Ávila by Robert Bovington
Ávila is the highest city in Spain. It has also got a short name - I am only joking - its correct title is Ávila de los Caballeros.
Even though it is 3,715 feet above sea level, it is situated on a plateau that is surrounded by even loftier mountains. It is a good place to visit but not to live because, whilst the city is rather spectacular and is a notable tourist centre, it has long cold winters and short summers. The surrounding neighbourhood is not too attractive either. It is an arid, treeless plain strewn with immense grey boulders, which, I suppose, came in useful when the walls of the city were built.
Las Murallas - the walls - are magnificent and encompass the whole of ancient Ávila. They were built in the 12th century and their total length is 8,202 feet. The modern part of the city lies outside the walls. Within the old city are many fine buildings including churches, the Gothic cathedral and an old Moorish castle. It also has many elegant mansions, some of which were built into the walls.
There are many religious buildings but two worth mentioning are the Monastery of La Encarnacion where St. Teresa lived for thirty years and the Convent of Santa Teresa which was built in the 17th century on the plot where the Carmelite reformer was born. Another famous resident was Don Juan, the only son of Ferdinand and Isabella. His tomb is contained in the Convent of Santo Tomás.
Because the city is so rich in architecture it has become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Ávila is also the capital of the province of the same name, which is located in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon in central Spain.
The province has an area of 3,107 square miles but the city of Ávila is probably the only reason for visiting. The rearing of Merino sheep is the principal occupation. There is not a lot else - certainly not a lot of ibex. This wild goat was facing extinction until an ibex sanctuary was set up in 1905.