A word about tourism in the Ribeira Sacra – or the lack of –
May I point out that Galicia is in the Northwest of Spain, not anywhere near the Pyrenees. Cap Fisterra, the end of the known world not so long ago, is about 750Km from San Sebastian or 1250Km from Barcelona.
Spanish and Portuguese, as well as Galician’s from all over the world, are the mainstay of tourism here. Just about 10% are from other countries. The country side suffers from depopulation as the jobs tend to be in the four main cities of Galicia, in Spain or abroad.
The area we live in, Sober, in the Ribeira Sacra once had 10.000+ inhabitants and now is down to about 2.200, give or take. Foreigners do live here, but are far and few between. I think I know about 12 who are here permanently and some more who are here on and off.
Visiting the trail of the water mills in Arxemil gives an idea on how industrious this area once was.
Speaking of which, here in Galicia we don’t make it easy for tourists. The local language is Galician, which was banned under Franco, and has been revived. It has a different development to Spanish (Castilian) with Celtic , Latin and Portuguese elements. Although Castilian (Spanish) is spoken widely, here in the rural areas Galician (central dialect) is the mainstay. So even if you speak Castilian and ask for directions at the road side, don’t be surprised if you do not understand more than the vague directions given by hand signals.
So when you plan on traveling in Galicia it might be a good idea to get some information outside of Galicia or on the Net, where English, German and Spanish tend to be available, whereas here in Galicia its all available, but mostly in Galician or if you are lucky in Castilian.
Turismo.gal is a good site and has brochures in many languages.
But, overcoming these little obstacles and arriving here, you enter nature pure.
Well build and maintained roads connect the larger centers but as soon as one deviates the landscape is crisscrossed by winding small roads (caminos) with virtually no traffic. Little hamlets are dotted about, most of the houses abandoned or holiday homes. Well tended vegetable gardens, small fields and vines, vines, vines or fallow and reforested fields characterise the landscape immediately around these. The caminos wind on through tunnels of ancient and new forest opening up to dramatic and often unexpected views.
It’s an area of history. Monasteries and hermitages, often in nearly inaccessible places, give hints to times past. The Romanesque influence is often clearly visible and one finds more from this style here in the Ribeira Sacra than anywhere else in Spain.
The Ribeira Sacra has its own denomination (DO). So any wine you find and drink here is mainly sourced locally and if it has a DO it’s just local. Amandi within the concello of Sober is famous for it’s extraordinary wines. The vineyards are planted on terraces (bancadas) in the valleys of the dammed up rivers and produce grapes with a very concentrated flavour. The terraces are small, nothing is mechanised and sometimes a boat is need to gain access.
Amandi is a prime example – click for a virtual visit – Amandi – Reginavarium – DO Ribeira Sacra (The language selection is on the bottom left)
Another well guarded secret, as often not easy to find, are the traditional artisans scattered throughout. Well meaning signs point in the directions and one knows one has missed it when passing the sign pointing in the opposite direction.
Nearby (Casa de las Flores or Casa do Polo) is the Alferia Gundivos – Pottery of Gundivos.
When Elias is in, he always makes time for a chat or show you around his small museum.
Another example is the cottage industry of Anna and Lluiss Grau. Anna spins, colours and weaves using traditional methods and natural colours.
Lluis is a rural basket maker and now does Spanish split wood basketry as well as restoration.
They also have a cottage to rent and whilst there you can take classes in weaving and /or basket making.
Pay them a visit click here – Baskets & Fabrics
Tranquility, the friendliness and hospitality of the people, embedded in a glorious landscape of deep valleys will entice everyone who has a liking for nature.
Leaving the car behind and walking along the old and small tracks, some of them require tough boots and a hatchet, one encounters cross roads from medieval times, sarcophagus of sects long since forgotten. The often heavily wooded areas are a mixture of pine, oak and chestnuts with some elm, birch, hazel thrown in, to give a dazzling display when the leaves colour.
In early spring, mimosa with their yellow bloom dictate the colour of the landscape, followed by white and yellow broom. In summer the road side and the still managed small fields erupt in an abundance of wild flowers.
The weather can be fickle and unpredictable. It rains a lot, it gets cold in winter but also hot in summer. There are hidden sweet water beaches and other opportunities to swim, boat or simply fish in the dammed up rivers, cool and refreshing in summer. If it gets too cold or to warm up there are natural occurring hot springs with public bath just along the river or a bit more upmarket – Japanese style – close by.
Galicia and specifically the Ribeira Sacra is open all year round!
Most important relax and enjoy.
As you can read from this small article Galicia is an area that has something for everyone and is well worth a visit at any time of year.
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