Barcelona, a photo a day

tradition

Sol i ombra

This is for many an evil place, the old bullring on Plaza Tetuan. Bullfighting was made illegal in Catalunya last year, but there is a strong movement of mainly non-catalan Spaniards wanting to reintroduce it. Whatever you might think about it, and I am personally totally against the sick compulsion of some to torturing and killing animals for fun (or watching it being done), the architecture is quite sumptuous, much more andalous than catala. The place is mostly unused now, there was an Italian circus in it last winter.
And in the bad old times, when buying your seat, you could choose between sol i ombra, sun or shade.

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By George! Or by Jordi? William?

Special theme day today, as it is St George’s day. Or Sant Jordi, as we say here. George is a truly universal saint, as he is the patron of such places like England, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Timbuktu, Egypt, Bulgaria, Russia, India, Palestine, Moscow, Beirut, Rio de Janeiro, and so on and so forth, as well as of the Scout Movement, and a large range of professions. Well, he died this day in 303AD.

The tradition here in Catalunya is for the boy to offer a rose to his Dulcinea, and for the girl to offer her boyfriend/husband a book. Why a book? Well, William Shakespeare died on the same 23rd of April, in 1616, 397 years ago. He was actually probably born on a 23rd of April as well, but historians differ on this subject. So, hail to all Georges, Jordis, Jorges, Yorgos, and to all Bills, Wills and Williams! Read a book, find a florist! Being a George myself by my second name (Georges, in French), I WILL celebrate!

More about this theme day right here.

And here comes Bill, courtesy of the world wide web.


Drumming and jamming, with some soup

Some drummers jamming in Gracia last summer.

OK, about yesterday’s soup… I confess, I wouldn’t eat it either, but the photo is good. Now, here is what in my opinion is the best soup ever: the portuguese stone soup.

Take…

  • 8 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
  • 1 pound linguiça or kielbasa sausage or Spanish chorizo,* diced
  • 1 15 1/4-ounce can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced ready-cut tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium head savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped (about 4 1/2 cups)
  • 1 pound turnips, peeled, diced
  • 2 leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
Combine all ingredients in large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soup is thick, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.)


Stone soup… And here is the legend behind it.

Two traveling men, were carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. They walked to a village. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travelers. Then the travelers go to a stream and fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travelers answer that they are making “stone soup”, which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which they are missing. The villager does not mind parting with a few carrots to help them out, so that gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travelers again mention their stone soup which has not reached its full potential yet. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all.
 
Photo taken from the Portuguese Wikipedia

Bewitched?

Do you have Christmas witches in your respective cultures?


Caganers!!!

It’s that time of the year again, it’s Caganer time! Above, some players from the Barcelona Football Club, the Barca.

A Caganer is a figurine depicted in the act of defecation appearing in nativity scenes in Catalonia and neighbouring areas with Catalan culture such as Andorra, Valencia, Northern Catalonia (in southern France) and the Balearic Islands.
In Catalonia, as well as in the rest of Spain and in most of Italy and Southern France, traditional Christmas decorations sometimes consist of a large model of the city of Bethlehem, similar to the Nativity scenes of the English-speaking world but encompassing the entire city rather than just the typical manger scene. In Catalonia, the pessebre or nativity scene is often a reproduction of a pastoral scene with a traditional Catalan masia (farmhouse) as a central setting with the child in a manger, with outlying scenes of a washerwoman by a river, a woman spinning, shepherds walking towards the manger area laden with gifts and herding their sheep, the three wise men approaching on horseback, an annunciation scene with the angel and shepherds, the star pointing the way, etc., all of this usually set on moss to represent grass, with cork used to represent mountains or cliffs. Another variant is to make the setting oriental, with the wise men arriving by camel and the figures dressed accordingly.
The caganer is a particular and highly popular feature of modern Catalan nativity scenes. It is believed to have entered the nativity scene by the late 17th-early 18th century, during the Baroque period. Eminent folklorist Joan Amades called it an essential piece and the most popular figure of the nativity scene. It can also be found in other parts of southwestern Europe, including Murcia, the region just south of the Valencia in Spain (where they are called cagones), Naples (cacone or pastore che caca) and Portugal (cagões). There is a sculpture of a person defecating hidden inside the cathedral of Ciudad Rodrigo, Province of Salamanca, though this is not part of a nativity scene. Accompanying Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds and company, the caganer is often tucked away in a corner of the model, typically nowhere near the manger scene. A tradition in the Catalan Countries is to have children find the hidden figure.
Possible reasons for placing a figure representing a person in the act of excreting waste in a scene which is widely considered holy include:

