Tag Archives: Olvera

Cycling the Via Verde

Cycling on the Via Verde

By TRISTAN CANO author of Historic Walking Guides: Gibraltar

The Via Verde de la Sierra is one of 20 so-called ‘green routes’ which chart a trail of disused railway lines across Andalucia. Forming part of a proposed rail route across the Cadiz Sierra between Almargen and Jerez de la Frontera, it would have connected the cities of Malaga and Granada. Although much of the groundwork, including tunnels, viaducts and railway stations were completed in the early 1930s, the project was never finished and lay in neglect until 1993 when the line was renovated for use as a walking and cycling route.

We started our day in the town of Olvera where we were staying in the charming Casa Andalus on Calle Maestro Amado. Like many of the other white towns in the vicinity, Olvera’s roots are Roman and the town went on to flourish during the Muslim occupation of Spain. It has a Moorish Castle constructed on a rocky crag high above the town which, like parts of our own Moorish castle, was built during the 13th Century Nasrid Dynasty. Some of the original Moorish walls and their supporting buttresses remain intact, but most of the Castle was built after the reconquista. Another noteworthy building in the town is the twin-towered neoclassical church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación whose impressive façade dominates its surroundings and was built on the site of a former mosque.

Cycling the Via Verde

We followed the short though steep path from the town centre down to the Antigua Estación Ferrocarril which marks the starting point of the Via Verde. This hotel offers bicycle rentals and is the last opportunity to pick up refreshments before you reach the Estación de Zaframagón, 15 km along the route. The reasonably flat terrain makes the route perfect for cyclists and we opted to hire bikes, although plenty also chose to follow the route on foot. We were immediately impressed with the scenery, a distinct patchwork of brown and green fields with endless olive tree groves looking like blobs of green paint on a watercolour just asking to be painted. The Via’s thirty tunnels are a feature of the journey and we overcame nine of these before reaching the first official rest-stop at Estación de Navalagrulla. Although we had enjoyed a slight downward gradient thus far and barely broken into a sweat, we would be following the route in reverse on our return later and enjoyed a welcome respite, noting the need to conserve as much energy as possible.

As we got closer to the Estación de Zaframagón, the landscape began to transform from arable land into forests of Spanish Firs. We were transported through mountains and river valleys with the help of immense viaducts and increasingly lengthy tunnels. The viaduct at Zaframagón offered inspiring views of the Peñón de Zaframagón, an impressive 584m-high limestone outcrop with sheer cliffs, and the verdant valley below strewn with delightful stone ruins. Overhead we saw our first venue of about a dozen Griffon Vultures. Two hundred breeding pairs live in these mountains and there is a nature centre dedicated to them at the nearby Estación Zaframagón which includes a video feed showing live footage of the vultures on the opposing rock face. The centre closes daily at 16:00 and a vending machine, which is available until that time, provides another opportunity to get much-needed refreshments before reaching the town of Coripe.  Although we had originally intended to end our cycle at the Zaframagón we were feeling relatively spritely and decided to soldier on to the next Estación.

The Guadalete and Guadalporcún rivers join at around the 26 km mark of the route but the Guadalporcún meanders alongside the cycling track all the way from Zaframagón to the Estación de Coripe which has also been transformed into a hotel and restaurant. There is not much happening in the town of Coripe itself which is about 2 km from the track however a small diversion from the Coripe Viaduct takes you to the Chaparro de la Vega. This supposedly 700-year old Holm Oak of enormous dimensions is an Andalucian National Monument and plays its part in local traditions by providing a meeting point for the villagers of Coripe on their annual pilgrimage during the Fiesta del Virgen de Fatima, their patron saint.

Following Estación de Coripe, the route continues to the third and final hotel at the Estación de Puerto Serrano which adjoins the town of the same name. However having already cycled 22 km we were acutely aware of the 200 metre height climb on the return route and set off on the arduous journey back to the start. About 2 hours later and with tired legs and saddle sore beginning to rear its painful head, we arrived at the hotel at Olvera, dropped off our bikes and were happy to place our feet firmly back on terra firma. Our walk back to town was slow but pleasant, not only for the sense of achievement we felt for having completed our long cycle, but also due to the beautiful purple and pink Sierra sunset that accompanied us on our way. We were aware that our legs would soon be stiffening up, so grabbing a quick shower at Casa Andalus, we headed out for an early dinner at the lively Restaurante Lirios before retiring to what was always going to be an excellent night’s sleep.

Offerings at the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios

Though predictably sore and stiff from the previous day’s cycle, we opted for an early rise and a trip to the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios which overlooks Olvera from a nearby hill. This sanctuary, built on the site of an 18th Century hermitage is apparently visited by 300,000 devotees each year who bring offerings to the Señora in fulfilment of their vows. The interior of its colourful chapel is a pastiche of numerous gaudy styles dominated by a shocking amount of gold plating, and stands adjacent to stunning courtyard overrun with potted plants. A room upstairs was undoubtedly the most interesting, housing the devotions deposited by visitors: hundreds of photos, items of clothing, locks of hair and numerous other knickknacks set down often in memory of long passed loved ones.

