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Our Andalucian paradise

My husband and I had lived in Mexico City, LA, Paris, Guadalajara, Oslo, Montreal and Vancouver. On a rainy November night we moved to a small town an hour inland from Malaga. 'Our Andalusian paradise' is about the historical town of Ronda, the mountains that surrounds it, the white villages dotted amongst them, of hikes, donkey trails and excursions around Andalucía and journeys further afield.

7 stops from Rome to Tokyo - Life of a SAS air hostess in the 1950s
Wednesday, June 15, 2022

One of the many times that I have flown across the Atlantic, they showed a video of Air Canada’s 75+ years of history. I decided that I would ask my mother, Aase Linaae, about her experiences as an air hostess in the 1950s - a time when jet planes, charter trips and mass tourism still didn’t exist.

The front page of the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, February 1957. Aase (right) together with the Swedish captain and air hostess from the first commercial flight over the North Pole.
The front page of the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, February 1957. Aase (right) together with the Swedish captain and air hostess from the first commercial flight over the North Pole.

 

Aase was born in a rather conservative Norwegian town in 1930. She grew up at a time when women, or at least married women, weren’t meant to work outside the home. After completing a secretary school at a local business institute, Aase worked a year in an office in London, which was quite unusual for a girl from her town. But her desire to see the world was not satisfied. She subsequently spent a year as an au pair in France, where she met another young woman who had tried to become an air hostess for SAS. Although Aase was warned about the demanding multilingual interview, she decided to apply.

 

Air hostess training with diaper changes and basic flight mechanics

 

Emergency exit practice a la Houdini, Stockholm 1954. Photo © Aase Linaae
Emergency exit practice a la Houdini, Stockholm 1954. Photo © Aase Linaae


SAS, or Scandinavian Airlines Systems, a conglomerate of government-owned Swedish, Danish and Norwegian airlines, began their operations after the Second World War. When Aase applied to SAS in 1954, they had only had air hostesses for eight years. Before that, the position didn’t exist. At the beginning of Aase’s career, the names of all the Norwegian air hostesses could fit onto a single sheet of paper. Otherwise, the flight crew consisted of a captain, a first officer, a mechanic, as well as a navigator on longer hauls to for example the Middle East or the USA. The cabin crew consisted of a purser and a steward – these were also male and quite often gay, though such things were never spoken about out loud.

To fly, at least commercially, was still new and only very wealthy people and celebrities could allow themselves such a lavish luxury. The job as an air hostess was therefore the most glamourous job a young woman could wish for, other than being a movie star. It was basically every girl’s dream.

 

 

The Chef explains, air hostess course Stockholm 1954. Photo © Aase Linaae
The Chef explains, air hostess course Stockholm 1954. Photo © Aase Linaae


More than 500 hopeful young women applied to SAS at the same time as Aase. All were between 23 and 28 years of age (otherwise you were considered “too old”). All had to be under a certain height (168 cm, in Aase’s recollection), and all had to weigh under 58 kilos. The applicants could also not wear glasses. Such were the prerequisites at the time, and it was all completely legal!

 

SAS air hostess course 1954. Photo © Aase Linaae
SAS air hostess course 1954. Photo © Aase Linaae


It was customary and practically expected that the air hostesses stopped working when they got married and had children. It wasn’t exactly a requirement, but just what happened. Air hostesses between the age of 30-35 were only given work in the summer when there was more air traffic. In the winter they were often put on leave or helped to retrain as ground personnel. If you had been flying for seven years in 1960 and were over 30 years old, the airline gave you severance pay. It was basically the airline's way to get the ‘ancient’ air hostesses to stop flying and end their careers when they became 30.

 

 

Fire extinguisher practice during air hostess training in Stockholm. Note the practical wardrobe… Photo © Aase Linaae
Fire extinguisher practice during air hostess training in Stockholm. Note the practical wardrobe… Photo © Aase Linaae


50 young women were called into the exam in Oslo to fill a handful of vacant positions on offer. Even with fluent English and French, Aase was terribly nervous and crammed German grammar until the last moment. “Ich bin nimmer in Deutschland gewesen” (I have never been to Germany). In her eyes, the other applicants looked much more appropriate for the role than her, but to her great surprise, she passed. Together with eleven other young women, Aase went on to a 2-month air hostess training course in Stockholm. Included in the curriculum were basic mechanics, meteorology, flight history, diaper changing and how to inject a syringe. However, they learned little to prepare them for what was to come…

 

 

Graduated SAS air hostesses, Stock holm 1954. Photo © Aase Linaae
Graduated SAS air hostesses, Stock holm 1954. Photo © Aase Linaae

 

Propeller flights, eternal turbulence and stilettoes

Just imagine working in one of those old propeller planes that could fly into the clouds, but never above them. Obviously, there was almost constant turbulence, combined with occasional gale-force winds from the North Sea. Add frequent stopovers to refuel on far too small and unwieldy airports. Throw in 30 Danish businessmen smoking cigars from take-off to landing. Put on some stiletto heels and a tight-fitting uniform and start serving three heavy trays at a time with an ample supply of genuine crystal glasses, silverware and piping hot dishes, directly from the oven. And that was only the beginning before the barf bags started to be filled …

If the air hostess needed to sit down for a few seconds, and the aeroplane was full, she would have to sneak into the cockpit with the pilots, where there was a folding seat. However, there was never time to sit down, as she was the only air hostess on board and every single passenger had to be told individually - in their preferred language - about the plane’s safety rules - because the speakers on the plane were only to be used for important announcements!

 

 

Boarding the old way. Photo © Aase Linaae
Boarding the old way. Photo © Aase Linaae


There were of course no unions for air hostesses in those days. While the cockpit crew was well paid, air hostesses earned less than the secretaries at the time. The roller trolleys that the female crew members recommended to their superiors, again and again, were only introduced as standard equipment about a decade later.

The air hostesses spent the first year flying within Scandinavia, which meant eternal fjordland turbulence with puffing Danes, arrogant Swedes, and neurotic Norwegians. From the second year with the crew, once the air hostesses had proven themselves ‘flight-worthy’, they were allowed to assist on longer flights. A flight between Oslo and Rome took the entire day and included three long stopovers in Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Zurich. Very few people had been travelling outside their own country, not to mention to exotic destinations. Therefore, if you were lucky to work on a flight that was going to America, Africa, or the Middle East, you would have plenty of time to look around, as the return flight wouldn’t happen for several days.


Exotic destinations and long stopovers

 

 

Flying over Cairo. Photo © Aase Linaae
Flying over Cairo. Photo © Aase Linaae


Take a flight destined for New York. After taking off in Copenhagen, there would be an overnight stopover with a change of crew at the airport in Prestwick in Scotland. From there, they had a nine-hour haul to Gander Airport in Newfoundland, with a stopover and refuelling again before continuing another five hours to New York. There, the plane would fly back with a new crew, while the original crew had three days in the Big Apple before their return.

 

 

Stopover Alaska. Photo © Aase Linaae
Stopover Alaska. Photo © Aase Linaae


When Aase flew to Kenya – with five stopovers and a change of aeroplane during an overnight stay in Athens – there were only flights once a week. Hence, the crew would spend seven whole days at Equator Inn in Nairobi, including per diem, paid by SAS.


Hotel they stayed in Tokyo
Hotel where they stayed in Tokyo


Although flights over the Polar region are common today, airlines had to fly long detours to avoid the Poles before SAS created the pioneer flight route across the North Pole. In the early 1950s, Einar Sverre Pedersen (1919–2008), a former navigator from WW2, educated in little Norway in Canada, developed a Polar Path Gyro-system for SAS. This navigation system was to bring the flights safely across the Arctic Ocean. Aase was part of the crew on the inaugural flight in 1957. It was the first-ever commercial flight with a DC7 over the North Pole, which established a new SAS route between Europe and what they then considered the very Far East. As the plane passed the North Pole for the first time, they crossed paths with another SAS flight that had started from Japan. The world had suddenly gotten a bit smaller.

 

Souvenir ashtray from first commercial flight over the North Pole. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Souvenir ashtray from first commercial flight over the North Pole. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Meny for the inaugural flight over the North Pole
Menu for the inaugural flight over the North Pole


Flying into the Eastern Block was always a problem for the pilots, as they were only allowed to follow a narrow specially designated air corridor when they flew across communist countries. Nothing would allow the pilots to deviate from the corridor, and if they did, they would risk being shot down. The weather reports from these countries were also far from adequate. For this reason, it was only natural that they flew into a massive storm one day they were heading for Istanbul.

 

Istanbul Mid-1950s. Photo © Aase Linaae
Istanbul Mid-1950s. Photo © Aase Linaae


Aase recalls that the lights went off in the cabin and both passengers and crew were shaken in the aircraft, while giant hail which sounded like machinegun shots, hit the fuselage from all sides. Everybody on board feared it was their last flight, including the pilots. After somehow landing in Istanbul, the fuselage was riddled with bumps and had to be completely overhauled. One of the pilots later told Aase that if one of the hailstones, which were large as eggs, had hit the engine, the result would have been catastrophic.

