Monday, 23 April 2012

Up to Alfoz and down to Viveiro - April 11

This was an odd day since we had no idea at all why Alfoz was called Alfoz - and we still don't. The little village is up in the mountains behind Foz and sits in a wide and fertile valley which, like so many others, benefits from an effective micro-climate. But this village is different. For on the top of the only hill for miles, one which commands views all  the  way to the mountains all round is a Norman-ish castle keep. More to the point the archeoligists can show - and they do - that at least 2,500 years ago it was a place where a wide ring fort provided either a defensive or an animal stockade or even ritual prominence. Whichever, this a place which has commanded this immensely valuable valley for 2,500 years.
The pictures show that what remains is more in keeping with the Norman principle of domination - so what we see could be originally Visigoth or possibly catholic - what it certainly does not seem to be is Moorish.  Which might figure.
But all this lead us to wonder something we cannot find any justification for - was Alfoz the cause of Foz? Try this thought. Someone develops a highly effrective agricultural business in the valley - but they are scores of miles from anywhere. And to sell their produce they need transport. 20 or so miles down one of the roads is a port where they fish. So Alfoz does a deal to put a harbour in and then send their produce east and west along the coast. Thing is that Foz does not seem to have historically had much of a fleet (not far way Berula, Viveiro and even Ribadero have big fleets with what seem long histories). But Foz has had a larger than expected harbour. So what if Alzoz (which could be an abbreviation of upper Foz?) set up the Puerta de Foz as a route to market? Ah well, nice thoughts.
We then went on to a town west of Foz called Viviero. We tried to reach this from the east but hit a huge traffic jam. This time we arrived from the south and anyway there appeared to be no jam today. The town is on a major ria and at the point where a causeway was possible. A very grid-like layout and some interestingly placed gates suggests it was a roman centre - given the copper mines adjacent and the fine agri land inland (AlFoz) that makes total sense. But for evidence we would need to dig - hmmmmph!
The town is charming in a simple way - although horribly over-developed with the usual array of largely nondescript or evn downright ugly five and six storey apartment blocks. It is essentially a tourist town and not at all bad really. Adjacent is another surprise - the port of Celicia with a huge fishing fleet.
From there we visited a village called Sassadeo where, in thelate 18th century the local aristo founded an iron smelting and forging business, of which quite a lot remains.Along side the iron they found kaolin so he also established a decent sized pottery, emulatiung deliberatly the style of English Bristolware - but becomeing in the process recognised as innovators of design and colour.
And then we went to Berula which on the map I assumed would be a small fishing port. Wrong - after being shocked at the scale of over-development on our approach we bumped into a huge fishing fleet. We counted 18 large trawlers along with scores of crabbers and line fishers. And then we went round the corner and found ship building,  a massive timber (eucalyptus) export site and slate, stone and aggregate. No wonder it looked over-developed!

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