Lockdown Diaries: Day 15 (La Isla Bonita)

Locked Down in London, Day 15: The Holiday We Could Have Had

Today is the first day of the Easter holidays; today is the day when I would have jetted off on our family holiday. I know this claims to be a book blog; but today I’m taking you on a virtual holiday; the holiday that I would have had, but for the coronavirus…

To the Canary Islands. My first time out of Europe!

All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go…

(John Denver: Leaving on a Jet Plane)

Virtual Escape: La Isla Bonita

So pack your bags. If you’re flying with me, you have to manage on cabin bag only; preferably a backpack, but bring that pull suitcase if you have to…

  • Liquids in a clear plastic bag? Check.
  • Kindle easily accessible for security? Check.
  • Hiking boots – check.
  • Swimsuit? Check!
  • Passport, boarding pass, credit card, lifesaving medications – check. Anything else we can manage without… or we can buy once we’ve arrived!

Our island from the air:

Santa Cruz de la Palma on La Palma

Our destination: Santa Cruz de la Palma, on the island of La Palma, “la isla bonita” (=the beautiful island). The town is known for its old world charm: centuries-old buildings, cobbled streets… sea front – but we won’t have much time left to walk about today. We’ve got to get the keys to our flat – a nice duplex apartment with a huge terrace overlooking the beach.

The island of La Palma has everything you could wish for (we’ll do this in emoji speak because in theory I’m typing this up on my phone!):

Links:La Isla Bonita
Keep safe, keep sane – keep exloring the world with Google Earth! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 12 (Historic Greenwich)

Locked Down in London, Day 12:

Would you like the bad news first or the bad?

As you’re not here to answer, we’ll have to go with my preference:

Bad news: the council now closed the park around the local boating lake (a couple of days ago it was still open and I sent some glorious sunny pictures – ignore effing cold Arctic wind – to my family via Facebook).

Good news: I survived a visit to the fishmonger and bought two slices of salmon, 200 g each, for my daughters’ dinner tomorrow because it will be our wedding anniversary and we’re excluding them from our peppered fillet steak with dauphinoise potatoes and cheese and port to be consumed at candlelight – we were going to celebrate in the local French restaurant but… coronavirus! (Perhaps I should also explain that when it comes to food I hate all animals that came out of water with a passion.)

Virtual Escape: Historic Greenwich

Although we’re forbidden to take the tube and we can’t now pretend to drive the DLR, nor take the timetabled riverboat on the way back, we can still roam freely in historic Greenwich thanks to the photos I’ve taken over the years. It’s my favourite place in London – the Queen’s House, the buildings of the Old Naval College, the Cutty Sark, the Meridian Line and the Royal Observatory, the Park, the Planetarium, the river bank, not to mention the National Maritime Museum… the shop selling nauticalia and the market with is quirky wares. 🙂

So much to see, so much to do, so wonderful at any time of the year. Don’t miss it when you next come to London.

Happy roaming! 🙂

No book accompanies today’s wanderings in Greenwich, because, frankly, I don’t know any! But if you have a good book to recommend, please do so below!

Keep safe, keep sane – keep smiling!

Lockdown Diaries: Day 8 (The Peak District)

Locked Down in London, Day 8: Non-essential

The Derbyshire police released a video taken by a drone earlier this week:

This is Curbar Edge

In the video the police makes it clear that driving to a remote location and taking a solitary walk there, not to mention daring to take a photo of yourself while there, is not essential, therefore a contravention of the lockdown rules.

<rant>

I get the point about not essential – although I’d argue that preserving your health and sanity is essential and there is only that many times you can go round the block before you go mental. What I totally fail to understand is how can you be possibly considered to be flouting the rules when you’re miles away from everybody else and therefore you’re observing social distancing. Which is, after all, the point of the whole bloody lockdown?!

Note,

  • the Peak District visitors did not take the public transport; they travelled in their own cars
  • they visited no rural communities; they were on the hillside
  • they did not gather together; they kept hundreds of metres or more apart…

Of course, I’m not medically trained. The trouble is that I suspect the author of the police video isn’t either. A jobsworth in Derbyshire is trying to inflict his personal interpretation of the lockdown rules on the rest of the country. Is this all it takes to undermine the traditional British liberties?