 

 

In the air anno 1950s. Photo © Aase Linaae
In the air anno 1950s. Photo © Aase Linaae


Aase flew for six incredible years. This was much longer than the average length of an air hostess career at the time, which was barely two years. She flew all the SAS routes and to all continents in the world, except Australia as SAS didn’t have flights there yet. During her last year on the job, Aase was stationed in a SAS flat in Rome and only flew to the Far East.

 

Aase in Tokyo with the Japanese SAS ground hostess during her last flight in April 1960. Photo © Aase Linaae
Aase in Tokyo with the Japanese SAS ground hostess during her last flight in April 1960. Photo © Aase Linaae


Her last flight as an air hostess in April 1960, took her from Asia and back to Europe. As usual, there were a few stops on the way:

Tokyo – Manila
Manila – Bangkok (overnight stopover with a change of crew)
Bangkok – Calcutta
Calcutta – Karachi (overnight stopover with a change of crew)
Karachi – Teheran
Teheran – Athens
And finally, Athens – Rome


Aase retired from SAS on the 1. of May 1960. She got married to my father 20 days later, but that is a story for another day…


Aase in Tokyo with the Japanese SAS ground hostess during her last flight in April 1960. Photo © Aase Linaae
When in Rome...  Photo © Aase Linaae



Like 1        Published at 10:43 AM   Comments (1)


The arduous and joyful task of restoring a village ruin
Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Lonesome window. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Lonesome window. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

When we bought a ramshackle village house in Ronda nine years back, we had no idea that it would take more than two years to get the building permit from the municipality as well as the regional culture department. That was of course before they threw in an archaeological dig, even though our shack was a mere slender 3x12-meter wedge squeezed between - and sharing exterior walls with - other houses on an impossibly narrow dead-end street.
 

Mystery. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Mystery. Photo © Karethe Linaae


We knew neither our builder nor his many helpers, who for the most part were hard working and honest village folks. Not surprisingly, we had our share of dramas and tragedies – the gopher who always knocked back a couple of shots of Anís liquor for breakfast and who fell off the ladder and had to take a sick leave so he couldn’t get drunk on our clock for a while. Or the most conscientious bricklayer who drove an hour every morning to get to the worksite, but who didn’t show up one day. Nobody told us anything, but after a while, we heard that he had been found dangling from an oak tree.

 

Feet. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Feet. Photo © Karethe Linaae


All in all, the building project went well, and we got our slice of Andalucian paradise - even though the electrician mounted some electric boxes in inaccessible places or at odd heights, and the so-called bombproof micro-cement floor that we had insisted on, had to be redone three times and finally be covered with tiles so that in the end we could have brought in a mosaic-artist from Venice or a flooring specialist from the Norwegian woods to do the job and still had money to spare. Anyhow…

 

In progress. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Barely started. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Floor in progress. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Floor in progress. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Whether a task is performed on the ever-elastic mañana or perhaps not at all, is not always due to the handymen, as deliveries and suppliers can also delay the building process. But even if our patience was tried on more than one occasion, I would have done the whole process again - if nothing else for the cathartic experience.

 

Ceiling with natural skylights. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Ceiling with natural skylights. Photo © Karethe Linaae


I do not regret for a second that we took on the almost impossible task of transforming a crooked and ever so quaint ruin into our present village abode.
 

Sneak peak at magical view. Photo © Karethe Linaae
View behind the ruin. Photo © Karethe Linaae



How else would we have been able to witness how they removed the old Arabic-style roof tiles (that are compulsory to use in our historic neighbourhood) one by one, put new tiles underneath, and then covered these with the beautiful old moss-covered terracotta tiles?

 

Roof tiles with meadow flowers. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Roof tiles with meadow flowers. Photo © Karethe Linaae


How else would we have been able to observe the way that they carefully hollowed out the front door opening in our meter-thick facade, so that the town’s (or perhaps the world’s?) smallest excavator could pass through with millimetres to spare on either side, to miraculously scoop out soil and debris from inside the inordinately narrow property?


Digging deep. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Digging deep. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Or how else would we have seen how an enormous cement truck managed to squeeze itself down our appendix of a street to poor cement from a trunk-like contraption into the formerly foundation-free house?

 

The big guns. Photo © Karethe Linaae
The big guns. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Or how would we have been able to admire the skill it took to configure a custom-designed modern railing-less flight of stairs into the corner nook where the old and crumbling walled-in staircase had been?

Stairway to heaven. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Stairway to heaven. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Stairs after. Photo © Karethe Linaae
After. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Or how would we be able to follow our carpenter, the sombre introvert Juan, as he built our wooden doors and windows by hand - from scratch, once we had finally found the rusty antique doornails that I had dreamt about?


Doornail. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Doornail. Photo © Karethe Linaae


It is evident that such transformations take time. A couple of extra mañanas – or a few hundred of them in our case- is only to be expected. But the entire process did wonders for my Spanish, and we got to know virtually every handyman and tinkerer, as well as every lumberyard and slate quarry in the entire Serranía.

So why in heaven's name would I want to be without such an experience?
 

With Rafael, the architect. Photo © Jaime de la Barrera
With Rafael, the architect. Photo © Jaime de la Barrera

 



Like 6        Published at 5:37 PM   Comments (7)


A helping hand
Thursday, May 5, 2022

Little Creature. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Little creatures. Photo © Karethe Linaae


People I have met that have impressed me the most, are almost always individuals who give unlimited of themselves in some volunteer capacity. The act of choosing to share one’s time, knowledge, energy, resources, conviction, or compassion is the greatest gift one can offer others. At the same time, the giver receives an indescribable joy back, which is incomparable with most other activities.


Pure joy. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Pure joy. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Before we moved to Spain, I worked for an international organization that taught life-saving surgical skills to health workers in Africa. I had the pleasure of meeting some incredible people who inspired everyone around them. Take Paul, a paediatric spinal surgeon who spent most of his vacations teaching in Africa and operating on children with spinal injuries in Bhutan – voluntarily and out of his pocket. It is incredible how some people can simply give and give without ever seeming to run out of compassion for others!

 

Juan is always willing to be a surrogate mum for his piglets. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Juan is always willing to be a surrogate mum for his piglets. Photo © Karethe Linaae


It is easy to feel powerless with all the cruelties that humans cause each other these days, but regardless of what happens, we can always help others in our own, perhaps humble and limited, ways. Giving back is part of their daily routine for some people, whether they scrub pots in a soup kitchen, do nature clean-ups, care for unwanted animals, offer a hand to an elderly person crossing the street, sign a petition or found an NGO.  Whatever we do to improve the lives of others or create a better society at large, is a step in the right direction. As Mother Theresa said, “We call cannot do great things, but we can all do small things with great love”.


Teach the kids in the hood English. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Teach the kids in the hood English. Photo © Karethe Linaae


The last couple of years have been a great trial for many, and our challenges are not over. It is increasingly difficult to hold onto the faith that there are more good people than evil ones in this world. But even if the abyss feels menacingly near, at least I will continue to donate my quarter pint of blood a couple of times a year, fight tirelessly for the environment and carry the shopping bags for our elderly neighbours.

 

A supporting arm. Photo © Karethe Linaae
A supporting arm. Photo © Karethe Linaae


A volunteer act is good for the soul, enriches our lives, gets us out of the sofa, and perhaps even out of our comfort zone. It forces us to meet new people, expand our social circle, increase our communication and language skills, and learn new abilities. Volunteering brings joy to the giver and the receiver – whether we are helping another human being, an animal, or a tree.


Plants and flowers are the lunges of the earth. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Plants and flowers are the lunges of the earth. Photo © Karethe Linaae


The most important thing is perhaps not what we do to help, but whether do something to help others.  

 

Forget me not. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Forget me not. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

 



Like 2        Published at 6:09 PM   Comments (1)


Creativity vs. destruction in times of war
Friday, March 4, 2022

Notebook. Murcia. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Notebook. Murcia. Photo © Karethe Linaae


I am sad to say - just as we thought we could allow ourselves to stop being concerned about Covid, came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and another war on European soil. Meanwhile the desperate draught in Andalucía is creating ripples in water reserves we do not have. These are trying times. Which is why I wanted to turn things around and write about something positive – creativity.

Creativity can be defined as the ability to create or recognize ideas, alternatives or possibilities that can contribute to problem-solving, communication or to simply entertain ourselves or others. Creativity can therefore be seen as a true counterpoint to destruction. While destruction - as war - breaks down and ruins, creativity builds and finds solutions.

Humans have always needed creativity, now more than ever. A creative mind does not see things just as they are, but how they potentially can be. Creativity is therefore one of the most important ‘weapons’ we have against destruction. It is an essential resource, as without creativity, nothing new would ever be made or invented. Walt Disney said that “if you can dream it, you can do it”. Without the help of creative souls, there would be no progress and we would be stuck in a rut with the same patterns and habits, and the same old thoughts. Albert Einstein expressed it this way: “Creativity is to see what everyone sees and then think what nobody has thought before.” He believed that fantasy is more important that knowledge, which certainly is true when it comes to innovation.

