- Typical Spanish... Mysterious Places in Spain (From the ghostly voices of Belchite to the monster of the Ruidera lagoons)
- Featured City... Tenerife: "Fiestas de San Vicente" (San Vicente Celebrations)
- Famous Person... Victorio & Lucchino
- Spanish Recipe... Las Frutas de Aragón (The fruits of Aragon)
- Popular saying... A quien Dios se la dé, San Pedro se la bendiga ("Take things as they come")
- Vocabulary... "In the Fruit Shop"
- Word of the month... Gresca
- Notices... Now on your mobile and tablet
Mysterious Places in Spain (From the ghostly voices of Belchite to the monster of the Ruidera lagoons)
Every country has its mysterious spots: places surrounded with legends or where strange phenomenons have occurred. Spain is no exception. There we can find one in practically every region. We could bring you numerous newsletters telling you about them all, but we have made a selection that, hopefully, will at least stimulate your imagination and curiosity. Here we go... no looking back!
- Belchite (Zaragoza): this town has the dubious honour of having been the site of numerous battles during different wars. The most bloody took place in 1937 in the middle of the Civil War: Republican troops tried to take the town, then belonging to the Nationalists. During the battle more than 6000 people died and the town was devastated. Due to the scale of the destruction the town had to be reestablished a few kilometers away, leaving the ruins of the old town as a sort of testimony to the confrontation. It is a ghost town in every sense as nowadays it is said that you can hear the screams of the dead people, bursts of machine gun fire and people who have camped out in the area even report “mysterious hands” tearing at the fabric of their tents.
- Bélmez (Jaén): in number 5 Calle Real of Bélmez de la Moraleda one on the most famous paranormal phenomenons in Spain took place. From night to morning, since 1971 damp stains that appeared on the walls of the house transformed into ghostly faces. Studied by various specialists, the phenomenon came to a sudden stop following the death of the owner of the house in 2004, only to return again with force. It has never been established whether it is truly due to paranormal activity or if it is a fraud; but the fact remains that thousands of tourists come to visit the house every year.
- Cortijo Jurado (Málaga): this story has to do with an abandoned 19th Century mansion that belonged to the rich industrialist Manual Agustín Heredia. Perhaps due it often being customary to suspect that many great fortunes are made by entering into a pact with the devil and to believe that the privileged classes always have something to hide, a rumour began that inside the mansion satanic rituals were practiced. It seems that it turned out badly, and so the resident family had to abandon their house tormented by the ghosts of the young girls sacrificed to the devil. At the beginning of the 20th Century the Heredia family declared bankruptcy and had to sell the mansion, which has since passed through various hands. Due to the cost the mansion has never been restored, but many people still think that the abandonment of the place is really due to the fact that the tortured soles have already made it their home.
- Cueva de Salamanca (Salamanca): this is one of the most well known attractions in the city. The story goes that what used to be the vestry of the old San Cebrián Church was a school in which the devil himself used to give classes! It is thought that Satan chose seven students from the University and he taught them black magic amongst other dark arts. Of these seven, he would pick one who would become a servant in Hell for the rest of time.. It may surprise you to know that this small cave had a classroom inside, but part of it was destroyed after being used as a coal store. We aren’t sure how the infamous school master reacted to such a snub.
- Isla de San Borondón (¿Canarias?): ok, so we don’t really know if this is a real place or not, but if it was it would be the eighth Canary Island. Legend goes that it appears and disappears in the sea every once in a while: numerous seamen have sworn that they have seen it, but many have attempted to explain these visions as reflections, cloud formations or mirages. It is said to be situated to the west of the island of Hierro and since the 18th Century it has even been included in some sea charts (we assume that cartographers are adhering to the very Spanish “just in case” mentality). Curiously, a while ago there was an underwater volcanic eruption just a few kilometers away from Hierro, at the time of which, many people expressed a desire that, should an eighth island appear, it would be baptized with the mythical name.
