Throughout this journey through the lands of Ourense, we will discover a great part of its most unknown heritage.

Stony survivors of the passage of time, their physical condition varies, but all their value as artistic and ethnographic evidence remains intact.

When you get to Santa Comba in Bande, take a close look at the site's lovely features: outside the church's walls, you can see the remains of an adjoining chapel where baptisms were done, so that those who went there could enter the church as Christians. In fact, it still contains the baptismal font.
    Description of Vilanova according to Curros Enríquez

Other information of interest.
- Museo de Arte Sagrado de Santa Clara (Santa Clara Museum of Sacred Art): Closed from 15 January to 15 February More information on times and tickets at   www.allariz.com.
- Centro Arqueolóxico Aquae Querquennane (Aquae Querquennane Archaeological Centre): More information on times and tickets at  www.fundacionaqvianova.com/contacto.

Day 1

We'll begin our visit in a town with its own brand name due to having the highest concentration of granaries in Spain. As many as 35 cabaceiras (granaries) may be counted in the complex of granaries of A Merca. Lined up on a slope so they can enjoy perfect air circulation, they are the best evidence of a rural past that is very much alive. Walking through the Campo da Feira (Fairgrounds), you'll hear the how the wind whistles through the holes in the ochre-coloured wooden walls.

 In A Merca, all of the granaries are made all of this material, except for two that are of mixed composition. The key to finding out how old each specimen is to look at the kind of nails are in its door. If they are made of iron, it will be one of the oldest.

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After this ethnographic stop, we continue our journey to the lands of Celanova, whose praises were so often sung by famous authors of popular lyrics, such as Curros, Celso Emilio and Méndez Ferrín. We'll begin with the mediaeval town of Vilanova dos Infantes. Wandering its streets, we'll come upon some of the old mansions that surround the castle tower, which was destroyed by the Irmandiños in the mid-fifteenth century and later rebuilt. We can also find the remains of a Romanesque monastery near the current parish church. This church houses a twelfth-century life-size wooden Christ with Byzantine nuances. Take a close look at its cross; they look like the branches of a tree.

Now in Celanova's town centre, in the Praza Mayor and near the Monastery of Celanova, pay a visit to the Mozarabic chapel of San Miguel. It is a unique construction in the Iberian Peninsula and is essential to understanding the times of the Christian resettlement. Most likely to first catch your attention will be its size – just 22 square metres – but it is also unique in terms of its structure. Cheer up inside to see close its horseshoe arch with an alfiz.

A few kilometres from Celanova awaits the fortified pre-Roman Iron Age village of Castromao on a hill overlooking the River Arnoia. Stop on its rocky summit and scan the broad horizon that lies before you. Imagine for a moment the inhabitants of this land, carrying on their daily lives in these dwellings. Walk its 500-metre perimeter wall and take a  close look at embankment covered with masonry. Its location – right on Via Romana XVIII – explains the large amount of remains such as coins, ceramics and milestones discovered and that today you can find in the Provincial Museum.

Continuing south, following in the footsteps of the past, we travel to Bande to pay a visit to the Visigothic churh of Santa Comba. This late seventh-century sanctuary is laid out in the form of Greek cross, with a rectangular perimeter from which the chancel and portico protrude. When you get there, take a close look at the site's lovely features: outside the church's walls, you can see the remains of an adjoining chapel where baptisms were done, so that those who went there could enter the church as Christians. In fact, it still contains the baptismal font. Something else that will catch your attention is the fountain called o pociño dos enamorados (the well of the sweethearts), next to the walls of the atrium. Take a drink of its water and just maybe someone will surrender to your charms.

Next, we'll head off to the nearby town of Lobios to visit the church of San Salvador de Manín, popularly known as the church of Aceredo. This sacred place has a rich history full of anecdotes. The most striking is undoubtedly that its location was changed – stone by stone – twice. The church was originally built in Manín and later moved, in the eighteenth century, to the land now flooded by the Lindoso reservoir. Its architectural value as one of the region's finest examples of Baroque architecture saved it once again in the twentieth century, when it was moved to its present location

Taking our discoveries even further back in time, we'll visit the dólmenes de Maus de Salas in the town of Muíños. This is one of the most important megalithic sites in Galicia. Nearby, you will also find the rugged Parque do Xurés, home to a wealth of natural areas and landscapes.

