As far as as Plaza Mayors go, I’ve always had a clear favorite: Salamanca. Now, not to hate on Madrid (though I don’t have a problem doing that at times), but for me, nothing rivals Salamanca’s gorgeous Plaza Mayor. It’s where I met up with Mario on our first dates (we met, as do most couples and friends, debajo del reloj), it’s where I picnicked on sunny days with my guiri friends, it’s the square I crossed daily on the way to my internship.
Last autumn, though, some friends of ours invited us to visit Chinchón, a small village about 50 km southwest of Madrid, with a population of roughly 5,000 people. They too are a couple like us: one Spaniard, one guiri from the Midwest. They got married in this town, and I immediately saw why they were drawn to it.
Its Plaza Mayor, Main Square in English (though I never translate this phrase), is a classic medieval construction. All around the outside are houses and buildings with balconies. Many of these have been converted into restaurants, so you can sit outside on the rickety (or so it seems) wooden scaffolding and enjoy your menu del día.
Since its construction, the square has been home to various events: royal fiestas, comedy shows, jousting, bullfights, religious sacraments, executions, and even home to a movie set or two (Around the World In 80 Days, for example).
Chinchón is also known for its eponymous beverage, a form of anisette, made from aniseed macerated for half a day in a hydroalcoholic solution (usually wine). Later it’s distilled in copper stills for different amounts of time, leading to distinct varieties, including:
The liqueur is also used to make many sweets (Source)
- Sweet, useful for cooking at 35% alcohol
- Dry, no sugar and 43% alcohol
- Special Dry, a stronger variety at 74% alcohol
I actually hate aniseed, so we passed on trying this libation.