- La Cornudilla (Valencia): this town was abandoned by its inhabitants in the 1950s. The reason for this was the strange “paranormal” activity that was taking place: strange whispers in the streets, shadows that moved about the town, the sound of chains…the focus point seemed to be in the so-called “casa de los ruidos” (house of noises), from whose depths ghostly screams were reported to have been heard. Recent investigations have revealed that the “casa de los ruidos” is located just above an underground stream, something which might explain the voices thought to have come from beyond the grave. But, what about the shadows?
- Lago de Bañolas (Gerona): the largest lake in Catalunya also has a monster in its waters. Legend has it that the Emperor Charlemagne himself tried to get rid of it, but the only thing that he managed to do was to cause it to hide further in the depths of the lake, amongst underwater caves, even with the help he had sought from San Emeterio, a French monk. Is this beast the cause of the whirlpools that have led to shipwrecks in the lake’s waters or were the whirlpools in fact the cause of the stories about this raging monster?
- Lago de Sanabria (Zamora): It is said that within this lake’s waters you will find the ruins of the town of Valverde de Lucerna, punished with a flood after having denied refuge to a beggar who turned out to be Jesus Christ incarnate. The only people spared were two women who had taken pity on him and given him freshly baked bread to eat (it is also told that they turned into water nymphs). It is believed that on the night of San Juan (the eve of the 24th June) you can hear the ringing of the bells in the bell tower of the church of Valverde.
- Lagunas de Ruidera (entre Ciudad Real y Albacete): In the middle of the dry plain that is La Mancha you will find these seven lagoons that seem to be there as the product of some sort of enchantment. Cervantes has already stated in Don Quijote that their appearance is due to a spell cast by the one and only Merlin the wizard. Whether a Welsh wizard would have found himself lost in the middle of La Mancha we are not sure, but what is certain is that there are many legends surrounding the lagoons: meetings with ghosts, moaning that appears to come from their depths, some people even claim that a monster similar to that of Loch Ness inhabits their waters.
- Museo de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid): The capital of Spain, as modern and cosmopolitan as it is, does not escape from its ghosts. The most “recent” are those which inhabit the Reina Sofía Art Museum, that from the 18th Century until 1965 was a hospital. In 1990, during the remodeling that would convert the building into a museum, three mummified nun corpses were found. From this point stories began to circulate about the ghosts of the religious women, strange noises were heard in some of the empty rooms, the lifts began to operate of their own accord and people reported contact with the spirit of a murdering charge in the hospital via an Ouija board. But, don’t let these stories scare you, there is no record of any tourist or visitor to the museum being haunted by strange entities.
- Os Ancares (Lugo): For a long time the only way to get from León to Galicia was to cross the Ancares, a region linked to the Camino de Santiago (Saint James’ Way). Its green and misty landscape seems the ideal setting for legends to blossom: it is therefore unsurprising that there are plenty of tales of pilgrims who have come across elves, fairies, ghosts and even werewolves. Unfortunately it cannot be said that all of these stories are made up: the serial killer Manuel Blanco Romasanta, who claimed he was transformed into a wolf, carried out some of his crimes in this area.
- Zugarramurdi (Pamplona): Very close to the border you will find this village, which is also known as the “pueblo de las brujas” (“town of the witches”) following an event which occurred there at the start of the 17th Century: a number of women from the town were accused of witchcraft and condemned to be burnt at the stake by the Inquisition. Some people put it down to jealousies and exaggerations; other stories state that the poor women were nothing more than healers from a legacy of the pagan era. There is no evidence that the witches then returned from the dead, but to this day in the tiny town they still speak of the fate of these unfortunate women.
A long list isn’t it? And to think that this isn’t even all of them, we have had to leave out some of the other places of mystery and legend in Spain. We recommend that you have a look for yourself in either the library or online: you will be sure to find some fascinating places and magical stories.
Tenerife: "Fiestas de San Vicente" (San Vicente Celebrations)
January is one of the coldest months in Spain. However, on the Canary Islands they continue to have quite mild temperatures (it can reach up to 24°C) making it very pleasant to spend some time here at this time of year: you can walk around in short sleeved shirts, there are scarcely any tourists and some of the most typical celebrations of these islands take place around this time.