At the Maus de Salas site, you'll be able to visit several megalithic burials from different the stages of construction. One of them – the Casiña da Moura – is not preserved in its original place due to the flooding caused by the construction of the dam. To reach this passage grave type dolmen, we'll have to travel several kilometres and cross over a narrow bridge at the top of the dam. Crossing over the Salas reservoir, we come upon the Casola do Foxo, which dates back to the beginning of the megalithic period. Originally, its access was located towards the southeast as in almost all the dolmens in Galicia. In any event, its entryway is not the original one, as shepherds covered it to protect themselves from the wind.

To finish off our day, there's nothing better than a short walk through the area surrounding the reservoir: with the sunset, its water turns a warm colour and is a good way to mentally disconnect.
 

Day 2

Back in Imperial Rome, on our second day we'll take a look at the Aquis Querquennis Roman military camp in the town of Bande. Built during the reign of Vespasian, it was abandoned in approximately AD 120. La teoría más probable sobre su construcción es la que sostiene que lo hizo cómo puesto de vigilancia de la Vía XVIII o Vía Nova entre Bracara y Asturica, las actuales Braga en Portugal y Astorga en León.

The most likely theory about why it was built is that it was to serve as a surveillance post for Via XVIII or the Via Nova Via between Bracara and Asturica, currently Braga in Portugal and Astorga in León. Evidence for this is that this enclave meets many of the requirements: it was a place that was easily accessed with pastures, lots of firewood and the highly appreciated hot springs. Before we get there, we'll make a stop at the Centro de Interpretación Aquea Querquennae (Aquea Querquennae Interpretation Centre) where many of your questions will be answered.

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Continuing on with our journey, we come upon the Baños de Bande (Baths of Bande). Two altars were found at these springs, one of which reads "Rufo Boelio fulfilled this vow to the nymphs, interceding for his own health." Remember to bring along your bathing suit because as soon as you feel the water vapour steaming out invitingly from the four baths, you will find it very difficult to resist.

This former monastery dates back to the sixteenth century and is of Portuguese Gothic style, with Renaissance elements. Don't pass up the chance to visit its harmonious cloister:  touring its theatrical ruins will give you the impression of travelling back to better times when this place was alive. In terms of its construction, there are several legends that offer theories about its origin. One tells how it was a group of Portuguese knights who, upon the appearance of an image of  the Infant Jesus, decided to build a chapel which attracted great devotion. This faith led to the founding of the monastery by the Franciscans.

Continuing north, we arrive at a fairytale village, Allariz. Located beside the River Arnoia, it is one of Galicia's best-preserved historic complexes, dominated by stone, wood and of course, Nature. Stroll through its streets paying close attention to this authentic open-air museum. Almost before you realise it, you'll reach the monastery of Santa Clara, which you absolutely must not miss. Founded by Violante – wife of King Alfonso X the Wise – inside you will find an ivory image of the Virgin Abrideira from the late thirteenth century. This image shows a seated Virgin holding the Child which, when opened, looks like an altarpiece that narrate the life of Mary, with scenes of the Nativity, the Ascension, the Coronation, the Annunciation and the Epiphany. Allariz is an ideal place to enjoy lunch at one of its restaurants beside the river while you fill your eyes with the beauty of the landscape. By the way: don't forget to try the macaroons, a doubtlessly delicious memento of this trip

Allariz is an ideal place to enjoy lunch at one of its restaurants beside the river while you fill your eyes with the beauty of the landscape. By the way: don't forget to try the macaroons, a doubtlessly delicious memento of this trip

Topping of our day, we drive up to the city of Maceda to discover one of the most important civil buildings of the Middle Ages in Galicia, Maceda Castle. The fort served for surveillance and defence, firstly against Muslim incursions and, later, against the Lusitanians. Apparently, its has the thickest walls of any fortress in Europe. A curious fact is that Alfonso X – whose nickname was The Wise, and who wrote the well-known Cantigas de Santa María (Canticles of Holy Mary) – lived here when he was 11 years old.

If, after everything we've seen and experienced, we still have any space left in our memory, we'll take one last trip to Xunqueira de Ambía to visit its Collegiate church. And with this, we bid good-bye to these lands of terraces and riverbanks that have so inspired its artists.

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