We are in the run-up to the Easter holidays, a few days that for many come to mean a stop in the daily routine and recharging batteries for a summer that at this time of year still seems far away. It goes without saying that until two years ago, this brief holiday trip was the traditional setting for the celebration of processions in most of the towns and cities of our geography as well as serving as justification for a trip of several days, both towards the coast as well as inland tourism destinations, all with the permission of the weather, unpredictable in early spring.
The socio-sanitary situation induced by COVID-19 has led to the fact that this year, although without reaching the circumstances of severe confinement experienced in the previous one, it continues to be impossible to carry out most of the religious celebrations and leisure activities aforementioned are limited and not at all programmed for long distances. Not surprisingly, a whole panoply of restrictions aimed at containing the pandemic is still in force, so that our non-essential movements are limited to the autonomous sphere.
Fortunately, we have the largest autonomous community in the entire national territory, with nine provinces and an area that exceeds 94.000 km2, even larger than our neighbor Portugal. It goes without saying that Castilla y León treasures an abundant historical-artistic heritage and a great variety of landscapes that are reflected in an extensive network of natural spaces, without prejudice to a rich and suggestive gastronomy. In short, despite the limitations, we are lucky enough to reside in an authentic museum, partly in the open air, which at this time of year offers the traveler a wide range of possibilities for enjoyment and recreation, of course respecting the corresponding indications regarding hygiene and social distancing.
Taking into account these previous considerations, through this collaboration I bring up an interesting archeotourism proposal, ideal to put into practice during this Easter by the commuter traveler that we have all become due to circumstances. This proposal is circumscribed even to an even smaller scope, as it is located in the Segovian territory itself. It goes without saying that the province of Segovia, led by the capital, is a true benchmark for inland tourism due to competitive advantages similar to those already mentioned for the autonomous region, which allows us to provide our visitors with a highly satisfactory experience. to the point of converting a large majority of them into recurring tourists.
That said, the proposal in question, although it has archaeological heritage as a common thread, does not disregard the landscape argument at all, and I would even dare to say that neither the geological one. It is located specifically in the middle valley of the Eresma, in the middle of the Segovian countryside and just 35 km from the capital. This is where three hills are certainly elevated above the surrounding plain, forming an almost perfect triangle in which the vagaries of geology and history have left their mark in a more than obvious way. Access to this area, regardless of the origin of the traveler, can be done easily both from the A-601 highway and from the CL-605 regional highway, known as the Arévalo highway.
In the first place I am going to refer to the hill of San Isidro, following a chronological criterion based on the age of its first historical manifestations. The hill is located in the town of Domingo García, just 40 km from the provincial capital. The visit to this place is free and free, being able to access it after passing the detour towards Domingo García from the SG-P-3411 road that connects Santa María la Real de Nieva and Bernardos.
We are before an outcrop of slate and quartzite that emerges from the plain in an impetuous way, formed by the Cuesta Grande and the San Isidro hill itself. The metamorphic materials of the hill, especially the slate, have served throughout history as a support for the representation of engravings ranging from the Paleolithic to contemporary times, engravings that the archaeological discipline calls petroglyphs. Of the large sampler present in San Isidro, perhaps the most interesting set is the one belonging to the Upper Paleolithic, which forms one of the best manifestations of prehistoric art in the province. By means of the picketing technique there are depicted hunting scenes, with schematic human figures as well as species already present in the Upper Paleolithic fauna, such as equids and cervids.
Along with the petroglyphs, the hill of San Isidro has a small sample of medieval architecture, the homonymous Romanesque hermitage, located in a privileged place as an exceptional lookout. Today the building is totally in ruins and badly affected by wind erosion, a deterioration that, however, allows us to examine in detail its peculiar constructive structure based on slate and schist slabs. Around its outer perimeter there is also a necropolis made up of anthropomorphic graves of various sizes carved into the rock itself.
Another enclave of great geological and archaeological value in this area is the Cerro del Tormejón or the Virgen del Tormejón, in the municipality of Armuña, where again we find the hill-hermitage binomial. To get to the hill you can use the greenway of the Eresma valley, which takes advantage of the route of the old railway line Segovia-Medina del Campo. In this case, the access section begins at the old Armuña stop, next to the SG-V-3311 road that connects this town and Bernardos.
In the vicinity of the hill, shortly before starting the ascent, we already came across the Tormejón stream, a river course that gives its name to this promontory of limestone and marl as well as being the cause of the shaping of the cuts of its western and southern faces . In this case we find a flat hill with a marked tilt towards the southeast. Although today its surface is a wasteland, until the middle of the XNUMXth century it was subject to terraces for the sake of its use as arable land. In fact, the imprint of this agricultural practice is still visible on the limestone terrain and it is even more so in aerial photography.
