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The Coolest Neighbourhood in the World, is in Spain
30 October 2018

 

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the magazine Time Out came up with the idea of finding the coolest areas in the most vibrant cities around the globe. And they determined that Embajadores, in Madrid, is the winner.

The area, located just to the south of the central Puerta del Sol, took the prize thanks to its “bustling cultural life,” its multi-cultural nature (focused in Lavapiés), the colourful murals on its walls, the vibrant squares such as Tirso de Molina, and its major cultural centers, such as the Tabacalera and La Casa Encendida, which, the magazine says, stand “like transatlantic vessels run ashore in the middle of the city.”

Embajadores is living proof of how this city is transforming, marching toward the future without renouncing its past which is a global benchmark when it comes to urban leisure, according to Time Out editors. In order to put together its ranking, Time Out turned to the opinion of its magazine editors via a “City Life Index” survey, in which more than 15,000 people took part.

Embajadores has, for some time now, been attracting tourists, new residents and migrants. The neighbourhood is currently very fashionable, but that is not always a positive thing for the citizens who live there. 

Lavapiés, for example, is one of the areas in the capital that has seen the sharpest rises in rents, driven in many cases by online accommodation sites such as Airbnb. Embajadores is not the only Spanish neighbourhood to appear in the Time Out list. In the number 22 spot is Sant Antoni, Barcelona. It’s  “a rarity worth cherishing,” according to Time Out..

 



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The Patio Festival of Cordoba
11 September 2018

The Courtyards festival of Cordoba is held every year from 1st to 13th May. It has been included in the list of intangible Heritage of Humanity of Unesco since 2012 and is really worth a visit next time round so make sure you note it down in your diary. But what does this festival entail?

Due to the hot, dry Cordoban climate, the city's inhabitants, - first the Romans and later the Muslims - adapted the typical design of the popular house to their needs, making the home centre around an inner courtyard or patio, normally with a fountain in the middle and often a well to collect rainwater. The Muslims made further adjustments, giving the house an entrance from the street which passed through a porch, and filling the courtyard with plants to give the sensation of freshness.

There are clearly two types of courtyard. The first type is in a one-family home in which the rooms are arranged around the courtyard - it usually has arches and either a clay tiled or decorative pebbled floor. The second type is called a neighbours house (casa de vecinos). Here the individual homes look out onto the courtyard - however, these are much less common nowadays. It usually has two floors and the courtyard is made all the more attractive by the long balconies, staircases and baked clay roof tiles. The floors usually have decorative pebbles and there is often a well instead of a fountain, as well as a communal washing room.

The most characteristic district is the Alcázar Viejo district, between the Alcázar and the parish of San Basilio, although there are also many in the districts of Santa Marina, around the church of San Lorenzo and near la Magdalena. Just around the Mosque-Cathedral, there are also very beautiful old examples of courtyards in the old Jewish quarter. The most beautiful courtyards of all are to be found in the Palacio de Viana, with twelve different courtyards.

Since 1921, the Town Hall has organised a competition of Courtyards and Crosses in the first week of May, and the owners decorate their houses with great care to try and win the prestigious award offered by the authorities. A festival runs in parallel with a number of performances by the best singers and dancers on the scene, while the local fino wine f flows freely and delicious tapas are served. Not to be missed.

 



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The Valley of the Fallen
26 August 2018

This underground church is crowned with a 500-foot cross and seen by many as a symbol of fascism to this very day.

A tragic number of soldiers perished on both sides during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. As both a burial monument and as a memorial church, the breathtaking Valley of the Fallen (Valle de Los Caídos) was the creation of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, and despite its intended purpose, many still see it as a representation of his abuse of power.

The monumental complex is built on and into the slopes of a mountain range and comprises various sections. A courtyard is spread out at the base of the mountain in a wide arc boasting majestic porticoes, while the church is actually built into the hillside. This is also the resting place for Franco himself, though not for long. The 500-foot (152-meter) cross that extends from the tip of the mountaintop is simply titanic with huge figures at its base, it can be seen from miles around. 

On Franco’s orders, the construction of the Valley of the Fallen began in 1940 and continued for 18 years, finally finishing in 1959. The bodies of over 40,000 people who died during the civil war were laid to rest here and Franco hailed his creation as a “work of healing”. Not everyone felt the same, many accusing the leader of forcing political prisoners to labour on the construction, which itself was also seen as a colossally unnecessary and expensive showpiece. Despite the possibly troublesome origins of the Valley of the Fallen, it still manages to retain a monumental sense of awe even if it is a fascist masterpiece.

 

 

Last week the government approved a Bill of Law, or Royal Decree, allowing the remains of Franco to be exhumed from the Valley and be moved to another burial place.

