We had ambitious plans for exploring Ciudad Rodrigo and the surrounding countryside. But my back injury scuppered the plans. And then we found a Mediaeval Festival in the town which restricted access, and perhaps there was also just a touch of laziness! We came here from the super Paradore of Jarandilla de la Vera where the staff had been very kind to me.
A brief history
Ciudad Rodrigo is 650m above sea level and has a population of c.16,000 people. It is in the area known as Estremadura and it borders on Portugal. The town is on a plain where the main activity is agriculture, particularly cattle.
This was an area inhabited by Celtiberian people, the Vettons, as far back as the 6th century BC and one of the signs of their presence is the ‘verraco’. Several of these are dotted about the town today.
The Romans invaded in the 2nd century AD and The Three Columns remain on the outskirts of the town, perhaps once part of the temple. After the Romans, and until the c.12th century, the city declined and the area was a battleground between Christians and Moors.
In the 12th century Count Rodrigo Gonzalez Giron, who was a vassal of Alfonzo VI, Kind of Castile and Leon, rebuilt and repopulated the city. But it was under King Fernando II, later in the century, that the city started growing and flourishing. He was responsible for the wonderful Cathedral of Santa Maria and he moved the Bishop’s seat from Portugal to the town. He also raised the walls.
The heyday of the town was in the 15th and 16th centuries when many of the mansions and palaces were built. Much of the inner city was destroyed during the War of Independence. But since then there has been no noticeable changes. Today small industry and tourism generate income for the citizens.
The Parador of Ciudad Rodrigo
The Parador of Ciudad Rodrigo is in the Castle of Trastamara. Henry II of Castile (1334-79) built the castle in 1372 overlooking the River Agueda. It replaced an earlier fortress and was built to defend the border with Portugal and is dominated by the tall, square keep.
Over the Festival weekend the hotel was full of visitors and families. A Mediaeval Banquet on the Friday evening was just too late for us – 10.15pm start – but over the next two days guests continued to dress in ‘Mediaeval’ garb in a completely unselfconscious way. And children were clearly having a very good time indeed. The staff of the hotel, on the other hand, looked worn out by the next week.
Today the castle is converted to a parador, a very comfortable hotel, and it was a pleasure to stay here.
Mediaeval Festival in Ciudad Rodrigo
We had to arrive early at the Parador because roads into the town were closing early. There was to be the 6th Mediaeval Festival of Ciudad Rodrigo over the weekend, with an extensive programme. Well, it was fun! The sound of drums was a constant over the weekend and people looked, and sounded happy.
Plaza del Castillo
This little square stands just outside the gate of the Parador and it was jam-packed with people and stalls. You could buy all sorts of food – crepes, honey, sweets, beer – and there were craft stalls. And in the middle was a round-about for children.
Plaza Damaso Lesdesma
Not far away, in a little square opposite the former military barrack, was a blacksmith, a wood carver, someone grinding corn for bread and a weaver. There was also a display of snakes (!) and a chance to shoot with a bow and arrows.
And the Plaza Mayor was crowded at all times of the day, and probably the evening as well. The drummers were particularly loud as they paraded through the town throughout the day.
Ciudad Rodrigo at Festival time was just fun!