History and love

“Castell de Cardona”

Would you like to discover a medieval castle? To unravel its most well-kept secrets and explore every single one of its marvelous rooms? If the answer to all of those questions is yes, then I know the perfect place for you!

This place is the one and only Cardona Castle. And when I say “one and only” I mean it, because this castle is for sure one of a kind. Now, you may be wondering why. What does it have to be so special? Why people goes specifically to Cardona to visit its castle?

Well, let’s start with its history! The Cardona Castle was built in 886 by the count “Guifré el Pilós” and was the official residence of the noble family of Cardona between the 11th and the 15th century. The nearby valleys were controlled from the castle, the Valley of the Salt being one of them.

The first period of the castle’s history was one of abundance and wealth thanks to the salt of the valley. Its power was such that the Cardona noble family was known as “the lords of the salt” and the Catholic monarchs named them as dukes.

Another well-known period for this castle was the War of the Spanish Succession, when the Crown of Aragon positioned themselves with the Austrian heir Philip V. The Cardona Castle is known to be the last resistance in this 13 years conflict before losing against the Bourbon heir side.

If the historical importance of this castle hasn’t convinced you to go pay a visit then I’ll tell you something that definitely will.

The castle has a legend. A love one. It is said that in the time where Spain was being conquered by Muslims and Cardona was just a little fortified village made out of sand and stone.

The parties at the castle were frequent and the duke decided to invite the Muslim prince Abdala to one of them. There, while he was walking through the gardens of the castle, he met with Adalés, the Cardona’s duke daughter. And it was there where they both fell in love and swore eternal love to each other.

As they knew their love was forbidden they kept meeting until one they were discovered. When the duke realized he got so mad that he decided to lock up her daughter in a tower, exiled Abdala and declared war against him.

After some time the duke decided to forgive his daughter, but when he got to the tower to let her out Adalés had already died of sadness, but had shown her faith engraving a cross onto a wooden door before dying.

The legend says that if you go to the castle at midnight you can see the ghost of prince Abdala riding outside the tower where Adalés was kept to save her and take her with him.

I’m sure this is enough convincing to have you craving for a visit to the Cardona Castle! It would definitely be a visit to remember, right? And who knows, you even may be able to meet some of its ghosts!

Sun & Culture

Sitges

Can you imagine a place as beautiful and interesting as Sitges? With its dreamy scenery, replete of gorgeous beaches, an awe-inspiring village, lovely people and a charming collection of museums?

Even if you haven’t heard of Sitges, I can assure you it’s one of those towns with a dreamlike feeling that makes you think about all of those wonderful imaginary places you’ve fantasized about when you needed a well-deserved vacation.

I bet you’ve already got a couple of questions about Sitges, like which are its best beaches? What can I visit while I’m there? And which are those museums you’d mentioned?

Well, some of the beaches you may want to go when you’re in Sitges are: “Platja Les Botigues”, “Cala Ginesta”, “Platja de Garraf”, “Platja Riera de Vallcarca” or “Cala Morisca”. Each one of them with that little bit of something unique that’ll make you feel like living in your very own summer paradise.

The museums you can visit in Sitges are: “Museu del Cau Ferrat”, “Museu de Maricel”, “Museu Romàntic Casa Llopis”, “Fundació Stämpfli Art Contemporani”, “Palau de Maricel” and “Casa Bacardí”.

“Museu del Cau Ferrat” was the home-studio of the artist and writer Santiago Rusiñol, was transformed into a museum in 1933. It contains art collections formed by Rusiñol Pieces, antique art (el Greco) and modern art by Santiago Rusiñol, Ramon Casas, Enric Clarasó, Mas i Fondevila, Zuloaga, Picasso, and more.

“Museu de Maricel”, located in the old “Hospital de Sant Joan” which was renovated by  the artist Miquel Utrillo to become the home of the american art collector and industrialist Charles Deering, has sculpture and antique paintings collections (Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and the Baroque period) and also modern ones (Romanticism, Luminism, Modernism and “Noucentisme”) from Dr. Jesús Pérez Rosales and “Vila de Sitges” collections.