  • Tradition.
  • Perceived humour.
  • A fun spectacle, especially for children.
  • The Caganer, by creating feces, is fertilizing the Earth. According to the ethnographer, Joan Amades, it was a “customary figure in pessebres [i.e. nativity scenes] in the 19th century, because people believed that this deposit [symbolically] fertilized the ground of the pessebre, which became fertile and ensured the pessebre for the following year, and with it, the health of body and peace of mind required to make the pessebre, with the joy and happiness brought by Christmas near the hearth. Placing this figurine in the pessebre brought good luck and joy and not doing so brought adversity.”
  • The Caganer represents the equality of all people: regardless of status, race, or gender, everyone defecates.
  • Increased naturalism of an otherwise archetypal (thus idealised) story, so that it is more believable, more real and can be taken more seriously.
  • The idea that God will manifest himself when he is ready, without regard for whether we human beings are ready or not.
  • The Caganer reinforces the belief that the infant Jesus is God in human form, with all that being human implies.
  • The character introduces a healthy amount of religious doubt to test one’s faith.
  • A humorous allusion to the Spanish proverb (in translation), “Dung is no saint, but where it falls it works miracles.”

Further opinions:

  • “The caganer was the most mischievous and out-of-place character of the pessebre’s [otherwise] idyllic landscape; he was the “Other”, with everything that entails, and as the “Other”, was accepted, in a liberal vein, as long as he did not aim to occupy the foreground. The caganer represented the spoilsport that we all have inside of us, and that’s why it is not surprising that it was the most beloved figure among the children and, above all, the adolescents, who were already beginning to feel a bit like outsiders to the family celebration.” Agustí Pons
  • “The caganer is a hidden figure and yet is always sought out like the lost link between transcendence and contingency. Without the caganer, there would be no nativity scene but rather a liturgy, and there would be no real country but just the false landscape of a model.” Joan Barril
  • “The caganer seems to provide a counterpoint to so much ornamental hullabaloo, so much emotive treacle, so much contrived beauty.” Josep Murgades
  • “The caganer is, like so many other things that have undergone the filtering of a great many generations, a cult object; with the playful, aesthetic and superficial devotion that we feel towards all the silly things that fascinate us deep down.” Jordi Soler

 Anyway, here are some people, Kate Middleton, her hubby Will, Prince Charles and his mum, doing their bit for England…

Some others, doing their bit for Gaul…

and for whichever planet they are from…


Dragons…

Whilst researching for this month’s theme day, I came across this particular bakery oven, with dragons acting as door handles. They’re really pretty, but probably too hot to touch!


Monthly theme day: bakeries

Came across this open air ecological bakery, during last week’s earth day celebrations.
This is for our monthly theme day.

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants

Tomorrow, we will post something about dragons and bakeries.

And here is the bread


Books, dragons and roses: la diada de Sant Jordi


La Diada de Sant Jordi (Catalan pronunciation: [ɫə ðiˈaðə ðə ˈsaɲ ˈʒɔrði], Saint George’s Day), also known as El dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book) is a Catalan holiday held on 23 April, with similarities to Valentine’s Day and some unique twists that reflect the antiquity of the celebrations. The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and colleagues. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion—”a rose for love and a book forever.” In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition originating in 1923, when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616. Barcelona is the publishing capital of both Catalan and Spanish languages and the combination of love and literacy was quickly adopted.
In Barcelona’s most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 800,000 books will have been purchased. Most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.
The sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, is performed throughout the day in the Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona. Many book stores and cafes host readings by authors (including 24-hour marathon readings of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”). Street performers and musicians in public squares add to the day’s atmosphere.
23 April is also the only day of the year when the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona’s principal government building, is open to the public. The interior is decorated with roses to honour Saint George.
Catalonia exported its tradition of the book and the rose to the rest of the world. In 1995, the UNESCO adopted 23 April as World Book and Copyright Day.

