March 2020

 

-  Castillo de Castellar de la Frontera -

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Some places you just don't forget, the castle Castillo de Castellar de la Frontera is one such a place. I had only vaguely remembered its name myself. I couldn't remember exactly where it was either. But when I visited my daughter Xira in Cadíz and we planned a little trip, this moorish castle with its impressive walls and the well conserved medina that I had once visited seemingly an eternity ago immediately came to my mind. "I absolutely must show you this castle," I told Xira and together we found our way there. The Castillo was built in the 13th century and is situated on a hilltop. When I visited it in the summer of 1983, it towered high into the cloudless blue sky from the green of the surrounding fields and the colourfulness of the many gardens. Now it was February, rainy, the restaurant closed, but the castle hotel had been renovated. There was not a soul for miles and miles. "You should come back here with Klaus," Xira suggested. "It's really picturesque here."

In fact, a few years later in March and again in pouring rain, my husband and I walked through the large archway – but this time to the castle hotel, where we had rented a room for a night. For only as a hotel guest did you get the opportunity to enter the castle tower, which I had chosen as the location for my new painting. The tower balcony under the roof was a square, large open room with wide curved window openings on three sides, the fourth being a brick wall with a door. When I entered it, all the floor tiles were wet from the rain – except for a dry spot right next to the wall, big enough for my seat cushion. '¡Ay, caramba!' it was rather drafty. I pulled my cap low over my ears and into my face, huddled in my seat with my legs drawn up, while the rain pelted down. This rain! Simply too much of it... The country used to suffer from drought, now rotten prickly pear cacti lined the streets and fields. It's only in the last few years that all of them have died. While my thoughts were still wandering through the past of this region, the rain slowly stopped, even the drizzle ebbed and a bright light shone through the cloud cover. Slowly the contours of the surrounding hills became visible and their flora revealed different shades of green. Yes, and there I even discovered Gibraltar in the right window arch and could even make out nearby Morocco, where the architectural style of this castle and this room had its origin.

When Klaus came to me a little later in the tower, the view was already clear – my picture was soon to be finished. Villages, fields, the big reservoir, the cork oak forests stretched under us into the distance, the roads, some still built by the Romans, ran south to the sea or into the other three compass directions. "It's beautiful here," said Klaus, "you can enjoy the view and don't have to look out for enemy cavalry armies." I wondered at that moment whether women in the old days had ever sat up here. And if so, had they at least sat comfortably, unlike me?

 

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