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At first sight, the heavily industrialized, bowl-shaped valley centred on the large town of PONFERRADA seems to have little to offer, but the mountainous terrain of the Bierzo has scenery as picturesque as any in Spain. The town itself sums up this dichotomy, dominated by its outlying industrial concerns and spreading suburbs, yet with a charming, unspoiled old quarter, through which trudge weary pilgrims girding their loins for the mountains to come. Old and new towns are separated by the Río Sil, spanned by the iron bridge that gave Ponferrada its name, above which loom the high walls of the impressive castle.

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