</rant>

Continue reading “Lockdown Diaries: Day 8 (The Peak District)”

Lockdown Diaries: Day 5 (Venice)

Locked Down in London, Day 5: Is Bread Now Rationed?

Yesterday the kids finally began to realise the seriousness of the situation!

Young Friend of the Elephants – who was practically bouncing off the walls in delight on Friday afternoon after her school closed indefinitely – commented that all other things being equal, she actually prefers GOING to school to online school – and it was only the second day.

And after lunch, Sophisticated Young Lady (who is actually a grown up now) asked if she could have another slice of bread or are we now rationing bread at home? (No, I was just trying not to become fat pig!)

And this was in the news:

Can’t wait for a handsome para to turn up on the door step with my shopping!

Continue reading “Lockdown Diaries: Day 5 (Venice)”

The Suez Canal

If you thought the Suez Canal was the brainchild of Ferdinand de Lesseps in the 19th century, today’s quote will make you think again. Enjoy this 15th century explanation of the attempted construction of the Suez Canal and its significance from the pen of the German monk, the curious and open-minded Felix Fabri, who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Egypt in 1483.

I particularly like his somewhat dismissive reference to a ‘certain Spanish king in our time’ whose ships failed to get to India but instead discovered… well, America!

Note about the author picture
Unfortunately, I was unable to find a picture of Felix Fabri so instead you get a statue of Anonymus - ie. the Nameless - the unknown chronicler of early Hungarian history from the 1200s. It seemed appropriate, since they were both monks, and their faces unknown. The statue is in Budapest, in front of Vajdahunyad Castle.
⇒ Anonymus on Wikipedia

Quote of the Week:

Anonymus [Photo by Alex Proimos via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0]

In this place, and in the hill-country at the end of the Red Sea, we saw the stupendous works of the ancient Kings of Egypt, who essayed to bring the Red Sea  into the Nile ; wherefore they began to dig through the mountains of the isthmus at the head of the sea, to divide hills, cut through the midst of stones and rocks, and made a canal and a waterway to the city of Arsinoe, which is also called Cleopatridis.

This trench was first begun by Sesostris, King of Egypt, before the Trojan War, at a great cost, and afterwards Darius, King of Persia, attempted to make it, but left it unfinished. Afterwards it was completed with consummate art by Ptolemy II, yet in such a manner that the ditch was closed up and would open to himself alone.

By this work the men of old meant to join together the East and the West, for the Nile runs into the Mediterranean, so that if it entered the Red Sea and the Western Ocean into the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf, the Persian and Barbarian Sea, even to the Indian Sea in the East. Thus ships from India, Persia, Arabia, Media, and all the kingdoms of the East might freely come to Greece, Italy, France, Ireland, England, and Germany, whereas otherwise ships from the countries of the East cannot come beyond the end of the Red Sea, where Arabia Deserta joins Egypt, neither can ships from Western countries come further than Alexandria, which is the boundary of Asia and Africa; albeit in our own time a certain King of Spain has essayed to find out a way from the Western Ocean – that is to say, from the outer sea, which lies without the pillars of Hercules – into the Eastern Ocean and Indian Sea. But his attempt has been in vain, although he is said to have discovered some valuable isles which hitherto were unknown.

Now, in their attempt to join together the East and West in this manner, the Ptolemies, Kings of Egypt, had two objects in view – first, that they might bear rule over both, being, as they were, in the middle between them; secondly, that there might be a road to all parts of the world for merchants and merchandise, and that the Egyptians might take toll and custom-dues from the merchandise of all the world, seeing that the road must needs pass through their land.

