Iconic silhouette of Don Quixote
The Land of Caballeros
Story & Photographs by Richard Frisbie
Spanish, the word caballero refers to a knight or
a gentleman. Perhaps the most common place to see the word used is on
a bathroom door, but more often it will read senor
to indicate the mens room.
I just visited the Land of Caballeros. No. Not the mens
room the Land of Knights. The La Mancha region of Spain
is also known as the Land of Caballeros. It was a visit to Cervantes
literary home of Don Quixote, filled with scenes and locations from
his famous book, Don Quixote de la Mancha. It is
the book behind the many musicals and movies the English speaking world
recognizes as Man of La Mancha."
Spanish tile art depicting Don Quixote in battle
I dont know of any other work of literature that
has so defined a region, or that is so much a part of a nations
identity as Don Quixote de la Mancha is to Spain. You, too, can
explore this national identity by following the Ruta de Quixote. It
is a carefully defined self-guided tour of the locations made famous
in Cervantes historical novel.
The locations are both significant to Cervantes and
to his characters in the book, who are at times interchangeable. They
illustrate how autobiographical, and how steeped in the people and history
of a region the book is. A tour guide along the route remarked that
it was required reading when she attended Spanish high school. Since
it was written 400 years ago, she said students struggle with the archaic
language, much as American high school students do reading Coopers
nearly 200 year old Leatherstocking Tales. Yet both define
a period and a culture in a nations history.
Struggle or not, the themes in Don Quixote of
chivalry, the historic conflict between good and evil, and the madness
of life and love, are universal. These are themes everyone learns, often
by first being exposed to them in literature. Don Quixote de la Mancha
is significant because it also defines a culture, a culture, as every
Spaniard knows, that identifies itself with the image of a knight on
horseback, holding a lance.
Statue of Don Quixote ready to joust with the windmills.
To commemorate this iconic symbol of Spanish culture,
the routes following the events in the book are laidout for hiking,
bicycling and driving. The way is dotted with 12th century castles,
windmills, inns, and, in at least one instance, a prison cell where
the real and fictional characters met to play out the charade of Quixote.
It was there Cervantes began his epic novel.
The Ruta de Quixote is a charming tour through the beautiful
rolling countryside around Spains capital of Madrid,
one I can recommend to everyone. To ease the way, the Spanish Government
established a chain of hotels, called Paradores, at convenient intervals.
Some are modern, some more like motels than hotels, and some are in
creatively renovated historic properties, such as monasteries and castles.
The accommodations are rated from 3 to 5 stars, and range in price from
100 to 200 Euros a night for 2 people, usually including tax and a sumptuous
A typical courtyard in one of the historic Paradores.
Paradores are a reasonably priced and reliable place
to relax and read yourself to sleep with a chapter or two of the ironically
witty Don Quixote de la Mancha. Then, youll awaken to fill
another day following his adventurous route.
Below is a link in English to the official Paradores
site and their Don Quixote route section:
There youll find details of a specially designed
and economically priced trip along the route visiting six different
Paradores for a total of seven nights in a standard double room, including
bed and breakfast for about 800 Euros per couple.
Don Quixote is quoted as saying: My destiny calls
and I go.
Your destiny calls. Go! Youll see centuries of
history, culture and adventure open up before you like a book - Don
Quixote de la Mancha.
A note about car rentals: when booked through a third
party, such as a travel agent or the airline, you have an ally to go
to bat for you if something goes awry. Applying for an inexpensive
international license might be a good idea, too.
Air Europa http://www.aireuropa.com
International Driving Permit from Triple AAA - http://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html
of Madrid; Madrid
and the Art of Armor; Tossa
de Mar, Spain;
Valencia, Spain; Galicia,