Picasso named good judgement as the chief enemy of creativity. Creativity in science is to understand that two plus two can just as well be five. Creativity in art is limitless, and there is no wrong way to go about things. And as Salvador Dalí said, you do not need to concern yourself with perfection, as you will never achieve it …  

There is no doubt that creativity demands courage, but to be creative and constructive in life, we must learn to let go of our fear of failure. Van Gogh, who had had his share of setbacks, said that if you hear a voice in your head that says that you cannot paint, by all means - paint, and the voices will be silenced. Creativity is the rebel in us. Neither inventions nor creativity would have been able to exist unless creative minds were able to try and fail, but then again, what would life be without a bit of failure?

Newer psychological research shows that creativity isn’t something that is reserved for the artistic lot, nor for the left part of the brain for that matter. So, if you want more creativity and positivity into your life, start practicing and flexing your ‘creativity-muscles’. In times of destruction, creativity is the antidote.    

However, I must return to the crisis at hand. The other day I was watching the Norwegian news where they interviewed a young Ukrainian woman living in Norway. She told the reporter how everybody in the Ukraine - from the professional military personnel to her 82-year-old grandma - were willing to fight until death for their country. The thought of this brave and unafraid grandmother remains on my mind as I follow the atrocities that is happening right now merely a few country boarders away from us. So, in this month of March 2022, please help whichever way you can – for the sake of Ukraine and for humanity.



Like 3        Published at 10:35 AM   Comments (0)


A Norwegian bodeguero in the sherry golden triangle
Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Bodegas Fernando de Castilla. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Bodega Fernando de Castilla. Photo © Karethe Linaae


A bodeguero is a person who owns and runs a wine bodega. Other than bull fighters, you probably won’t find a more typical Spanish profession. Yet to some people’s surprise, there is a genuine Norwegian bodeguero right in the middle of the golden triangle of sherry production, in the old town of Jerez de la Frontera.  

Jan Pettersen (64) is the man behind the reputed Bodega Rey Fernando de Castilla. His sherry house is now the 8th biggest wine- and liquor exporter in the entire Cádiz province. In fact, a couple of days after I went to interview him, the Bodega was due to host the closing party for Copa de Jerez, an event that attracts some of the best restauranteurs and largest wine personalities in the world! So, we are not talking granny-sherry and cheap brandy.

Jan Pettersen, bodeguero. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla
Jan Pettersen, bodeguero. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla


His own sherry-house

Jan came from Norway to Barcelona exactly 40 years ago to undertake an MBA. On gradation in 1983 he was hired by Osborne (which at the time was the largest wine and liquor company in Spain) and became responsible for their Scandinavian market. Sixteen years later he was responsible for the Corporation’s international subsidiaries and distribution companies.

 

But how did you end up as the bodeguero for Fernando de Castilla?
“In 1999 Osborne wanted to reorganize the business and amongst others stop producing sherry. I had become a sherry romantic in my years with the company and thought that it was rather tragic that they would abandon such traditional productions. I tried without luck to buy their affiliated company that dealt with sherry and port wine. The business is so small here that everybody knows everybody, and soon it was known that I was looking to start on my own. And when I got the opportunity to buy this bodega in 1999, I didn’t hesitate”.

On a narrow street in old town Jerez. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla
On a narrow street in old town Jerez. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla

 

When Jan took over the business, Fernando de Castilla was a small company with a very limited product line and market.  He also acquired another smaller adjacent bodega, so that today’s company is a fusion of these two old sherry houses. “I got new people in and converted much of the production process and administration, so we went from selling less than 30.000 bottles a year, to currently selling more than 500.000 bottles annually”.

Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla is now one of the 10 largest producers in the sherry industry. Jan sits on the Board of Jerez’ official industry association that determines who gets the seal of origin, or D.O. (Denominación de Orígen). “The bodega has gone from selling almost exclusively within Spain, to exporting approximately 90% of production to more than 50 countries around the world”.

 

Bodega. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla
Bodega. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla


Norway as well?
“Absolutely. Norwegians are very fond of brandy, so we sell a lot of that, while Norway is a bit behind the trend in the sherry market, due to prohibited advertising and limitations on marketing etc. The country also has only 5 million people and charges enormous taxes and duties, so I have never prioritised targeting the Norwegian Wine Monopoly. Our biggest export areas are the UK, USA, Germany, the Baltic and Scandinavia, but we also sell a lot to China and Australia”.

 

Almost a native

How do the people of Jerez accept a Norwegian sherry-bodeguero?  
«It is quite strange, but I am so well integrated that people do not look at me as a foreigner anymore. Not at all! A while back the Chamber of Commerce asked me to give a speech about how it is to be a foreign businessman here in Jerez, but I had no comparison as I have only worked here. Maybe historically foreigners kept apart, but at present I am the only non-Spaniard on the board of the trade association. My wife is Spanish, our children were born and raised here and many of their friends come from the known Spanish sherry families. Perhaps I have brought some of the values, manners, seriousness from my native country, but otherwise I am practically a jerezano


Jan Pettersen outside Bodegas Fernando de Castilla. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Jan Pettersen outside Bodega Fernando de Castilla. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

How would you describe Jerez as a town?
«Jerez has kept its uniqueness and is a place with a genuine atmosphere, compared to other Andalucian cities. It is a bit like Bergen in Norway- a town that has existed forever, with the same families, the same dialect, and the same way of life. It is a traditional town where people are a bit ‘tweed’ and old fashioned. Jerez was very international in the past, when the largest sherry families came from the UK and France. Many locals still have English surnames like Gordon, McKenzie and Garvey, or from the French sherry-families - Lustau and Domecq. Our PR Director is from the Domecq-family. My cellar master, Pepe Jerez, whom I inherited from the former owner, started working here when he was 14 and has been here now for 45 years. His uncle was cellar master before him, and now his son works with us, so when Pepe retires, we will have a third generation cellar master at the bodega.»

Old destiller in Bodegas Fernando de Castilla. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Old destiller in Bodega Fernando de Castilla. Photo © Karethe Linaae 


Both timeless and trendy

«The Jerez-area has 3000 years of wine history. King Fernando de Castilla, whom the bodega is named after, reconquered Western Andalucía from the Moors, established the protectorate Jerez in 1264, and restarted wine production in the area.  Sherry was for a long time the most important international wine. About 100 years ago 10% of all Spanish export income came from sherry – almost the same percentage as the income the tourist industry gives the country today! Although sherry is far from being in the same position now, Jerez sherry is the third most exported wine in Spain after Rioja and Cava. Under the seal of origin D.O. Vino de Jerez and D.O. Vinagre de Jerez (sherry vinegar), we produce 140 million bottles a year. And if you include other wine and liquor products, we are talking nearly 500 million bottles. Per year!  Since the sherry golden triangle only has about 25 relevant bodegas with significant exports, production is very concentrated.»

 

Courtyard. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla
Courtyard. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla


What makes sherry so special to you?
«There is nothing else that tastes like sherry. If you develop an appreciation for it, you will find that there is no substitute. 20 years ago, I had a feeling that if I didn’t do something with this unique product, it would become insignificant. I was fascinated by its history and saw the possibility to recreate the market, and to teach foreigners that quality sherry is one of the most interesting gastronomic wines that exist.

With sherry there are two worlds. First, there are the semi-sweet sherry types, like Pale Cream and Medium Dry, which are made for the English and the Northern European markets and which the Spanish never drink. And then there are the genuine sherries – Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado and Orloroso, which are dry wines, as well as the sweet Pedro Ximenez. Sherry combines brilliantly with food. For example, Fino with fish and seafood, pata negra ham, sushi, smoked salmon and gravlax, and Amontillado with wild mushrooms and game.

 

Fino. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla
Fino. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla


Premium sherry is today incredible trendy, and the market has simply exploded. Our sales are 40% up over 2020, which was a most difficult year due to the pandemic, but not that bad for our industry. If you compare it with Rioja and Cava, where sales went down perhaps 30–40%, the sherry industry only dropped 8% in 2020. And this year (2021) our numbers are already almost 30% better than 2019. We do not have enough product for sale to meet the demand.»

 

Premium, en rama and brandy

Bodega Fernando de Castilla is partnered with a Jerez family with a 43-hectare vineyard. Here the grapes are planted, harvested, and pressed. The juice is fermented and made into a base wine, which is kept in a barrel - sobre table – for a full year before it is brought to the bodega for the special soleras ageing process.

«We make 17 different sherries, all in the Premium and Super Premium categories. In our Antique-series the grapes are picked en rama (with stem) and are only filtered through a simple paper filter before being bottled. We were one of the first bodegas to do this, but now it has become trendy, and many have copied us.  We were also the first to sell sherry in clear bottles. It was quite revolutionary 20 years ago, but to actually see the wine gives much more information about it.»

