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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

The Drunken Mice
Thursday, February 25, 2021

In practically any place in the world, the presence of mice is synonymous with a possible plague that must be eradicated. Except, perhaps, in some wineries in Jerez, where they not only allow the presence of these animals in their facilities but also offer them glasses of sweet wine that the small rodents do not hesitate to drink before the watchful eyes of the generally astonished visitors.

The reason why the winemakers allow the presence of these animals is that they belong to a class known as "wine cellar mice" that feed on the harmful insects that inhabit the wood of the barrels and that are detrimental to the final result of the wine. However, this diet does not explain rodents' fondness for wine.

To know the origin of this peculiar custom we have to go back many years, to the day when José Gávez, a "venenciador" who worked in the González Byass winery — the producer of the popular Tio Pepe - made a particular discovery.


During a break from his work, while eating a sandwich, Gálvez saw how a group of mice timidly approached him to eat the crumbs that fell from the bread. From that moment, the venenciador began to leave pieces of his food on the ground to gain the trust of the rodents and tried to befriend him. He even started letting them taste the wine and, apparently, they quite liked it and couldn't get enough of it

As time went by, Pepe Gálvez got tired of mice eating and drinking for free, so he put a ladder on them so that they had to earn their way to the edge of the glass that he filled for them every day. Seeing that they did whatever was necessary to get their fill he decided to show the mice and their little spectacle to the visitors of the cellar and it soon became a well-known attraction.

Gálvez retired in 1956, but his legacy continues. Thus, even today every time a group of tourists visits González Byass's facilities, their hosts place a glass of sweet wine and a small staircase on the floor. Instantly, a group of mice comes out of the dark to taste the drink, as shown by some videos that have turned these curious rodents into one of the many tourist attractions in Jerez. Cats, on the other hand, aren't so popular in these wineries.


Like 3        Published at 8:19 PM   Comments (1)

A town on the edge of the abyss
Thursday, February 18, 2021

CASTELLFOLLIT DE LA ROCA looks like a town that was once normal in shape but has been stretched and squeezed along a narrow basalt formation for almost a kilometre jutting out into a stunning valley. This is the result of the superposition of two lava flows which solidified and created this extremely hard and unusual rock formation. The first flow has been dated back 217,000 years. It comes from Batet de la Serra, in Olot. And the second, which is 192,000 years old is the result of the eruption of the San Juan Les Fonts volcanoes. The houses are pushed precariously close to the edge of a 50m vertical drop, and wind along the cliff looking over the countryside and rivers that flank the town below.



Inhabited for over 1000 years, the town’s narrow streets still carry the characteristics of its medieval origin, and the city centre features ramparts that fortified the town during the civil war. The narrow streets of the town converge on the old church of San Salvador, located at one end of the cliff. Here there is also a viewpoint with breathtaking views and one can clearly see and understand the strategic situation of the town. The church dates from the 13th century, although the current building has undergone several renovations. It was built in a late Renaissance style. It has a square bell tower and has openings on each side. The bell tower is crowned by a cupola decorated with small pilasters. It still preserves various reused basalt ashlars and a late Romanesque window. As for the interior of the church of San Salvador, it should be noted that it is currently used as a cultural centre in which temporary exhibitions are presented.


Many houses and streets in the city centre are also built of the dark, volcanic rock that serves as a pedestal for the town. The main street of Castellfollit winds through the entire town narrowly pressed between houses on both sides, straining to remain on the cliff face.



In Castellfollit de la Roca it is also possible to visit the Sausage Museum (Museo del Embutido), inaugurated in 1993. There is a permanent exhibition that explains the history of meat conservation. In this way, the museum exhibits tools used to make meat through different historical periods, as well as old photographs, old machines, explanations of the slaughter process etc. Entrance to the museum is free and with it you can enjoy a tasting of some of the most typical products of the area.

On both sides of the cliff, the rivers Fluvià and Toronell amble by the rock face of the town through the volcanic zone of Garrotxa. To add to the drama of the landscape, the cliffs are illuminated from sunset until midnight for six months out of the year.



Like 5        Published at 7:08 PM   Comments (3)

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