Old giants in a modern world - Day Four
Victor Nava '10 - Today I write not from Madrid, but from a small town located south of Madrid named Campo de Criptana. We left Madrid around 10:00AM this morning and rode on a charter bus for about two hours. (Most of the students didn’t know how long the ride was because we all fell asleep in minutes. All of this traveling has proved to be quite exhausting.) Along the way, we saw an interesting sight that I will discuss later.
After the ride, we checked into our hotel, had a quick bite to eat, and instantly began walking through the streets of Criptana. For those that may not know, Campo de Criptana is credited with being the site where Miguel de Cervantes staged the infamous windmill scene in Don Quixote. The actual validity of this statement itself is quite fascinating considering that no one really knows where this scene took place and it is by far one of the most known images from literature to date. The small streets in Criptana reminded me of the streets back in Hidalgo, Mexico where my family lives: small, cozy, welcoming, not “well made,” and never ending. In the horizon as we made our way to the top we saw the tops of the windmills and their giant propeller like arms standing guard over the entire town. From the right angles, I actually envisioned kinds of guardians looking far into the distance. The entire experience itself was very unique and I feel like this was one of those “once in a lifetime” moments.
The one concept that kept going through my mind was the incredible changes that Spain had gone through over time. Earlier on in the trip, we had come across three electric windmills on the side of the road on our way to Criptana. I kept wondering: What would Don Quixote say about these new, modern variations of something he has been made famous for? The windmills in Don Quixote are, in my opinion, unequaled in terms of their quiet enchantment and overall contribution to imagination. However, these electric windmills seem to threaten these romantic notions and ultimately define themselves as the real “monsters” in this story.
After this excursion, we boarded our bus again and made a brief visit to Argamasilla de Alba where we saw the actual jail cell where Cervantes was placed back in the late 1590’s for discrepancies on his job as a tax collector. It is believed that it was in that very jail cell where he first began to write Don Quixote. Due to time constraints and unforeseen closures of some other sites at Argmasilla, we had to board the bus back early to Criptana. However, all was not lost as we made a brief visit to Verum Bodegas y Viñedos where we learned about the process of making Spanish wine and other “beverages.” Interestingly enough, this visit actually had a good purpose considering that the “La Mancha” region of Spain where Don Quixote traveled is now being used to mass produce wine. Everywhere we looked: vineyard after vineyard. It almost reminded me of the fields of Indiana (though somewhat less exciting).
Our touring and tasting of the samples aside, we returned back to Criptana where we had the night off. Much like Crawfordsville, Criptana is a small town pretty much secluded from all forms of mass social interaction. Many of the guys just stayed in the hotel and took some much needed rests. I however wanted to make the most of my short stay at Criptana and decided to once again visit the windmills; except this time at night. I figured that the windmills would be much more dramatic lit up at night and grabbed my camera to get some good shots. I ended up making two trips. The first was by myself and didn’t really bring many good results (I actually got somewhat lost on the way back and ended up just getting tired from roaming around.) However, I did not give up. After striking up a conversation with one of the hotel workers, I had found myself a personal tour guide to teach me all there is to know about Criptana and the windmills. Around 1:00AM, we set off and he described everything about the town on the way there. Why are the colors of every building blue and white? Why are there plastic water bottles on every corner? Why is this street older than the other one? I had multiple questions and he luckily had multiple answers. We ended up going to each windmill, touring some old “caves” located outside of the town, and looking at some landmarks that the class had missed earlier on their visit. Overall, I thought this to be a very unique experience and consider it to be the best part of my trip so far.
In going to bed, I think that I will one day come back to this town and revisit those windmills. I now know why Cervantes had become infatuated with them and why he included them in his story. Now, if only I can save up enough money…
Top and bottom left: The windmills of Criptana at day and night.
Middle right: The "new" windmills we saw on the way to Criptana.