The promise of the nation’s best cheeses lured me to the small Spanish town of Trujillo. Dreams of creamy Manchego accompanied me on the three-hour ride from Madrid, as the bus trundled alongside fields dotted with vibrant yellow, red and purple wildflower patches beneath a cerulean springtime sky. Here and there workers tended to fields and groves of olive trees next to shaded wooden shelters and painted cement brick dining establishments distinguished only as “Restaurante.” As we left the capital and heart of the country behind, we inched ever closer to the very soul of España.
After passing through the varying Extremadura countryside with stretches of plains, rolling hills and short marbled cliffs, the arrival into the Trujillo was anticlimactic. And deceiving… Do not be put off by the underwhelming introduction to the small city: a drab concrete bus station plunked on the outskirts of the town. As soon as you traipse around the modern buildings and look upwards, you will see the old historic city gloriously emerge from a hilltop. Suck down a few deep breaths before you thread through the narrow streets with luggage in tow. Once you tackle the incline, you, too, will emerge gloriously into the rustic, fairy tale town.
Here, you can easily be fooled into thinking that you are a Disney Princess who befriends birds, such as Cinderella or Snow White. The constant birdsong in the “encantador” (charming) city will beckon you onward, inviting you to explore amidst your new aviary friends that drift across the sky from dawn until dusk. The sweet chirping serenades are occasionally buried beneath other rural overtones, like roosters’ piercing morning calls, sharp barking from dogs and the woeful moos of cows as they are herded in from grazing for the evening. With the live soundtrack, you will feel connected to life wherever you roam.
In the centre plaza of Trujillo, a metal replica of the town’s most famous inhabitant sits on a horse, elevated on a tall platform with a wreath around his name: Francisco Pizarro. If history isn’t your forte, this man became the famous, fearsome conquistador of the Incan empire in Peru during the early sixteenth century. This is counterintuitive because Trujillo is such a darling locale that the mind boggles when trying to understand what would compel him to venture from this idyllic town. But you can dine al fresco in his statue’s company at a number of tavernas that surround the central square, watching brilliant gold and rose hues sweep across the sky as the sun gracefully bids adieu. Even after the sun has disappeared, heat lamps will warm you as you savor the last delectable bites of flan paired with swills of aromatic coffee.
During the weekend-long cheese festival, peaked white tents are packed into the plaza; however, the town still feels distinctly Spanish and it seems to mostly attract locals to mill about. The vendors are all from Spain, except for those from the tiny international cheese exhibition. Proud local producers exchange samples of cheese on crisp crackers or crusty bread, sometimes accompanied by chunky chutneys or jams for blue paper festival tickets. The crumbly cheesecake on a toothpick was devoured particularly quickly. As you roam through the fair you will notice the pleasant convivial atmosphere with farmers offering recommendations and samplers happily buying large additional portions to take home. And you have no need to worry if your Spanish is rusty; you will be able to communicate well enough with a few words, gestures and a genuine smile.
When your stomach stretches to maximum capacity, filled to the brim with delicious dairy products, take a wander around the historical town. White text on maroon placards in English and Spanish will key you into the most important buildings and landmarks, describing their significance. Or if your brain functioning has been slowed as your body digests copious amounts of dairy products, simply enjoy ambling alongside the tan stone and brick buildings topped with red roofs. As you pass beneath arched bridges and walk the crenelated road, you will find that each vista is more picturesque than the last.
As night falls, the panoramic view of the sprawling fields will dim, allowing you to trace automobile lights on the highway, identifying journeys of people that obliviously pass this tiny utopia. And you will be thankful that you had the chance to experience the beautiful simplicity of Trujillo.