And of a truth it would have been a glorius work if they had completed it ; for then men could have sailed into Egypt from Venice – nay, from Flanders and Ireland – and could have gone up the Nile into the Arabian Gulf, come to the cinnamon country, and reached the exceeding wealthy land of India, whereof we are told among other marvels that it has two summers and two winters in one year, an mountains of gold – real ones, not mere figures of speech – and that there are forty-four different countries in it. Then also through the Indian Sea would have been a way for us Westerns to Persia, Parthia, Media, Araby the Blest, Sabaea, and Chaldaea, and the peoples of the East would have had a way whereby to come to us; and so by this work the three principal parts of the world – to wit, Asia, Africa, and Europe – would have been brought together.

(The Book of the Wanderings of Brother Felix Fabri by Felix Fabri)

 

In the Footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons: Crossing the Red Sea

Marooned

Hamford Water with wreck of a barge [Photo by J Dean via Geograph.org.uk, CC BY-SA 2.0]

You’ll start with a blank map, that doesn’t do more than show roughly what’s water and what isn’t. You’ll have your tents, stores, everything we’d got ready when we thought we were all going together. You’ll be just a wee bit better off than Colombus. And with all the practice you’ve had at exploring, I think you’ll do pretty well. But you’ll be marooned fair and square…

(Arthur Ransome: Secret Water)

So says Captain Walker to his children, after the First Lord of the Admiralty throws a spanner in the Walker family holiday plans (for a brief synopsis of Secret Water see my recent post) and the children duly get dumped on a tidal island with a blank map that they intend to fill in before their parents come back to collect them.

Unlike their first holiday in the Lake Disctrict in Swallows and Amazons, this is not mere ‘idle’ camping; it’s a full blown mapping expedition, often knee-deep in mud, with compasses and surveying poles. And if the resulting map perhaps is ‘not up to the standard of the ordnance survey’, as Ransome put it, it’s still fully recognisable when comparing it to a modern map of the area.

The Secret Archipelago Expedition

In my edition of Secret Water, the fully detailed hand-drawn map comes right after the title page. It is a meticulous pencil drawing and as soon as you look at the neighbourhood of Harwich – Ransome names the village of Pin Mill in the very first sentence of the book – on a modern map, you will be able to spot where Secret Water is located.

Secret Water

It is Hamford Water National Nature Reserve, south of Harwich, near the town of Walton on the Naze:

Hamford Water (Ordnance Survey map)

Since this is the story of a mapping expedition Ransome very handsomely provides us with the blank map of the area where the children are marooned as well as several of the later versions as the map is gradually filled in with more and more details. (Click to enlarge gallery.)

Hamford Water is an area of small tidal waterways and mudflats exposed at low tide with a large central island: Horsey Island, named Swallow Island in the book, where the children camp. The ‘native kraal’ (a farm) is still on the island as are the dykes where Bridget acted sentry. At high tide you can navigate around in a boat; at low tide you can reach the island on foot via a causeway leading to it from the south – from the direction of Kirby le Soken (follow the imaginatively named Island Road).

Hamford Water is also an area where seals like to hang out so you can visit it on one of the regular seal spotting trips out of Harwich harbour.

Crossing the Red Sea: The Egyptians

The bit of road with the four posts on it, in the middle of the Wade, was shorter than it had been. At each end of it was a widening channel of water… And the water was rising, rising fast. Crossing the Wade in the morning, Titty in imagination had been under water, looking up at the keels of boats passing overhead. And now they were not Israelites, crossing dryshod, but Egyptians. They were trapped there in the middle of the sea. They could go neither forward nor back and must wait there, watching the narrow island of the road shrink under their feet.

Those of you who have read Secret Water will no doubt recall the part in the plot when the children cross over the causeway to do some shopping in the nearby town – that would be Walton-on-the-Naze. They left the island at low tide, walking safely across the ‘Red Sea’ just as the Israelites had done in the Bible. A few hours later they returned to the island in two separate groups: the first group, being in time, crossed the Wade safely again, but the second, being too late, got cut off on the causeway by the tide, very much in the manner of the biblical pharaoh and his Egyptians.

She glanced over her shoulder towards the mainland and then forward again to the low line of the island dyke at the other side of the Red Sea. The mainland already looked a long way behind them, but the island seemed hardly any nearer than it had seemed before they had started over the mud.

It was going to be all right, so long as those two did not get frightened.

