The Train to Avila

“And this snow,” Robert Jordan said. “You think there will be much?”

“Much,” Pablo said contentedly. Then called to Pilar, “You don’t like it, woman, either? Now that you command you do not like this snow?”

“A mí qué?” Pilar said, over her shoulder. “If it snows it snows.”

— For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway

As I listened to E translate the weather forecast that was predicting snow for the areas just beyond Madrid, I thought of Pilar. We were scheduled to take a day trip to Ávila and it was one of the areas where snow was expected to fall.

The Costa del Sol of Spain’s Andalusian region – with its white stucco homes, decorative tiles awash in blues, and sun-saturated skies – is often what comes to mind when foreigners think of Spain. But Spain is composed of different regions with varied climates.

I was exploring the Castile-Leon region, that part of Spain traversed by Hemingway’s American character Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls. The northwestern region contains snow-capped sierra mountains with forests of pine; sloped hillsides and rocky terrain dotted with cows, bulls or sheep; Roman ruins; and, medieval villages with walls erected to repel invading armies.

Ávila is one such town in the region. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Ávila is most famous for the 10th century wall that rings the old part of the city. It is also the home of St. Teresa of Ávila, the 16th century Spanish mystic and nun. (Read more.)

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