A long-running campaign had been calling for Franco to be moved from this enclave which is dedicated to martyrs, heroes, and victims of war and oppression, since he is not considered to be a 'hero' and deserving of the honour of a burial place in such a place.

The law reform makes the exhumation 'urgent' and must be validated in Parliament within a month.
Left-wing parties across Spain voted in favour of the law reform, whilst centre-right Ciudadanos abstained and the right-wing PP voted against, as well as announcing possible legal action against the decision to move Franco on.
Unless Franco's relatives – his grandchildren, following the recent death of his daughter Carmen – specify a burial site which the government approves, then the State will decide where he should be interred.

This will be 'somewhere dignified', as befitting a treasured relative, but not somewhere he would be 'honoured', given the mass torture, death and deprivation of human rights Spain suffered during the 36 years of his dictatorship, from the end of the Civil War in 1939 to the year before his death, which was in 1976.
 

 



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More pigs than Humans in Spain - an Environmental time bomb
21 August 2018

The number of pigs in Spain now outnumbers the entire Spanish population, new figures show, while the government still pledges to crack down on the growing environmental threat from the meat industry, the Spanish desire for pork seems to be insatiable.

According to a 2017 government report, the number of pigs killed in Spain topped 50 million for the first time, with the Spanish population currently numbering 46.5 million.

However, it is obviously not all domestic consumption, a boom in pork exports, particularly to meet China’s growing appetite for pig products, has led to a massive increase in factory-farmed pigs in Spain, with around 30 million animals being fattened up at any time of the year in a sector now worth in excess of £5.4 billion in 2017.

Total production has grown by 20 per cent in the past five years to reach a colossal 4.3 million tons, of which only around a quarter is consumed within the Spanish borders. 

The traditional use for pig meat, namely for Iberian ham with black pigs that roam freely and live on acorns, now comprises only a minute proportion of the Spanish pork industry.

Unbelievably, the average personal consumption of pork is 21 kilos per year in Spain.

This drastic growth in Spanish livestock farming means it is now the fourth-largest producer of carbon emissions, accounting for 10 per cent of the national total, exceeded only by transport, electricity generation and industry. 

Spain’s environment ministry announced in July that it was planning new controls on pig farming to improve “hygiene, animal health and welfare and the environment”, noting that livestock farming is responsible for two thirds of total emissions from the agricultural sector. Environmentalists warn of serious damage if factory farming is allowed to grow even further.

Spain has moved to an industrial and intensive model of farming with consequences for water resources. One pig will consume 15 litres of water a day, meaning the industry uses more water than the cities of Seville, Alicante and Zaragoza, combined. 

Nitrates from animal waste are also beginning to contaminate ground water, environmentalists say. More than 84 million cubic metres of liquid manure runs out of pig factory farms each year, accumulating in pits around the country. 

Under the previous government, 33 plants that had been generating electricity from the gas in pig biomass were closed after renewable energy subsidies were slashed. 

So is there a solution to this ever growing problem? Going vegetarian or taxing meat products to reduce consumption? Whatever it may be if we continue as we are right now, shortly we will have a very serious problem…



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An Alternative to Bull Fighting?
16 August 2018

 

Whether for it or against it, everyone knows about bullfighting. But how many people have heard of bull jumping—bullfighting’s more likable and entertaining cousin?

Bull jumping, or 'recorte', is the art of confronting a bull without any weapon besides your own agility and wit. In it, recortadores—the bull-leaping equivalent of the matador—simply evade the bull by turning their waists, side-stepping, or leaping over the bull, yes, literally leaping over the bull.

This short video on bull leaping, produced by Great Big Story, takes you into the world of Jose Manuel Medina, a recortador. Along with countless other people in Spain, Medina dedicates his life to facing bulls in the ring with nothing to defend himself, and no intention of harming the animal.

 

 

“Everyone knows that a bull can kill you,” Medina says in the video. “But I don’t see it that way. I think it’s the opposite. The bull gives me life.” As he turns seconds before the bull pierces him with its horns, and performs acrobatic leaps over the massive animal, it is easy to understand this contradiction.

Several animal rights groups that oppose bullfights support bull leaping, with the argument that this tradition causes no physical harm to the animal. Others believe that the emotional stress that the animal endures is cruel, and that this practice—along with similar ones like American rodeo—should be banned. Personally I don't see anything wrong with this practice, its not much different to any sport that involves animals, it most certainly can't be compared to circus acts where wild animals are 'domesticated' through punishment. These bulls are wild and never trained to do anything, they just use their instinct to go after the 'recortador'. 

What do you think? 



