Journey to the Alcarria: Stage 1

The stretch between Madrid and Torija on a journey that combines literature and life.

By Diputación Provincial de Guadalajara

Diputación Provincial de Guadalajara

“Map for the first leg. Madrid - Torija” (2016) by Fernando Toquero y Laura DomínguezDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

Welcome to the first stage of the Journey to the Alcarria.

We will walk in the footsteps that Camilo José Cela—winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature—took in his famous book.

This first stretch runs from Madrid to Torija, covering a total of 50.7 miles, of which just over 34 were traveled by train and the remaining 16 miles or so on foot.

After a day like that, you need a rest.

Journey to the Alcarria. Dedication (1948) by Camilo José CelaDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

The book "Journey to the Alcarria" is a masterpiece of travel writing.

The quote, "The Alcarria is a beautiful region which people apparently have no desire to visit," is taken from the dedication that Camilo José Cela (winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature) wrote to Gregorio Marañón.

Ironically, 70 years later, everyone wants to go there.

Cibeles and Paseo del Prado avenue (2017) by Enrique DelgadoDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

This image shows where the adventure of the Journey to the Alcarria began. It is one of the most beautiful areas of Madrid, stretching from Calle de Alcalá to Atocha Station via the Glorieta de Cibeles roundabout and Paseo del Prado.

We will explore literature and life on this journey in 10 stages.

Atocha train station (2015) by Enrique DelgadoDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

Camilo José Cela set off on his journey to the Alcarria from Atocha Station.

Palace of the Infantado façade (2014) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

We arrive in Guadalajara, capital of the province of the same name. Its most beautiful building is the Palace of the Dukes of the Infantado. One of a kind, it was built by the architect Juan Guas in around 1480. When Camilo José Cela made his journey to the Alcarria, it was "in ruins."

Court of the Lions in the Palace of the Infantado (2014) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

The palace's central courtyard is known as the Patio of Lions. It is rectangular and formed of a double arcade on 2 levels, with striking pairs of lions and griffins.

It is a must-see on the Journey to the Alcarria.

Commemorative Plaque of the Journey to the Alcarria (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

"The boy looks at the traveler, takes pen and ink out of the drawer, and in the exquisitely careful calligraphy of the novice penman, writes on the back of the headpiece, on the untanned leather, 'Casa Montes, Guadalajara, June 6, 1946.'"

Journey to the Alcarria
Camilo José Cela

Santa Maria co-cathedral (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

The journey continues to the Co-cathedral of Santa María de la Fuente, which stands in a square with the same name. It dates back to the late 13th or early 14th century and combines 3 different styles: Mudejar, Renaissance, and Baroque.

The Journey to the Alcarria passes by it, and its 3 interior naves are really worth exploring.

Chinese room in the Palace of La Cotilla (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

The Journey to the Alcarria continues along Calle del Dr. Santiago Ramón y Cajal, passing the Palace of La Cotilla, which holds a wonderful surprise for the traveler: the Chinese Room. This enormous bourgeois room was decorated with rice paper by Chinese painters in the 19th century.

Luis de Lucena chapel (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

As we stroll around Guadalajara, we come to the Chapel of Luis de Lucena, the last vestige of the Romanesque-Mudejar church of San Miguel. It was built in 1540, before being restored and declared a National Monument in 1914.

Pico del Aguila (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

Welcome to the singularly beautiful landscape of the Alcarria—the setting in which Camilo José Cela takes us on a unique journey across this central Spanish region.

The Pico del Águila and the Peña Hueva mountains are part of the tabular terrain of the Alcarrian moorland.

"...for this book isn't a novel, it's more like a geography."

Journey to the Alcarria
Camilo José Cela

Alcarria aromatic herbs (2018) by Laura DomínguezDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

"The countryside has a strong deep smell, and bees are sucking in the thorn bushes with their masses of tiny white flowers."

Journey to the Alcarria
Camilo José Cela

Taracena (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

The next village we reach on our own Journey to the Alcarria is Taracena. "Taracena is a town of adobe houses, an ashy, light-gray town; a town that seems to be covered with a dust as fine and delicate as the dust on books which have rested for years on the shelf without being touched or disturbed." These are the words of Camilo José Cela, written in 1946.

Orchard (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

In "Journey to the Alcarria," he goes on to say, "Well-tended garden plots begin to appear at the right of the road", the bedrock of the Alcarria's healthy cuisine.

Fauna: Roe deer (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

Camilo José Cela saw several flocks of sheep on his legendary journey, and travelers today can also see graceful roe deer approaching the streams at dusk.

Travellers (2018) by Laura DomínguezDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

Actually following in the footsteps of the author of "Journey to the Alcarria" on foot will feel like an unforgettable experience for city-dwellers who are more used to traveling by car.

"The traveler, back on the road and fresh from his nap, thinks about things he hasn't thought of for many years..."

Journey to the Alcarria
Camilo José Cela

View of the castle of Torija (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

"The town of Torija is built on a hill. As one comes into it from this direction, it looks very noble with its castle and its square-towered church." This is how Camilo José Cela described the Castle of Torija. And in the 21st century, it looks just the same.

Castle of Torija, façade (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

Antonio Herrera Casado, historian of Guadalajara province in Spain, writes: "The castle of Torija is located on the Alcarria plateau. It is square with round corner towers. The large keep is the most striking part of this castle. Torija is one of the most beautiful examples of medieval military architecture in Guadalajara."

Visitor Center for the the province in the castle of Torija (2018) by Enrique DelgadoDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

We reach Torija Castle, which houses the province of Guadalajara's modern Tourist Information Center.

It showcases the region's treasures, using technology designed for all 5 senses.

Journey to the Alcarria Museum (2018) by Enrique DelgadoDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

The keep of Torija Castle still has all of its original floors, and houses the "Journey to the Alcarria" Museum about the book that Camilo José Cela wrote in 1946, describing his adventures on foot.

Museum "Journey to the Alcarria"Diputación Provincial de Guadalajara

The book "Journey to the Alcarria", is the only book in the world that has a complete museum dedicated to its content and avatars. It is located in one of the towers of the Castle of Torija, the first town in the province of Guadalajara where the traveler stayed overnight, whose adventures the book tells. The Castle of Torija, of singular architecture, presents a rare beauty in these military fortresses.

Museum "Journey to the Alcarria"Diputación Provincial de Guadalajara

On the upper floors of the Torre del Homenaje of the Castle, there is the Museum of the book "Journey to the Alcarria" by Camilo José Cela (Nobel Prize for Literature 1989).

Opened in 1995, thanks to the contributions of the famous journalist Manuel Leguineche and the painter Jesús Campoamor. It is worth going through its rooms to see vestiges of 1946, a time in which the book is narrated and emotional memories linked to the characters that inhabit its pages.

Alcarria cuisine: eggs with chorizo (2018) by Fernando ToqueroDiputación Provincial de Guadalajara

The book describes some of the traveler's culinary encounters as a man of indulgence who loves life's pleasures, including Alcarrian cuisine.

"Excuse me, forgive my curiosity, but when you eat fried eggs, do you always eat five of them? The traveler does not answer..."

Journey to the Alcarria
Camilo José Cela

Credits: Story

Coordinators: Aurora Batanero, Mario G. Somoano, and Marcelino Ayuso (Department of Press and Tourism, Guadalajara Provincial Council)

Project producer: Guadalajara Provincial Council

Texts: Laura Domínguez and Fernando Toquero
Photography: Alfonso Romo, Enrique Delgado, Laura Domínguez, and Fernando Toquero

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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