For example, in Los Realejos (Tenerife) there are celebrations, now a few centuries old, in honour of their patron saint, San Vicente Martír. It all started in 1609, when the village commanders made a promise to have a celebration every year of the Saint that saved them from the plague epidemic.
Every year, at 11 o’clock in the morning, a procession carries the town standard (flag) from the church of Nuestra Señora de la Concepción to outside the chapel of San Vicente. Inside they then hold a solemn mass remembering the origin of the tradition and they then parade through the central streets of Los Realejos with a picture of San Vicente. The brotherhood of the Saint and the civil and military authorities of the town also participate in the event. At 7 o’clock in the evening the procession is repeated, but this time in a more festive manner and with the addition of fireworks.
It doesn’t end here: during the rest of the day and for part of the following day celebratory events take place that include funfairs for children, exhibitions, performances and concerts, and gastronomic festicals serving up "papadas".
These "papadas" deserve a special mention to themselves if you are someone who likes all things gastronomic. In the same way as they offer "calderetas" in places along the Peninsula (meat stews made outdoors), on the Canary Islands they offer potato stews with fish which is usually accompanied by a good wine and, of course, mojo rojo – the typical, flavoursome Canarian sauce – and "gofio" (a mixture of toasted cereals).
If you decide to visit Los Realejos at this time of year, around the time of the San Vicente celebrations, not only will you enjoy an authentic Spanish celebration, but also some exceptional surroundings: a natural environment that is 50% protected, an incredible variety of flora and fauna, impressive cliffs, magnificent views and long stretches of sandy beaches to walk along.
Authentic celebrations in a magnificent setting. Could you ask for more in the middle of winter?
Victorio & Lucchino
When you see a Victorio & Luccino design for the first time you can’t help but think that it has something of the Spanish about it even though it comes from a firm with an Italian name. Their style is unmistakably Andalucian: bright colours, a fondness for lace, the frills and the patterns….but everything is added to the garments with taste and moderation, like a light brushstroke that gives personality to the outfit; not an element that takes centre stage on the clothes. However, Spaniards, being as bad as we are, when we see an accessory or garment with too many tassles or folkloric elements we always exclaim "it looks like something from Victorio & Luccino".
We don’t know what José Víctor Rodríguez Caro (Victorio) and José Luis Medina del Corral (Lucchino) would make of these jokes. Perhaps they would be water off a duck’s back, as you would expect from somebody who has more than thirty years of experience in a sector as competitive and polemic as the fashion industry.
The pair entered into the fashion world at the end of the 1970s. They met whilst working for the Sevillian company Disart and they got along with each other right away. A little later they decided to take the step of opening their own shop in Seville, where they began to sell their own designs. Customers and orders came in from all over the city, then from Andalucia and finally from all over Spain.
Their specialty at that time was wedding dresses and given their growing prestige they presented their first collection in Barcelona. In 1985 they were given two unique opportunities: to take to the catwalk in New York and the "Pasarela Cibeles" in Madrid. The two trials were an overwhelming success, being the first of their kind with a specialty – wedding dresses – that hadn’t yet been done before by the "prêt-à-porter" designers.
The brand was earning a prestige that had to be maintained. Victorio & Luccino didn’t rest on their laurels and took a risk by diversifying the venture: they created new collections with dresses for all occasions and launched a range of perfumes; the first of which had very sensual and Spanish name of "Carmen".
Whilst on the subject of names, the couturiers have always had a special talent when it comes to naming their collections. They all conjure images of a lively and festive Andalucia, but also sentimental and elegant: "Suspiros" ("Whispers") (1994), "El color de la luz" ("The colour of light") (1995), "Ay qué calor, calor tengo" ("Oh how hot it is, how hot I am") (1996), "Retratos de amor" ("Portraits of love") (1996), "Coser y Cantar" ("Sew and sing") (1997), "Volante de cielos y hojas" ("Frills of skies and leaves") (1999), "Estrella del Sur" ("Star of the south") (2005)... all seem taken straight from a poem by Lorca.