 And yes, Mandy had her magnificent rose, and I got a sumptuous (cook)book.

Our World on Tuesday


Sardana

The sardana is a type of circular dance typical of Catalunya. The dance was originally from the Empordà region, but started gaining popularity throughout Catalunya during the 20th century. When you walk through Barcelona on any holiday, be it religious or not, you’ll almost automatically come across some groups of people dancing. And several statues across town celebrate it. This iron one is on the Fundacio Fran Daurel, in the Poble Espanyol, by Manuel Alvarez.


The young dancers

Dancing in the light…

Having very little time and energy to browsing your blogs, or commenting on them, at the moment. But I have a 3 days weekend coming up, will try to catch up then.


Happy anniversary!

Our yearly Christmas market, the Fira de Santa Lucia, is 225 years old! Congratulations!

Our World Tuesday, right here.


Cod, anyone?

Cod. Extremely popular in Spain and Portugal. Literally thousands of recipes. Here is a Catalan one, which I will try soon:

Catalan fish stew

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 2 fennel bulbs, chopped
  • 150g/5oz chorizo, diced
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • 2 cloves new season garlic, crushed
  • ½tsp sweet paprika powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp saffron strands (optional)
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes
  • 100ml/3½ fl oz fish stock or water
  • 150ml/5 fl oz white wine
  • 500g/1 lb 2oz mussels, cleaned
  • 650g/1 lb 7 oz firm white fish (bream, pollock, cod, monkfish), filleted, dredged in flour and fried in olive oil
  • 100g/3½ oz toasted almonds, ground
To serve

Preparation method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onions, fennel, diced chorizo, chilli, ground fennel seeds and garlic for a few minutes.
  2. Add the paprika, thyme, saffron, bay leaves and tomatoes and cook until reduced to a thickish sauce.
  3. Add the fish stock (or water) and white wine and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the cooked mussels and cook until they are all open. Discard any that have not opened.
  5. Put the fish pieces into the stew and stir in the almonds.
  6. Heat for a minute or two and serve with seasonal greens, steamed potatoes and wedges of lemon.

Jamon serrano

Ubiquitous jamon serrano… Wherever you go in Spain, you’ll find it, in shops, bars, restaurants, everywhere.
The name means mountain ham.
The way it works. You buy a whole leg, and the special outfit to hold it. Take a very sharp knife, keep it as flat as possible, and start cutting the finest possible stripes of delicious ham.
One thing though: you’ll need some good ans sharp teeth to eat it.
Recipes? Hundreds, probably thousands!
More info here!


The weaver

Occasionally, not early as often as we would like, we come across some more traditional markets and fairs.
This guy was weaving (and selling) baskets. He was teaching some kids, and they seemed totally enthralled by his art.Nice gentle and patient face too.

Map picture
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Gracia

 
One nice way of hiding an unseemly shop curtain.. This is an archive photo, taken last summer during the Festa Major in Gracia (check out the new header, by the way!).

Window shopping

One of many religious shops in the old town


We want to be free! A reflection.

This is a window of a shop on Passeig de Gracia, famous french brand whose initials are LV.
And yes, they cage bags! What a shame! Please everybody, take your (fattest) wallet, and set them free! This will be your good action for the day. And you or your wife/girlfriend will be happy! Guys, 8 days to Valentine’s day!
Thank you, Leia and Cezar!

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Alsace part 3

Storks, I think I found your nest!

Part of the festive decoration in Strasbourg, Alsace, around Christmas.


Escargots, or Alsace, part 2

Our bloger friend Marie, from the beautiful town of Montpellier, Herault, Southern France, asked following question a few days ago: why do French people eat snails? Well, here is my small contribution. On the 24th of december 2009, after 48 years, 6 months and 4 days on this planet of ours, I’ve finally let myself be convinced. I tried it. This is a special kind I hadn’t seen before, with a pastry shell.
Never again!
My wife liked it, it was a first for her as well.
What does this have to do with Barcelona, and Catalunya in general? They eat a lot of them as well, here!


223rd Fira de Santa Llucia

It’s getting really christmassy here as well, with just 16 days left before the big day. As every year since 1786, there is the Fira de Santa Llucia in front of the Cathedral, 270 stalls selling all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff. Check out their website if you want to know more. Just click here.


