Edit Blog Post
Published: July 24th 2013
Santillana del Mar
Right when I got in. My hotel is literally just up the little street on the left. You can just see the sign actually.
Without a car, it takes dedication to get to Santillana del Mar and then up to the Altamira Caves. Even Rick Steves, my travel guru, doesn't recommend it. But, I made it happen. It involved taking a crack of dawn bus from Bilbao to Santander, the regional hub of Cantabria. Then another bus a bit inland to Santillana del Mar, until finally hiking up into the hills for maybe 40 minutes. And I'm honestly proud of myself. I was at the caves by 12. Pretty good, if you ask me.
And why come all this way, against most travel writers better judgments? The answer is that Altamira contains cave paintings from 14,000 years ago, by the earliest of humans. They were discovered in the 1870s, and actually the masses of people got to be too much for the fragile works, so they closed the cave in 1979, opening up a replica cave right next to the original I think in 2001. It's not the original cave, true, but everything is identical, from the temperature to every crack and fissure in the rock. A true, exact replica.
Still, why come all this way? Because, for me at least, I think
Hiking up to Altamira
Beautiful countryside around Santillana.
the massive bisons and horses and even hand prints on the ceiling of this cave represent the moment when humans actually became human. We weren't just surviving anymore. We were making art, being creative, producing something beyond ourselves that obviously shows an intimate connection to the natural world. And those hand prints. The hands of 14,000 year old humans! Why did they do this? They signed their work perhaps. They owned it. They put the first truly human mark down in the history books. I don't know, this was such a literally awe-some sight. I gawked at that ceiling for something like an hour. The Sistine Chapel of Pre-historic art. Wouldn't change it for the world.
Santillana del Mar also is a little village nicely trapped in a time warp. Cobbled streets and old, old buildings covered in flowers. The town seems like it's just permanently napping, like Rip van Winkle. I'm also staying in this great hotel, the Hospidaje Angelica, right off the main square. It's truly a family affair here, and has like 9 rooms in a house that just goes straight up with really tight, windy stairs. I also think I'm like the only person here
Looking Back Towards Santillana
That's Santillana down there in the valley.
right now - so they gave me this great big room up in the attic. I think in the past day, to actually talk to this family, my Spanish has improved ten-fold. I'm not just saying si all the time and grinning like an idiot, which is actually a huge improvement.
Tomorrow I head towards the Pyrenees, staying in Hemingway's city, Pamplona, until at last heading to Madrid on Friday.
Tot: 0.146s; Tpl: 0.011s; cc: 13; qc: 58; dbt: 0.1123s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (10.17.0.13); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb