Spain Cuenca 2000.12.29 - 12.31

Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses)

The main city of Cuenca, where the train station is, isn't much to look at. Old town Cuenca with the Casas Colgadas, 20 minutes walk north, is where the rewards are. Running through the northern part of Cuenca are 2 gorges where the Júcar and the Huécar Rivers flow. Between the gorges rises a rock upon which an entire old town section of Cuenca sits.

From the Cuenca train station, turn left on the street (Calle Mariano Catalina) and keep walking for 10 minutes until you cross a river and reach roads and stairs leading up. The street name from the train station to the river will change from Calle Mariano Catalina to Calle de Ramon y Cajal to Calle de Las Torres to Place de Valencia even though you proceed in a straight line. From the river, continue up (any route) for another 10 minutes until you reach the main square, Plaza Mayor. Next to the arch, just below Plaza Mayor, is where you'll find the Tourist Information Office. Continue uphill all the way through the village to reach Pensión La Tabanqueta where we stayed (see the Spain Lodging Guide).

There's an alternative to walking. Bus numbers 1 and 2 travel up to the parking lot above Casas Colgadas, making several stops within the old town. There's no time table posted at the bus stops, but they run hourly even during low tourist season. The closest bus stop to the train station is serviced by Bus 1 and is 75 meters away on Calle Mariano Catalina. The fare is PTS 85 (about US$0.50). Gee, now if the Tourist Office had been near the train station, we could have found the bus information on arrival and saved ourselves a 20 minutes uphill climb with heavy packs.

The basement of the Pensión La Tabanqueta has a bar and restaurant. A much better alternative for food at roughly the same price is 3 minutes walk down the road at Restaurante Ronda at 20 Calle de San Pedro. Some places advertise their menu prices including the 7% IVA (tax) and others do so without. For a salty OK meal you pay PTS 1200 + 7% (PTS 1284) under the Pensión La Tabanqueta. At Ronda you pay PTS 1300 tax included for an excellent meal. The price difference is US$0.09. The quality difference is incomparable!

The Lonely Planet guide makes Casas Colgadas sound like a place no tourist should miss. "... originally built in the 15th century, (the Casas Colgadas) are precariously positioned on a cliff top, their balconies literally hanging over the gorge." It nice, but not as polished as the town of Gordes in Provence, France. Just having come from France, we need to keep reminding ourselves that fault doesn't lie with Spain. Most places in the world don't compare with Provence, and we spoiled ourselves silly there for 2 month.

The buildings of old town Cuenca, including the 2 structures that are called Casas Colgadas, stand at the edge of the cliff. In the background, quite a bit lower in elevation, is the main city of Cuenca.

Júcar Gorge is just outside the window of our room at Pensión La Tabanqueta.

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