Caganer

These are some famous people, behind bars (well, at least in this shot), You might recognize, amongst other people, Barak Obama, Silvio Berlusconi,Angela Merkel and my very own (no, he did not get my vote!) french  president, Monsieur Sarkozy. What they have in common here is that they are busy with a … natural function… Caganer means shitter in Shakespeare’s english. In Barcelona and Catalunya, you put them under the Christmas tree… You have to click on this photo to see it better, believe me!
Want to know and to see more? Go there!


Masks

Many Venitians spend a small (or not so small) fortune dressing up for Carnavale, costumes, shoes, and masks. Here are a few traditional masks, mainly meant for tourist in search of a cheap (or not so cheap) souvenir.

And then, there is the other way, as seen below…

Which mask would you choose?



The Santa Eulàlia


The Santa Eulalia. This gorgeous schooner was built in Torrevieja, near Alicante in 1918, and launched one year later. Under different names, it was active for almost 80 years, until it was auctioned off, and bought by Barcelona’s Maritime Museum.

That purchase saw the museum posed with one of the most significant and difficult challenges it had ever faced, namely the recovery and restoration of a historical vessel, adhering to the strictest criteria in terms of the protection of cultural heritage.

You can now visit it on it’s mooring, in the Port Vell.

Here is some technical data:

Previous names: Carmen Flores (1919-1931)
Puerto de Palma (1931-1936)
Cala San Vicenç (1936-1975)
Sayremar Uno (1975-2000)
Santa Eulàlia (2001)
Year of construction: 1918
Probably launched on 14 January 1919
Shipyard: Astilleros Marí, in Torrevieja (Alicante)
Dead weight (maximum load): 190 tons
Displacement in service: 215 tons
Gross / net tonnage: 156 tons / 116 tons
Material of hull: Wood
Overall length: 34.6 m (47 m including the bowsprit and the boom)
Length between perpendiculars: 29.3 m
Maximum breadth: 8.5 m
Depth: 3,8 m
Maximum draught: 4.05 m
Surface area of sails: 526,4 m2
Number of sails: 12
Height of masts above deck: 27 m
Engine: Volvo Penta 367 CV (291.9 kW)
Current crew: 7 (captain plus 6 sailors)
Maximum no. of passengers: 30 people


Abanicos


The natural extensions to a Spanish woman’s hand is this: an abanico. Although mostly a southern thing, Sevilla and Andalucia originally, it is used a lot here as well.
They can be as cheap as dirt (I saw some made in China!) or going in the hundreds of euros, if they are made of ebony or ivory, silk, gold, etc. I suppose they are more of a statement then than of real utility.


La Mercé 2009: Fetes et Feux part 2



And a few more…


La Mercé 2009: Fetes et Feux


Yesterday was an early Christmas for me: I replaced my old 4MP camera with a million dollar baby in the shape of a nice 12 MP one. Here are the first pictures!

La Mercé 2009, aka the Feast of our Lady of Mercy. The biggest holiday in Barcelona, a huge 3 day party, religious processions, dragons on the streets, hundreds of free concerts, circus… Officially, la Mercé is on September 24th, but the festivities are ongoing, until next weekend, with the finals of the Redbull Air Race. No worries, your man in Barcelona will be there to report!

Anyway, last night was also the end of the 12th International Pyrotechnic Festival. The French company Fetes et Feux did it’s very best to impress the thousands of people massed on the beaches. And they succeeded!

So, that’s a few of the pictures I got by playing around with a good camera and a slow shutter speed. Enjoy! And do yourselves a favor: enlarge the pictures!



Castell


This is a castell, Catalan for castle. It is a typically Catalan tradition, dating back to the end of the 18th century. It is a very small castell, as they can have up to 10 levels, with up to 5 people per level.
The whole thing has even it’s own terminology. Here is what Wiki has to say about it.
The least one can say about it, is that the castellers need an uncommon strength and stamina to achieve such towers. Imagine the guys forming the base, with up to 50 people standing on their shoulders! Amazing! Amazing as well this little girl on the picture scrambling her way up by stepping on everybody else.
A last word about it for now: I read somewhere that they want that tradition to be recognized as a World Heritage. Good!