Covarrubias – land of El Cid

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Gusto Guides continue our tour of the lost medieval towns of inland Spain with a visit to Covarrubias, founded by Chindasvinto (king of the Visigoths, no less) in the 13th century around 40km south of the comely provinical capital of Burgos.  In a weekend, you can easily take in both Covarrubias and a few of its good-looking neighbours including Lerma and Santo Domingo de Silos.

Legend tells of how the semi-mythical warrior El Cid Campeador wandered through these lands during his exile.  In those days, Covarrubias was the capital of what would later become the powerful Kingdom of Castille.  Today the village, like large swathes of inland Spain, has experienced a steady decline in population: from 1800 inhabitants at the end of the 19th century to just 630 souls in 2011.

The Torreón de Ferrán González – dating back to before the 11th century – is the only building that remains from the era, and well worth a visit.  For art lovers on the lookout for a hidden gem, the beautiful 15th century Colegiata de San Cosme and San Damian boasts canvasses by Berruguete and Van Eyck.

Covarrubias is also a good place to take in some authentic Castilian architecture, starting with the 15th century Casa de Doña Sancha.  Elsewhere in the town, you may spot the remains of the town’s defensive walls, although much of the structure was demolished when the town was faced with plague (in order to improve the airflow to the townspeople – a misguided theory back when people still believed the plague to be airborne).  Sadly for the people of Covarrubias, it didn’t work.

Demolishing the walls did, however, mean that a fierce wind now blows through through Covarrubias in the winter months.  The best way to warm up is to try local delicacy Olla podrida – a local stew made with green beans and various kinds of meat.  We recommend enjoying a glass of local wine with your dinner  – look out for local vineyard Valdable from the D.O. Arlanza.

Cover photo: Flickr / Lorenzo Martín Iglesias

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