal place for contemplation when you’re lovers. We remain silent. The swallows are flying like crazies, twirling and spinning and nesting themselves into the stone walls, chirping cheerfully. Their gliding flights are fascinating us.
The Castellar de la Frontera Castle is most certainly my most delightful surprise of Andalucía. While wandering around, I was picturing myself living there, peacefully, quietly, sun and bougainvillaeas at my windows, with this ginger cat on my knees. Jessi and Yann were so under the spell of the place that they asked about the possible rental of this little house, nearby the lover’s balcony. Se Alquila said the sign. For Rent. I could feel their minds roam about what their life could be here. Antonio was kind enough to give us a tour of this charming house capable of hosting at least 8 people. But he’s kindly warning us: not anybody can afford to have a taste of a castle life.
LET’S GO THERE! :
CASTILLO DE CASTELLAR DE LA FRONTERA, 11350 Castillo de Castellar, Cadix