On Monday, November 23, I went on my first excursion of the school year with my fifth grade students. We walked from Ubrique to the ruins of the Castle of Aznalmara, a castle that sits on the top of a mountain (okay, hilltop) overlooking the small nearby town of Tavizna. In order to get to the castle, we had to walk in a single file line for about 2 kilometers along the highway and a service road, and spent the other 4 kilometers gallivanting across the countryside and through various "private" farms. Let's just say I was shocked to be taking my fifth graders on an excursion in which about an hour was spent walking along the shoulder of a highway/main road. That doesn't happen much in the US. In fact, I would be willing to bet it flat out doesn't happen, ever! However, I seemed to be the only one even remotely concerned about it. The other two teachers treated our hike along the highway as completely normal. For me, it was quite the experience :) Once we finished our highway hike, we meandered through the countryside and through several farms full of pigs, goats, and cows! I much preferred this part of the journey. And I swear Spanish pigs are unlike any other pigs in the world...they are MASSIVE! And quite funny! :) I have a new found adoration for pigs and baby goats!
Despite the fact the castle was only 6 kilometers away, which should take the average person somewhere between an hour and an hour and thirty minutes to walk, we took over 2 hours to arrive, and almost three hours on our way back to Ubrique. Fifth graders like to take lots of breaks (as in every 10 minutes) and tend to walk very slowly and lag behind.
After a frustrating two hour walk, we finally arrived to the base of the Castle of Aznalmara. From the base of the mountain/hill, it was about another 20 minutes (steep!) climb up to the castle. However, the views from the top were incredible, and the castle, despite its condition, was very impressive. Here's a bit of background for you: The Castle of Aznalmara was a military construction that dates back to the nazarí time (around the 13th and 14th centuries). Like most things in Spain (and probably the world), it was conquered and destroyed by the Christians in 1410 and 1485. Unfortunately it is pretty much in ruins today, but the foundation and tower of the castle still stand tall and are reminiscent of the original grandeur.
While it made for a very long Monday, it was well worth the headache of corralling my students and protecting them from highway traffic and massive Spanish pigs. I would definitely do it again! It was enchanting to stand inside a structure basically untouched by humans for centuries...and to imagine what was once there only seven centuries ago...