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Escape the heat and navigate Europe's longest underground river
10 August 2018

Located half way between the shore and Sierra Espadán, La Vall d’Uxó exhibits an interesting monumental heritage distributed among its two traditional centres. But the caves of San José are one of its main attractions.

La Vall d’Uxó is situated in the spurs of Sierra Espadán, in a valley devoted to citrus farming, and surrounded by coastal mountains.

Traditionally, the village was divided into two centres: the high quarter, and the lower side, or Poble de Baix. In the higher part of town, we can admire places such as the square of Plaza del Ángel, and the parish church of Poble de Dalt, or rather take a walk through the narrow streets of the district of L'Alcudia, whose origins date back to Arab times.

The centre of Poble de Baix is at Plaza de Sant Vicent, where a hermitage of the same name stands. Carrer Nou, the main artery of this side, leads to other historic spots, such as Plaza de la Asunción, where the church of Poble de Baix stands, as well as the historic Fountain of Chorros.

On the outskirts of the city centre we find the caves of San José, which can be visited either on foot, or by taking a boat ride through its passages.

 


This underground river flows through the Sant Josep Caves, which enables you to enjoy an amazing natural phenomenon.

The Sant Josep Caves are situated in the Sierra de Espadán Nature Reserve. They hold one of the few navigable underground rivers in Spain and the longest in Europe, which is 2,750 metres long, out of which 800 are suitable for tourist visits. It is a magnificent example of a hydrologically active cave, where remains of Palaeolithic sites and cave paintings have been found. The highlight is the tour round the crystal clear waters that goes by the Azul (Blue) Pond, Murciélagos (Bat) Room, "Boca del Forn", and Diana and El Diablo (Devil) lakes, amongst others. 

 

 

Some of its most characteristic formations are: the Medusa, la Cascada de la Flor and Portal de Belén. The visit lasts 40 minutes and is covered mainly by boat. It is suitable for everyone and an additional caving/tourism visit can be booked. (Cuevas de San José in Vall D'Uixo)

 



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Salmorejo - a summer favourite
03 August 2018

For 11 years, a group of researchers from Córdoba University has been trying to establish a basic standard recipe for salmorejo that could be used by a quality brand, and thus gain broader recognition for this traditional tomato-based dish, which is similar to cold gazpacho soup.

The research began in 2007 at the university’s Food Science and Technology Department. Their work has allowed an association called the Gastronomic Salmorejo Guild of Cordoba to suggest a core recipe consisting of one kilo of tomatoes, 200g of Telera bread, a local specialty, 100g of extra virgin olive oil, a clove of Montalbán garlic and 10g of salt.

A survey carried out in 754 bars and restaurants confirmed that this basic recipe was the general departure point for the salmorejo that is served to the public. The survey covered more than 22% of the census, which is a big enough percentage to offer a reasonable idea of the uses and traditions of the dish in the city.

Researchers found that the average salmorejo recipe uses a kilo of plum tomatoes (66%), generally unpeeled (44%), 108g of extra virgin olive oil (61%), 197g of dry, day-old bread (46%), 5.8g of Montalbán garlic (44%) and 9g of coarsely ground salt.

Other interesting data concerning the dish included the fact that 79% of establishments garnished salmorejo with ham and 66% with hard-boiled egg, while 28% served it with a dash of olive oil.

Although salmorejo is served fresh and thus linked in many people's minds with summer, it is not considered a seasonal dish in bars and restaurants. In fact, 78% of eateries feature it on the menu year-round, not least because in 50% of cases, it is among their three top orders at an average price of between €5.50 and €6.

Published in the journal Nutrición Hospitalaria, the research also found that salmorejo without garnish is low in calories and cholesterol. It is also a good source of water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins and monounsaturated fats.

Researchers are now keen to find out about the homemade variety and are carrying out surveys among shoppers and on social networks.

Some people add beetroot, peach, cucumber, onion, pepper and even raw egg. Between 15% and 20% of homemade salmorejo also features vinegar....

How do you make your Salmorejo?  

This is a typical recipe for 2 people: 

Chop it all up and put it through the blender and then chill in the fridge!

    •    500 grams ripe plum tomates - peeled 
    •    100 grams Stale bread (1 or 2 days old)
    •    100 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    •    1 Clove of Garlic 
    •    Salt
    

 



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Just how hot is it?
13 July 2018

 

 

 

During the month of July, temperatures in much of the country are quite unbearable. And this week we will be no exception. Today the mercury readings were almost reaching 40 degrees in many area of Spain..

 

However these temperatures can't be considered record temperatures by any means, Montoro in Cordoba holds the record for Spain with 47,3 degrees. However, almost certainly over the days to come, we will see street thermometers on all the television news channels with readings close to 50 degrees.