It is obvious, looking at their inspiration, that they are art lovers. In fact, they have collaborated in the design of the theatrical background of works such as "La Celestina" and "Yerma" as well as in various films. In "The Bodyguard" Whitney Houston wore one of their designs. We could even now say that their own work is in fact art as in 2003 an exhibition was dedicated to them in the Centre of Contemporary Art of Andalucia.
Four years later a career of many successes became a union: the designers got married in Carmona, a village in the same province that saw the birth of their company.
This would perhaps have been a beautiful culmination to this story, but it is not yet over. There are still many years of success ahead for the brand, now converted into a characteristic feature of Spain’s identity.
Las Frutas de Aragón (The fruits of Aragon)
I am sure that you will have tried some of these fruits last Christmas: large chunks of candied fruit (soaked in sugar or liquer) coated in chocolate and wrapped in brightly coloured paper. As is usually the case with all things that are extremely sweet, the fruits of Aragon don’t simply have admirers and critics, but they have devotees and enemies!
As their name suggests it is a typical product of the autonomous community of Aragon and within that, especially from the city of Calatayud. The story goes that in Roman times they would harvest large amounts of fruit in this area that they would then sell throughout the Empire, conserved in syrup or wine so that they didn’t go off during the journey to far away provinces. Very soon the production of this sweet became intrinsically linked to this city, just like, for example, nowadays the French village of Roquefort is linked to the blue cheese or the Portuguese city of Porto is connected to the sweet wine.
This identification remained in tact for centuries; testament to which can be found in the chronicles of the French traveler Bartolomé Joly, who in 1603 recounted that in Calatayud it was customary to present visitors with a basket of glace fruits.
At that time they were not yet usually covered in chocolate. We had to wait until around the 1930s or 40s before a quick-witted patissier, who is unfortunately unknown, had the idea of bathing the fruits in chocolate. The process was so successful that soon other patisseries in Aragon followed suit. From this point the treats became known as "Fruits of Aragon" instead of "Fruits of Calatayud".
Although they are sweets typical of the Christmas period you can find them throughout the rest of the year (however it might cost you a little more). If in the end you cannot find them anywhere then you can always follow this recipe:
In order to make Fruits of Aragon you will need ½ an orange, 2 plums, ½ a peach, ½ a pear, and ½ an apple – you can also substitute any of these for cherries, figs or apricots -, 500 grams of white sugar, 150 grams of extra sugar (it will be used for the crystallizing), 1 litre of water, 400 grams of chocolate with at least 32% cocoa solids (it is a lot easier to find than the 34% kind used by pastry chefs), and butter.
Let’s get started: peal the fruits, except for the oranges which just need to be washed, and cut them into thick chunks. Then put half a litre of water on to boil and when it is bubbling add all of the fruit that you have cut up. Leave it to cook for 15 minutes (20 minutes for the oranges) and remove the fruit. Add another 500 ml of water to the water you have just used to boil the fruit, add the 500 grams of sugar and leave until the sugar has dissolved. When the mixture has returned to the boil, return the fruit to the pot.
Leave it to cook for a further 15 minutes before again removing the chucks of fruit, this time leaving them to try on some kitchen paper before putting them in the fridge until the next day. You should keep the sugar syrup mixture.
In 24 hours you need to repeat the process: put the fruit in the boiling syrup for 15 minutes then take them out of the pan and leave them to dry for a few minutes whilst you put the chocolate and butter on to melt. It is recommended that you do this in a bain-marie (inside a bowl placed on top of boiling water in a pan).
When the fruits have cooled down crystallize them by distributing the sugar you have kept separately over them. Then, this is where the fun part starts, dipping the fruits in the chocolate! Then leave them to dry on some baking parchment.
And there you have it! It is a simple recipe, but a time consuming one. We know that the repetitive process of boiling the fruit and leaving it to cool various times could become a little exasperating, but the result makes it worthwhile!
A quien Dios se la dé, San Pedro se la bendiga ("Take things as they come")
Putting God and Saint Peter in the same saying indicates that the saying is resounding, unsolvable and impossible to appeal against. This is precisely another way of saying that you have to accept things as they come.
