Having received an invitation to attend a church social evening in the chapel at Aljambra, I didn't do much today apart from domestic chores, and made sure I was well rested, with the prospect of a return journey in the dark. I received excellent instructions from David, to help make sense of the maps I'd consulted. I needed to take the same route up the autovia, along the A334 to the turn off for Llanos, then go a further 20k west to Albox. It's a strategically placed town, with a population of nearly 12,000, developed by the Arabs from the eleventh century and fought over several times since the reconquista. Its name means 'The tower' in Arabic. This region is renowned for its marble and other minerals. Aljambra is a hamlet to the north east reached by passing through the east side of town and going north east a few kilometres.
Arriving in Albox, I missed two key landmarks - the estadio de futbol with a Mercadona opposite. I ended on the west side of town negotiating narrow old streets, but soon got my bearings. I'd been looking mistakenly for an arena with tall floodlights, when the tall main entrance building is right there on the main street. I hadn't looked high enough to see the writing on the wall. Curiously, I was reminded of visiting Bilbao with my sister June back in April 2009. There, we stayed in an hotel with the Athletic Bilbao San Mamés stadium at the end of the street. Too big to miss.
Aljambra is in open countryside riven with wide ramblas dry river beds channeling rainwater from the surrounding sierras - they are also called arroyos. It's not an area of high rainfall, but the sandy soil and friable bedrock hold enough moisture to permit orchards to grow. Occasionally a massive dump of rain happens so quickly that catastrophic floods occur. Floods as well as earthquakes plus wars have taken their toll of Albox over the past millennium, so it's been rebuilt several times.
The capilla is a single roomed building, used for community purposes, as well as worship. Its little sanctuary, with a niche containing an image of the Nuestra Señora de Saliente is in the north west corner, with a movable altar on a plinth in front of it. On this occasion, tables were introduced and the church benches re-deployed to make it possible for more than two dozen people to sit around and eat picnic suppers together. The evening's entertainment was two hours of listening to assorted classical music videos, projected on to a screen with music coming from a big hi-fi sound system, provided by church friends. A great idea. The highlight was a performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concert no 2, a favourite with many people present.
I'm not sure how old the present building is, but a banner on the exterior of the building proclaims the third centenary of association between Albox and Nuestra Señora de Saliente. 20km north in a mountain beauty spot is a substantial pilgrimage church, which houses an icon of our Lady, in the place where a local shepherd boy had a vision which he later identified from a painting of her which was mysteriously acquired and brought to Albox. This led to the building of the sanctuary to house the image, a good day's pilgrimage journey from the town. People speak highly of the beauty of the place. It certainly sounds like it's worth a visit.
It was gone half past ten when we finished and I started the three quarter hour journey back to the coast. The stars and a crescent moon were out, and the cool night air was scented with the aroma of herbs and flowers. Finding my way in the day with the sun in my face seemed to take a long time, whereas the return journey simple sped by. But that's perhaps because I now have a clear idea of the route and its landmarks - football stadium and all.