When we first arrived here, I saw the castle on the top of the mountain and of course thought, “I have to go there”… but we have been so busy the past 12 days, and at times the weather has been a bit dicey, so I have had to wait. But yesterday dawned clear and warm, and I had an extra couple of hours in the afternoon, so it was time to conquer the castle. I was told that it could be reached by following a dirt road for about 30-40 minutes, but that there was a shortcut somehow, somewhere as well. I grabbed my camera and a bottle of water and I was on my way.
The castle was built by the Moors, who had crossed over from North Africa and conquered pretty much all of Spain several thousand years ago (the Moorish influence is seen in much of Spain today in the architecture and style). Then the crusaders came to this area, led by the Templar Knights, and drove the Moors out. A Knight by the name Monjardins conquered the castle here, so they named the town after him: Villamayor (means “major village”) des Monjardins. He lived in the castle at times, but was eventually named King of Pamplona and spent time there (maybe 80 K away) as well.
As I started along the road, I saw a trail (?) heading straight up the mountain. Could this be the possible shortcut? Being a shortcut kind of a person, I decided to chance it. A few minutes into the trail, I could see that it was really just a “wash”, or small ravine formed by the winter rains flowing down in streams from the top of the mountain. But I continued, hoping it would take me clear to the top. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”. And a song from the 70’s by a group called The Second Chapter of Acts popped into my head, the chorus words being “taking the easy way isn’t the easy way…” As I fought my way through a narrowing trail lined with brambles that were wanting to tear at my short pant legs, I knew it was a lost cause and finally turned around and went back to the road to start again.
The steps up to the gate. When I arrive, the big padlock on the gate is unlocked; there are two Spanish couples already here who have evidently also gotten a key from the bar. I try my key anyway, just to see, and it doesn’t fit! I am very happy that the gate is already open, since the bar owner obviously gave me the wrong key.
Our village awaits me below. The large building in the upper left corner is the winery. We serve wine to the pilgrims each night at dinner, so we buy it in big plastic bottles, maybe three or four litre bottles, 6 or 7 at a time. They are filled right out of the cask and the cost? 70 cents U.S. per litre. It is simple, but quite good wine.
So, back in the village 25 minutes later, I return to the bar to trade my key for my passport. The same Spanish woman who gave me the key in the first place greets me, but won’t accept the key from me? I keep trying to give it to her, and she keeps jabbering away at me in Spanish while shaking her head “no” and pointing at the key. I am beginning to get a little impatient with her, and keep asking for my passport, but she just won’t have any of it. Finally a Spanish gentleman, one of the men that was at the castle, intervenes and speaks to me (also in Spanish) while showing me HIS key to the castle. While mine has a black plastic tag attached to it, his is a kind of lime green color. And it gradually dawns on me… I reach into my other pocket, and pull out a key with a lime green tag. I have been trying to give the barkeeper my room key. And I had tried to open the castle padlock, also with my room key…
The king himself. This bust is mounted in the village just below our albergue (hostel). It wasn’t until I returned to take this picture that I realized that he is gazing up longingly at his castle, no doubt dreaming of the day he might return.