Teruel

Much of the province of Teruel is dominated by the mountainous Sistema Ibérica. The climate is harsh for most of the year. The terrible cold of the province was briefly but famously reported in the world’s press during the battle of Teruel which saw blinding blizzards and temperatures drop to -25 °C. Soviet T-26 tanks used by the Republican army were disabled in Aragón”s snow and there were more than ,25,000 casualties from frostbite. The valley of Jiloca in Teruel is probably the most consistently cold corner of the Iberian Peninsula, high mountains aside, with a record low of -28/-30ºC in Calamocha. The valley lies in a triangle formed by Teruel, Calamocha and Molina de Aragón (over the border in Guadalajara) similarly considered as the coldest area of Spain, with temperatures regularly dropping to -20ºC. 

Because of its harsh terrain, climate and remoteness, Teruel today has the lowest population density in Spain with just 9 inhabitants per square kilometre, a process which took off in the 1950s when large numbers of people abandoned their homes for cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, leaving hundreds of almost empty villages, barely surviving with a handful of pensioners. A nocturnal map of the Iberian peninsula shows a heart of dark over the province, making it ideal for stargazing.

A characteristic feature of the landscape of Teruel is the presence of magnificent pollarded black poplars (Span. Chopo negro. Populus nigra) which have become a cherished sign of identity for many villages. They are working trees, expertly pruned for a dozen generations to provide leaf fodder and wood. The largest concentration, possibly anywhere in Europe, is in Aguilar del Alfambra where 4700 which home to some pollarded poplars A Pollard Poplar Festival is held every year which travels from one village to another every year, 

Many of them were pollards that had contributed significantly to the local economy, their lopped branches providing cattle fodder and material for matchsticks, wattle, bean poles and fruit baskets. They had been cut for hedging poles, the upright supports used in traditional hedge laying, and this, it was thought, accounted for their appearance at regular intervals along the hedgerows – the ‘poles’ having sprung back into life and grown to become trees themselves.