The river Deva from Potes up to its source in Fuente Dé. Click to enlarge
|The discovery of Cantabria|
1. The Hungarian and his bear
2. In the valley of Liébana
3. “…but I’m not happy”
4. Deva River
5. Quiviesa River
Oscar Wladislas de Lubicz Milosz (1877-1939, a distant relative of Nobel-winner Czesław Milosz, 1911-2004) came by way of phonetics, comparative religion and esotericism to the consequence that the Paradise of the Genesis with its four rivers was in Iberia, and that its vestige, the Basque language has influenced even so far away languages as the Peruvian Quechua.
However, the valley of Liébana has only three rivers. It the photos that follow we will reach its source, stopping by some villages along the river, which can be also identified on the map above. This westernmost river of Liébana was also named after its largest settlement, Camaleño, boasting with thirty-three houses. Formerly it was also called Valdebaró.
Lon. It has a small church with a Baroque altarpiece, a polychrome facade from the 18th century, while the sanctuary is from the 16th. Similarly to most churches in the vally, we found it closed. Human voices were heard only from the pension, on whose balcony, despite the drizzle, they have tended the sheets to dry..
Tanarrio. We arrived at the church, standing isolated outside the village, after the mass had begun. This was indicated by the sticks left outside, by the lights in the windows and, walking closer, by the voice of the priest who usually comes up here from Santo Toribio. This was one of the few churches where we cound get in, and the five locals participating at the Mass proudly saw us around. The altarpiece was recently restored, and the church is maintained the best as they can. Its Romanesque origin is obvious through the traces of the several changes it has experienced, with a characteristic pointed vault of the entrance resting on much older capitals. On the left lateral wall a popular San Roque shows the symptoms of bubonic plague on the left thigh, accompanied by his dog carrying him the daily bread in the mouth. The hillsides surrounding Tanarrio are still covered by thick oak forests, but bears do not descend any more in the hope of an easy prey.
Brez. This village on the southern flank of the solid of Ándara seems to spring from the ground with difficulty. The church of St. Cyprian takes an escarpment as a side wall, and several patches of its wall reveal its Romanesque origins. An old woman sees us around the building, and after she learns us having come from Mallorca, she tells for long about the only travel of her life, to Mallorca with a group of pensioners. In Liébana, she says, they eat better, more abundantly and much cheaper. She will not leave the valley any more. If anything, perhaps for Santander (some 100 kms from there).
From Besoy, built down on the right bank of Deva, one can well see the church and cemetery of Llaves on the other side, and the path which a little farther ends in the village of Vallejo.
Mogrovejo is distinguished by its crenellated tower, high and in ruins, sustained and destroyed by ivy. As we approach, at the base we find a stable with a horse, apparently the only living being in the village apart from a number of sleeping dogs. The tower was built in the 13th century by Count Pedro Ruiz de Mogrovejo. In his family was born Saint Turibius of Mogrovejo, who became saint as the bishop of Lima in the 16th century. The tower is attached to a great manor house, which was not really taken care in the past centuries, but which apparently preserves several important paintings as well as a chapel with an altarpiece in folk Baroque style. The 17th-century church of the village houses perhaps Cantabria’s most beautiful altarpiece, a 15th-century Madonna from Flanders.
Treviño. The great 18th-century mansion of the Counts of Cortina, who made their fortune overseas, is a pension today. Apart from the castle and its towering trees a good number of other houses are waiting for being taken care.
Espinama. Almost arriving at Fuente Dé – where the road ends and the cable car starts, flying at the height of 753 meters above the rocks and the beech forest –, Espinama extends on both sides of the creek which will soon became the Deva river. The rumbling noise of the water fills the village. The first thing you see is this poster announcing in an eloquent Spanish that whoever wishes to buy the building acquired in 1956 by the municipality but fraudulently registered by the bishopric of Cantabria in 2009, and is aware that he or she is acting illegally, will have no direct way to heaven.
If you are in doubt about the brave and indomitable character of Cantabrians, it is enough to have a look at how the inhabitants of Espinama walked to the next village in 1964, when the cable car was built. A picture is worth ten thousand words.