Two weeks ago, on a sunny Sunday, my pal Maria and I decided to embark on an outing to Almagro, a town half-way between Toledo and Ciudad Real.
I’d never even heard of this town before Maria mentioned it as a possible day-trip destination, but, as it turns out, it played a pretty important role in Spanish history during the Golden Age. You won’t find many foreign tourists there. It’s just a bit too far out in deepest La Mancha (aka The Middle of Nowhere), and it has all of 9,100 inhabitants.
Maria had the wise foresight to hire a local guide, who took us around the town for a couple of hours, filling us in on all the noteworthy historical nitty-gritty. Almagro is home to one of Spain’s national monuments, El Corral de Comedias, one of the world’s oldest still operational Theatre venues. It dates back to the 17th century, when performances would go on for five hours in the searing heat without a break. God, I’d rather be at home sifting grits…
For me, the most interesting discovery was that Almagro had been the seat of the Fugger family in Spain. If you know any more than the bare basics about German history, you may have heard of them. During the Middle Ages, they were an immensely powerful family of merchant bankers, headquartered in Augsburg. But what the hell where they doing in Almagro?
Well, Almagro had mercury mines, and the Fuggers could afford to build the infrastructure required to exploit them. Mercury was essential for the mining of gold and silver in the Americas.
Our guide told us that “a drop of mercury”, at the time, was a poplar home remedy for curing constipation in children. I think I’ll stick to prunes…
OK, I can tell you’ve all had enough of this history schmoo by now. Let’s get down to what’s really important: THE FOOD. This is what we had for lunch: