Alcalá del Jucar was given official recognition as an independent village on 18 April 1364. Now, 650 years later, the village holds a Medieval Market on 17 to 20 April, with medieval minstrels, a juggler walking on stilts, a wooden merry-go-round, all sorts of medieval games and above all, stalls with the real craft work still to be found in this typical Amata market. The village itself – a jewel in an otherwise drab landscape – is also well worth a visit
Anybody who has driven along the autovia from Alicante to Madrid will have desperately wished for one of Google’s self drive cars so that one can watch a video instead of having to concentrate on the desolate landscape. The road makes its way through a vast and empty space with here and there a single tree. And yet, hidden in a deep gorge carved by the Júcar river, lies a picturesque village in a landscape decorated with small waterfalls, large and decorative rocks, hillsides covered with forest. The village is a maze of small stone stairs with an imposing castle crowning what is one of Spain’s better-known tourist attractions with a good selection of restaurants, hotels and more humble lodgings
This Easter the village celebrates its 650th birthday; it is 650 years ago that Alcalá de Júcar gained its independence and became a village in its own right. So the good burghers decided to celebrate by making diverse excursions to that time, such as a Carnival procession with medieval floats on which participants stood dressed in medieval clothes, and now a Medieval Market with medieval stalls on the banks of the river Júcar. Here the visitor can walk round and appraise the wares of various craftsmen and women, many of whom will be working at their stall. A chance to buy a souvenir that doesn’t come from some Third World country or a small factory near Madrid.
Some of the work on sale is just pleasant to look at, but other work is handsome as well as useful such as hand made pottery, leather belts and handbags, lamps, clothing, jewellery boxes and mirrors. Here is a chance to own something really exclusive without having to pay inflated gallery prices.
The Market is not just a collection of craft stalls; Solredo, a trio of slightly crazy musicians, walk around playing medieval music and Lydia walks on stilts, lies on a bed of nails and ties herself in knots, and plays with fire. For the children there is a small merry-go-round and medieval table games (very popular even in these days of computer consoles).
Alcalá de Júcar itself is a lovely village with a Roman bridge, three large caves and its own impressive castle; visitors can also enjoy numerous activities such as horse riding, rafting, fishing, climbing and various guided walking tours. One of Spain’s many “caminos de Santiago” (the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostella) passes through the village and for people who don’t want to follow a guide nor walk the odd 1,000 kms there are a number of sign-posted local walks.
The Market opens on Thursday afternoon at 6 pm; on Friday and Saturday opening times are 11 to 2 in the morning and 5 till late in the afternoon and evening and on Sunday only in the morning from 11 to 2. To get to Alcalá del Júcar follow the main autovia from Alicante to Madrid and turn off just past Almansa; Alcalá del Júcar lies half way between Almansa and Requena. More information on the market to be found on the Amata web page (www.amata.es, also in English) or you can ring Elvira (who speaks English) on 639 979 678. Or you can ring the tourist office on 967 473 090.
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