“Museu Romàntic Casa Llopis”, with a neoclassic facade from the 18th century and property of the Llopis family (traders, historians and jurists), was  left to the “Generalitat de Catalunya” after the death of Manuel Llopis de Casades, the last heir of the family. The house is decorated as a romantic mansion of the 19th century, in its first floor stands out the mural by Pau Rigalt, and its wine cellar it’s known to have been an important “Malvasia de Sitges” producer. The house’s garden is used for cultural activities during the summer and the second floor holds a doll collection by Lola Anglada.

“Fundació Stämpfli Art Contemporani”  holds a collection of 60 works from 21 different countries. These works present a unique tour from the 60’s to the present day.

“Palau de Maricel”, the most important building of the “Noucentisme” in Sitges,   was built by Miquel Utrillo between 1913 and 1918 to give a home to Charles Deering art collection. In 1935 the “Generalitat de Catalunya” rented the building to expand “Muse del Cau Ferrat”. Years later (1945) would be acquired by the council of the village to form a conceptual artistic unit together with “Museu de Maricel” and Can “Rocamora”

Finally, “Casa Bacardí” is a permanent visit center located in the old “Mercat Vell”, a modernist building in the Old Quarter of Sitges. The reason behind its location its the origin of the founder of the brand, who was born in the village. “Casa Bacardí” offers the opportunity to get to know the history of Sitges and the Barcadí family, at the end of the visit can drink cocktails from the ambassador of the brand and professionals.

Tell me, wouldn’t it be great to visit some of this places? To explore the village and find its treasures? Maybe relax and have fun in its beaches?

The Origin Of Catalonia

“Ibers”

I’m sure that in some moment of your life you have wondered about your origins. You may have asked yourself things like who are my ancestors? Where do I come from? Who are the people that lived here before me?

The truth is, these are questions I’ve asked myself too. Because of that I’ve decided to investigate about the civilizations that lived where I do thousands of years ago.

In my case, my ancestors would be a civilization called “Ibers”, a group of different cultures that occupied the Iberian Peninsula between the end of the 7th-century b.C and the beginning of the 6th-century b.C.

As you may suspect, if I want to know more about the people that could have been my predecessors, I should look into each of this civilizations and see which one I could be related to.

The first culture I’ll be talking about is “Laietans”. The only information about this mysterious community that has persisted until today is its location (occupied the east-central part of Catalonia) and its tendency to build big settlements and fortified villages in hills and litoral mountain chains to make use of lower lands as agrarian soil.

Then, there are the “Lacetants”, a civilization that lived in the central part of Catalonia. They standed out because of their bravery and resistance against the Roman occupation.

The “Indigets” were located in the actual zone of Costa Brava, the north-east of Catalonia. In addition, their territory was nearby the greek cities of Emporion (Empúries) and Rhode (Roses), which contributed to its economic, cultural and technological growth. Their most important city was Indika, in its vicinity is where the Battle of Ebre (iberian natives against Romans) took place.

The “Ilergets” was one of the most distinctive societies of the Iberian Catalonia thanks to their control over a very large territory in the west. They had 2 capitals (Iltirta and Atanagrum) and their own currency. Also, “Ilergets” were very active in the Second Punic War and battles related to the Roman conquest, their princes were the ones who lead the riots against the Romans.

The “Ilercavons” was a culture that lived by the Ebre River. Their origin is an older civilization (the “Ilaraugats”) that divided in two different cultures (the “Ilercavons” and the “Ilergets”). They occupied the south of Catalonia and are considered one of the most dynamic Iberian cultures thanks to their situation near the Ebre.

Then, there was the “Cessetans”, who lived by the actual Costa Daurada. Their settlements were small and very close to each other, forming a net. Their territory was where some of the first confrontations between Romans and Carthaginians took place.


The “Ceretans” lived in the mountains, just in the middle of the Pyrenees and right in the frontier with France.

Finally, there were the “Ausetants”, a civilization that inhabited the Catalan region of Osona (known for their medieval villages and towns). They lived in fortified villages situated in strategic points to control the territory. In addition, the “Ausetans” outshined for their interventions in riots against Roma and for being one of the few Iberian and catalan cultures that coined denarius and bronze coins.

I bet now that you know a little bit of this incredible civilizations you are as curious about them as me. You are probably thinking if there’s some place you could go to discover more about the “Ibers” that populated Catalonia.

