In the early morning, the sunlight reflects golden yellow on the columns of the Roman theatre in Mérida and reveals a splendid backdrop of beautifully preserved ruins dating form back over 2000 years.
Mérida, in the heart of Extramadura, is the perhaps the best example of the abundantly rich historical heritage that can still be seen across the Region.
Founded in AD 25, Mérida was a retirement paradise for distinguished soldiers of the Roman Empire.
Paradise, that is, until the pax-Romana was terminally disrupted by the next wave of invaders to stamp their authority on the land, carelessly shrouding the dreams and desires of one civilization with the dust of battle.
Evidence of all the successive civilizations and cultures is well-preserved throughout the region from those days as a quiet Roman province, through the turbulence as an arid and lawless frontier region between battling Christian and Moslem forces, to the tranquil and hospitable villages, protect natural regions and modern cities that characterize latter-day Extremadura.
This is the region of Conquistadores and great food, a compulsive combination that attracts the inquisitive and the hedonistic, to research about the roots of civilization whilst enjoying the best of culinary experiences.
Hernán Cortés, conqueror of Mexico City hailed from the small village of Medellín; Fransisco Pizarro, who trail-blazed through Peru, came from Trujillo. Its said that over one third of all Spaniards who originally went to open up South America for the Catholic Kings, came from Extremadura.
Against this historical setting, well recorded by the innumerable ruins and well-stocked museums, Extemadura provides the visitor with a many and varied itinerary ranging from walks in the Sierra de Guadalupe, where in the local capital town, also called Guadalupe, the virgin of Guadalupe can be seen in all her glory, to the monastery of Yuste, very close to the delightful village of Cuacos de Yuste, where the Emperor Charles V passed his final days mending clocks, and no doubt reflecting on the fading glory of the Hungaro-Austrian Empire.
In the countryside, the summer days bring the heady odour of wild thyme and eucalyptus, while the extensive forests of cork and oak trees provide the native Iberian pig with ample acorns on which to feed thus giving the meat its rich earthy flavour. The Natural Park of Monfrague is home to many rare and protected species of flora and fauna whose ever-decreasing natural environment is now protected against the excesses of human activity.
More information: http://www.extremaduraguide.com/