 

Antigue Fino and Oloroso. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Antigue Fino and Oloroso. Photo © Karethe Linaae


What is the difference between a regular brandy and a sherry-brandy?
«Brandy has a much shorter tradition here than sherry, and only started as a commercial product some 150 years ago. Our bodega has never done anything with the cheap brandies - which is a large industry but is usually only sugar spirits with essence and colour. For our brandies we use the grape Airen, since completely neutral grapes won’t give an interesting distilled spirit. The distilling process leads to a very aromatic grape spirit with 63 % alcohol.  Next, we bring the alcohol percentage down to just over 40%, transfer it into new oak casks for 1–3 years, and then over into used sherry casks. What makes brandy from Jerez so special is that we use the same soleras or fractional blending systems as the sherries, as well as that the brandy is stored in old barrels that used to contain sherry. This is compulsory for both the sherry and the brandy from Jerez to receive their D.O. accreditation. We never empty a barrel completely but only extract a maximum 1/3 of the oldest brandy or sherry, and then fill it up with the second oldest batch. After a while, one gets very many vintages in the system. I have soleras that have continued for over 100 years. The fractional blending system gives an increasingly interesting product over time, as every vintage that has been present has put its mark on the product. For this reason, either a sherry or brandy that has been maturing for 15 years in a soleras system is much more interesting than a product that has been laying stagnant in the same barrel for 15 years.»

Classic bodega style. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Classic bodega style. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

What would you say is your contribution to the sherry industry in Jerez?
«While the demand for cheap sherry has dropped significantly, the sale of quality sherry has hit the roof. Some people claim that we have been lucky to be able to ride this wave of popularity, but I always say that we were one of the most important promoters to restart the sherry market. We worked with some of the world’s best wine companies and sommeliers to produce, and to teach people about quality. A whole group of new players came into in the industry later, who have seen that quality sherry at the right price is good business. We have taught others that it is possible to sell a quality sherry for 40 € for ½ a litre, even though some of the most known brands can cost as little as 5 € per bottle. So I will say that we have contributed to improving the quality of sherry.»

 

Antique sherry selection. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla
Antique sherry selection. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla

 

Top 20 of 4000 wines

Two weeks before my visit, one of the bodega's oldest Pedro Ximenez sherries was selected for inclusion in Spain’s 20 best wines by Salon de Gourmet in Madrid. This was after the tasting-panel did a blind tasting of over 4000 contestants. The trophy stands amongst a row of other awards in the bodega’s wine bistro where our conversation takes place.


Is there a wine that you haven’t tried producing yet that you still would like to make?

«It would have to be a non-fortified white wine from the Palomino grape. Our clients have asked for this, so I probably ought to have such a product. Some years ago, we started with a new sherry-based vermouth which has been a major success. It is especially popular with people in Northern Spain who love to sit outside with a vermouth on ice with an orange peel twist. We kept at it for a long time trying to get the process and the botanical ingredients right. Everything I do must be top notch, and every time one tries something new, one puts one’s reputation on the line. So perhaps I ought to have a look at that white wine, but I am starting to get too old… »

And finally, if you had not ended up as a bodeguero, what would you have done?

«I have asked myself that many times. God knows! I have always enjoyed being creative. I enjoy buying and selling, so I probably have a bit of a pedlar-instinct. I get a kick out of making a deal with a company in some other part of the world, as well as launching a new product or trying a new method. So, I would probably have ended up doing something similar,” concludes the passionate Norwegian bodeguero.

 

Jan Pettersen, bodeguero. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla
Jan Pettersen, bodeguero. Photo © Bodega Fernando de Castilla

 

For more information: www.fernandodecastilla.es

Contact: bodegas@fernandodecastilla.com



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CEUTA - a disputed pearl between oceans and continents
Thursday, December 9, 2021

 

View towards Europe taken from Ceuta in Northern Africa. Photo © Karethe Linaae
View towards Europe taken from Ceuta in Northern Africa. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Here is a riddle:  

What place on the globe can you stand at a single point and see two major oceans, two continents, three nations and three kingdoms? 

Answer: Ceuta


This might come as a surprise for many, particularly those who have not been to this southern Spanish town, as it is in fact situated in Northern Africa. Ceuta can be found where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Oceans meet in the Straits of Gibraltar. The town is located on the African continent but is still part of Europe. And from the mountains above the town, there is a perfect panoramic view that includes the nations and kingdoms of Morocco, Spain, and the United Kingdom (via Gibraltar).

 

Ceuta – an arm into the Mediterranean. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Ceuta – an arm into the Mediterranean. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Legendary Cape with many rulers

From above, Ceuta looks like an arm stretching into the Mediterranean. The elbow is the town centre, with the ‘fist’ being the town’s most eastern point. Ceuta is quite separate from the Spanish mainland and is located at one of the narrowest points of the Straits (25 km away), so that Europe can be seen across the water in normal weather conditions.

 

Gibraltar not too distant. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Gibraltar not too distant. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

According to Greek mythology, Europa and Africa were connected via an enormous mountain range until Hercules took his club and smashed the opening which we know today as the Straits of Gibraltar. The two extreme points were called the Pillars of Hercules – the cliff of Gibraltar and Monte Hacho (or Ceuta’s ‘fist’). Even if the origin of the story is mythical, these two geographical points represented not only the separation between two world oceans, but also the dividing line between what once was considered as the known world (the Mediterranean) and the unknown world (the Atlantic Ocean and everything thereafter), before the era of the great explorers.    

 

Sculpture in Ceuta of Hercules which separates Europe from Africa. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Sculpture in Ceuta of Hercules which separates Europe from Africa. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Ceuta’s strategic position made it a popular destination for conquering armies and explorers throughout history. According to the town’s archaeologists, everyone has been here, probably even the Vikings. Ceuta has been visited, conquered, and ruled by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Berbers, Arabs, and finally, the Portuguese. The only ones who never conquered Ceuta by military power (even though this has been used to keep it ever since) are the Spanish. Ceuta became part of the Spanish Empire when Portugal transferred rule to Spain in the 1600s.

 

Once upon a time … Painted ceramic tiles by the harbour. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Once upon a time … Painted ceramic tiles by the harbour. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Many, such as the English and the Moroccans, have tried to take Ceuta since then. When Morocco became independent in 1956, after 400 years as both a Spanish and a French protectorate, Spain refused to relinquish its two Northern African coastal towns, Ceuta and Melilla. Ceuta remains Spanish, but after thousands of years, the Cape continues to be a disputed territory.

 

Road along the Moroccan border. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Road along the Moroccan border. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Spanish town on African continent

Together with Melilla situated 400 km to the east, Ceuta has the only physical international borders that exist between Europa and Africa. Both towns often appear on the global news, due to African immigrants and displaced people trying to enter Europe through these borders. No one can deny the enormous immigration problems, but other than this, most people know very little about Ceuta. In fact, I can count on one hand the Spaniards we know who have been there, and then only usually via an assigned post in the police force or the military. 

 

Street with the African continent in the background. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Street with the African continent in the background. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Media often shapes our understanding of the world, and many therefore only see Ceuta as a border post with desperate Africans trying to fight their way over barbed wire fencing into relative freedom in Spain. Others might perceive the town as it is portrayed in the popular TV-series El Principe (the price), the Telecinco-produced drama about forbidden love between a Spanish policeman and a Muslim woman in today’s Ceuta. The drama takes place in the colourful and primarily Muslim neighbourhood El Principe, from which the series got its name.

 


Colourful Ceuta neighbourhood. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Colourful Ceuta neighbourhood. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

So, is Ceuta an immigration nightmare or a romantic cultural fusion? At times the city is likely both, but though it certainly has illegal immigrants, corrupt policemen and love across religions, the city of Ceuta is so much more. 

 

 

Ferry to Africa

 

From the ferry. Photo © Karethe Linaae
From the ferry. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Crossing the Straits of Gibraltar from Europe to Africa in an hour and a half is an experience not to be missed.  The only way to get from Spain to Ceuta is by ferry (or helicopter), as the town has no airport. One must travel by boat, as people have done since time immemorial. Normally, the ferries are full to the brim with locals from Ceuta (Ceutí) and Moroccans from neighbouring towns, but these days the ferries are still relatively empty, due to the pandemic and the fact that Morocco has so far only opened the country borders to international air traffic.

 

Straits of Gibraltar towards the Atlantic Ocean. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Straits of Gibraltar towards the Atlantic Ocean. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

The Straits of Gibraltar are one of the busiest marine channels in the world.  Around 100,000 cargo ships use it annually, or some 300 every day. In addition are the cruise ships, pleasure yachts, ferries, marine ships, smugglers speed boats, refugee barges, and other seagoing vessels. All must account for the tidal flows, which are far from insignificant in a narrow strait where two major oceans meet. The current goes both ways, with an average of 2 knots westwards and 4-7 knots in an easterly direction. It is always windy, compounded by the open sea and the currents. Crossing the Straits in a boat really brings home an understanding of the forces of nature, and is for me one of the main reasons why I recommend the trip to Ceuta.

