Crowned by the Peña de Francia and consisting of high peaks and surprisingly rugged valleys, the spectacular Sierra de France contains samples of rock art and several picturesque architectural villages. Among them the best preserved is La Alberca, a village of dreams, not only for its mountain buildings erected with stone sustained with timber frame, but because like few others it retains its traditions in festivities, how they dress-you can still see women today who remain in their attire vestiges of old customs, in their crafts, and their exquisite cuisine.
Walking in La Alberca is pleasantly surprising: one thinks at times that they are in an ancient Jewish quarter, or, in an intricate abandoned Arab souk. It’s because its streets seem like a mysterious labyrinth. Perhaps the effect is produced by the eaves of the upper floors of the houses almost touching, covering the streets as if they were roofed, the low and robust lintels tilted by time, chiselled with dates of foundation and worn religious inscriptions. The feeling goes away in the small and delightful Plaza Mayor, which looks great when opening to the mountain air and light. Here we note that La Alberca is very much alive.
Neighbours come together to talk, women go for water at the fountains. In one corner, facing the beautiful transept of the plaza, there is a shop with delicious cured hams and embutidos; in another the cheeses make the mouth water. Beyond that, a showcase exhibits handmade turrón, roscas (kings cake), perrunillas ... I stop in front of another, crammed with Sotoserrano wines.
And then there are the crafts. The thoroughness of the Serrano embroidery bedazzles, wood carvings and traditional jewellery. The feeling is that La Alberca although quiet and calm, is always on the verge of a party.
What separates this region of the Hurd? The landscape is spectacular, and includes a jungle-like vegetation and Carmelite desert with the monks chapels scattered throughout the mountains. Salamanca Cottages: Http://www.Toprural.Com/castilla-y-leon/casas-rurales-salamanca_bd-es-37.htm
The Hermitage of San Blas is located near the Batuecas. Formerly known as Los Santos Martires, it was the village cemetery until very recently. It has a cypress that stands erect from afar. People don't worship in it, however it does have a special significance for the Albercanos due to their pilgrimage called "The Day of the Banner". It is celebrated for when they fought the Portuguese in 1475, and since then to this day is celebrated and people are given free wine Lunes de Aguas (for centuries it has been at the expense of the Duke of Alba). It is now paid by the municipality of La Alberca. I have included a snapshot of the chapel.
In La Alberca, there is a curious tradition. A pig is let loose on the streets, which is fed by the locals and the many tourists who visit. Even on winter nights, the locals give it a home. It's blessed on June 13 and allowed to live in the town for seven months, until January 17, the feast of Saint Anthony (San Anton). The pig is raffled at the doors of the church, with pre-purchased ballots, and the profits go to an NGO. Then all the tourists swirl around the pig, overwhelming him, poor pig! ENJOY WHILE YOU CAN.
This is a very typical store in a beautiful town, just opposite the church. They have many types of local vegetables and sausages. What stands out the most of the decoration is a natural size burrito that's in the middle of large sacks of vegetables.
Although initially it was just outside the village, after new construction, the Calvary Chapel of Christ was moved inside the village. It's the oldest shrine in La Alberca. Like all self-respecting villages, it has a cross at the main entrance of the town, which was once the entrance to Salamanca. The Christ of the Calvary is taken on procession on Holy Thursday of every Easter.
For the second time today I have stopped by this center to ask for routes that start from Alberca. The first time, a woman that new nothing about hiking attended me and tried to sell me a map similar to the one I already had. Then, it was a boy who boasted of being a mountain guide. He really thought he was cool and was very full of himself. It was a very cool building though.
On the road on the way to La Alberca, we found the Monastery of San Jose de las Batuecas, which is also known as the Santuario de San Jose. It was a pleasant surprise, mostly for the environment and for the small river.