If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the 12th- and 17th-century splendour, get in the car for a jump in time and scenery. Wander around the beautiful city of Zaragoza, which will dazzle you with monumental architecture. The colourful churches and town buildings tell a rich history of Moorish and Spanish culture.
Cross the river Ebro and navigate to Alcubierre over the beautiful A-129. The Pyrenees rest quietly in the background; these hills were once the stage of the Spanish Civil War. Near A-129 34, 6 km you’ll find a sign leading you off the main road that takes you up to George Orwell’s route. The famous writer of "1984" was one of the brave soldiers to delve in the trenches of the Spanish Civil War during the winter of 1936.
Park the car and walk towards the fortifications on Monte Izaro where signs lead to the entrance of the trenches. You are now on the Republican side; this peaceful mountain range in front of you was once the most considerable threat to Orwell’s life. Originally, he planned to witness the war through the eyes of a journalist, but his democratic convictions forced him to the front line as a soldier instead.
Francisco Franco's troops were stationed only 700 meters away, but the biggest concern on both sides was fighting the cold. Although the valley looks relatively green today, it’s easy to believe Orwell when he wrote that “it had been ranged over by freezing militiamen, with the result that everything thicker than one’s finger had long since been burnt.”
The current trenches are part of a bigger reconstruction project to commemorate the Spanish Civil War. Other spots of interest include the abandoned village of Belchite, where Franco broke the Republican front and 6,000 men perished. Dark irony has it that Orwell was saved from this battle by a bullet in his throat only two months before. His recovery far away from the front line may have saved his life.
Next time you're in Johannesburg, South Africa, visit a UNESCO site. The Sterkfontein Caves site is the greatest journey back in time our planet could offer.
A castle on the banks of Scotland's famous Loch Ness just might blow the mysterious beast out of the water.
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