 

 

Jebel Musa, the dead woman. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Jebel Musa, the dead woman. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

As the ferry approaches North Africa, a mighty mountain range comes into view. People in Ceuta call it La Mujer Muerta (the dead woman), because it looks like the profile of a woman laying on her back. The mountain peak, Jebel Musa, which in the Berber language means ‘the mountain of Moses’, is part of the Moroccan Rif mountain-ridge. Many say that Jebel Musa is the real pillar of Hercules, instead of Hacho, but since we are talking about a myth, we may never know the real answer as to which was Hercules’ original pillar.

 

 

Today’s Ceuta

 

 

Ceuta harbour at sunrise. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Ceuta harbour at sunrise. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Ceuta’s city centre is clean and well-groomed. The architecture is classical, and the avenues wide, as to be expected in a provincial capital. The city belonged to the province of Cádiz until 1995, when both Ceuta and Melilla became autonomous Spanish territories. For this reason, they enjoy more favourable taxation systems than the mainland. Ceuta is categorized as a tax-free zone, evident in all the Tax-free stores on the main shopping streets.

 

 

Main avenue. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Main avenue. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

When we stop to buy water, we meet a group of Arab teenagers who ask for money for food. The boys are apparently those remaining from a group of 8000 illegal immigrants who crossed the border earlier this year. Most were sent back after a tense diplomatic period which ended with Spain paying Morocco to re-close and guard their side of the international border. At least this is how the event was explained by one ceutí we met …

There is only one border crossing for cars between Ceuta and Morocco on the southernmost point of town, as well as a foot passenger crossing on the northern end of Ceuta. Our guide told us that most people who live in Ceuta have friends or family on the other side of the border. Before the pandemic, his hairdresser was in Morocco, and he often popped across the border to meet friends there.

 

 

Ceuta photographed from Monte Hacho. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Ceuta photographed from Monte Hacho. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Today’s Ceuta is a melting pot of four cultures: Hispanic Christian, Arab (and Berber, which is very different), Jewish and Hindu. The cultural diversity is reflected in the ceutí gastronomy, which naturally is based on the sea. Of the towns 85,000 inhabitants, about half are Spanish or Moroccan Muslims. The Jewish population (with ancestry from the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492) has shrunk to only about 300 people, so the historic judería neighbourhood is threatening to disappear. And while East Indians have lived here since 1893, today there are less than 500 Hindus left in the town.

 

Plate with specialties from Ceuta’s four cultures. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Plate with specialties from Ceuta’s four cultures. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Spanish is the official language, but many of the inhabitants speak Darija (Moroccan Arab), Berber and French. Despite the towns limited area (approximately 18,5 km2), churches and mosques can be found, as well as a synagogue and a Hindu temple. The shining cupulas of Ceuta’s cathedral are visible from both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic sides of town, as it is located on the narrowest part of the isthmus with only a handful parallel streets.  

 

 

The cathedral with sea on either side.  Photo © Karethe Linaae
The cathedral with sea on either side.  Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

 

Historical stroll

The best way to discover Ceuta is on foot. Do not miss the royal Portuguese town wall from around 1540. These defensive walls led boats from the northern to the southern bay. Today one can stroll on top of the walls and admire the view of the ocean on either side, or rent a kayak and paddle through the azure blue canal.

 

The royal waterwalls. Photo © Karethe Linaae
The royal waterwalls. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

As humans tends to build on top of past civilisations, an older part of the defensive wall can be found inside the current wall. This includes the main entrance or the Califate gate, which was built when Abderraman II conquered Ceuta in the year 931 AD.

Other worthwhile historical sites in the city centre include a late Roman Basilica, a Merinid city wall, the Arab baths and the newer, but no less interesting dragon-encrusted casino from the 1800s. There is certainly enough for history buffs to see, and for a break how about a dip in El Parque Marítimo del Mediterráneo, designed by the famed Lanzarote-artist César Manrique? Though Ceuta has more than a dozen beaches on the coast to the north and south, the city built this enormous 56 000 m2 waterpark adjacent to the harbour in 1995. During the day it functions like any other municipal pool, while in the evenings the city’s youth gather here to hang out in the numerous bars that overlook the lit-up pools. Thank goodness my clubbing days are over!

 

Night in the water park. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Night in the water park. Photo © Karethe Linaae
 

The next day, on an early morning stroll, it is the city’s sculptures that particularly catch my attention. Perhaps most surprising are the many sculptures of Greek philosophers. Our hotel is interestingly named Ulysses. So I wonder, what is Ceuta’s connection with ancient Greece?

The Greek historian Strabo portrayed Ceuta as Hepta Adelphoi in his book Geografi, which he wrote just around the time of the birth of Christ. It is also assumed that the island Ogiga, where Ulysses met the nymph Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey (written approx. 800 B.C.), in fact also describes Ceuta.

Wall with old photograph from Ceuta. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Wall with old photograph from Ceuta. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

But all is not ancient. By the towns conference centre, there is a modern sculpture of four human figures. The name of the sculpture is Solidaridad, which means solidarity in Spanish. I guess that it refers to the four cultures that usually live relatively peacefully together in Ceuta. At the same time, it made me think of the young boys we met who had escaped across the border, now without either family or home. Is Spain showing them enough solidarity. And am I?

 

Wall with old photograph from Ceuta. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 ‘Solidaridad’. Photo © Karethe Linaae
 


Sunset over the Strait of Gibraltar
The best way to see Ceuta, is to go to higher ground. In contrast to Melilla, which has permitted housing developments in its entire territory, Ceuta has large, protected nature parks both in the hilly western parts against Morocco and in the eastern ‘fist’ of Monte Hacho.  

Hacho is only 204 meters high but is still the most prominent rock formation in Ceuta. It is also the area most exposed to attacks and therefore the most fortified part of the city. The fort was started around the Year 900, and part of it is still a restricted army compound. Thankfully, it is still possible to follow the trail along the fortified walls for several kilometres, circumventing the entire fort, with the most remarkable views of the Mediterranean and the Straits of Gibraltar.

 

Fortress wall with old photograph from Ceuta. Photo © Karethe Linaae
The fortress wall with the Mediterranean in the background. Photo © Karethe Linaae


To the West of the city there are almost jungle-like forests with a selection of scenic walking trails. The country border with Morocco can clearly be seen in the distance, while walking from one old watchtower to the next. These defensive bastions, though ancient looking, were not only used in Medieval times but also in the many wars with Morocco, the last one being just back in the 1950s. But on the trail today we only meet friendly Ceuta families having picnics while waiting for the sun to set.

 

Wall with old photograph from Ceuta. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Watch tower. Photo © Karethe Linaae
 

Perhaps the most stunning dusk I ever experienced is when the sun dips into the Atlantic, painting the sky about the Straits of Gibraltar in incredible shares of lavender and orange. We stand at the end of a cliff on the Spanish side, peeking down at the picturesque Moroccan village of Belyounech beneath us, with the mountain Jebel Musa and the dead woman, above us. Here there are no borders, just nature, rocks, ocean, and heaven.

 

Morocco’s Jebel Musa and Belyounech, photographed from the Spanish independent territory of Ceuta. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Morocco’s Jebel Musa and Belyounech, photographed from the Spanish independent territory of Ceuta. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

I stop and talk to two young women who are celebrating their high school graduation. Both are ceutí. One wears a Muslim head scarf, the other does not, and they are best friends. They made me think of the Solidary sculpture in town. I can hope that these girls represent the future for Ceuta and Morocco - one of solidarity, understanding and co-existence despite our differences.  

 

Morocco’s Jebel Musa and Belyounech, photographed from the Spanish independent territory of Ceuta. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Girlfriends from Ceuta celebrating graduation. Photo © Karethe Linaae



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La Casa de las Cuatro Torres - unique in the world?
Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Unique in the world? Photo © Karethe Linaae
Unique in the world? Photo © Karethe Linaae
 

Spain is full of history, and the greatest heritage is often found in its buildings. When travelling around the country, you can visit some of these historical marvels, and if you are lucky and have the opportunity, can spend the night in one of them and really be immersed in the magic of the past. 

Andalucía has innumerable historic hotels, many of which would not have seen the light of day if not for someone choosing to spend their energy and funds protecting these timeless national treasures.

La Casa de las Cuatro Torres in Cádiz is one of these - and it is not only unique in this coastal city, but possibly in the entire world.

 

Tower. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Tower. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

 

The house with the 4 towers


Drawing seen at Cádiz market portraying a merchant house of the past. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Drawing seen at Cádiz market portraying a merchant house of the past.  Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

La Casa de las Cuatro Torres is considered to be one of the best-preserved examples of Cádiz’ emblematic 1730’s sea merchant houses. They were called Casas de Cargadores de Indias, although they also traded with America, Africa, and Asia. The builder of this particular house, å Syrian businessman called Juan Clat Fragela, came to Spain in 1683 to expand his family’s fabric empire. Since only one tower was allowed per house, Fragela constructed four separate houses within the same building, and so was permitted one tower in each corner. There are still 129 such towers in Cádiz, but the majority are from a later date, when the watchtowers had lost their practical purpose and had instead become a status symbol and an icon of gaditano architecture. Fragela’s neoclassic building is therefore not only unique because of the number of towers, but for its ornate decorations, and because the house has the only tower in town with oculus windows in the cupola.