We are talking about a decision from the Almighty. If God decides upon something then there is nothing that we can do in order to change it; we can’t even protest to his second-in-command, the Apostle Peter (San Pedro). So, why should we, simple mortals, bother trying to change what is destiny? We just have to accept what happens with resignation.
It is not a saying that is widely used today: it sounds a bit old fashioned and seems more typical of Mass than of a meeting of friends, but there was a time when it was quite common. Proof of this can be found in “Don Quijote”: although to us it appears to be written in a dated and learned style of Spanish it certainly also reflects an unpretentious and everyday form of Spanish – remember that in its day it was considered a humorous book -. You can see this in the use of a multitude of sayings, one of which happens to be a variation of the one we are currently looking at. In Cervante’s book we can read "Aquí no hay más que hacer sino que cada uno tome lo que es suyo, y a quien Dios se la dio, San Pedro se la bendiga". ("There is nothing left to do here except for everyone to take what is theirs and take things as they will come")
You will also hear older people utter this phrase when they want to definitively settle a matter. It is similar to the ancient use of "Vive Dios" ("Long live God") by Spanish knights during the Golden Age.
In conclusion, it is an expression that it is good to know given its illustrious mention in the most famous book in the history of Spanish literature, but with whose use you should be careful, in order to avoid causing perplexity amongst your group of friends.
Vocabulario: "In the Fruit Shop"
It often happens that we head off to the fruit shop with our vocabulary well learnt only to find that it has all been in vain. We find that some of the fruits and vegetables that we are looking for have a different name to that which we have learnt. With this in mind (it is exactly what happened to one member of our team only a few days ago) we have created this list containing some names that you should get to know. Ready...
- Ajete: Ajete (young garlic) is similar to the spring onion but instead of the soft stem of an onion it is instead from garlic. It has a stronger flavour and is often used when making omelettes.
- Alcacil o alcaucil (artichoke): in some places, especially in Murcia, this is the word used for what is normally "alcachofas" in Spanish (artichokes). However, many claim that "alcacil" and "alcachofa" are not the same thing although they look very alike. We certainly can’t tell the difference.
- Banana: In Spain we make a distinction between "plátanos" and "bananas". It isn’t official, but custom has led us to call the bananas that come from the Canary Islands "plátanos" and those that come from South America or Africa we refer to as "bananas".
- Berza (cabbage): This is a vegetable similar to Swiss chard, but with fleshier leaves and a thinner white stem. In the north of Spain it is used for stews and casseroles.
- Boniato (sweet potato): this is a type of sweeter potato. But be careful not to confuse it with "batata" (yam). Whilst the flesh of the batata is orange coloured or reddish, that of the boniato is white. It is also often said that the batata is sweeter.
- Borraja (borrage): in Aragon swiss chard is almost unheard of. In its place they eat borrage, a vegetable with fleshy leaves which have the special characteristic of being full of a type of fluff. It also happens to be one of the few vegetables that manage to look pretty when it comes to flowering season thanks to its blue and purple flowers.
- Caqui (persimmon): this is a fruit that appears similar to the tomato but very sweet. If you are dealing with an experienced greengrocer then you can often get away with using the English name of “persimmon”, but curiously the English word here means an entire variety of fruit and not just the single fruit itself.
- Ciñuela (pomegranate): this is anther way to say “Granada”, a fruit with a hard outer shell inside of which there are fleshy and sweet red grains. As a curiosity, we can inform you that it is the only fruit that appears in the Spanish coat of arms (in commemoration of the conquest of Granada in 1492).
- Clemenvilla (mandarin hybrid): In January you can find clemenvillas in the fruit shops. It is a type of mandarin that was originally created by a mix of an orange and a Clementine. Its seeds turned out not to be sterile and so now you will be able to see trees full of this citrus fruit whose most recognizable characteristic is the hardness of its skin, which makes it difficult to peel by hand.
- Cuarrécano (butternut squash): You will already have noticed that, basically, there are two types of pumpkins : round ones and long ones. In many parts of Spain they refer to the long ones as "cuarrécanos". Curiously, a typical recipe from Jaén is also called "cuarrécano", but it is uncertain as to whether this dish gave its name to the principal ingredient or if it was the other way around.
