Our first few stops in Spain have been of the sleepy, small town variety. We’re in Seville now, which we are loving, but wanted to share a bit about a couple of the towns in the Huelva province we visited when we first crossed the border.
This is definitely not a sleepy town during Holy Week, but in December it’s a dreamlike Wild West town. The first hint that this place might be a little bit different from other places we’ve visited was when we turned off of the smooth pavement of A-483 onto…sand. This town isn’t paved. It’s just sand as far as the eye can see. And the shops all have hitching posts outside of them for tying up your horse.
This is the home of Spain’s largest religious pilgrimage. Seven weeks after Easter, on the Pentecost, this place becomes a raucous party. Travelers from 115 hermandandes (brotherhoods) descend on the place to pay homage to the story of a miraculous wooden statue of the Virgin Mary. As the story goes, a hunter found the statue in a tree and made off with it, intending to take it home. When he stopped for a rest, the statue miraculously returned to her tree.
As we’ve learned from past pilgrimage sites, the location of a miraculous appearance will not remain untouched by human hands for very long. A chapel was built on the site of the tree, which means that the tree got chopped down, and now there’s a massive church on the site.
Probably needless to say, but I’m glad we were here when it was slow. The land that this site sits on is also a National Park, and the wetlands around the town were lush and gorgeous. It was quite peaceful. If you like the hustle of a big party, you can consider making this pilgrimage. Most people walk or ride in elaborately decorated covered wagons.
There’s really only one reason to come here, but it’s a very fine reason indeed. Hidden under the streets of this small town is a massive cave complex. It’s called the Gruta de las Maravillas (Grotto of Wonders). You can only get in on a guided tour, which is a bit of a disappointment, and they don’t allow photographs inside, which is an even bigger disappointment.
While on the tour we only saw 10 percent of the full cave complex, but it was stunning. There were dozens of lakes and massive stalagmites and stalactites.
Our guide took pity on us and let us snap a few shots at the very end of the tour.
Up next will be several posts about Seville. It’s a wonderful city and we loved everything about it…right up until I caught a nasty cold. But I’m back on my feet and will get caught up on the posts in the next few days, hotel internet connections providing.