Well, what if I told you there’s a whole ruote dedicated to them? This tour I’m talking about it’s called “Ruta dels Ibers” and it go across Catalonia to visit the settlements left by all these cultures.

The Shared Home of Two Cultures

Empúries

Empúries is the kind of place where you can see how cultures are able to coexist and even blend together with time. What was first a Greek city became later on a Roman one. But how was this process? When did it start? To know all of this we have to go back in time to its very own origin.

The beginning of this now archaeological site was the Paleapolis (Old City) and its origin devolve upon the citizens of  Phocaea, a Greek settlement located in Turkey, who founded the colony with commercial goals. That way, the island became a commercial port in which the natives (the population of Indika) traded goods with the Greeks.

Nearly one century later (550 b.C.)  the second formation in solid ground, the Neapolis or New City, was established and started to develop into a city.

After some time the population grew due to the flight of Phocaea after the Alàlia battle (where the Carthaginian and the Etruscan fought against the Greeks from Phocaea).

Later on, during the 5th century b.C., Indika and Greece established politic and commercial agreements, transforming the colony not only into an important economic center (thanks to its situation in the commercial route between Malaysia and Tartessos) but also into one of the biggest Greek territories of the Iberian Peninsula.

In the 4th century b.C. the colony gained the name of Emporion, and the first currency of Catalonia appeared in the city.

Then, the arrival of the Barcids (a noble Carthaginian family) caused a strong competition in the market because of a significant economic recession. For that reason the city sent the ambassadorship to Roma to ask for help, what made possible the Ebre Treaty (226 a. C.) with Asdrubal (a Carthaginian politician and general). That treaty banned the Carthaginians to navigate in the river Ebre.

After the Second Punic War (conflict between Roma and Cartago) Emporion formed an alliance with Roma, which sent and army to cut the supplies of Annibal.

With the landing of the roman army commanded by the magistrate Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus the conquest of Hispania started.

In 197 b.C. Marcus Porcius Cato (roman consul, soldier and writer) placed a military camp near Emporion to fight against the Iberian Resistance. Around this military camp was where the Emporion Battle (one of the Native Riots) took place. From that moment, the camp became a roman city and coexisted with the Greek one. But the roman influence was stronger and both cities joined under the same legal state to become Municipium Emporiae.

As a consequence of the Civil War between Pompeu (Roman general) and Julius Caesar (Roman politic and soldier) the city lost its independence.

After the Roman conquest of Iberia, since the first century, Emporiae and other old roman cities started their decline due the importance acquired by Tarraco and Barcino.

Finally, at the end of the century the city was abandoned because of that loss of importance mentioned and the migration of its population.

I’m sure that all of that history has made you curious about Empúries. You are probably wondering what you could visit there or what the ruins of that cities are. Well, some of the monuments you can see there are the Ascepli sculpture, the Mosaic Domus, the Roman Amphitheatre or the Roman Forum.

Tell me, would you like to discover Empúries now?

The Fairy Village

Legends of Viladrau

Have you ever wondered what kind of magical beings could be hiding in the forests of Catalonia? Which are the legends born in their depths? What it is that makes them so fascinating?

To me, there is one village in Catalonia that surpass all the others when it comes to myths, legends, and supernatural creatures. This village is Viladrau, located in the Montseny Massif. The legends born in its forests are the most enchanting and they revolve around one specific topic. What do you think this could be?

Well, the particular topic that makes Viladrau’s legends so interesting is water. Yes, water. And I’m sure you are wondering why. I mean, what is so incredible about it? What does water have to turn these legends into something that captivating?

The reason why its legends are strongly related to this element is the huge number of springs that can be found in the village, and what make them engrossing enough to captivate everybody that hears them are the creatures that give them live, the water fairies.

The legend says, they are the ones who keep the water of the springs flowing and that the sound makes by the water running is actually their voices. It is also said that if the fairies are seen their magical powers disappear and they become human.

Thanks to these beliefs there are a lot of different tales about the fairies and the natural fountains where they live.