 

These street thermometers, which are often placed in bus shelters, central squares or advertising columns without a shadow of a doubt are giving wrong readings, very wrong readings and give the viewer information that is very far from reality. 

 

The main reasons why we should never rely on this type of equipment, which in most cases only lead to confusion, is very simple, yet obvious. The sensors which measure the temperature in these street thermometers are located within a metal enclosure, often dark in colour and with no ventilation. Therefore, if the solar rays impact on this device, it is quite normal that the temperature displayed is higher, even up to 10 degrees warmer than the actual air temperature around it.

 

On a hot sunny day, you just need to put your hand on a dark surface and see for yourselves what happens. In Spain, you could fry an egg. Another reason is that these thermometers are placed very close to the asphalt, which stores heat and gives off a temperature much higher than the real air temperature, which is effectively the only value worth measuring in meteorology.

 

You may be surprised, and I am sure I am not the only one to have seen thermometers over 50ºC many summers but never has there been an official recording of a temperature that high anywhere in the country.

 

So, be wary of these thermometers! They tell lies. The Official meteorological sources suggest that these panels be purely informative and advertise the official reading provided by the  AEMET, the official weather agency. So Spain isn't as hot as we thought it was…  :)



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This Granny Rocks!
27 June 2018

 

This is the story of a conventional granny who one day decided to accompany her grandson to a rock concert. That event changed her life forever.

Ángeles Rodríguez Hidalgo was a humble woman who, when widowed at 41, worked two jobs to raise her five children. She lived in the working class Madrid neighbourhood of Vallecas, where heavy metal music was popular with young people in 1980s.

But Rodríguez Hidalgo was not exactly a young lady when she decided to go to a rock concert with her grandson at age 70. She did, though, like it so much that after that she never missed a chance to attend a heavy metal show and became a beloved figure of the ’80s rock scene in Madrid.

Over time “la abuela rockera” (“The Rocker Grandma”) came to collaborate with radio and TV shows and even had her own column in Heavy Rock magazine. Her image was featured on the cover of the album “Toca Madera” by the heavy metal band Panzer, showing her clad in leather and giving the metal horns sign.

In 1999, six years after Rodríguez Hidalgo’s death, artist Carmen Jorba created a bronze sculpture of the rocker grandma, hand held high, recreating the image from the Panzer album. At one point, some vandals broke off the statue’s devil horn fingers and for several years grandma’s hand seemed to depict the communist symbol. It’s since been repaired, and now stands in all its metal splendour, a rare tribute to an unexpected pop culture personality.



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Hello Summer! Hello Fire!
20 June 2018

In San Pedro de Manrique in Soria, It is said that only local townsfolk can complete the walk without being burned.

In this otherwise unknown village, two different celebrations take place during the Festival of San Juan. The famous ‘Paso del Fuego’ (Firewalking) on the eve of San Juan and that known as  ‘Las Móndidas‘, on the 24 th of June. Both of these festivals have been declared of National Tourist and Cultural Interest.

 

 

Each year on 23 June, Midsummer night's eve, this ritual takes place. It consists of crossing the live coals of a meticulously prepared bonfire barefoot. The bonfire is lit at 9:00 at night with 2,000 kilos of oak wood, which burns easily and does not form lumps. At around 11:30, the carpet-like path of red-hot coals is prepared by smoothing them with poles called 'hoguneros'. Young men dance around the fire, and exactly at midnight everything is ready to begin the walk across the carpet. Ten to twelve young men are chosen to do this, and they generally carry someone on their shoulders, since the extra weight avoids combustion. They try to ensure that the coals contain no ashes or hard objects; thanks to these precautions they never get burned. 

 

 

Only inhabitants of San Pedro Manrique are permitted to pass over this burning carpet and do so accompanied by the fanfare of a trumpet. The ‘Móndidas’ (three local girls who play the role of priestesses) are the first to cross the embers but are carried on the backs of gallant young men afterwhich any one of the neighbours may partake of this ancestral tradition. In the past it was rare for women to participate but nowadays it is not unusual to see them enduring this ritual. The Móndidas, carrying wicker baskets and long breadsticks ("arbujuelos"), walk in a procession the following day. One of them, the most important one, offers the first "arbujuelo" to the priest. 

 

 

Some people would say that this is a Celtic Rite others a purification rite and others a pagan sun and fire-worship but if you ask one of the "fire walkers" (or pasadores) about the origin of the festival, they will simply answer: “It has always been like this” Some people just follow their father’s or grandfather's footsteps, others just do it as a promise to the patron saint ‘Virgen de la Peña’, some just do it to prove themselves that they can do it... there are a lot of reasons, but for every man in this town the Paso del Fuego is part of their identity. 

 

 

 

 



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