 

Copula with oculus windows at sunrise. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Copula with oculus windows at sunrise. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Fragela’s house was also strategically unique, as it was located near the Department of Commerce, the harbour, and the customs office. It additionally had a perfect view of the entire Bay of Cádiz, where all merchant vessels that sailed to and from Spain passed by. Apart from being his trading office, his showroom and his family home, the forward-thinking merchant also rented rooms in the upper floors to travelling salesmen. In this way he was able to run a sort of hotel establishment, a tradition which has been re-established now, almost 250 years later.

 


The tower room can be rented for an intimate private gathering. Photo © Karethe Linaae
The tower room can be rented for an intimate private gathering. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 


A protecting artist’s hand

The centuries left their traces, so although the whole building was categorized as a Place of Cultural Interest in 1976, it was in such poor condition that only a miracle could save it. The rescue came in the form of Teresa Ramos Grosso. After a long career working as an artist and curator in Madrid, Teresa was the perfect candidate to give this dilapidated building back its dignity.

 

Room with original wall. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Room with original wall. Photo © Karethe Linaae


 

“The house has become a life-project to me. I bought it for sentimental reasons. When I was a child, my family on my mother’s side owned this part of the building. The house changed owners on several occasions, but the new landlords just left it to deteriorate. When my husband and I got the opportunity to purchase it in 2005, I simply couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.  La Casa de las Cuatro Torres is unique amongst the sea merchant houses, and I dare claim that it is the most beautiful and distinctive in the region”.

 

Hotel La Casa de las Cuatro Torres by night. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Hotel La Casa de las Cuatro Torres by night. Photo © Karethe Linaae



It took 11 years before they could open the hotel. First there were 4 years of bureaucratic challenges, with every decision having to be approved by the provincial cultural advisory board, the heritage division, the town council, the tourist department and even the fire department. Then the real job started - 7 years of in-depth restoration, with Teresa being responsible for every little décor detail. “The biggest joy of finishing the work, was that my mother got to experience the completed project” she admits.


Teresa Ramos Grosso and her mother Maria Teresa Grosso Fernandez de la Puente on the roof terrace of Casa de los Cuatro Torres. Photo © Teresa Ramos Grosso
Teresa Ramos Grosso and her mother Maria Teresa Grosso Fernandez de la Puente on the roof terrace of Casa de los Cuatro Torres. Photo © Teresa Ramos Grosso


To find a building from 1736 with original doors, windows and towers was a true artist’s dream. Under centuries of layers of paint and stucco, they found genuine historical treasures. The original Carrera marble floor in the current lobby and stairways, and the solid mahogany doors, were in fact materials used as ballast for the cargo ships. Since the vessels by law had to come by the merchant houses in Cádiz before and after trade missions, the ballast of marble and timber that came with the boats was used in the construction of the merchant houses.


Before photo of the reception area. Photo © La Casa de las Cuatro Torres
Before photo of the reception area. Photo © La Casa de las Cuatro Torres

 

After photo of the reception area. Photo © La Casa de las Cuatro Torres
After photo of the reception area. Photo © La Casa de las Cuatro Torres


Lourdes Zozaya, who has worked in the hotel since it opened in 2017 speaks about the renovation: “As far as possible we utilized original materials and respected the traditional construction methods. The walls are made from what is called mortero de cal (lime mortar) and have the natural sandstone colour. All doors and windows are original. Every hand-forged nail was pulled out before the massive doors were immersed in a special bath to remove the old paint. Afterwards, we treated the wood with natural beeswax and linseed oil, which were the materials they used originally, in addition to being the most natural and respectful for the old timber”.

 

Before and after
 

La Casa de las Cuatro Torres – one part crumbling, one part renovated. Photo © Karethe Linaae
La Casa de las Cuatro Torres – one part crumbling, one part renovated. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Today the hotel is located in one of the four houses that together comprised the original Casa de los Cuatro Torres. The other parts of the edifice are still (for now…) left to irresponsible owners and the forces of nature. For this reason, one can clearly see how the building was before and after renovation – which is likely very similar to how it was in its heyday. The municipality of Cádiz is thrilled by the restoration, which caused such a stir and curiosity that people lined up to come in to see the tower and the view when the hotel doors were finally opened.

 

The hotel with Cádiz in the background. Photo © Karethe Linaae
The hotel with Cádiz in the background. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

“Our guests come from all around the world. The North Americans totally freak out when they see the place, because there is no other such hotel in Cádiz - from the particular époque and of the same standard” explains Lourdes.

“Cádiz is less explored by tourists than for instance Seville, Granada, and Málaga, and our hotel is like a precious, small jewel which is still relatively hidden in the travelling world”


Narrow street with hotel at the end. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Narrow street with tower at the end. Photo © Karethe Linaae
 

 

View to the Bay of Cádiz

The tower house is no Hilton. “Even if our guest comforts are to a five-star standard, we only have two stars because we don’t have a restaurant, pool, spa, or gym. But we have a personal contact with the guests and an intimacy which larger hotel chains cannot offer”.

 

Hotel roof terrace under the moon. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Hotel roof terrace under the moon. Photo © Karethe Linaae


The boutique hotel’s 20 room all have names of mariners or navigators. In some rooms one might notice the burn marks on the wood where wax candles lit the rooms before the advent of electricity. Or one can admire the original stone walls with hidden niches and closed off arches. La Casa certainly does not lack patina, and even the slightly crooked stairways give the hotel that extra unique charm.


With views of the Bahía de Cádiz. Photo © La Casa de las Cuatro Torres
With views of the Bahía de Cádiz. Photo © La Casa de las Cuatro Torres
 

The highlight of the stay is however, climbing up (or taking the elevator) to see the watch towers from the roof terrace where the hotel organizes seasonal celebrations for their guests, with an enchanting view of the entire Bahia de Cádiz. It is easy to imagine how the tower lookout sat here, peering out at the horizon for incoming ships.

“For me, the towers represent the identity of Cádiz. They were a place for both work and leisure, and these two functions continue to be the connection we have to the past – as they stand in this privileged position surrounded by the ocean. What more can one wish for?” says Teresa, the passionate owner of the hotel.  

Find out more about this unique place that has been ‘discovered’ by Spanish Vogue and Condé Nast Traveller here:  casadelascuatrotorres.com. And then it is time to plan your next trip to Cádiz!

 

Cádiz by night. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Cádiz by night. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

 

 



Like 2        Published at 3:33 PM   Comments (1)


Cádiz – a touch of Havana on Europe’s southern tip
Monday, November 1, 2021

Cádiz silhuette at sunrise. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Cádiz at roof level. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

What a difference a day makes’ sang Ella Fitzgerald, though when it comes to Cádiz, I would have to expand that to 30 years, as it was about three decades from my initial visit until I returned to the city. On my first time as a party-crazed teenager, I thought it was a terribly boring place full of old people. Yet, upon my return - 30 years later - I found it to be one of the most intriguing coastal cities in all of Spain!

Cádiz has attracted sea faring explorers for more than 3000 years. Today, most visitors still come by water. The port is a favoured stopover for cruise liners, whose passengers swarm onto the main street for an hour of power shopping before they hurry back to their departing ships.

 

Sunrise over Cádiz harbour with the Constitución bridge. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Sunrise over Cádiz harbour with the Constitución bridge. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Thankfully, we are in no such rush. Cádiz is located only a couple of hours drive from our home in Ronda, so we can easily get there in the morning, enjoy a day of seafood feasting and ocean-side reconnoitring, and still be home by nightfall. However, to truly experience the city, one ought to stay the night, because twilight and daybreak are the most beautiful times to take in this historical gem.  

 

TIMELESS SILHUETTE

Whether arriving by boat, car or train, the skyline of old Cádiz has remained almost unchanged since the 18th Century. There are no high rises or blocky hotels spoiling the view. Since this narrow isthmus sticking out into the Atlantic is virtually a sandbank, the ground cannot withstand further or taller development. Real estate developers might regret this, but for me, this is the saving grace of Cádiz.

 

Leaving underground parking into 18. Century reality. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Leaving underground parking into 18. Century reality. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

We arrive across the Constitution Bridge, which has connected Cádiz with the mainland since 2015. This impressive piece of engineering, taller than the Golden Gate, is one of Spain’s longest and highest sea-crossing overpasses. In contrast to its 1969 predecessor, the new bridge brings one almost directly to the historical centre, saving a detour through the less interesting parts of town.

Those who love the sea breeze can also get to Cádiz by ferry. From 1929, locals would take a steamboat nicknamed el vaporcito from Puerto de Santa Mária to town. Today high-speed catamarans have replaced ‘the little steamer’, but it is still a pleasant way to discover the Bay of Cádiz.

Upon arriving, our first mission is always to get rid of the car. The jumble of narrow lanes, dead ends and one-way streets in the historic centre make driving a trial and finding street parking as likely as winning the lotto. We therefore stop in the nearest parkade after having driven through the 16th Century defensive wall that marks the boundary of old Cádiz.