But already there was water in those curling channels in the mud. And out in the middle of the Red Sea she could see that the water was close to the narrow brown line of the road. Away to the east where in the morning the mud had stretched almost to the opening of the Straits of Magellan there was water. Away to the west a wide river stretched to Goblin Creek.

Gosh! If only they were more than half way across. She looked back again. Suppose they were too late and the waters met across the road, would they be able to get back to the mainland? If only she knew how fast the tide came in.

Crossing the Red Sea: The Israelites

Naturally, we could not leave the area without attempting the crossing. The seal spotting trip on Saturday was all very well but crossing the Red Sea was the real thing.

With low tide being at 8 o’clock we had to get up half six on Sunday morning to reach the causeway in time to be able to attempt the crossing. I’m glad to report that we crossed like the Israelites rather the Egyptians (it wouldn’t have been very funny to have to swim for it in December in the North Sea)!

This was a trip of Ransome aficionados (all right, Young Friend of the Elephants and myself are the aficionados, Mr Anglo-Saxonist was merely humouring us) and I wouldn’t recommend it to the general public. But the exposed mudflats turned out to have a wholly unexpected beauty in the early morning winter light and as we followed the causeway to the island and back we were accompanied by the distant barking of the seals. After our return to the mainland we even had a brief chat with the current ‘native’ of the ‘kraal’, who had just driven across the causeway in his Land Rover – he was surprisingly unsurprised that we seemed to have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning than churn mud on the Wade…

(Click to enlarge the gallery.)

If you’re a fan of Arthur Ransome’s Secret Water and ever find yourself in the vicinity… go for it!

How to Cross the Red Sea

1. Need I say it? At low tide. As Titty, Roger and Bridget found to their cost, the tide comes in very fast over the flats and some of the deeper channels in the mud never actually dry out. 
2. The crossing takes 20 minutes at a relaxed pace, stopping for photos. Obviously 20 minutes back as well, unless you want to spend 12 hours on the island (in summer perhaps)...
3. Local tide timetable: Harwich Haven Authority 
4. Unless you're happy to get your feet wet, you need ankle high, waterproof walking boots as a minimum; you might prefer wellies. Even at low tide, you will wade in ankle deep water and mud at several points on the causeway.
5. I wouldn't advise wandering off the causeway - the mud is really deep on both sides.
6. Afterwards it's a short walk to Walton-on-the-Naze where there is a train station; coaches run on the main road leading to Walton. Once in Walton, go for a bit of fossil hunting in the Naze or, weather permitting, a swim in the sea from its sandy beaches.

You Might Also Like:A bit of speculation about Sinbad's Creek!In the Footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons: Climbing KanchenjungaIn the Footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons: Around Lake ConistonIn the Footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons

 

In the Footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons

Swallows and Amazons

Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons and its sequel, Swallowdale were two of  my childhood favourites. They hark back to a time when children enjoyed rather more freedom than they do now (although even in those times surely not a lot of them was allowed to camp alone on an island). If you want your children to get outdoors to enjoy fresh air, if you want them to develop their imagination, if you want them to have interest in other things than just owning the latest iPhone… get these books for them and let them expand their horizons.

In terms of age, we’re talking about age ten and about, both boys and girls – because although these books treat adventure (adventure of the kind that’s actually believable), the girl characters are just as strongly drawn as the boys. A cut above Enid Blyton.

Continue reading “In the Footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons”

How to Live like a Local in Budapest (Summer Edition)

The Expat Goes Home

The trouble with being an expat is that you end up being a stranger to your own hometown. In your absence things move on; after a few years you being to feel alienated. The post How to Live like a Local in Budapest two years ago was born of the experience of visiting my own city with the eyes of a tourist: I was trying to show off the attractions – especially the unique ones – to my children. It was a wintery experience of Budapest, however, so today, you’re going to get the summer edition. If it’ll inspire you to visit one of the most lovable and liveable cities in Europe, good. 🙂

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge spanning the Danube, Budapest. Photo by Anon. via Pixabay.