Next on the agenda was the village of Zahara de las Sierra where the remains of a castle recall its day as a Moorish outpost. Despite its small size (population of about 950) thousands of visitors are attracted to Zahara each year by its picturesque setting perched atop a mountain, overlooking a valley and a man-made crystal blue lagoon. After a quick photo stop, we moved on to Setenil de las Bodegas, possibly the most unique town in the area. After driving through twice, we finally managed to find a parking space to explore this fascinating town where many of the houses are built into the walls of a huge mountain gorge. Setenil shows evidence of human occupation for at least 2,000 years but was possibly occupied by troglodytes long before then.

Olvera can be reached either via Ronda (taking the E-15/AP-7 in the direction of San Pedro de Alcántara and then the A-397 to Ronda, followed by the A-374 and following signs for Olvera) or via Jerez (taking the A-381 to Jerez/Los Barrios/ Seville and then the E-5/AP-4 to Seville, before taking exit 80 towards Arcos de la Frontera). Casa Andalus is a ‘self-catering’ house which can be booked by calling Karen/Andrew on +34 951276249, mob. +34 689665342). Bicycles can be rented at the Antigua Estación Ferrocarril hotel at the start of the Via Verde at the price of €15.00 per day.

Photos from Olvera’s Via Verde

Master Bedroom

Casa Andalus, Self-Catering Holiday House in Olvera

Olvera is known as “the King of the Pueblo Blancos” (white towns) and it was declared a Protected Area of Artistic and Historical Importance in 1983. It is a friendly town with a population of around 10,000 and has all the amenities you will need to enjoy your holiday including numerous shops, banks, internet cafe, bars and restaurants. There is also a municipal swimming pool and bar which is open during the summer months.

The town is the perfect base for you to explore this beautiful unspoilt area of Andalucia. There are many places to visit within an hour’s drive including Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, Ronda and Antequera. If you don’t mind driving a little further you can visit Cordoba, Cadiz or Malaga. Closer to home, the stunning villages of Grazalema, Zahara de la Sierra, Setenil de las Bodegas and Montejaque are well worth exploring.

The countryside is varied and stunning with olive groves, rolling hills, lakes, mountains and woodland. Olvera is also the starting point for the Via Verde de la Sierra (green way) one of the many disused railway tracks across Andalucia which have been renovated for use as walking, cycling and horse-riding routes. Bicycle hire is available from the hotel at the start of the route, or you can enjoy an escorted ride on one of the horses from the riding stables next to the hotel.

Casa Andalus is a newly reformed town house in the old part of the town. The ground floor consists of a cosy lounge with satellite TV and Bang and Olufsen sound system. Downstairs there is also a small bedroom with single bed. There is a good selection of books and CDs for you to use. On the first floor is a bright, well equipped kitchen/dining room which has a small balcony overlooking the street.

Also on this floor is a double bedroom with fitted wardrobe and air conditioning unit together with a brand new en-suite shower room. Both the bedroom and the shower room enjoy stunning views of the hills and olive groves surrounding Olvera. Stairs from the kitchen lead to a large terrace which has amazing countryside views on one side and the Moorish castle and neo-classical church on the other side. On the terrace is a large bathroom with full suite.

Casa Andalus is within easy walking distance of shops, bars and restaurants and of course the beautiful church and castle. Despite being in the middle of the town, the house is quiet and peaceful and as both bedrooms are at the back of the house, there is very little traffic noise to disturb your sleep.

Smoking permitted on the terrace or balcony only.

Prices – low season – 225.00 euros per week, high season – 275.00 euros per week
Short breaks (minimum 2 nights) – 50.00 euros per night
Longer lets also available – please enquire for details

Contact Karen/Andrew on :-
Landline – 0034 951276249 Mobile – 0034 609665342
Email – karenandandrew@hotmail.com

Gallery of Casa Andalus Holiday Home Photos

olvera-carnival-2010-intro

Poster for Olvera and Ronda Carnavals

Ronda Today received an email from a very excited local artists today, Alan Pearson, a man whose art is already featured in our artist pages. Alan emailed us to tell us he’d won a competition in Olvera for artwork to be used in the town’s Caranval 2010 poster.

Alan is justifiably pleased to have been selected because he’s made such an effort to integrate into the local community, with many prominent Spaniards in Olvera calling him a friend. As winner, Alan’s painting was selected from 10 submissions, and also won 300€ in prize money.

The artwork selected was a piece painted by Alan a wee while ago, and shows what Carnaval in Olvera might have looked like at the turn of the 20th century. The castle and church in Olvera can be seen towering above the townsfolk as they enjoy Carnaval in the streets of this beautiful little town only 30 minutes away from Ronda.

