There were many battles to decide the border in this area, as well as a lot of horse-trading. It was taken from the Caliphate of Seville by king Sancho IV of Portugal, but subsequently swapped for the Algarve. The Portugese seem to have regretted the deal, and the Spanish had to build a whole string of castles to keep an eye on them.
The one on the hill here in Romanville was possibly rebuilt at that time. It is impossible to say as, in true Spanish style, there doesn’t seem to be any paperwork. Nobody knows what it looked like, as hardly one stone remains on top of another, and no paintings have survived. In the thirties, a local grandee had some walls built which at least gave some employment and look good from the town.
In Cortegana it is a different story. A local society totally rebuilt and maintains a lovely little castle that can be seen for miles around. At the moment it is the focal point for the ‘medaeval days’ that they have each year.
The dusty football pitch serves as a car park. Past the municipal collection of broken dustbins, we go up the long hill, seeing a group of woad-wearing celts with fake fur boots, a bunch of guys in turbans and jellabas, and some local kids hanging out by the bus station trying to look bored. The buildings go from concrete Bauhaus to Traditional Basic
to Art Deco as we near the top.
In the first square is a really good group of bagpipe players (truth) attended by a juggler, someone dressed as a belly dancer, and several painted damsels enticing the men to dance. The father of triplets next to me comes in for some merciless flirting on account of his potency, until he blushes bright red and tries to pretend that I’m the dad. They don’t believe him, for some reason.
The players set off up the hill, with us in tow. Past the stalls, up the old road we get to the castle compound. A blacksmith works a huge hand-bellows and gives out newly-minted nails. An enormous circular barbacue sends sparks flying in the strong wind.
The local archery club pretend to be a squad of English longbowmen decimating an (unfortunately) imaginary charge of French mounted knights. The leader explains that the index and middle fingers are needed to pull a bowstring, which is why the English use a two-finger salute to mean victory. He demonstrates, giving us all a V sign, back of the hand outmost. My laughter mystifies the people nearby.
On the way back down we meet the belly dancer with a drummer and a clarinetist, but this time she really dances, entrancing us in the shade of the massive church wall, surrounded by stalls selling wooden toys, leather goods, moroccan sweets, woven linen stuff, painted ceramic tiles and advice on how to live ones life according to the precepts of the american book of the dead (in american).