Continue reading “How to Live like a Local in Budapest (Summer Edition)”

Vulcano, la forja de los dioses

Read this in English

Hefesto y Vulcano

Hefesto, el dios herrero, era tan enclenque cuando nació que su madre Hera, disgustada, lo arrojó desde la cima del Olimpo para librarse de la vergüenza…

Robert Graves: Los mitos griegos

Bueno, exactemente aquí ya puedes ver de dónde sacaron los espartanos su idea de arrojar los recién nacidos con defectos físicos o enfermos de los acantilados del Taigeto. Pero en cuanto a Hefesto, el dios del fuego y de la forja, el herrero de los dioses del Olimpo, él tenía suerte en esta primera caída: se cayó en el mar, donde la ninfa Tetis lo encontró y lo llevó a casa. Unos años más tarde, Hefesto estableció una pequeña forja submarina, y le pagó por la amabilidad con unas chucherías domesticas, por no mencionar unas joyas estupendas que llamaron la atención de Hera. Debido a lo cual no sólo se le permitió regresar al Olimpo sino que también se le dio Afrodita para su esposa… Pues eso acabó bien, o, al menos, hubiera acabado bien, si Hefesto entonces calló. Pero no, dedicó unas palabras poco prudentes a Zeus, quién, de nuevo, lo arrojó de la montaña… Esta vez tenía menos suerte, como que se cayo en tierra, y se quedó cojo para el resto de su vida inmortal.

Adelanto rápido a los tiempos romanos. Como sabemos, los romanos fueron muy ingeniosos en la ingeniería (mi favorito es el corvus, una puente para el abordaje de las galeras cartaginenses, la solución clásica para el problema de cómo-cambiar-una-batalla-del-mar-en-que-somos-inútiles-en-una-batalla-de-tierra-en-que-somos-mucho-mejores), por no mencionar sus varios otros éxitos que llamaron la atención. A pesar de esto, parece que los romanos no tenían ninguna imaginación cuando se trataba de su religión: tanto que no se molestaron en inventar la suya propia, sino que sencillamente importaron la antigua griega. Y así Hefesto, el griego, se convirtió en Vulcano, ciudadano de Roma. Larga vida a los dioses, bajo un nombre u otro.

La forja de Vulcano por Jacopo Tintoretto [public domain via Wikimedia Commons]
Pues pasó que cuando Hefesto volvió al favor de Hera, abandonó su herrero submarino y establició una forja nueva en el Olimpo. O al menos eso dice la leyenda pero las leyendas son sujetos a cambios… y dicen que Hefesto tenía forjas en lugares distintos.

Los colonos griegos en Sicilia ya tomaron nota del lugar, pero probablemente debemos la ubicación de la forja de Vulcano a los romanos, quienes elegiron el lugar perfecto: una isla pequeña cerca de las orillas de Sicilia, convinientemente llamada…

Continue reading “Vulcano, la forja de los dioses”

Vulcano, the Forge of Gods

Leer esto en castellano

Hephaestus and Vulcan

Hephaestus, the ugly and ill-tempered Smith-god, was so weakly at birth that his disgusted mother, Hera, dropped him from the height of Olympus, to rid herself of the embarrassment…

Greek Myths by Robert Graves

Well, right there you can see where the Spartans might have got their notions of throwing sickly newborns off the cliffs of Taygetus. But as regards Hephaestus, god of fire and the blacksmith of the gods of Mt Olympus, in this first fall he was lucky: he fell into the sea, where he was found by the nymph Thetys, who duly took him home. A few years later, Hephaestus repaid the kindness by setting up a little undersea smithy and making for her some useful household odds and ends, not to mention some fancy jewellery which caught the eye of Hera. Owing to which not only he was allowed to return to Olympus but was given Aphrodite for his wife. All’s well that ends well, or would have, except that he then said some unwise words to Zeus, who once again hurled him off the mountain… This time he was less lucky, because he fell on hard ground and remained lame for the rest of his immortal life.

