Albacete information

Introduction to the Province of Albacete
It is a shame that travellers between Madrid and Alicante or Murcia often speed through the province of Albacete without stopping, because this sparsely populated province in the Castilla-La-Mancha region of south eastern Spain contains cities, natural parks and attractions that are well worth visiting and has a hearty gastronomy that is well worth sampling.

Albacete City
The modern-day city of Albacete was originally named Al-Basit (meaning the plain) by the Moors. Its strategic location between Madrid and the east coast of Spain, plus its bountiful agricultural riches, led to its continued growth until it became the province of Alabacete's capital city in 1833. Nowadays the picturesque upper old part of Albacete (el Alto de la Villa) retains all the traditional flavours of a Spanish town, whilst the lower part is more what you would expect from a modern-day city.

The Gothic-styled Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist took more than 400 years to complete from its beginnings in 1515 and as a result also has Renaissance and Baroque elements to its architecture. It houses a fine collection of Biblical scene wallpaintings.

Lodares Passage offers a shopping experience with elegance. It is a beautiful iron and glass roofed structure with Renaissance columns on either side - one of only two such examples of this type of 20th Century architecture in Spain. It is situated in the lower part of Albacete.

An Archaeological and Ethnological Museum may not be at the top of everyone's list as an interesting place to visit but make an exception for the one in Albacete. Here you can see displayed some fascinating articulated Roman dolls, made from amber and ivory plus works by the artist Benjamin Palencia.

Albacete has long been renowned as the place for the manufacture of exquisite daggers and other knives, scissors and cutlery. The daggers (punales) made here are highly prized by Spaniards and often have richly ornamented handles. Ancha street and its surrounding area is the place to visit for dagger shops and other crafts. In 2004 a knife museum (Museo de la Cuchilleria was opened in Albacete and houses fine displays of this craft.

Around Albacete City and Beyond
Aside from the city of Albacete itself, the province offers many diverse attractions in terms of its natural parks and towns and villages. The town of Chinchilla de Monte Aragon, with its labyrinthine mediaeval streets and the surrounding mountainous countryside is well worth a stop. Likewise, Alcala del Jucar, bounded by an impressive canyon formed by the river Jucar, is a spectacular sight with its cave houses and even bars and restaurants that have been excavated into the white cliff faces.

The nature reserve of Lagunas de Ruidera, a ring of 15 natural lakes near the town of Ossa de Montiel set high on the plateau of Campo de Montiel, is an outstanding area of natural beauty, rich in flora and fauna and ideal for hiking, cycling and bird watching activities.

Sites of archaeological interest include Ontur (where the Roman dolls housed in Albacete's Archaeological Museum were found) and Alpera, El Tolmo de Minateda (near Hellin) and Ayna (a UNESCO World heritage Site) for wonderful Neolithic cave paintings.

The fertile plains of Albacete produce much of Spain's highly prized saffron (azafran in Spanish). Harvest time takes place during the month of October when the crocus flowers bloom for a short period of time. If you visit Albacete at this time of year you may be lucky enough to see the purple blankets of flowers covering the fields with the saffron collectors (called roseras) at their dawn work or maybe visit a saffron producer to learn how this most valuable of culinary ingredients is prepared.

The Gastronomy of Albacete
As with all regions of Spain, Albacete has a gastronomy all of its own that should definitely be sampled. It can best be described as rich, hearty and most certainly filling. Gazpacho Manchego is nothing like its more famous distant Andalucian cousin. It is a rich broth made from meat (which could be partridge, pheasant, pigeon, hare, rabbit or chicken), flavoured with herbs and spices and thickened by adding pieces of a special flat bread, called a Torta de Gazpacho.

Atascaburras is another hearty speciality of Albacete, made from salted dried cod (bacalao), potatoes and garlic and topped with hard-boiled eggs.

And for dessert try Miguelitas de la Roda: cream-filled, icing sugar-dusted, fine pastry tasty morsels.

For a special cheese, look for La Leyenda, a herbed sheep's milk cheese that has been soaked in brandy.

Albacete has several wine-producing regions, including that of Almansa. Its wines are gaining in reputation and popularity and there are many bodegas that you may visit. A full-bodied red from Albacete, such as a Jumilla, will be the perfect accompaniment to its hearty cuisine.


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