|The iconic view of Peñíscola's seaside castle on a hill|
I revisited Peñíscola a couple of months ago with a friend and colleague who had never been. The first thing he commented on was how much it reminded him of Greece, above all because of its white seaside buildings. Now this is no lazy comparison, since my friend is Greek American and has lived in and has family in Greece. It is striking, given that this similarity is not true for most Spanish seaside villages (with a notable exception, perhaps, for Menorca).
Putting aside this passing resemblance, what defines Peñíscola is its medieval castle. Like most Spanish castles, a fort turned castle had been built and rebuilt on this spot for centuries. The town's name comes from the Roman "Paene Iscola", meaning "casi isla" or almost an island (i.e. a peninsula). The present-day castle came into being in the 13th and 14th centuries, built by —take notes Dan Brown— the Knights Templar. Unfortunately, you have to pay extra to visit the part of the castle where they talk about that, and I'm too cheap to bother. (Note: it was a bright, sunny day, and I was experimenting with my new polarizing filter to get more brilliant blue skies. My apologies for the blackened edges in the photos.)
The castle's most famous denizen, "El Papa Luna", a.k.a. Benedict XIII, came to reside here in the 15th century, an antipope who preferred to live in Spain than renounce his Vatican-rejected claim on the popedom. His family name Luna, "moon" in Spanish, and the use of the crescent moon in his family seal, are why you'll see crescent moons all over the castle and town. (Admit it, "el Papa Luna" is an even cooler sounding pope name than "el Papa Paco".)
|Somehow, every time I visit Peñíscola I manage to find this artisan ceramics shop closed.|
The Papa Luna figurines in Cerámica Yvan look adorable and would be wonderful souvenirs!
|Credits to this site for the image and detailed explanation of the movie.|
|I should add, the service was also excellent.|
They take pride in their food.