IV Festival de las Tres Culturas 2009

In one of my early postings (22.08.08) I sang the praises of Frigiliana's festival of three cultures. Online a few minutes ago I came across a reference to Fitur, the major annual Spanish tourism convention in Madrid. Frigiliana is promoting this year's festival at the convention, from which I learn that the dates are 27th to 30th August. If you're free that (long) weekend, it's a great event to head for. If you read Spanish, you will find more details here .


A Taste Of Things To Come

Wednesday night the wind finally blew itself out taking the clouds with it. Thursday morning thus dawned with a clear blue sky and not a breath of wind. We sat outside on our small side terrace for breakfast in the sun. Jackets, jumpers and sweaters were put aside when we went out and the few holiday makers wearing shorts did not seem quite so mad as for the past couple of months. By the afternoon, the temperature had climbed to 21 degrees and we spent half an hour in the hot tub up on the roof terrace and afterwards sat there soaking up the late afternoon sun. The weather today was very similar, and we were over in a neighbouring village having lunch with friends on their terrace, which only ten days ago had two inches of snow cover.

The weather will soon change again, I've no doubt. We still face at least another three or four weeks of winter, but this was a very welcome interlude that we enjoyed to the full..... and will again tomorrow if the weather holds.


La Cruz del Pinto

One of the things I promised myself back in England was that once in Spain I would get properly back into my stride - forgive the pun - so far as walking is concerned. At a very simple level, if going somewhere within the village I always go on foot, never in the car. But I also wanted to take advantage of the fantastic mountain country that we have literally on our doorstep. This first year has demanded so much time with builders and bureaucrats that up to now very little time had been left to do anything about the walking. Today though I finally went off on a walk into the mountains.

It was only a short walk, four miles, and my wife and a friend of ours in the village who was also keen to do more came with me. We went to the top of a hill on the other side of the valley that I have looked at with intent for several years. In local terms it is simply a little hill, but at 2,000 feet above sea level, it impresses this Englishman. You begin by dropping steeply down into the river gorge and then climbing all the way up the other side before setting off along the ridge, skirting round the eastern side of another hill on the way and then climbing steeply up to the summit from where you have magnificent views up into the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, and down to Nerja and all along the coast.

There is a cross cum shrine on the summit, and the name of the hill recalls a sailor of (I think) the sixteenth century whose ship ran into ferocious storms on its way from Motril to Malaga, and the whole ship's company were convinced they were going to die. The captain, whose surname was Pinto, reportedly went down on his knees and prayed for deliverance, promising that if they safely reached land he would climb to the nearest summit and build a cross in thanksgiving. Well the boat ran aground on Burriana beach in Nerja, the whole crew got safely ashore, and true to his word, Captain Pinto built his cross on the hill which now bears the name of La Cruz del Pinto. Down the centuries, the cross has been replaced several times, but I thought that if Pinto took so much trouble, it was not too much to ask for me to venture up to see it one day. It was all well worth the effort.

Oh, and my new boots behaved impeccably so I didn't need to change into the pair of trainers I took with me, "por si las moscas"


San Sebastian

Yesterday was the Fiesta de San Sebastian, original patron saint of the village. The day provided a clear illustration of why he was later superseded by San Antonio de Padua. The day dawned sunnily enough, but with a vicious wind coming down from the mountains to the north, and with a sharp drop in temperature from around 16 or 17 to a high yesterday of 10 degree. Before long the cloud swept in too. Even so around 2.30 - only an hour later than scheduled: we have learned that all times in Spain are strictly approximate - the compere took to the stage which had been set up in the plaza, and the dancing began. Teams of girls and women from Frigiliana and surrounding villages took part dancing 'verdiales', a style of fandango peculiar to Malaga province. Sadly this was interrupted by rain and everyone, dancers included, had to run for cover.
Fortunately the statue of San Sebastian is one of the smaller ones and so the procession through the village went ahead as planned. We then discovered another advantage of our large roof terrace. From it we were treated to a grandstand view of the fireworks that closed the day.


Hats Off To The Man Who Invented The Walking Pole!

We awoke this morning to clear blue skies and sunshine. It was warm enough to sit out on our side terrace for breakfast, and we had nothing demanding our attention all day. So with breakfast out of the way we set off out of the house and down the steps to the main street. Two hundred metres along the main street a quick right turn beside the Guardia Civil put us onto the steep track down into the gorge that runs behind the village. We have often been this way before, but previously we have always turned upstream when we got to the river and worked our way on up into the mountains. Today we turned downstream and followed the river bed down to the town of Nerja 6km away. At this time of the year there is always water in the river - that might sound obvious, but through most of spring, all of summer and part of the autumn, the river will be dry this far from its source - but not too much, though a considerable amount of stream hopping was involved, and at one stage the town hall have thoughtfully provided a precipitous, vertigo-inducing flight of steps to negotiate the waterfalls in the narrow gorge encountered just before the river emerges into a broad, flat valley which took us the rest of the way. That was the point where I was particularly grateful to my pair of shock-absorbing walking poles.

Just over two hours of walking at a sensible pace and we arrived in Nerja where we just had time for a leisurely coffee in the sun outside a local bar before climbing onto the half past one bus for a ten minute drive back up to Frigiliana.


