WHAT IS ‘LA CASA DEL HOLANDES’?


What is La Casa del Holandes?

(To Collin and Helen for inspiring me)

“The house of the Dutchman” is officially classified as “apartamentos rurales” (we have three studio- apartments) and a restaurant. We could also say it is like a B&B or a little apartment hotel. We are situated in Extremadura, probably one of the least known and unexplored areas in Spain, far away from the mass tourism of the coast, not so recently discovered by bird watchers… In terms of nature and bird-life, it is a extraordinary spot. But Extremadura regio is about the size of The Netherlands so, where are “we” located exactly?

We’re on the southern slopes of the Gredos Mountain range, watching the Almanzor face to face, in the east border village of La Vera. If you ask anybody what they know about La Vera, they would probably tell you about the beautiful mountain rivers and the transparency of their waters. Maybe, they would talk about the famous smoked paprika (Pimentón) “the red gold”, the smell of which envelopes the villages in October. Some others, more interested in history, will tell you that emperor Charles V ended his days close by, at the Yuste Monastery…

If you visit this area, I’m sure you will understand how we, like many others, ended up here, two hours driving away from Madrid.

‘La Casa del Holandés’ is, in first place, a love story. I fell in love with La Vera one autumn day at the “Devil’s Water Fall” some seven minutes away. Take that view together with the noise of the waterfall and you will understand it immediately!

Well, now you get the idea. Afterwards, there was a tough time to rebuild, trying to make it as comfortable as possible while conserving the “flavor” of a typical village house. I think we managed it.

So, what can you expect? You can expect a warm welcome, a comfortable room in the heart of Madrigal de la Vera. Nice walks around oak and chestnut trees. Maybe you get lucky and see the storks on the bell tower nest. Maybe you get really lucky establishing contact with the friendly local population… They can proudly tell you all about the smoking process of paprika, or about the tobacco fields or the lives of the goat shepherds who where their grandparents…

You can always have a slow-food meal at our restaurant with recipes from around the world, enjoy a wine or a Belgian beer on the terrace next to the irrigation channel. You can also be woken up by the sound of the birds or by the flute of the knife-sharpener or by the melon seller, depending on the time you decide to wake up…

But if, what you want is to indulge in luxury, far away of any contact with authenticity, or if you just want a bed to sleep on, then, this is not your place.

La Casa del Holandés not only is what we have to offer, but also what we are. We hope you would enjoyed it. You will always be welcome.


The Sierra de Gredos and La Vera. Walking in Extremadura


A few days ago, I went to “La Tienda Verde” in Madrid, to look for some topographical maps of the Gredos Mountains. I found this wonderful guide about our region. With the kind permission of the author, I reproduce part of the chapter dedicated to the Sierra de Gredos and La Vera.

WALKING IN EXTREMADURA

Gisela Radant Wood

The Sierra de Gredos and La Vera

Santana Books

“The Sierra de Gredos lies on the north-eastern border of Extremadura with Castile and León and much of it has been declared a regional park. Its highest point -Pico Almanzor, at 2,592 m – lies outside Extremadura in Avila province. The highest peaks within Extremadura lie to the north-west of Tornavacas on the border and attain heights of over 2,400m.

With the mountains comes the valleys, carved out by fast-flowing rivers in beds of granite boulders worn smooth over thousand of years. These rivers do not run dry because in the summer months they are fed by melt waters from snow drifts which can lie on the Gredos for up six months of the year. The rivers are known as gargantas which can be translated as “throat” but also as “torrent” or “narrow pass between mountains” The rivers, in their high-sided, tree-clad valleys set against high mountains are one of loveliest features of the area. Many rivers have natural pools and these are wonderful for observing nature, but popular swimming places during the summer.

Two of the largest rivers, the Ambroz and the Jerte, have carved out deep valleys that offer excellent walking experiences and more on that later. La Vera, translated as “edge” or “border”, is a distinct area in the Sierra de Gredos. It lies north of the River Tiétar and on the north-eastern edge of Extremadura. It has many small, historic villages, some as Garganta de la Olla, with perfectly preserved 17th century houses. Many villages and towns in the area have de la Vera (of the Vera) added to their names, proud of their location within such a special region.

You will find much to delight you if you are a lover of birds, wild animals, lush spring flowers, plant life trees and, in autumn, glorious foliage in yellow, orange and red. Walkers tied to July and August for holidays can walk each day, early or late, and spend the hotter hours by the cool waters of a river, or plan an all-day walk in the deep oak and pine forest, or climb up into the breeze that blows on the higher paths. It’s a wonderful place to walk.

On a historical note the area is associated with Charles V (of the Holy Roman Empire) and I (of Spain), ruler of half the word, 1500-1558. Charles became old and gouty before his time and decided to retired, without actually abdicating, living his son, Phillip II, to rule Spain, The Netherlands and the New World while, Ferdinand, the younger brother of Charles, got the Holy Roman Empire. Charles retired at Yuste Monastery but before the monks were ready for him he traveled from Tornavacas, over the mountains, to wait in the castle at Jarandilla for nine months. He then traveled from the castle to the monastery where he died within two years. These two journeys are commemorated every year in celebration walks complete with re-enactments and historical costume. Thousands of walkers join in from all over Europe.”

© Gisela Radant Wood