In Alan’s painting you can see a group of people playing a traditional game of Cancarro where a pottery jug is thrown around the circle, and behind them a swing setup with a rope suspended across the street.

Carnaval in Ronda is also scheduled for February, and below you can see Ronda’s Carnaval poster designed by José María Sabater, known locally as ‘Chemi’, a popular computer design artist.

Carnaval is a time of great celebration in Spain, and whilst not as flamboyent as those in Brazil they are certainly still very enjoyable. Look out for grand processions, street parties, and side show alley at the feria grounds in Ronda.

In the streets children will be eating candy floss, holding aloft balloons, singing Carnaval songs, and playing games. All told, Carnaval is a time when Spaniards let their hair down and party.

pauline-emmens

Pauline Emmens, Fabric Artist

Hello, my name is Pauline Emmens and I am in my mid fifties. I moved to Olvera in January 2009 together with my husband Jim, having spent the previous 22 years in Oswestry in Shropshire. I originate from Wigan in Lancashire, although we have lived up and down the UK depending on the work situation.

I have been sewing for pleasure starting off, as many do, with cross-stitch. Once I had mastered this technique I felt I wanted to bring more creativity into my work so I started attending various embroidery workshops.

This really wetted my appetite for the creative side of stitching and I was hooked (or needled) so to speak. Having studied traditional and contemporary techniques for the last three or four years, I gained my City and Guilds certificate in design and contemporary embroidery in 2007.

I have also attended various workshops with internationally known artists in the embroidery word, using mixed media and a myriad of advanced techniques and equipment. Sometimes I look at all the tools in my workshop and wonder whether I am a plumber, electrician, builder or embroiderer.

When living in the UK I was an active member of the Embroiderers Guild.

I am now drawing inspiration for my work from my new surroundings in Olvera, and looking forward to new and exciting ways to expand the materials and context of my work in this new environment. I want to create some pieces that incorporate the views and the environment as well as continuing with the more contemporary side.

While most of my work is designed to decorate the home, I am also anticipating having the time to create some varied pieces for commercial consideration.

Contact Pauline Emmens

Pauline can be contacted for private commissions.

Would you like to purchase one of Pauline’s pieces? Pauline is a regular exhibitor in Ronda’s monthly Artesanía market held the first sunday of every month. Click to send an email to Pauline: jim954@telefonica.net

Gallery of Pauline’s Art

Alan Pearson

Alan Pearson, Andalusian Artist

Alan Pearson, a retired maintenance engineer from the UK discovered a passion for painting as a young boy, and has developed his art around the scenes he sees in his daily routine. Many of the canvases in Alan’s portfolio date back to the 1980s while working in England, although he has been at his most prolific since moving to Spain.

Stylistically Alan prefers versatility over specialisation, a quick glance over Alan’s portfolio certainly confirms this, with pieces that at first glance appear dark and moody, ranging to colourful portraits, and traditional Andalusian landscapes, with many offering a glimpse into Alan’s depth of perception and sense of humour.

Says Alan “Local village scenes and the everyday lives of people here are a constant supply of inspiration for my paintings”, and why not, Andalusian scenery is amongst the most attractive in Europe sitting as it does on Africa’s doorstep yet still undeniably Iberian. “The mountains around Ronda are the most beautiful in this part of Spain, which, coupled with Andalusia’s climate, make the countryside here a delight to walk in.”

Art is an evolving process, and in Alan’s case has allowed his hobby to grow with him, as an artist, and as an observer of life’s many mysteries. Earlier pieces by Alan show heavy post-industrial scenes painted in white watercolour on black paper. Later pieces are vividly colourful portraits and landscapes using oil on board or canvas.

Retirement in Southern Spain has given Alan the time to create many wonderful images, including pieces that have sold in international markets, although he has never considered selling his work a form of income, indeed Alan sees selling a work as confirmation of his skill and the sharing of a universal love for art.

Away from his studio, Alan is a keen sailor and paraglider, and has taught many youngsters the joy of sailing whilst living in the UK. Soon, Alan plans to buy another boat so that he can enjoy sailing in Spanish waters. He is an active walker in the hills of the Serranía de Ronda and the Sierra de Cadíz. A camera for capturing scenes that eventually make their way to canvas is an obligatory part of Alan’s walking kit.

Future directions for Alan include painting more of the local village scenes of the pueblos blancos, and the horses of Andalusia which Alan describes as “a vibrant part of the culture here in Spain”.

In closing, “I hope you enjoy my work and I would like you to share my adventure here in Spain through my paintings” – Alan Pearson, Artist in Andalusia.

Contact Alan Pearson

Alan can be contacted for private commissions.

Would you like to purchase one of Alan’s pieces? Alan is a regular exhibitor in Ronda’s monthly Artesanía market held the first sunday of every month. Click to send an email to Alan: alanpearson2008@live.co.uk

Gallery of Alan’s Paintings

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