Fast forward to Roman times. As we know, the Romans were quite ingenious when it came to engineering (my personal favourite is the corvus, a bridge for boarding Carthaginian galleys, the classic solution to the conundrum of how-to-turn-a-naval-battle-at-which-we’re-****-into-a-land-battle-at-which-we’re-so-much-better), not to mention their various other achievements that clamour for attention. Despite of this, the Romans seemed sadly lacking in imagination when it came to their religion: so much so that they didn’t bother to come up with their own – they merely imported in the Ancient Greek one. And so Hephaestus the Greek became Vulcan, the citizen of Rome. Long live the gods, under one name or another.

Vulcan’s Forge by Jacopo Tintoretto [public domain via Wikimedia Commons]
Now it so happened that when Hephaestus returned to Hera’s favour, owing to his ability to make fancy jewellery, he abandoned his undersea workshop and set up a new smithy on Mt Olympus. Or at least so says the original myth but myths are subject to change… and Hephaestus is reputed to have forges in more than one place.

The Greeks settlers on Sicily have already noted the place, but ultimately we probably owe the location of Vulcan’s forge to the incoming Romans who have hit on just the spot: a little volcanic island off the shores of Sicily, conveniently named…

Continue reading “Vulcano, the Forge of Gods”

Felix in the Bath

The Wanderings of Brother Felix Fabri

I was reading Felix Fabri in the bath the other night (and I did not dropped him into the tub), when I very appropriately I came across the passage of his visit to an Arabic bath house in the city of Gaza. Enjoy! And if you ever have the chance to visit a Turkish bath in Budapest or a Moorish bath in Spain – do not miss the experience!

For those of you who don’t remember who Felix Fabri was (or have never heard of him): He was a German monk from the city of Ulm who made two pilgrimages to the Holy Land in 1480 and 1483. He was blessed with an inquiring mind, an eye for detail, a photographic memory and the gift of the gab. He does at times bore you to tears with the many indulgences (plenary and otherwise) which he collects by kissing the various most holy places in the company of his fellow pilgrims but he can most entertaining when he goes beyond the details of the religious pilgrimage and talks about people, foreign customs, novel experiences or travel mishaps. Of which, as you can imagine, there was plenty of in the 15th century while touring an enemy land!

A Turkish bath in Budapest, Hungary. Photo by Trey Ratcliff via Flickr [CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0]
Continue reading “Felix in the Bath”

Asturias Is Spain…

…And The Rest Is Conquered Land

There’s a popular saying in Spain, principally in Asturias, a province on the Bay of Biscay in Northern Spain, which goes:

Asturias es España, y lo demás tierra conquistada.

Asturias is Spain, and the rest is conquered land.

It makes reference to the Battle of Covadonga, 722 A.D. when the troops of Don Pelayo, king of Asturias, defeated the invading Moors. The battle is considered the starting point of the reconquista, the reconquest of Spain from the Moors (a long process of wars which ended with the taking of Granada in 1492). Legend would have it that Pelayo and his 300 defeated an army of 180,000 Moors. Historically speaking, it’s more likely that the Moors were not quite so numerous, nor Pelayo’s lot so few but – why spoil the legend? It’s still a famous victory for those defending their homeland.

Don Pelayo in Covadonga by Luis de Madrazo y Kuntz, 1855. Courtesy of the Museum of Prado

As a consequence of Don Pelayo’s victory, Asturias has never been conquered by the Moors which explains the above saying.

Continue reading “Asturias Is Spain…”

Land of Giants

Leer esto en castellano

Or The Windmills of Don Quixote

Unexceptional

The Lonely Planet guide about the La Mancha town of Campo de Criptana reads:

One of the most popular stops on the Don Quijote route, Campo de Criptana is crowned by 10 windmills visible from kilometres around. Revered contemporary film-maker Pedro Almodóvar¹ was born here, but left for Madrid in his teens. The town is pleasant, if unexceptional.

Actually, unexceptional doesn’t even begin to describe the town if you arrive by train (Campo de Criptana is on the mainline from Madrid to Albacete, the capital of Castile-La Mancha). Downright ugly might be a better description: as in many Spanish towns, the railway station is on the outskirts, in this case surrounded by industrial buildings of little appeal. Luckily, Campo de Criptana is a small place and fifteen minutes walk will bring you to the centre of town.

