EayWay en Cuenca
The New York Times
The American newspaper “The New York Times” (NYT), which is probably the most well-known newspaper in the world, has published in their pressed and digital editions a report about Cuenca in the travel section that is dedicated to recommend and analyse touristic destinations around the world.
The heading of the article is ‘Modern Art Amid Ancient Stone in Cuenca, Spain’, the translation of which is “Arte Contemporáneo entre las antiguas rocas de Cuenca, España’. Photographs of the Catedral de Cuenca, the Casas Colgadas and the external part of Ars Natura go with the article in the presentation found on the Internet.
The report, signed by Andrew Ferren, starts explaining to the readers that if they have never heard of Cuenca, picturesque hilltop Spanish town a two-hour drive east of Madrid, it’s most likely because Toledo is closer to Madrid by car and train and, thus, Toledo has always triumphed for visitors looking for an excursion. However, the NYT indicates that the newest route on Spain’s high-speed trains linking Madrid to Valencia, with a stop in Cuenca changes the situation. “Lovely Cuenca (population 56,000) home to cultural offerings far more extensive than its modest size, has been waiting for its close-up for centuries. Now that the AVE gets you there in about 45 minutes from Madrid, that moment may finally have arrived”, Ferren points out.
Ferren continues explaining that Cuenca was founded by the Moors and praises its urban structure as a fortress on the spine of a rocky ridge, winding between the stunningly dramatic gorges carved by two rivers, the Huécar and the Júcar. He adds that Cuenca may appear precarious, but has survived — and, indeed, thrived — for centuries. Therefore, it is “small wonder that its historic walled old town was declared a Unesco World heritage site in 1996”. Ferren regards the Casas Colgadas – “the Hanging Houses” – as the most iconic of the traditional architecture from Cuenca, which are “perched dramatically over the Huécar gorge”.
Some paragraphs of the report are dedicated to the Spanish Abstract Art Museum, “the centerpiece of the city’s thriving art scene”, which can be found in the Casas Colgadas. Ferren describes the origins of the Museum in the 60s in the 20th century. The pieces of art are praised as well as the scenic configuration of the space and the natural sites, which can be seen from the large windows. As proof of the merit of this artistic centre, the words of the former director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Alfred Barr, are cited when he visited it in 1970: “A remarkable balance of painting, sculpture and architecture.”.
The NYT stresses that in the neighbouring buildings there is at least a half-dozen of other museums and foundations related to this fertile period in the Spanish art, some of them former convent or posadas (small hotels). Between them, Ferrer recommends not missing the collection of Antonio Pérez, which includes pieces of art by Miquel Barceló and Andy Warhol and the Espacio Torner, “beautifully installed in a 16th-century chapel”.
Cathedral and Holy Week
A few steps away is “Cuenca’s impressive Gothic Cathedral”, which was begun in 1182. This main temple from Cuenca was heavily damaged during the Spanish Civil War, like most churches in town. The stained-glass windows of contemporary artists and the Renaissance-era coffered ceilings that “offer geometric abstraction, albeit from a much earlier time” should also be mentioned.
However, the most read newspaper in the world further reveals that the cultural options from Cuenca go beyond the abstract but, instead, there is a science museum with child-friendly interactive exhibitions, as well as the Museum de la Semana Santa, which celebrates the distinctive Holy Week processions that “draw thousands of visitors each spring”. The NYT also refers that “on two floors of evocatively dark galleries, the museum recreates the atmosphere of the processions with videos and touch-screen monitors, as well as displays of sculptures, sacred objects and elaborate costumes”.
Among Cuenca’s traditions is a Good Friday Procession “known as La Turba in remembrance of Jesus’s journey on the road to Calvary. A statue of Christ is carried through the streets while a special group of participants bangs loud drums and shouts taunts at the figure”.
Hotels, tapas and restaurants
The report states that “at least until now, the rugged topography and isolation that made Cuenca a romantically remote artists’ colony years ago” have kept it an affordable destination for travellers. In this sense, the report points out that even in high season prices rarely climb above 200 euros or $262 and “dining out at the old town‘s many tapas bars and traditional restaurants is often a bargain”. ‘La Bodeguilla de Basilio’ and ‘Mesón Casas Colgadas’ are recommended for lunch.
The recently opened restaurant Manolo de la Ossa in the pavilions of Ars Natura is cited as the gastronomic buzz of the city. The 11-course tasting menu, “often featuring delicacies like foie gras, oysters, bacalao and local lamb, costs just 50 euros (70 euros with wine) for a meal that could easily fetch 100 euros or more in Madrid or Barcelona”. The NYT mentions that the restaurant is in “a new museum, this time with a focus on natural history” and praises the amazing views of the old town.
As for housing, the newspaper indicates that the historical buildings by the Casas Colgadas “are a good place to stay” and recommends the Parador de San Pablo and the Convento del Giraldo hotel, stressing that they were former convents