Per example, “The Hunter and the Water Fairy” is a legend that tells the love story between a fairy and a hunter. Their romance begins when the hunter falls asleep at the edge of a little lake and a curious fairy watches him sleep until he wakes up. When the hunter sees her, she becomes human and he falls instantly in love. Then, he begs her to marry him and have children, and she accepts under one condition: to never reveal to anyone who she truly is. But, he does it during a heated discussion. After that, she vanishes. It is said that the hunter would find pearls every night at her side of the bed and that those would be the tears she cries for not being able to be with their children.

Another one is “The Big Boy”. A story that happens in a period of drought, in which the people of Viladrau are desperate to find water. In that state of despair and distress, there is a kid who decides to go search for water by himself and finds a spring. From that moment the boy goes there every night to drink water and he ends up growing taller each time he does it. Because of that people decide to follow him and end up discovering the spring too. The legend says that if someone drinks from that it at 12 o’clock during the night they will grow.

The legend “The Spring of Lovers” is about a  natural fountain, with the same name, where it is told that if two people drink at the same time through the two outlets of water the fountain has, they’ll fall in love with each other.

These are just some of all the legends and myths of the village. I’m sure now that you already know a couple of them you want to discover about the others. And what a better way to do it than go visit the places that inspired them?

Where the history begins

The Medieval Town of Besalú

If you are interested in the Middle Ages and you are willing to explore new areas to learn more about it, I know the perfect one to visit. The place I’m talking about is Besalú, a small town of Catalonia full of old treasures that will cast a spell on you and make you want to spend days discovering its magic monuments and sights.

Now, what is it that makes the history of this village so interesting? Why does it have such spectacular attractions? Where they come from?

The thing is, Besalú arrived at its peak, precisely, during the Middle Ages. Its origin as a town began with its castle, dated for the first time during the 10th century. And it’s during this period when Besalú became one of the most important villages of Catalonia as a result of being a connection between towns situated high in the mountains and others located near the coast.

That way, people could trade animals (from the ranching in higher regions) for food (from agriculture), and vice versa. Thanks to that, and together with its markets (where a variety of professionals like farmers, traders or artisans could be found), Besalú became the core of Catalan economy in the Middle Ages.

For this reasons, Besalú turned out to be an incredible place full of fascinating sights to see and learn from.

Can you imagine what all of this history has left behind to these days? All of the amazing places we are now able to visit thanks to it? I’m sure you’re dying to know them, so I’ll tell you some!

First of all, there is its iconic bridge located at the entrance of the village. Built in the 11th century, the bridge is a fortified Romanesque construction that starts as a defense tower and crosses the Fluvià river to access the town.

Then, there is the Mikveh or Jewish bathrooms. This is one of the few preserved in the Iberian Peninsula and in Europe (where there are only four), too. The Mikveh is located in a previous Sinagoga and were supposed to be a place to purify the soul through bathing.

Also, there is Sant Julià, an old hospital for travelers and church. It was built in the 12th century by the counts of Besalú to attend travelers, even though it was owned by the monks of Sant Pere monastery.  

There is a Sant Vicenç church, too. Being one of the oldest buildings in Besalú, it was built between the 8th and the 11th century, and it combines Romanesque and gothic elements. Besides this, it also stands out for its decoration in the principal door and its laterals, formed by animals with wings and mythical creatures.

These are just a few of the astonishing monuments of Besalú! I bet you are curious about what else could be hiding in this village! It would be awesome to explore it yourself, right?

A dance as mysterious as fun

 

Catalonia is a unique land rich in culture and folklore. It is the kind of place where you could get lost in countless celebrations, each one of them with their specifics traditions, food, music, and dances. As you can imagine, there’s a lot we could talk about when it comes to culture in Catalonia, but today we will be focusing in discovering one of its traditional dances: “Ball de Bastons” (literally translated as “Dance of Sticks”). You may be wondering, what’s so alluring about “Ball de Bastons”. What does it have, that is impressive enough to write a whole article about it?

Well, I can assure you there are many reasons to find this dance as interesting as I do! After all, its origin it’s a complete mystery, it is one of the most fun dances you’d be able to witness, and it even has a cool costume do dance in it!

As I was saying before, nobody can exactly pinpoint how or when this dance was born. The thing is, that “Ball de Bastons” is considered one of the oldest dances in Catalonia. Is so old, that there is a wide variety of theories to choose from to explain its origin.