 

WATCHING FOR MERCHANT SHIPS AND PIRATES

Cádiz watchtowers by the harbour. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Cádiz watchtowers by the harbour. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Once upon a time, Cádiz had 160 towers, from where watchmen would keep a lookout for incoming ships and naval attacks, while shipping merchants would await their precious imports from the New World. Communication between the towers and the ships was apparently done by flags, so that the destination and even the prices of the arriving cargo would be determined before the ships had anchored.

Today there are still 129 of these watchtowers. Torre Tavira, named after its original watchman Don Antonio Tavira, is one of the few towers that still can be visited. Located at the highest point of the city, it became Cádiz official watchtower in 1778. By climbing up to the roof terrace, one is rewarded with the finest views of the city and its oceanic surroundings, especially via the ancient invention, la camera obscura, a mirror system that allows 360-degree views in real time.

A lesser known, but no less intriguing tower is La Bella Escondida (The beautiful hidden one). The city’s only octagonal tower is said to be named after an enclosed Rapunzel-like maiden, or a nun whose wealthy parents wanted to see their daughter of the cloth. It was therefore not a watchtower, as much as a tower where someone was being watched. It can neither be visited, nor seen from street level, so the hidden maiden might have to remain one of Cádiz’ many mysteries.  

 

 

FROM GADEIRA TO CÁDIZ IN 3000 YEARS

Before we walk on, let’s stop in one of the many picturesque squares and travel back in time. 

Cádiz is so ancient that it’s birth lives in the land of mythology. According to Greek legend, Hercules founded the city and named it Gadeira. The muscular god with his two lions can still be seen in the city’s Coat of Arms. As far as recorded history goes, Cádiz is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. With a strategic position between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, this Iberian panhandle was fought over by Phoenicians, Mauritanians, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Berbers, Vikings, Arabs, English and Spanish Bourbon armies, just to mention a few.

 

Anno 1797. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Anno 1797. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

 

The first known settlers were Phoenicians from present day Lebanon, who arrived around 1104 BC. They named it Gadir (walled stronghold) and utilized the natural harbour to expand their European trade, importing Baltic timber, Basque silver, and British tin! (And we are talking 3000 years ago…)

Little more was known about the settlement until 2012, when a 19th Century puppet theatre was renovated. Nine meters below present-day street level one discovered 3100-year-old Phoenician streets, homes, and workshops. For those who wish to know more, the theatre has been converted into the astonishing glass floored GADIR museum.

 

The floor in the Gadir museum with Phoenician streets. Photo © Karethe Linaae
The floor in the Gadir museum with Phoenician streets. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

In 206 BC, the Romans established a naval base in Cádiz, renaming the city Gādēs. Visigoths overthrew the Romans in 410 AD and a century later, Cádiz was incorporated into a Byzantine Spanish province. From 711 AD, it became part of the Moorish Al Andalus. They called the city Qādis, from which the Spanish name derives. The Moors lost their stronghold to the Spanish in 1262. Some 300 years later, Sir Francis Drake plundered the city, leaving with 3000 barrels of sherry. Many tried to take over the strategic port thereafter, but none succeeded, not even Napoleon!

 

Peak hole. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Peak hole. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

 

COLUMBUS AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF CÁDIZ

In 1465, Cádiz was a sleepy fishing town with just over 1200 people. Then came Christóbal Colón, and everything changed. At dawn on September 25th, 1493, Christopher Columbus set off from Cádiz on his second voyage across the Atlantic. The city’s boom began with his ‘discovery’ of the Americas, which on that particular journey included Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Santo Domingo. Cádiz was suddenly on everyone’s lips.

Outside the humble church of San Juan de Dios you find a plaque commemorating Columbus’s two transatlantic voyages that started in Cádiz. Though the church is one of the smallest in the city, and in dire need of renovation, some say that Columbus and his crew prayed here before taking off on their risky journeys.

 

Was this where Columbus prayed before setting off to Amerika? Photo © Karethe Linaae
Was this where Columbus prayed before setting off to Amerika? Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

It wasn’t until the 18th Century that Cádiz experienced its real Golden Age. Due to the constantly changing banks of the Guadalquivir River, the Spanish decided to move their American trade office from Seville to Cádiz. With newfound importance, the population grew from 40.000 to 80.000 inhabitants, not counting the 20.000 ‘floating’ residents. Cádiz became one of Europe’s wealthiest cities, as any merchandise that came or went to America had to pass through the city. It is still one of Spain’s leading ports, and its wealth continues to be based on the sea.

 

GADITANO STYLE

The exposed location of Cádiz might make it look a bit more weathered than other Andalusian towns, but this also adds character. The old city has that mystical allure of old ports - not exactly seedy, but a bit illicit, and thus all the more interesting. Maybe this is why meandering around in Cadiz has the same feel as being in Havana?

 

Havana? No, this is Cádiz! Photo © Karethe Linaae
Havana? No, this is Cádiz! Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

The watchtowers are not the town’s only unique structures. The buildings in the historic centre have some unconventional design features, exclusive only to Cádiz. This Gaditano style has architectural influences from both sides of the Atlantic, as the city became a visual extension of its global trade. Cádiz was the closest Europe had to an American city. The people of Cádiz, the gaditanos, were described as having an international flair in how they spoke, dressed, ate, and worked. Even its public gardens were decorated with exotic plants and trees brought back from the New World, and some are still there!

 

Fig tree. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Fig tree. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

One of the most unique things about the historic centre is that it is still very much a living urban community. Locals insist that true gaditanos must live in the old city, which to them is the only real Cádiz. With almost 127.000 people residing on a 5-square-kilometre strip of land, it is one of Europe’s most densely populated urban areas. 


A Cádiz classic. Photo © Karethe Linaae
A Cádiz classic. Photo © Karethe Linaae
 

 

CATCH OF THE DAY

You simply cannot visit Cádiz without indulging in some of their local seafood specialties. Cádiz has always been known for its mariscos, which have begun to attract international foodies. One of the greatest joys of going to Cádiz is sitting in an unpretentious beachside joint with a plate of fried squid and a glass of dry Fino sherry. Or venture into one of the many local seafood restaurants, the best of which are generally found on side streets, or near the port. On cooler days, try the famous Cádiz fish stew, a recipe allegedly developed on trawlers as they returned to harbour, though I am sure many gaditanas had a hand in perfecting the dish.

 

Chipirones a la plancha. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Chipirones a la plancha. Photo © Karethe Linaae


El Mercado Central de Abastos from 1838 was Andalucía’s first covered public market. At the heaping counters, you can buy fish caught in the Atlantic at sunrise. The ‘catch of the day’ truly means del día. It cannot get any fresher. In the morning, locals swarm the market, undisturbed by gawking tourists, to purchase tuna, cuttlefish, octopus, mussels, eels, crabs, oysters, shrimps, razor clams, barnacles, and any ocean creature you can imagine. Then at night, the market converts into a local hangout, where you can go from stall to stall and order tapas, of course accompanied by a glass of wine or two.   

 

EXPLORING A ROMAN NEIGHBOURHOOD

 

A 2000-year-old Roman theatre emerges out of a Medieval neighbourhood. Photo © Karethe Linaae
A 2000-year-old Roman theatre emerges out of a Medieval neighbourhood. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

 

There are towns where it is a joy to get lost, and in Cádiz it is almost compulsory. The impossibly narrow cobblestoned streets and winding alleys make El Pópulo, a neighbourhood established by the Romans, a photographer’s heaven. You can sense the past grandeur of the old city, yet people still live in the historical homes where Cádiz’s affluent citizens resided in its Golden Era.

 

By Plaza de España. Photo © Karethe Linaae
By Plaza de España. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Another curiosity as one wanders about, are the street corners. Since there were too many military weapons after the War of Independence, the extra cannons were embedded into street corners to protect against passing vehicles - then horse carriages, now cars and garbage trucks.

 

Narrow streets in the Casco histórico. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Narrow streets in the Casco histórico. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

In the quaint and somewhat more modest working-class neighbourhoods La Viña and Santa María, one can observe the local gaditanos as they always have lived. Here the seafood is still sold right on the street from wheel carts or wooden boxes, and many shops seem unaltered since the early 1900s. In the former neighbourhood lies our favourite local bar, Casa Manteca. Even if you are not a manteca (lard) or pork lover, it is worth visiting this bullfight-themed tavern for its ambiance alone. Have a glass of Pedro Jimenez and watch the locals wolf down plate after plate of chicharrones.

 

The catch of the day is still sold on the street. Photo © Karethe Linaae
The catch of the day is still sold on the street. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Such ancient neighbourhoods are bound to hide some mysteries. One such secret came to light during a fire in 1980. Under the rubble, archaeologists discovered a Roman theatre dated from before the birth of Christ. Estimated to have been one of the largest and oldest in Spain, it housed 20.000 spectators. The structure was later used as the foundation for an Arab fort, as well as stables and houses in the Middle Ages.

