Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jarramplas festival in Piornal (Reposted from our Acuarex blog)

Jarramplas festival in Piornal

Yesterday (19 January, 2008) we drove up the Jerte Valley to Piornal, the highest village in our region of Extremadura, to experience the centuries old festival known as "Jarramplas". Jarramplas takes place every year on the 19th & 2oth of January & is one of the most bizarre festivals around. When we arrived around 2 pm the streets of the town were already littered with bits & pieces of "nabos" which are very large turnips that the villagers throw at Jarramplas as he makes his way through the streets banging on a drum. Jarramplas is a figure who, according to local folklore, represents either something from the most profound depths of hell or a goat thief.

The two day affair basically revolves around a dozen or so villagers who take turns putting on an outfit covered with brightly colored strips of paper & a large painted wooden mask. They go out into the street, one at a time, & start beating on a large animal skin drum to announce the presence of Jarramplas. Here comes the fun part: the people of the village all come running, armed with enormous turnips which they throw with all of their strength at the poor guy in the costume, pummeling him mercilessly. It was quite a stressful day, running through the streets surrounded by hundreds of fairly drunken villagers, all eager to hit something or somebody with rock-hard turnips. I saw many young guys with black eyes, most likely caused by stray turnips.

There was a rather hectic moment at 4 pm when Jarramplas, after making his way through half the streets of the village, arrived at the church. I got swept up in the crowd & was shoved inside the main entrance. A moment later the doors were slammed shut & Jarramplas, just outside the door, was cornered & people mercilessly pounded him with turnips. The sound of the wooden church doors, as hundreds of turnips hit them, was deafening from inside the church. A few moments later the doors were opened & Jarramplas entered the church surrounded by villagers applauding him for withstanding the force of all those turnips. Then the people began singing. As traditional songs filled the church, people began carrying a wooden sculpture of San Sebastian through the aisles.

Shortly after the singing ended, the people rather excitedly filed out of the church & swarmed the square outside, again armed with more turnips (14,000 kilos of turnips were imported to Piornal for the festival, by the way). As everybody waited for Jarramplas to exit, so the madness could commence once again, a small tractor arrived with another load of turnips. The driver dumped a small mountain of them next to the fountain as people scrambled to arm themselves with the biggest turnips they could find. Jarramplas finally exited, banging on his drum, & the air was once again filled with flying turnips. People began running in all directions & I lost sight of Lola for a few minutes. (I found her crouched behind a phone booth which was covered in strips of plywood to keep the glass doors from being smashed by turnips).

We wandered off for a bit to get a break from the constant ducking & dodging & stress of wondering when, not if, we were going to get clobbered by a melon-sized turnip. As the sun began to disappear over the horizon, we took a stroll through the local Jarramplas museum (which is equipped with a bar downstairs that, at that moment, was full of drunken, singing villagers). Afterwards we got in the car, which survived the entire day without any turnip damage. Then we braved the dark, treacherous, winding mountain roads back down to the valley floor & then home.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm 3/4 of the way through my first book of 2010: Giles Tremlett´s Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through A Country's Hidden Past which I thought was going to be mostly about the Spanish Civil War and the discovery, sixty years later, of mass graves filled with victims of Franco's death squads and how this affected Spain's "pact of forgetting". However, there are also chapters on how tourism - the bikini in particular - helped bring democracy to the country, corruption and scandal within the Socialist Party in the 1980s, the art of flamenco, etc. The author covers lots of ground already covered in many other books. Fortunately, he does it well. This is a highly entertaining book, a real page-turner.

And I quote from chapter 5 "Anarchy, Order and a Real Pair of Balls": "Seeing the words that Spaniards have used to describe themselves in the past, it is surprising that corruption is not more widespread. They have a self-proclaimed reputation, after all, for being natural anarchists. 'Every Spaniard's ideal is to carry a statutory letter with a single provision, brief but imperious: "This Spaniard is entitled to do whatever he feels like doing," wrote Ángel Ganivet. In the mid-nineteenth century, the catholic, conservative thinker Donoso Cortés had claimed that 'the dominating fact of Spanish society is this corruption that is in the marrow of our bones... in the atmosphere that surrounds us and in the air that we breathe'. Ortega y Gasset said that 'el encanallamiento, the debasement, of the average man in our country makes Spain a nation which has lived for centuries with a dirty conscience'."

