At an elevation of 836 metres above sea level on the western foothills of the Sierra de Cazorla, the largest Parque Natural in Spain, Cazorla has a somewhat cooler climate during summer than the hot plains towards the provincial capital, Jaen. At night it can be quite chilly even during the summer months. The Sierras east of the town attract clouds that can linger on the peaks well into the day and it is not unusual for the town to have a light evening downpour. During the winter it is, as you might expect, cold.
Cazorla is one of the access points to the Parque Natural that bears its name and as such attracts tourists who want to experience the great and wild outdoors, as well as those who just want to visit a remote hill town. It is surprising how many four and five star hotels there are in this area that cater for those visitors, not to mention the restaurants where you can sample such delicacies as jabali – wild boar, and ciervo – venison and a local dish called Rin Ran. Rin Ran is a combination of potatoes, peppers, fish, onions and eggs plus olives from the region and of course Cazorla’s signature product, Extra Virgin Olive Oil with the Designation of Origin ‘Sierra de Cazorla’.
The old town is overlooked by a reconstructed Moorish castle, La Yedra and on the ridge above that is an older, ruined fortress. Typically narrow steep streets lead to three squares, the oldest is Plaza Santa Maria. At one end of this square is the ruined cathedral from which the square takes its name. Two sides of this square are taken up with bar restaurants that come alive in the evening.
Historically Cazorla can trace its roots 2,000 years back to the Iberians although there is nothing left from that time. The Romans called the place Carcacena. They were followed by the Moors under whom it became a stronghold, one of many guarding the mountains. Re-conquered in 1235 the town then became an outpost for Christian troops. Despite its past you receive the impression that not much has changed in Cazorla since those first Iberians or if it has it changed very slowly. The town is still coming to terms with the motor vehicle, in particular the large coaches that insist on traversing streets built for a donkey cart.
Whilst I was there I saw a sandwich made up of a wall, a 54 seater coach full of gawking tourists, a local van containing a phlegmatic driver, which was more than could be said for the coach driver who was very vocal, a parked car and a second wall. All were touching and none could move. Neither could either driver remove himself from his vehicle since all access doors were blocked. All this on a bend in the road. There was not a lot I could do since I was behind the van and his best option was to reverse. I did not fancy climbing over the road block. A futile attempt by the van driver to reverse resulted in deep gouges in the side of the coach, a red faced coach driver and an even more stuck van. Fortunately men appeared from nowhere and taking hold of the van they lifted and pushed and, like a cork from a bottle, the van was extricated. In the meantime quite a traffic jam had built up behind and in front. I mention all this to give you a flavour of the local people. Apart from myself, resigned, and the coach driver, incandescent, everybody else involved was a local. Not a raised voice or honking horn from any of them, no whistling policeman, no policeman at all actually, no exchange of driver’s details, the van just casually drove off and everybody allowed him to, no witness statements, nothing. Ten seconds after the van disappeared all that was left was a coach driver scratching his head gazing at his once pristine coach.
Later that day Julie and I went for a meal at a local restaurant. The meal was splendid, served with an excellent bottle of Jaen red wine and not expensive compared to the Costa. We asked the staff to call a taxi after the meal. Within minutes the restaurant owner appeared in his own car to give us a lift. Apparently taxis were hard to call. He was also very reluctant to take any money for his trouble. I had to persuade him to have a drink on us.
So, that is Cazorla, not a lot to say about the town but the people are wonderful.
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Nick has lived and worked in Andalucia for over 20 years. He and his partner, Julie Evans, have travelled extensively and dug deep into the history and culture, producing authoritative articles on all aspects of the region. Nick has written four books about Andalucia and writes articles for other websites and blogs.
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