The theatre has never been completely excavated since it lies beneath a protected medieval neighbourhood. In any case, the impressive semi-circular amphitheatre has free entry and is found only a couple of blocks from the cathedral square.

 

SUNSET MAGIC

 

Cathedral square before sunrise. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Cathedral square before sunrise. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

At no time is Cádiz more striking than when the sun sets over the ocean and the city takes on a golden glow. This is when the locals take a leisurely paseo in the palm-lined Alameda de Apodaca Park, with its checkerboard flooring and flamboyantly tiled fountains and benches. The balmy Mediterranean climate allows for tropical flowers and some gargantuan fig trees, attracting all kinds of lovebirds…

Even if one spends the night bar-hopping, one should never miss a morning jolt around the seafront promenade following the entire parameter of the old city. The seawall with its giant boulders holding off the crashing Atlantic waves was apparently built to safeguard the city from English attacks in the 16th Century.

 

Boulders that hold back the Atlantic Ocean. Photo © Karethe Linaae
The boulders that hold back the Atlantic Ocean. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

If you get up early enough, you might be lucky and have the entire Playa la Caleta to yourself. Unlike most Spanish beaches, it is refreshingly free from cocktail bars, banana boat rentals, massage huts, Balinese beds, and towering hotels. It still looks like an old post card, dotted with small brightly painted fishing boats. Located between two 16th Century defensive fortresses, it is a perfect place to take a morning dip.

We are not the first to ‘discover’ this beach, of course. A bikini-clad, yet armed, Halle Berry stepped out of the same waters in the 007 movie Die Another Day. Though the scene was set in Cuba, Cádiz’s similarity to Havana made it a perfect stand-in.

 

Colourful fishing boats by Playa la Caleta. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Colourful fishing boats by Playa la Caleta. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

And here we leave the city with lightly windswept hair, salt on our skins, and the lingering taste of pescaito frito and Manzanilla, ready to come back soon to discover a few more of the town’s many secrets.

What a difference 30 years make, indeed…


Cádiz alley. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Alley. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 



Like 3        Published at 9:38 AM   Comments (7)


Ode to the smile
Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Oskar's grin. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Oskar's grin. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Imagine if you were a baby that was born in the past year and a half. Certainly, here in Spain all you would have seen on the street in your short life would have been masked people on the street. Anyone who leaned over your stroller with sparkling eyes, cooing noises and exaggerated baby talk, would have worn something covering their mouth and nose.  Apart from your own family household, you would generally have seen only masked humans and therefore, quite naturally have believed that is what humanity looked like. Other than the occasional terrible mask with a grotesque Joker smile or a grinning shark jaw, the mouth and the human smile would have been veritably unknown to you.

Imagine then the utter shock when suddenly one day – for us in Spain on the 26th of June – all of a sudden everyone was allowed to walk outside amongst other people without covering their mouth and nose. You would sit there in your stroller with wide eyes, totally flabbergasted, wondering what in heavens name had happened.

 

What’s that?!? Photo © Karethe Linaae
What’s that?!? Photo © Karethe Linaae


Where did suddenly all those strange, moving mouths and lips come from? Why could you hear the voices of this mumbling nation so much better than before? Would you have been scared? Or would you perhaps have thought: Gosh, golly, look at that! Fancy that there are more people than mum and dad who have openings and gaps in their faces!

It is completely incredible what we can get used to. During the first few days of being allowed to go outside on the street without a mask, I felt totally naked. Just as if I had forgotten to put clothes on or left my bag at home. Something was definitively not right. It felt very odd!


Too much carbon dioxide? Photo © Karethe Linaae
Too much carbon dioxide? Photo © Karethe Linaae


All the same, I can guarantee that most of us have thanked the higher powers for the gift of finally being able to get rid of our masks. I say getting rid of, but that is not entirely true. First, we still need to wear them when we are indoors in public places, and perhaps more importantly, none of us really knows what the future will bring. What happens even over the next few months is a big unknown. Many surely have, like I, dreamt of burning their masks in a vast communal bonfire, but with the situation being as it is, I will instead wash and fold the most comfortable and stylish of my now quite extensive mask repertoire, and store them. They will be put away like the winter clothes, ready for another day, just in case…


Masks drying in the summer breeze. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Masks drying in the summer breeze. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

But let’s forget about the masks. It is time for a tribute!

What a true joy it is to be able to see the faces of people on the streets again! I mean the entire face – nose, cheeks, mouth, chin, and skin with freckles and scars and all the lovely wrinkles that appear when people smile. What an utter blessing it is to be able to take deep profound breaths way down into our lungs, and exhale fully without having to breathe through 3 layers of synthetic cloth or a chemical smelling paper surgical mask - all which prevented us from taking a free breath of air while covering almost our entire faces.

 

Oh joy! Photo © Karethe Linaae
Oh joy! Photo © Karethe Linaae


It cannot be healthy for one to breathe in one’s own recycled air either. In fact, a German study by JAMA Pediatrics from June of this year says that school children who wore masks all day received a significant increased level of carbon dioxide, in fact much higher than what the German Federal Environmental Office deems acceptable.  

So, thank goodness, no more masks outside. What freedom and relief! It is enough to make me yodel with joy!

I had almost forgotten, but now that I can see them again – is there anything more beautiful and personal than the mouth? Yes, we can wrinkle our nose, inflate our cheeks, and maybe wiggle our ears, but that is nothing compared to our mouth. For me, the mouth is the most incredibly expressive sensory organ that we possess. Just think about a stunned, crying, laughing or furious mouth. Without the masks, we can now finally see how people are feeling again. Because if it is true that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, then our mouth is the mirror of our emotions. 


The wonderful mouth. Photo © Karethe Linaae
The wonderful mouth. Photo © Karethe Linaae


The mouth simultaneously holds the trump card of all trump cards – the most beautiful, contagious, and universal of all human forms of expression – the smile! A smile can foster peace and understanding and open gates and hearts across cultures, religious and national borders. So now that you can, remember to SMILE! 

 

Smile tattoo. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Smile tattoo. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Recall the lovely melody that Charlie Chaplin composed in 1936, which John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons wrote the lyrics for, and that Nat King Cole made famous in a performance in 1954:

 

 

You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just
smile

 

Smile and the world smiles back at you. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Smile and the world smiles back at you. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 



Like 6        Published at 9:34 AM   Comments (1)


Having a heart in two countries
Thursday, June 10, 2021

Looner, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Loner, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

The other day my son sent me a WhatsApp video from Norway. He was out running by the Oslo fjord and had stopped on a bridge to film the view. Far below, I could see the water that I had sailed on so many times with my late father, the Norwegian coastline, the granite cliffs worn smooth by the salt sea, and the scattering of quaint red and white wooden summer houses by the sparkling North Sea. It was so incredibly beautiful and so completely Norwegian that I was filled with a sense of deep longing.

 

Midsummernight. Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae.
Midsummer night, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Obviously we have spring here in Andalucía as well, which is undoubtably beautiful. But spring in Norway is something very special to me. There is the joy and vitality people feel when the winter is finally starting to loosen its grip. This is something the Andalusians likely will never experience, and can therefore never begin to fathom. Regardless of how far or for how long we have been away from ‘home’, certainly speaking for myself and my kinsmen, we will always have a heart string tied up back at one fjord of another.


Looner, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Coast, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Coast, Spain. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Coast, Spain. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Norway is after all, if not our homeland anymore, our birthplace. For us who have now lived longer away elsewhere, like a compass, we will always feel a certain pull towards the north. I may speak out of hand here, but in my experience, it is almost a fact. Let’s take Spain for example. In spite of how fond we Norse men and women who live here are of our adoptive home country, and how much we enjoy the Spanish light, sun, tapas, wines, olives, music, flowers and the Mediterranean lifestyle, part of our heart still belongs to Norway - cold, snowy, sleety, dark, stormy and all! 

 

Sheep on the road, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Sheep on the road, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Sheep on the road, Spain. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Sheep on the road, Spain. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

The Norwegian national anthem begins with the words “Yes, we love this land”, but some of us do not only love this land, but others as well.

 

Wheat field, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Wheat field, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Sunflower field, Spain. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Sunflower field, Spain. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

I have heard people who live abroad speaking about how split they feel having two home countries. But having a ‘divided’ heart doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

 

Wall, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Wall, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Wall, Spain. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Wall, Spain. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Instead of seeing it as something negative and destructive, isn’t it preferrable to see ourselves as having a heart that has room for both, or all, our home countries, wherever we have happened to hang our hats?


Colours, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Colours, Norway. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Colours, Spain. Photo © Karethe Linaae
Colours, Spain. Photo © Karethe Linaae

 

Even if at times our homesickness can be almost painful, it is still a true privilege to be able to live and create a home base across country borders. So if you, like I, at times long for your original homeland, do so with joy. It is OK to have your heart in two countries.


Between islands, Photo © Karethe Linaae
Between islands. Photo © Karethe Linaae



Like 4        Published at 12:57 PM   Comments (3)


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