I Maratón Fotográfico de Parada de Sil

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Mirador de Castro, November 2015

This weekend I participated in my first photography competition. It also happened to be the very first photography marathon of its kind in Parada de Sil, a municipality of Galicia that is found in the province of Ourense. The marathon was made up of seven different locations in Parada de Sil, each of which had to be photographed. There was also an eighth photo, which could be of any place of your choice that was not assigned in the original seven.

One of my friends, S, is from a village in Parada de Sil, so she invited me to participate in the marathon with her and her two cousins. Since she knew the area very well, it made things a lot easier. I would have never found any of the places on my own-especially without a car!

We spent the whole day together, from about 9 AM to 7 PM, driving to the seven locations and photographing them. At about 2:30 PM, we took a break and had lunch at S and her cousins’ grandparents’ house. After we finished taking pictures, we looked through our hundreds of potential pictures and weeded out the bad ones until we came up with eight winners. The following eight pictures are the ones I submitted:

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1. Balcones de Madrid (Os Torgás)

These are some of the well-known overlooks in the Ribeira Sacra region, the name of the greater wine-producing region where Parada de Sil is located. They are called the “Madrid balconies,” because, in the past, women of Parada de Sil would come here to say good-bye to their loved ones who were moving to other cities to find work (most notably, Madrid). This is a great place to see both the Sil River and the famous Cañon de Sil, or Sil Canyon.

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2. Mirador de Castro

This is probably one of the lesser-known overlooks of Ribeira Sacra, but one of the most impressive indeed. It is located between a small town called, Castro, and a campsite. There are two wooden walkways that extend over the canyon and give you an impressive view of the Sil Canyon and its river.

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3. Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil

This hidden gem of the Ribeira Sacra can be found in the overgrown Merilán forest. It is a monastery from the Romantic period, built sometime before the 10th century AD. It is no longer in used, but it is well-preserved and worth a visit if you are in the region.

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4. Castiñeiro de Entrambosríos

Next to the small village of Entrambosríos (“entre ambos ríos,” or, “between the two rivers”), you can find this famous chestnut tree. It is estimated to be over 500 years-old and it still provides chestnuts. I tried to be artsy with this picture and capture the chestnut tree, the ruins next to it, my friend admiring the tree and some discarded chestnut pods in the foreground.

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5. Pasarelas del Mao

The wooden walkways that run alongside the Cañón del Mao, or Mao Canyon, offer some beautiful views of the surrounding area. About one kilometer in length, you can journey through the forest and admire the river beneath you.

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6. Museo del Chocolate (Teimende)

This was the very first chocolate museum in all of Galicia. It was used as a chocolate factory until the 1980’s, producing the brand, “Chocolates Caldelas” Now, it functions as a museum where visitors can see old machinery used to make chocolate in the past.

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7. Playa Fluvial de Pradomao

The riverside beach of Pradomao is a popular destination for swimmers and sunbathers alike in the summertime. Obviously, no one went swimming yesterday because of the cold weather, but it was still nice to see. The riverside beach offered views of the A Edrada Reservoir and the surrounding forest. Since we were there in the evening, the lighting wasn’t great for taking pictures, but the reflection of the clouds on the water was stunning.

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8. Fotografía Libre

The eighth and final picture was one of our own choice. It had to be from a spot that was not listed on the marathon list. I had a hard time selecting my eighth photo, but I eventually decided on this one. Most of the other pictures were nature pictures, so I decided to capture one of the abandoned villages that we passed by on our search for the 500 year-old chestnut tree. After all, Parada de Sil is known for both its natural beauty and the people who live in its villages.

For my first photography contest, I’d say I did alright. I don’t have a professional camera, so all of these pictures were taken with my Samsung Galaxy SIII cell phone. For my next contest, I think I will invest in a camera. But, for the meantime, I’m happy using my cell phone to capture the world’s beauty.

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