My pomegranate bush (in the countryside of Posadas, Cordova)

I had never seen a pomegranate bush until I went to Italy donkeys ago.

It was in September of 1982 and I was taking a year’s sabbatical before going to university to study geology. We went camping in the wild, all over Italy in our old, blue VW Variant — the one that we had previously chopped the top off and made it into a convertible after my brother-in-law had rolled the car, damaging the roof.

We painted it a sporty rosso farina red. Then we were ready for action!

We were young then, brave, diehard — and poor! — so we slept in this illegally-converted jalopy, camping out in the wild to be close to nature (and to save money) — touring for a month (until the first gear went!) down through France, all over Italy, up into Switzerland, down the length of Yugoslavia and then into Greece. (Things were easy-going then, rules were less sticky and severe.)

At one point I had to pop into the doctor’s near Lake Como, because my face had swollen up due to the constant eddying of the wind. (Luckily I could communicate in Italian, being from Italian parentage myself.) He explained that I had to keep out of the wind, so we devised a full headscarf from which only my green eyes peeped out. I soon improved, despite the huge mosquito bites I later got all over my body after sleeping the night on the beach near Pescara on the Adriatic.

…Not in our case!…

That’s also where the first fisherman that arrived at dawn had to push us out of the sand, because the tide had come up so much at night, reaching half way up the wheels, so that by morning we were well-embedded in!

Anyway, it was while camping in the wild that I stumbled across the beautiful, orange, fleshy flowers that speckled a luscious-green bush — they stood out proud against the bright, narrow leaves. On closer examination I noticed that behind the crinkly, tissue-paper petals that covered the star-shaped sepals, there was a round protuberance. I realised then that this was a miniature pomegranate. It lay half-concealed by those wrinkly petals — and was beautiful! So it’s no wonder that this juicy descendant from the Middle-East is referred to as ‘jewels in the fruit crown’.

I wanted to preserve the flowers and take them back to London with me, so I tried to press them, but it wasn’t successful because the calyx was too fleshy.

My dwarf pomegranate

However, since that time so far ago, coming across pomegranate bushes and trees is a very common occurrence for me now that I live in Andalusia. I have a miniature bush growing in my D-garden (you know, the one where my dogs like to excavate in search of cooler, freshly-watered earth). Though the bush is dwarf size, it produces lots of the showy flowers and dwarf-sized fruit.

There are also some very large pomegranate trees that grow wild along the stream at the bottom of our steep olive finca (where the wild boars have their dens), but they are so tall that only the birds can get at the fruit.

But then recently, about two months ago, I acquired some roots of the bushes that were growing in a nearby finca: the tractor was ploughing up the land, making way for thousands of Alberquina olive trees that were going to be planted there. I asked for some roots and then planted them in terracotta pots filled with potting compost and horse manure (that our friend regularly supplies me with — though chicken manure is said to be better — that is, manure made from chicken droppings and not the actual chickens). And this is the result:

My idea is to let the bushes grow into trees of about 2 m height, encouraging them to umbrella out so that it is easy to look after the tree and fruit. I will have to throw a net over the tree to keep off the hungry birds! (I should be doing the same with my fig tree now really, which is now producing loads of juicy figs…)

Well, that’s it for me and my pomegranate bushes for now.

Just a couple of points though:-

— If you are interested in seeing the Balcón de Córdoba Hotel mentioned above, where I used to live (and had a tourist shop on the ground floor), then this is the link: https://balcondecordoba.com/galeria/?lang=en

— and if you are interested in knowing what I got up to in this old house with the Moorish-style patio, then you can have a look at my previous blog, entitled From Richmond Park to the Historic Town of Cordova (taken from my book An English Lady in Cordova the Alternative Guide — available from me…)

Thank you for reading — as usual, I am happy to receive any comments or questions.

Hope this finds you all in good health and spirits — bye for now!

My morning walk and a few of my neighbours (in the countryside of Posadas, Cordova — Andalusia)

Hi folks! It’s another hot day with temperatures now at the 45 °C = 113 °F mark.

This is what the banks of our local reservoir, La Breña, look like! (Courtesy of Canva — not mine of course!)

However, I did actually manage to brave the day by forcing my weary, hardly-no-sleep-at-night body out of bed, into the shower and then into my car (after having had cornflakes with wheatgerm, raisins and banana for an energising breakfast, accompanied by a mug of strong Tetley’s (tea, not beer) brewed with cloves, ginger and cinnamon to help combat the high temperatures. I then feed the twelve cats and watered my vegetable patch which hasn’t been attacked by the wild boars or stray cow since the last event.