From the archaeological point of view, the hill has vestiges corresponding to various phases of occupation. The oldest dates back to the Bronze Age, although the best-represented periods are the Celtiberian, with abundant remains of the well-known painted pottery and, above all, the late Antiquity, which has also provided evidence in the form of ceramics, especially stamped, to the point of constituting this site a true reference of this type, in what some authors have called the 'Segovia horizon'. It is in this late-ancient period, between the V-VI centuries, when apparently the occupation of the hill reached its greatest extension. In fact, in the eastern area there is a long line of stone material, certainly rickety, which has the appearance of having formed its perimeter walled by an area that, on the other hand, is the one with the easiest access and the least defensible of the hill.
The site has been the subject of archaeological excavations on two occasions. The first took place in 1977, directed by Francisco Gozalo Viejo. Fortunately, the second has been developed in campaigns in the last two years under the direction of Raúl Martín Vela, within his commendable Eresma Arqueológico project, an intervention that also has the collaboration of Gozalo Viejo himself based on his accredited archaeological knowledge of the enclave.
Finally, the third hill, and no less interesting for that, is the so-called Cerro del Castillo or the Virgen del Castillo, in the municipality of Bernardos, where again we find the well-known hill-hermitage association. Although the access is made through a dirt road, it is easier than expected, since this road is in an acceptable state of conservation and also constitutes the straight and natural continuation towards the outskirts of Castillo street, starting in the Plaza Mayor de Bernardos itself.
After 3 km of travel, you will reach the hill, which stands majestically almost at the foot of the Eresma, a river course that cuts and snakes through the slate massif forming a spectacular valley. The material that constitutes this form of relief, mainly slate, has been the object of extraction for centuries in the quarries of the town, still revealing itself as a key sector in the local economic fabric. From the somewhat flat top of the hill there are splendid panoramic views of much of the province, thus evidencing its variety of landscapes. Thus, to the north you can see the continuous green patch that characterizes the nearby Tierra de Pinares, to the east the spectacular valley that the Eresma generates when cutting from the slate massif, and to the south and west the wide extension towards the horizon of the Segovian countryside. with the Sierra de Guadarrama as a backdrop.
At the top of the hill there is also the hermitage that gives it its name, whose Marian image is the object of great popular devotion in Bernardos. Every ten years, in a periodicity that dates back to 1940, the town celebrates the Ascent of the Virgen del Castillo, in a ritual that begins on Pentecost Sunday with the ascent of the image to the hermitage, followed by a long procession on following Tuesday (the one in 2010 lasted almost twenty hours) in which the Virgin makes the reverse journey to the parish church. Last year this deep-rooted tradition had to be suspended for the first time because of the pandemic.
But if the hill of the Virgen del Castillo stands out for the traveler, it is for its archaeological remains. From several laudable actions, although more sporadic than would have been desirable, several sequences of occupation have been established, especially concentrated during Late Antiquity and the High Middle Ages. The earliest evidence on the hill dates back to the beginning of the XNUMXth century, coinciding with a stage of instability that arose from the decline of the Roman administration in Hispania, a particularly turbulent stage that led to the abandonment of the surrounding villages by its inhabitants. rich owners and the concentration of the population in well defensible high places, in a dynamic similar to that detected in Cerro del Tormejón. It is in this period when the walled enclosure that crowns the hill was built on the basis of large slate slabs, visible for a long distance today thanks to the archaeological restoration work.
The occupation had to be maintained during the Visigothic period until the Arab domination. Already in the High Middle Ages there is evidence of a new use during the emral period (between the end of the XNUMXth century and the beginning of the XNUMXth) according to the ceramic remains found. At that time the hill had to be reused due to its defensive character, possibly by a small Muslim garrison.
And so far the part that touches me through this collaboration that El Adelantado de Segovia has kindly given me, which is none other than to expose through a few brief brushstrokes the attractions present in this area of the province, in which for on the other hand this geographer and historian has no ancestry whatsoever. The other corresponds to the traveler, this time more than ever 'from the outskirts', who as a participant (if he wishes) in a visit with deep cultural and landscape content, and in a few days as propitious (I hope) as those that lie ahead. You must be fully aware of being in three enclaves endowed with a special magic, in which the Story is more than told in the environment.
(*) Graduate in Geography and History, Diploma of Advanced Studies in Archeology and author of the book 'The Roman Villa and the Visigoth Necropolis of Santa Lucía, Aguilafuente (Segovia). New contributions for its study '.
Source: Adelantado de Segovia