Which is unexceptional.

Statue of Cervantes, Campo de Criptana

But you don’t really want the centre of town. You’re a reader, a reader of Don Quixote at that, and what you want is the famous windmills, the giants that Don Quixote fought. Head uphill from the unexceptional Plaza Mayor with its obligatory Cervantes statue, through the Albaícin – the old Moorish quarter -, through the narrow cobblestoned alleys, between whitewashed houses edged in indigo blue… it sounds better already, doesn’t it? There. As you turn the corner, you spot your first windmill. And there are other nine to come.

Continue reading “Land of Giants”

Tierra de Gigantes

Read this in English

O los molinos de Don Quijote

Nada excepcional

El artículo de Lonely Planet sobre el pueblo manchego Campo de Criptana dice:

Una de las paradas más populares en la ruta de Don Quijote, Campo de Criptana está coronado por 10 molinos de viento visibles desde kilómetros. El respetado cineasta contemporáneo Pedro Almodóvar¹ nació aquí, pero se fue a Madrid en su adolescencia. El pueblo es agradable, aunque nada excepcional.

De hecho, la frase nada excepcional ni siquiera comienza a describir el pueblo si llegas por tren (Campo de Criptana está en la línea principal de Madrid a Albacete, la capital de Castilla-La Mancha). Feísimo podría ser una mejor descripción: como en muchas ciudades españolas, la estación de tren está en las afueras, en este caso rodeada de edificios industriales poco atractivo. Afortunadamente, Campo de Criptana es un lugar pequeño y quince minutos a pie te llevará al centro de la ciudad.

Lo que es nada excepcional.

Statue of Cervantes, Campo de Criptana

Pero la verdad es que no quieres el centro de la ciudad. Eres un lector, un lector de Don Quijote además, y lo que quieres son los famosos molinos de viento, los gigantes con los que luchó Don Quijote. Diríjase cuesta arriba desde la Plaza Mayor con su obligatoria estatua de Cervantes, a través del Albaícin, el antiguo barrio morisco, caminando por los estrechos callejones adoquinados, entre casas encaladas y bordeadas de azul añil … ya suena mejor, ¿no? Ahí. Al doblar la esquina, ves tu primer molino de viento. Y hay nueve más por venir.

 

Continue reading “Tierra de Gigantes”

Thirty Pieces of Silver

14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

(Matthew 26:14-15, King James Bible)

In case anybody is any doubt, this is not a religious blog and those who seek salvation, better seek elsewhere. Instead, here we are concerned with the famous story of Judas selling Jesus to the Jewish high priests for the now proverbial thirty pieces of silver; or to be precise, with the actual thirty pieces of silver.

Thirty coins.

And their legend, as told by Brother Felix Fabri in his diary of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Continue reading “Thirty Pieces of Silver”

Florence, City of the Renaissance

Renaissance – rebirth – is the Medieval realisation that the classical world, in particular Greece, has something to offer us. One of the places where you can observe Renaissance best ‘in action’ is the Italian city of Florence, in Tuscany, a northern region of Italy. For all that it’s a famous tourist destination, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you do enjoy immersing yourself in the Renaissance – because apart from that, there’s not a lot else to do.

Continue reading “Florence, City of the Renaissance”

A Short Pictorial History of Ribadesella

“Of where?” I hear you all saying.

Here:

Ribadesella, Asturias, Spain

Spain’s Best Kept Secret

Ribadesella is a small town in a spectacular setting at the mouth of the River Sella right under the Picos de Europa. Cliffs protect its wide sandy bay. You can surf, swim, go kayaking on the river or hiking in the mountains. Plus there’s a cave with 30 thousand year old cave paintings, practically in town.

Well may you wonder why you’ve never heard of it.

Perhaps because Ribadesella is the place where the Spanish go on holiday. You hardly hear a foreign word in the street. This is a different Spain from the Spain of package holidays.

Enjoy this short pictorial history of the town – brought to you by the Municipality of Ribadesella (and Waterblogged).

Continue reading “A Short Pictorial History of Ribadesella”