EXTREMADURA - A TREASURE WAITING TO BE FOUND
There are places in Spain that few tourists ever visit, places off the beaten track that have preserved their genuine beauty and charm and that in many ways have remained the same throughout hundreds of years. Extremadura is in many ways such a place. This Spanish inland region borders Portugal to the west and the regions of Andalusia to the south, Castile-León to the north and Castile-La Mancha to the east. Despite being the fifth largest region in Spain it is home only to slightly over a million people. Large areas remain untouched and you find a wide variety of wildlife here. The area is famous for its birdlife and when you pass through the landscape made up of mile after mile of uninhabited hills decorated with deep green oak trees changing at times into plains that deepen into dark water reserves you are not unlikely to see some majestic storks pass by. So often, in fact that you can easily understand why the stork is the symbol of this region!
Apart from being the region from which many of the most famous conquistadors took off about 500 years ago to conquer the new world, just after Spain had “re-conquered” their own land from the Moors this is also the region of great olive oil and the best ham in the world. The famous ham, Pata Negra, (black paw) is made from the big black pigs that stroll around the countryside feeding on acorns all day long. After a life of happy eating they end up in a four-year process to finally become the tender, melting delicacy that conquers taste buds all over the world. Wine is another thing that this region produces, and although nowhere near as famous as other Spanish wine regions, you will be amazed by the quality of it.
A trip to Extremadura is highly recommended in autumn when it is time to harvest the grapes to make wine, and when the temperatures are perfect for hiking up the hills and enjoy the beautiful pinkish glowing evening skies. Go from town to town and explore the medieval castles and walled city of Caceres and Trujillo, stroll the narrow cobbled streets, and pop in for a hearty lentil and chorizo stew with a generous glass of red wine from the region. Visit Merida, capital of Extremadura, with its ancient aqueduct and the most well preserved amphitheater you can ever imagine! If you are lucky you might even come across a concert in the ancient ruins. Visit the countryside to taste wine or buy ham from where it is made, or olive oil directly from the factory. High quality food at a price so low you will find it ridiculous and that will make you want to come back for more as soon as your stash is empty (which is normally far quicker than you would have imagined). Try Morato for - possibly - the best ham in the world!
Or come here in spring, when the cherry blossom and almond trees in bloom attract thousands of spectators to the Jerte Valley. Visit Zafra, a traditional white village with cobbled streets and an impressive castle in the center of the walled old town, beside the charming Plaza Grande and Plaza Chica (Big and Little Square). In spring, the mornings are crisp and you can enjoy fresh tender green asparagus from the countryside dressed with the most amazing olive oil, and heartbreakingly tasty cured goat cheese with your glass of white wine on a terrace, while you watch the storks nesting atop the old church tower in the village of Zafra. Or try the amazing food at any of the gastronomic hot spots you didn’t expect to find in this little town, at a price that makes you think you are hallucinating. Try El Acebuche, La Rebotica or El Comeero for example!
All in all – Extremadura is a well-kept secret that has to be explored, no matter if you are a nature lover or a foodie, or a history buff ready to immerse in a world of amazingly well preserved historical artifacts.
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