Monday, January 11, 2010

It snowed in Plasencia last night

I´ve been living in Plasencia since Spring 2003 and this morning was the first time I had ever seen snow on the streets...

So I rushed outside and snapped a few photos of la plaza de la catedral...

Still no sign of the storks that nest on the cathedral...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

a day trip to Salamanca

Lola and I woke up early Saturday morning (easier said than done) and drove up to Salamanca for the day. It wasn't a tourist visit, we've been to Salamanca numerous times. With the new highway it only takes an hour and a half from Plasencia. The main reason for this trip was to visit the enormous Decathlon store. Lola bought a basket for her bike and I purchased one of  those hip Quechua tents that flips open and (in theory) sets itself up in 2 seconds.

We did, however, stroll around town in the freezing cold for an hour or so before grabbing a bite to eat (I had   carrilleras - beef cheeks) and here´s the photographic proof.

Anybody who's ever spent 5 minutes in Salamanca has taken a photo of this building - La Casa de las Conchas. Previously owned by a doctor who was a member of the Order of Santiago, (whose symbol is the scallop shell, hence the facade being mercilessly decorated with shells) it now houses the public library.

And here we have Fernando and Isabel on the facade of the Universidad Civil. Despite the frigid temperature there was still a small crowd of tourists trying to locate that stupid frog sculpture. Don't know about the frog? Well, on the facade of this building there is a little frog that is difficult to find. (Spoiler alert: the frog is located on a skull on a column to the right of, and slightly above, Fernando and Isabel.) It isn't much to look at - the frog is badly eroded - but if you find it you will, supposedly, have good luck and even get married within a year.

Anyway, here´s the stupid frog:

And the plaza mayor... 

And this crazy face I spotted high up on a building near the cathedral:

And we paid a visit to Casa Lis ( which is a small Art Nouveau and Art Deco museum. I highly recommend a visit just for the creepy two-headed dolls and the great music. (There were Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole tunes pumping out of the museum speakers during our visit!)   

Saturday, January 9, 2010

El Jamonero: The most important item in our kitchen

sad jamonero...

happy jamonero...

fat and happy me...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Plasencia and the Jerte River

Here´s a nice little video entitled "Otoño" ("Autumn") of the walking path along the Jerte River in Plasencia that I use a couple times a week. I don´t know the person who made this video, but we´re bound to cross paths sooner or later... And the music is fantastic.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2010!

Here are my New Year´s Resolutions for 2010:

1. Play more music

2. Start a blog called "Otro Dia Mas en el Mundo"

3. Spend less time online (maybe this blog isn´t such a good idea...)

4. Drink a bit less

5. Just a bit.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

¡Felices Reyes Magos!

Hola! As some of you may already know, yesterday was a big day here in Spain. January 6th is when Spaniards celebrate the arrival of "Los Reyes Magos" or "the 3 Wise Men". Where I grew up (Bucks County, Pennsylvania) I was accustomed to receiving gifts on December 25th, so watching my 5 Spanish nieces and nephews tear open their new toys and games a full week into January is a bit strange.

My wife´s family celebrated with a cochinillo (a roast suckling pig) at my brother-in-law Angel´s house here in Plasencia. The first thing Angel said to me when we arrived: "You drink rum?"

The day was definitely off to a good start! Angel led me downstairs to the garden and directed me to his new pride and joy - his lemon tree. "You´re going to have to drink a few rum and cokes today because I don´t know what to do with all these lemons!" It quickly became apparent that he had lured me to the garden with the promise of alcohol just so he could show off his rather impressive gardening skills. After all, he is the owner of a gardening/landscaping business. And, while admiring fruit isn´t exactly high up on my list of favorite pastimes, I have to admit I was impressed. They were huge lemons, half of them bigger than your average grapefruit.

Anyway, below I leave you with a couple of "before" & "after" photos of a typical Spanish meat-feast. Enjoy!