Freeway Free in Spain: Livin’ the High Life in Caceras
Saturday is the best day for touring the medieval lchurches in Caceres. In addition to the wonders of the Old Town, you are likely to spot a bevy of up-to-date brides – always a great insight into the local culture.
The Old Town is very old indeed, with Hapsburg castles built on Castilian palaces built on Moorish forts built on Roman walls. We wandered through maybe a quarter of the
Old Town, taking in the Visitor Center (highly recommended) in a 14th century lookout tower outside the wall and the Church of Santa Maria with its carved reredos and 14th century
Christo Negro. This area was the home of Pizarro and Cortez (more on them later) and the church museum is full of silver and gold reliquaries and croziers made from New World gold and silver.
At the Plaza San Jorge we spotted our first bride of the day, dressed in a very modern white gown – above the knee in front and trailing to the ground in back – posing on the step with her family including a tiny ring-bearer who was doing his version of Gangnam Style in the front row.
The cathedral of St. Francis Xavier has a three story gilded reredos studded with saints. In case there was not enough gilt on view, this particular weekend also featured a special exhibition of icons from around the world. In this setting all that glitters is not gold, but might well be ruby, emerald, or mother-of-pearl.
After being dazzled, we squeezed our way up a two-story wrought iron spiral staircase (not for the vertiginous!) and then up the spiral stone steps of the two towers, from which one could peer across to say hello to storks guarding their nests at eye level. A beautiful day allowed us to look across the green valley to the peaks of the Greda range still well-covered with snow.
Second church, second bride (see above leftf). At the Plaza San Mateo we found a VERY upscale wedding, with the female guests wearing Jimmy Choos and fascinators a la Kate and William’s wedding, and the male guests wearing silk ties which coordinated with their wives’/girlfriends’ dresses. When the bride and groom emerged the air was full of red and white rice-paper hearts which were carried everywhere and up by the wind.
Taxis whisked the most important guests to the reception, while the other female guests tottered off over the cobblestones in their 5 inch heels. Some had to be assisted on both sides to keep from falling, just like the Chinese ladies of old with their bound feet. To each her own torture.
We hit the Cultural Center (also recommended) and the Artisan Coop (interesting local art, but pricey!) and headed for our hotel in time to catch the 3rd bride exiting from the church of San Juan just outside the old city – more fascinators, more silk gowns. I felt way under-dressed in my well-traveled raffia hat and cargo pants, but that didn’t stop my snapping pictures of the elegant display. And no one preening in their finery seemed to object to becoming part of my travel story – no Mafia dons in Spain?