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Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
I recently earned my Masters in History at NWMSU and am now working as a language assistant in a Spanish elementary school.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

I find it funny that one of the weekly prime-time shows on TVE 2 (One of Spain's main television networks) is the cheesy 1990s American show, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. For the past week, Cody and I have marveled at the adventures - in Spanish of course - of Hercules and Xena (Warrior Princess) as we ate dinner. Last night we ate at a kebab place in Alcalá de Henares. We were the only ones in the restaurant (most Spaniards eat later) and this show was on. The two workers came out from behind the counter and sat near us so they could watch the show. "Do you know this show?" they asked us. Most television here is American shows and movies dubbed into Spanish. We watched Terminator 2 with out roommate Alfonso last night.

Last Sunday I visited the nearby river, Rio Henares, with Cody, Emma, Liz, Jacqui, James, and Kevin. We found a semi-hidden area behind some trees where the water rushed over an old dam. Cody, James, Kevin, and I braved the chilled waters and walked across to the other side where there stood an old abandoned house.
We returned to the other side shortly, but made plans to climb the surrounding mountains the following weekend. We went to eat afterward at a restaurant that offered a menú del día. This literally means menu of the day, but it is a three-course meal for a cheap price. You are able to choose each course. I had a red wine with blood sausage and eggs for my first course, followed by lamb chops, and a lemon cream dessert all for ten euros.

During the week, we planned more things for the school's Halloween party. We found some supplies at a local toy store for the school decorations and the haunted house. One day Tamara showed us a cheap sandwich place nearby and I got a one euro foie gras sandwich. I started a conversation class with some of the school's teachers who are not proficient in English this past Wednesday. It was fun. I also continued my private tutoring lessons and learned from the two I teach that there are the ruins of a medieval Muslim castle on the other side of the river behind the mountains I and the others had planned to climb. They told me that few of the people in Alcalá de Henares knew they were there. I told the others and we made plans to search for these ruins.

We went today again at noon, Cody, Kevin, and I. We crossed the river at the same location as some local fishermen posted nearby watched us. Once there we headed up the closest hill, a wooded and steep incline. The view from the top was amazing. We would likely have been able to see Madrid from here, but it was a hazy day.
We also saw the castle ruins from here and began the hike over. The castle was likely from the 8th (when the Moors arrived) to the 11th century as the Moors were forced out of the Castile (central province of Spain) region in the late 1000s by the Spanish Christian forces. This castle served as a fortress, or "al-qal'a" in Arabic. This is where the town's name comes from.
It was an arduous journey involving a lot of climbing and navigating of steep declines, but the end result was great.
Most of the castle is yet to be excavated and is still under the hill it rests on. Cody found an underground chamber that could be viewed through three openings in the ground. We found a safe way into this chamber, which was probably a storage room as we saw no doorways in the room. The roof was still largeley intact save for the three holes. The red paint on the walls was also still visible.
Here is a picture of Cody and Kevin on one of the castle's former turrets:
We headed back to town after this and I relaxed a while before heading out to the town again. I went to one of my favorite restaurants in town, El Baserri, and had the tapa of chorizo cooked in wine. Here and at some other places, tapas are free if you buy a drink.
I also happened to stumble upon a festival on Calle Mayor as I was eating. I'm not sure what the celebration was, but there were fallas (papier-mâché costumes of giant-sized local figures) on parade. The parade passed right by my table.


  1. Looks like a fun day. Do many people fish in that river? The old ruins would of been fun to check out. Really enjoy your photos and writings.

  2. Be careful when crawling into creepy holes!