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Day Trip to Chinchon
Chinchon is a small town (population about 5000) located about 50 km southeast of Madrid. The La Veloz Company runs buses from Madrid to Chichon and it is located at the Conde de Casal Station (us the Metro station Conde de Casal). The bus number to take is the 337. For information, call 914-097-602. There is a bus that goes to Chinchon about every half hour from 07:00 to 23:00 H.
Chinchon was first inhabited by the Iberians, followed by the Romans and the Moors. In 1083 when King Alfonso VI threw out the Moors. Later the first Count of Chinchon was appointed in 1520. The second wife of the 4th count was Francisca Enriquez de Rivera, and she was the person who made Chinchon famous. Her husband, Luis Jeronimo, was the viceroy to Peru and while she was traveling with him, she fell ill of a tropical fever in 1638. She was cured using an Indian medicine made from a tree bark. She brought it back to Europe and the Swedish botanist Linneas later identified the medicine as quinine, and named the bark-bearing tree “chinchona” in her honor. Quinine has been used to cure malaria.
After that incident however, the anti-malarial value of chinchona became more widely recognized and the demand for it grew so much that supply could not keep up with demand. So valuable was the bark that at one point of time, the cost of the bark powder was often matched by its weight in gold. This prompted the wanton uncontrolled harvesting of the bark, which led to the severe decimation of the tree in its native habitat.
The Plaza Mayor is considered one of the most attractive plazas in Spain and dates from medieval times. The first houses were constructed in the 15th century, and the last in the 17th century. The houses around the square are two and three stories high and each story has a wooden balcony that runs the width of the building. The balconies are supported by posts. The plaza is irregular in shape, more or less circular. Many of the buildings in the plaza are occupied by good restaurants that are frequented by visitors from Madrid and nearby towns. The town is famous for its food. Many times the plaza has been used as an improvised theater area, bullfight arena, royal festivals, proclamations, traveling theater groups, games, executions, eucharistic plays, religious, political and military acts, cinema sets and many others.
The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion
This church was started in 1534 as a Gothic church and completed in 1626. The French troops set it on fire in 1808 and the church was restored in 1828. The present building has Gothic, Renaissance, Plateresque, and Baroque influences. It is famous because the main altarpiece has a wonderful painting of the Assumption of the Virgin, painted by Francisco de Goya in 1812.
The Clock Tower
There used to be an old Church of Our Lady of Grace in the 15th century, and the Clock Tower was attached to it. The French troops destroyed both during the Spanish War of Independence. The Clock Tower was restored in 1856, but the church was forgotten and eventuall buried. Now there is a saying that says: "Chinchón has a tower without a church and a church without a tower".
There is a parador which is considered to be one of the best in Spain. This parador has a beautiful garden and patio, where one can eat. It also has a tiny chapel, which apparently is the favorite place for Japanese to get married.
On the Plaza Mayor, there is a bakery where one sees sweet buns shaped like a woman’s breast. These are very delicious. In Spain every town has its own traditions and one can find the most interesting things. There must be a story why they shape the bun this way in this town.