- Durazno (peach): On the Canary Islands and in South America they have given this name to what are normally referred to as "melocotones". In fact, in many shops run by Americans you will be able to see a lot of products with the caption "sabor durazno" (peach flavour) on their labels.
- Fresquilla (type of peach): This is usually confused with "melocoton" but it is not exactly the same, although in some places it is considered as such. The "fresquilla" has more juice, a smoother flesh and a slightly smaller size.
- Nectarina (nectarine): This fruit was originally a cross between a plum and a peach, but today you will find trees that produce this fruit without the need for human intervention. It has a smooth, bright skin, without the fuzziness of a peach, and its flesh can be either orange or white.
- Paraguaya (donut peach): This is a type of flattened peach that matures quickly. Although its name might bring a certain South American country to mind this fruit comes from China and is grown in Murcia and parts of Andalucia.
- Pero (red apple): This is perhaps one of the strangest words when it comes to fruit. In some parts of Extremadura they give this name to red apples. It seems funny because it would appear to be the masculine version of “pera” (pear) and as you know pears and apples are nothing alike.
- Pruno (plum): In some places they call the “plum tree by this name (remember that in Latin plum is “prunes”), so by extension they give this name also to its fruit.
Here you have only a few terms. You will be able to find many others depending on the season. What we would advise is that if you have any doubts, ask the greengrocer directly. We would like to finish off with a large thank you for the help provided by the parents of one of our contributors, who have been selling peros, duraznos, paraguayas and clemenvillas their whole lives.
"No les hagas caso, que esos quieren gresca" ("Ignore them, they just want a fight!"), "estos dos siempre andan a la gresca" ("these two are always fighting") o "¡vaya gresca que se armó!" ("what a ruckus that was caused!") are all expressions that you can hear constantly in Spain. Considering the context you will probably be able to imagine that this month’s word means fight, argument or altercation.
According to the Royal Language Academy (the body that regulates the usage of the Spanish language in Spain) the word comes from ancient Catalan, from the word "greesca". The strange thing is that this word meant animation, fun or merrymaking and in modern Catalan the word "gresca" is used to refer to a "juerga" - a rave or a night out on the town.
What, then, has happened to turn a word meaning a happy event into one that is a synonym of a brawl? Perhaps it is due to an evolution similar to that which some of the wildest "juergas" experience: it starts off as a lively party between friends, somebody says something jokingly that another person takes seriously and the group ends coming to blows and very divided.
It is also true that we usually use "gresca" in a joking fashion. For us it has an additional component to its meaning: that of a worthless dispute both because of its origin and its result.
In conclusion we are dealing with a word that it is good to know purely to avoid being a victim of its concept if you see what we mean...
At Enforex we are going to kick off the New Year with energy and innovation. If you are reading this on our website you will notice that something has changed: our design is now more attractive, modern and easy to use. Also this month you might be reading this on your mobile or tablet: we are adapting our content so that wherever you are you can quickly, on any device, access information on our prices, watch our videos or consult our cultural sections.
Whatever smartphone or tablet you are using you will quickly find what you are looking for without losing any information or content. And don’t worry if you have gotten used to our old website, everything is still in the same place but just better organized.
Now you don’t have to wait until you are back at home in order to duly inform yourself about one of our courses. By entering the search engine on your mobile (again, whatever one that might be) you will be able to see the characteristics of the course, the schools that offer it and even prices in the palm of your hand. Additionally, as the days go by we will continue to add new content.
Similarly, if you are simply traveling on the metro or in the car and you are entertaining yourself with your tablet you will be able to read our articles about customs, literature, typical recipes and vocabulary. It is quite possible that you are already doing this, in which case we encourage you to continue exploring our website. Very, very soon you will find something that interests you.
These changes join our already well-known application for Android and Iphone. Like a good school that adapts its courses according to our constantly changing environment, our website – our main entrance to the world – will improve. But all of this will be without losing the quality that has made us one of the best schools in Spain.
If you already know us, then here you have our new home and if this is the first time you have come along, welcome!