Saturday, 5 November 2011

You can throw a dog down a cliff in five minutes now ...

JAÉN (Source: ... but you may not want to. Unless you knew what we're bashing on about. The name is interesting: despeñadero means cliff or gorge, and perro means dog (you knew that didn't you?), so Despeñaperros is literally 'a place where dogs plunge over cliffs' - or where this activity used to go on in remote times (no comments, please, just think of dwarf tossing of recent note Down Under). In fact, the name is that of a gorge or canyon carved out by the Despeñaperros River. It is located in the municipality of Santa Elena in the northern portion of the province of Jaén. It is a 76.49-square-kilometre area that was declared a natural park by the Junta de Andalucía, primarily for its geology and landscape, but also for its notable flora and fauna. It has traditionally been the dividing line between Andalucía and the rest of Spain.>>>
The gorge has steep walls, some more than 500 metres high. It has historically been used by humans and animals as a natural pass through the Sierra Morena, constituting a principal path of connection between Andalusia and the Meseta Central, Castilla-La Mancha, and the rest of Spain. Today the Despeñaperros is the route of the Autovía A-4 and of one of Andalusia's most important railway connections to the rest of Spain. Until the 1992 construction of the high-speed Puertollano–Córdoba route (90 kilometres) to the west, this rail route was second in importance only to the Mérida–Seville line in terms of connecting Andalucía to the rest of Spain.

However, modern transport needs modern roads. So it has only taken six years for two stretches of the A-4 to be built (and opened in September) that allows drivers (not, presumably animals) to cross the gorge in five minutes. So far it has cost €254 million, mostly, we guess, of European money. And the moral of this story is: 'The only thing you can rely on in Europe these days is to get your dog tossed over a cliff.'

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