The Main Topic of Conversation

The British are renowned for their obsession with the weather, what it is doing, what it's going to do and what it should be doing. Well I've got news for you. The Spanish are equally obsessed. All through July and August people greeted each other with "Uff, qué calor!" (How hot it is!). this gave way in September to "Less hot today!!", then when the October rains came the greeting became "Agua!", which basically translates as "Thank God. At last we're getting some water". And right now the phrase on everyone's lips is "Qué frío!" as the January cold weather kicks in; it actually arrived in early December to be punctuated by a few days of milder weather every ten days or so. Whether it's because winter arrived early or not, I don't know, but the consensus is that we have never had it this cold. Which is rather strange because we spent six months here from October 2004 to April 2005 'test driving' the idea of moving here permanently. And THAT winter the press variously reported it as being the coldest for fifty years or even eighty years; take your pick. All I know is that iot's not the kind of temperature that was in my mind when the dream of living in Spain was first born. Even so, it's a nicer place to endure cold weather than the grey, wet, windy North West of England where we used to live!!
And as I write this at ten to six in the evening the sun is still shining just above the ridge to the west of us.


The Year Ahead

After New Year's Eve, New Year's Day was a pretty quiet occasion here in the village. Nor was there a rush to the January Sales. They don't start until after our next fiesta, Los Reyes Magos or the Magi who mark Epiphany. On the evening before (5th), Los Reyes arrive in the village - in our case, riding mules - and process through the crowded streets hurling boiled sweets in all directions until they arrive at the public hall where, Santa-like, they take their seats and distribute gifts to the children. That night before going to bed, the children put a shoe outside the front door so that on the following day they will find their big present awaiting them. The day is a national holiday throughout Spain.
Then we have to wait until the 20th before we get another chance to let our hair down on the Feast of San Sebastian, the original patron saint of the village who has the bad grace to celebrate his anniversary at the wrong time of the year; even so the event will be marked with a day off!
February sees two holidays, the 21st which is Andalucia Day, swiftly followed on the 24th by Carneval or Shrove Tuesday. In fact everyone from Frigiliana will be in Nerja down on the coast, because their Carneval is much bigger than ours. Ours - I'm not sure about the theology! - will have to wait until the following Saturday.
March this year offers no opportunities at all for a knees-up, because Semana Santa or Holy Week comes at the beginning of April. This is one of the big observances of the Spanish year and is of spectacular proportions in the major cities, especially Sevilla.
May brings Labour Day on the 1st, and Cruz de Mayo on the 3rd. The latter is marked by the building and display of floral crosses around the village. Everyone makes the rounds to view them and pass judgement, and to receive the gifts of food and drink that the proud originators of each cross provide.
Things go swingingly in June. First, Corpus Christi on the 11th, a week-long Feria to celebrate the feast of Saint Anthony de Padua, the village's present patron saint who was pragmatically chosen to usurp San Sebastian on the unarguable basis that he offered much better weather for a week's carousel than his predecessor. Then, as if a week of fun was insufficient, there's another day off on the 24th to celebrate the Feast of San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist) who is King Juan Carlos' name saint.
On 25th July Santiago Matamoros (St James the Greater, who appeared on the battle field during one of the Christian/Moorish wars), patron saint of Spain, whose cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is the final destination of those who walk the ancient Camino de Santiago.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated with a national holiday on August 15th, whilst on the last weekend of the month there is the now traditional Festival of Three Cultures (Christian, Muslim and Jewish) in the village, a four day affair.
In September we arrive at the fiesta of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of the Sorrows) on the 15th.
El Dîa de la Hispanidad,also known as El Pilar, is on the 12th October and demands yet another day off. It is Spain and the Spanish-speaking world's national day and commemorates the date in 1492 when Columbus first set foot ashore in the New World.
1st November is Todos los Santos, when each family takes flowers and candles to the cemetery and the village gathers there to remember its dead.
And so, in no time at all it seems, we are back to December with days off for the Day of the Constitution (6th), the Immaculate Conception (8th), Noche Buena (24th), Navidad (25th) and Noche Vieja (31st), after which it's time to start all over again.
It's a hard life, and I haven't mentioned La Puente; if one of the above days falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, then many people will make a bridge (una puente) to the nearest weekend and take either the Monday or the Friday off as well.


Wishing You a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year From Frigiliana

It's been a whirl of activity since Christmas Eve, with our granddaughters over here for a few days to see where grandma and granddad now live - and splash around in the hot tub, which was a good excuse for mummy and daddy to clamber in, too; to supervise them, of course.

They all flew back to England yesterday, leaving us to experience New Year in the village for the first time. The Spanish have a similar attitude to the Scots when it comes to celebrating the occasion. New Year's Eve is a time for family and friends to get together for a meal - at someone's home or in a restaurant, but the real celebration is of the arrival of the new year itself. Tradition demands that everyone gathers in the main square in front of the church armed with twelve grapes (seedless is the safest option). On the first stroke of midnight you eat a grape; on the second stroke a second, and so on until the twelfth stroke sees the last grape popped into the mouth.

The last grape has scarcely gone down before the first rocket goes up, followed another, and a whole stream of rockets of different varieties - colourful ones, white ones, but all very loud - in no particular order. While this is going on, the music starts, a local group take the stage, the open-air bar gets into its stride, people snap up bottles of cava and the party begins with much cheek kissing, and cries of "Happy New Year" from the expats and "Próspero Año Nuevo" from the Spanish, as everyone mills around the square greeting friends old and new, pausing frequently to dance to the music.

We finally drank the last of our cava bottle and headed off for home around two thirty, happy and proud to be among the stragglers..... though there were plenty of people still partying in the square, and the local bars were crowded.

A great start to a new, exciting year in our new home. Between you and me, I think we made the right decision coming here in March!