So then, as I said before, I got in my old, second-hand, light-grey Peugeot (308, is it?), which is more like reddish-brown due to the dust of the dried earth having formed a cloak over it. (No point washing it because it just takes one trip down the 4 km country track to be all earth-smutten again…)

I then drove ten minutes to the Sierrezuela Periurban Park where I went for a vigorous, 9 o’ clock, uphill hike, taking advantage of the temperature at that time being only 25 °C = 77 °F.

I did wear trousers this time, avoiding any nasty bites from the horsefly, tiger mosquitos, spiders (and snakes perhaps).

Apart from the fact that these creatures lurk about, I love to walk here because the shade and scent of the lofty pines and the sound of the breeze swaying in their branches reminds me of the many happy holidays I enjoyed in Bournemouth with my parents and brother. We used to go there every summer, spending the whole day on the beach, then walking on the pine-covered cliff tops in the evenings, or in the Winter Gardens all lit by fairy lights and candles — that was after we would eat out in the ‘Caribbean’, finishing the meal with a huge knickerboker glory!

It was all a long time ago — about thirty five years — but the happy memories are still fresh in my mind… I thank my parents for those lovely holidays…

But that’s enough of reminiscing for now — I was just explaining why I like going to the Sierrezuela so much.

(By the way, you can read a brief description of this park in three of my earlier blogs if you like, listed below. The Sierrezuela forms part of the extensive, well-known Hornachuelos Natural Park which is rich in faunal and floral diversity, including loads of different types of eagles, and lots of routes to hike and lakes to fish in or canoe on. See this link for more — https://www.andalucia.org/en/natural-spaces-sierra-de-hornachuelos — includes a slide show and photos far better than mine!)

So I got back to car (temperatures were an acceptable 29 °C), but I was grateful for the flask of cold water I had brought along and the wet wipes. I quenched my thirst and mopped my sweating brow (and armpits!). I then got back in the car, drove down the hills, then along the country plains, where I then parked between the fields and walked a bit more, this time to look for flat, round stones (the reason is given below). It was getting hot by the time I had finished (34 °C at 11 o’ clock, not too bad), so I decided to head home.

Inquisitive…
Greedy — eating the olives off the lower branches

I drove the 4 km of tarmac road back, passing Posadas village before reaching my stony, desert-like, car-suspension-breaking, uphill track. On my way, I passed some of my favourite neighbours:

And definitely nosey!

There was also the pig that had strayed from its farm…

The escapee!

And one of the many hoopoes that frequent the area…

At first, I thought the hoopoe was a woodpecker.

And as I reached home I was greeted by part of my brood who always give me a good welcome.

Just a few of my cats and animals

(But more about my animals in later blogs.)

Well, that’s all for now — thank you for reading. Your comments or questions are always welcome.

Here are the Sierrezuela links I mentioned earlier — (please excuse the quality of my photos — I was just starting out!)

I hope this finds you in good health and spirits!

PS. What I’m making: I’m about to start my new art/craft project using my new acrylic paints and paint pens, which will include painted stones, cork, terracotta tiles, wood and other locally-sourced stuff to form ‘The Wild Garden Collection’.

What I’m thinking: ‘Will I ever be able to sell any of my art things or books online — or will I always be poor?’

What I’m liking: The air conditioning — though this is limited to up until 6 p.m. due to the limited electricity supply which comes via solar panels only!

What I’m not liking: The modern-day use of the present continuous i.e. ‘I’m liking / I’m not liking’ instead of ‘I like / I don’t like’ — but then that’s just me being old-fashioned and out of date!

xxx

The former Moors and Arabs of the area where I live (once Al-Andalus) — and the sigh of Boabdil

Hi folks — I’m back again, but this time with a little bit of history about the area where I live (the countryside near Posadas village, province of Cordova in Andalusia).

(For more interesting information on this area, you can take a look at https://www.andalucia.com/province/cordoba/posadas/home.htm)

As I mentioned in a previous blog of mine, the area where I live is steeped in history and abounds in castles. I already related the legend associated with my neighbouring castle of Almodóvar del Río, but there’s more to this castle and surrounding areas than just the legend of Princess Zaida La Encantá (The Enchanted), or the beheading of the Muslem King of Baeza.

This medieval castle (once visited and documented by Pliny the Great) was presided over by Caliph Abd al-Malik ben Qatan in 740 A.D who served under the Caliph of Damascus (of the Umayyad Dynasty which held its capital in Damascus, with a major seating in Cordova).

The Umayyad era was associated with a time of richness and splendour, and so became known in Spain as the ‘Golden Age’ of the Moors (extending from approx. 756–1031 AD).

