By Hilary Brown

History has always been a passion for me, as I feel it is important to know about how our ancestors lived or what life was like in the past. Spanish history is particularly interesting,

as by the late 600’s AD, Spain was regularly attacked by the Moors and in 711 AD they took over the ruling of Spain for the next 800 years.

When it was suggested in our Spanish classes in the village that it would be a good idea to leave our books, dictionaries and pens behind and follow our teacher around Pliego to learn more about the history of the area, we were all ready to join in. I missed the first trip out, but our second was a walk to Pliego castle. The castle looks lovely from my patio, placed on top of the hill surrounded by pine trees with the eagles flying above, when I am relaxing with my cup of coffee, but the thought of the climb to the castle and surrounding area filled me with trepidation.

Now I am definitely not that fit, even though I have tried the aerobic class in the village. Over 60 and definitely gordo, but thought if I want to learn more about the area I need to see it up close. It had rained in the morning, so the sun was not too hot and although the walk up was steep and I was the last one trailing behind, it was well worth the struggle. When we came to the viewing point over the whole of Pliego and surrounding area, it felt as if we were on the top of the world. That word tranquilo came to mind again; the mountains, all around us and nestling in the valley Pliego. Another piece of probably useless information is where the word Pliego comes from. It is believed to have derived from the Latin word pagus, which then comes from the Arabic word baguh, which means neighbourhood. Pliego is mentioned in medieval texts as Pego.

The village of La Mota , which was declared to be of Cultural Interest in 1985, was an Islamic medieval settlement in the area of Pliego in the 12th century. La Moat was the main town in the area and around the town was a fortification called Castillo de las Palera. It was situated on a steep hill on the banks of the gorge de la Mota. Although the area is now a ruin, one can imagine life in the village at that time for the Muslim inhabitants, with areas to live, practice their religion such as the mosque and minaret, and the small narrow streets which give access to the homes (very typical of the small streets in the village of Pliego).

The Muslims built Pliego Castle at the end of the 12th century and aimed to protect the town of La Mota. It was built on a high hill, which gave protection to the village of Pliego. The walls and tower were built on very rugged terrain to make it easier to defend against attackers. The castle was divided into two; the fortress with the tower, enclosed by a wall and an outdoor area, which occupied the northern slope of the hill. The tower was divided into three parts; the lower, the massive lower body and the top covered by a parapet and battlements. The interior housed a kitchen and fireplace, a dungeon and a place to collect water. Having water inside the fortress was important, as it used a pipeline through to the flourmill and tank. According to history, after the Alcarez Treaty of 1243 the castle was put in the hands of the Castilians to control the Mudejar (Muslims who lived in the Christian territory of Spain after the Reconquista but were not converted to Christianity). In the 14th century it was a military enclave of the Santiago Order under the mayor’s control. At the beginning of the 16th century the castle was abandoned and it fell into disuse. However, is now a very important tourist attraction for Pliego and it was declared as an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1985 and is covered by the laws of Spanish Historical Heritage. It well worth the walk, but choose a cool day or evening.

Back to the classroom now until the middle of June for Spanish classes, but hasn’t it all been worthwhile. I was invited out to dinner with the girls from my aerobic class and with the problem with my poco Espanol, the thought of a night of conversation was a bit unnerving. Still, I went along and my friend Helen from Spanish class came too. What was I worried about! The Spanish conversation flowed all night and we laughed and enjoyed our meal. Learning the language in Spain, although I have a very long way to go, has opened up my life. You are never too old to learn. Who thought in my 60’s I could begin to learn a new language and also be able to go out and socialise using my newfound skill. It will probably take me until I am in my 80’s before I can speak it more fluent, but until then I will practice, practice, practice!