Albarracin is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Spain, has a long and colourful history of human habitation and has been proposed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. During our first few weeks there, we had spent most of our time between the (also very beautiful) Piñas Rodenas forest, climbing on the boulders, and a small, windswept car park outside and above the town. Thus far, the majority of our cultural appreciation of Albarracin had been from this car park, which does provide a cracking view but is a little lacking in intimacy. We were running low on skin, money, friends, and food. It felt like a good time to do the tourist thing.
Historically speaking, people have been leaving their mark on the area for a long time. Thousands of years ago, early settlers were drawing cave paintings on the rocks depicting animals and hunting scenes. Romans built a lengthy aquaduct in the early Anno Domini. Moors and Christians squabbled over Albarracin for a few hundred years before successfully cohabiting for a few hundred more, leaving behind the striking buildings of the town. And now thousands of tourists come to gaze at the paintings and architecture and, perhaps less predictably, spend hours scrabbling over the boulders.
The walk into town is along the very pretty bottom of a gorge, and also gives a great view of an apparently lifesize model liopleurodon that resides on the roof of the dinosaur museum (it was closed until, seemingly, spring). This stroll was nothing in preparation for the steep walk up to the Wall. This feature deserves capitals because it is massive, a huge stack of pale stone that bear hugs the town. Despite its general massiveness, we found it pretty difficult to find and spent about an hour accidentally exploring the other sights of Albarracin, such a large cathedral, an unusually blue house, and the thousand-odd cats that eyeballed us with acute distrust. We kept bumping into a French couple at various points who were obviously having similar difficulties accessing the Wall, and shared a moment of triumph at its discovery.
The Wall was far more exciting than we expected it to be, with lots of different levels and slits for shooting arrows, and airy paths connecting different towers. Basically, an awesome place to run around like a kid. The structure dates back to around 700AD apparently, with various improvements and refurbs in the years since; staring through the arrowslits almost feels like going back in time a few hundred years. The Wall is set back quite a way from the town for reasons that we have been unable to discover, it seems strategically dubious but we can only assume that the guys that built it knew what they were doing.
After goofing around on the wall for a bit we wandered back down into the town. It really is beautiful; quirky and old, an elegant maze of orange, wooden-framed buildings shadowing cool, narrow streets. The signs are painted tiles, and doors are ornate, imposing, and varying enough in size to accommodate giants and hobbits. Even the Santander bank is tasteful and 'ye olde'. At this time, in the late afternoon, the streets were almost deserted, adding to the atmosphere.
Naturally, we finished off our Spanish sight-seeing day with a couple of cold cervezas at a riverside hotel. We made it back to the van ten minutes after a brief but violent thunder shower.