One of these theories, says “Ball de Bastons” was created as a mixture of ritual dances that represented the agrarian work and had the goal to bring fertility to the field. According to another one, this dance was made by warriors to train for real battles in times of peace. In other theory, it is believed to be a game that was played by bandits to simulate conflicts with other bandits. These, are the most famous theories about the way “Ball de Bastons” was created.

Now that you know some of the ways that it could have been originated, it’s time to reveal how it is danced. First, to dance “Ball de Bastons”  you need to form groups of 8 or 16 people and stand in a circle, a square or in rows. Then, once everybody is in place you should grab your two sticks (the main reason behind the dance name) and kick the sticks of the other dancers following the rhythm of the song playing (usually played with instruments like ”la gralla” or “el tabal”). Also, you should keep in mind that to dance “Ball de Bastons” people have to practice some of its choreographies first.

Lastly, there are the traditional clothes worn in “Ball de Bastons”. These costume usually consists of a white shirt and trousers with underskirts, scarves, hats, and ribbons of different colors, as well as little bells tied to the bottom of the trousers, and traditional espadrilles.

What do you think about this dance? Did you ever imagine a dance like that could exist? I’m sure you’re curious about it! It would be fun to see it live, right? Or would you prefer to dance it?

 

 

Food and volcanoes, the most delicious combination

When you travel there isn’t a better way to truly get to know the places you are visiting than eating their traditional food and dishes. They have the power to tell you how people live and have lived, why they act the way they do, where some of their traditions come from, and the most important, what they eat and how they cook it. Those dishes can tell you little pieces of history bite by bite. Have you ever really thought about what kind of stories could be hiding in your food?

To be honest, despite my love for food, I had never wondered that until I discovered something called “Volcanic Cuisine” (Cuina Volcànica in Catalan). It sounds kind of scary, doesn’t it? Who in their right mind would want to eat something with such a dangerous name?

Believe it or not, there are people out there who do eat it. These are the locals of La Garrotxa. A place surrounded by the beautiful Natural Park of the Volcanic Zone of La Garrotxa, known for its amazing forests, full of native plants, wildlife, and volcanoes (the most well-known being “el Croscat” and “Santa Margarida”).

And it’s precisely because of its volcanoes that the traditional food of this stunning area of Catalonia is called “Volcanic Cuisine”.

Now that I’ve already told you the reason behind its name, you may be wondering what is the history residing in this unique type of cuisine.

It all lies in the ingredients used to cook. These are the product of the rich characteristics of the volcanic land in which they grow, a fruitful ground where the local farmers have been cultivating the traditionals aliments of the region for ages. Some of these are: the “fajol”, the “farro”, the “fesols of Santa Pau”, the “formatge serrat d’ovella”, the “naps negres”, the “patata de la Vall d’en Bas”, the “piumoc”, the “recuit”, the “tomàquet of Montserrat”, the “vedella ben criada” and the “xai de ramat” or “pigallat”.

But not everything about this cuisine is based on tradition, another of its characteristics is the wonderful mixture of old recipes with new techniques and creative combinations. All of this, brought by a group of restaurants that base their dishes on this impressive type of cuisine, representing, defending and promoting the culinary culture of the territory cooking with products raised, cultivated and fabricated in La Garrotxa.

The restaurants that serve “Volcanic Cuisine” are: Font Moixina (Olot), La Quinta Justa (Olot), la Deu (Olot), Hostals dels Ossos (Batet de la Serra), Cúria Reial (Besalú), l’Hostalet (Hostalets d’en Bas), Ca la Matilde (Sant Feliu de Pallerols), Sant Miquel (Sant Esteve d’en Bas) and Can Xel (Santa Pau).

What do you think about the “Volcanic Cuisine” after reading this? Wouldn’t it be great to taste it? I bet you are wondering how good it is just from hearing about it! It would be great to come and try it, right?

The Salt Mountain

The Salt mountain is located in Cardona, which is about 1 1/2h away from Barcelona. This Salt mine is one of the largest and most important ones in Europe.  It is located in the Cardona’s Salt Mountain Cultural Park, which shows the outstanding natural resources and mineral heritage. This unique place is a great opportunity to see Cardona’s saline outcrops.

Continuar leyendo “The Salt Mountain”