CHINCHON-- MORE THAN TOROS AND ANIS!
Ric Polansky ă
On the very edge of the plateau located just 45 kms from Madrid, as the crow flies, reposes the ancient town of Chinchon, famed throughout the world for it’s unique morning drink (or late night tipple): Anisette of Chinchon. Old Spanish men swear by it. They take it constitutionally in the mornings with their coffee to clean their “innards”. Young men say they sip it late in the evenings “on the rocks” to make the girls look better. Nevertheless it’s a magic potion that works for all.
Chinchon is a special place. A renaissance town with one of the most beautiful town centers (plazas) ever to be photographed. It is to this town that the true aficionados of the toros come to leave the stands, jump down over the barrier into the passageway and climb the wooden wall into the plaza to quit “talking the talk”. Here is where the men can step forward, be handed a cape and in front of their entire town either make a fool of themselves and run or stand perilously close and make the pass as the bull sweeps by.
The great Spanish painter Goya’s brother lived here so he was a frequent visitor as was director-actor cinematic whiz Orson Wells, who wanted to be buried there. Once you visit the place you’ll know why. You’ll be lost in time. The prices are much cheaper than anywhere else and the local residents are damn pleasant. The cuisine is basic but plentiful and the wine is excellent. Here the reds and white are served ice cold. The town only has 4000 inhabitants so a few days stay will make you a local.
Of course it is bull country with some of Spain’s most famous ranches scattered about and storks too perched on tops of every very tall tree. You can run in front of the toros at 9 in the morning (just after you’ve downed a few “copas ” of your favorite Anis, very dry (seco) or sweet and with ice. At nine in the evening you can start again with the “copas” and practice “recortes” (dodging and pirouetting about in front of the bulls) while the crowd and neighbors cheer and/or jeer. Each day has taurine events even a bull run for small children held at exactly the same hour as the grown ups.
Historically it was the famous Marquesa de Chinchon that saved thousands of lives when she introduced into Europe her powder that alleviated the plaque the Indians and mostly the foreigners were experiencing in Peru. Quini-quini the Indians called it, but it became famous as quinine water and the first medicinal cure against malaria. Her story is enough to make reading historians of us all.
The town is a pleasure to stroll through. Almost everyone wants to talk to you especially if you will greet them. I spent a fun filled four hours shooting nothing but old wooden doors in every possible description size and age.
Chinchon is a heralded town. Of course every Spaniard has heard of it because of it’s magical spirit drink and the renaissance atmosphere that pervades the entire town and embraces each newcomer. You don’t have to visit for the toros, rip a page out of the history of the middle ages and make a visit—you won’t be disappointed