Three of the nine towers of the castle of Almodóvar del Río, Cordova

The Umayyad Caliphate was later succeeded by the Berber Muslim Dynasty. During the on-going civil war, the great city of Medinat Azahara, located on the outskirts of present-day Cordova, was completely ransacked by the Berbers. (https://www.artencordoba.com/en/medina-azahara/madinat-al-zahra-cordoba.html)

This Dynasty in Andalusia (or Al-Andalus as it was known then) was comprised of the Almoravids (their capital was Marrakesh) and later, the defeating Almohads. The battle between these two North African tribes resulted in the dynasty fragmenting into a number of minor states and taifas (independent Muslim-ruled municipalities), which numbered about thirty-three after the fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba in 1031.

(This is all fairly approximate by the way — I’m not a historian!)

Meanwhile, further southeast of Cordova, the Nasrid dynasty ruled the Emirate of Granada between 1238 to 1492 AD, until finally Emir Muhammad XII, the last Nasrid ruler, surrendered his emirate to the powerful Catholic Monarch, Queen Isabel I of Castile, wife of King Ferdinand II of Aragon (whose daughter was the very pious Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII).

Emir Muhammad XII, known to the Castilians as Boabdil, was born in the Alhambra Palace (built during the Nasrid rule). He died in Fez, where he had previously appealed to the Marinid rulers of Morocco for permission to live there during his exile. In his letter to them, he also asked pardon for his defeat in Al-Andalus and for any wrongdoings he might have subjected the people to. (https://www.alhambra.org/en/alhambra-history.html)

The Alhambra Palace-Fortress in Granada

Boabdil, our last emir of Al-Andalus, is very renowned and there are many references to him where he plays a central character: these include books, dramas, poems, comics, songs and films. There is also a mountain pass that is named in his honour. This rocky outcrop forms a ridge within Granada’s Sierra Nevada, and is called Suspiro del Moro (The Moor’s Sigh). A rock marks the spot where Boabdil, on his departure and journey to exile, accompanied by his mother the Sultana Aixa al-Horra, gazed upon his beloved Alhambra once last time. It is said that he lamented and cried, and that his mother, on seeing his tears uttered: ‘Thou dost weep like a woman for what thou couldst not defend as a man.’

The Moors and Arabs left behind a legacy which can be appreciated by the numerous complex structures that they erected, such as the Great Mosque of Córdoba (https://www.turismodecordoba.org/the-mosque-cathedral-of-cordoba-spain — this includes a virtual tour), or the former royal town of Medinat Al- Zahara; they also left an advanced canal and irrigation system, like that seen in the gardens of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (The Royal Palace of the Catholic Monarchs — https://www.turismodecordoba.org/castle-of-the-christian-monarchs)

The Great Mosque of Córdoba, originally built upon the Visigoth church — the Basilica of Saint Vincent — under the orders of Abd al-Rahman I in 784

A great variety of flora was also imported from Syria and North Africa: examples are the mandrake, butcher’s broom, pomegranate etc. which still thrive today. Additionally, many of the habits and the way that the Andalusians live are rooted in this Moorish past, as are certain words and names, like Azahara’ or Almudena. Spanish words with these Arabic origins begin with al-’, such as almohadilla’ which means pillow, or alberca’, meaning tank or reservoir. Their name for Córdoba, the town renowned as the world’s leading economic, educational and cultural centre, was Qurtuba’.

Part of the exquisite gold mosaic mihrab inside the mosque (https://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/andalucia/cordoba/attractions/mezquita/a/poi-sig/1189075/36073)

However, the Copper and Bronze Age tribes, as well as the Phoenicians and Romans also had their claim to fame here — but more about that in further blogs!

Thank you for reading. As usual, I welcome any comments or questions.

Hope this finds you in good health and spirits…

Bye for now!

Two of my twelve cats…

‘In a cat’s eye, all things belong to cats.’ English proverb

Greetings from Posadas (province of Córdoba in Andalusia, Spain)!

To know more about this culturally and historically-rich area, and just what I’m doing here, you can have a look at my previous blogs.

Also, the following is a useful link: https://www.andalucia.com/province/cordoba/posadas/home.htm

Hope this finds you in good health and spirits. Thank you for reading!

An update on my vegetable patch (in the countryside of Cordova, Andalusia)

Hi folks! I’m back again, writing from my sunny, sweltering and steadily-desertifing home in the countryside of Posadas (a village of about 7.350 inhabitants, lying about 35 km / 22 mi west of the renowned Cordova, Andalusia). Temperature today is 41° C = 105.8° F, but going up to 44° = 112.2 F on Sunday. Yipee!!!

View from my house, looking north towards the Sierra Morena Hills

(For more information on tourism in Posadas and the many interesting cultural, historical and nature-based places to visit in the surrounding areas of this Guadalquivir Valley and Sierra Morena range, you can see the council’s link at: https://www.posadas.es/turismo)

Anyway, I realised that I hadn’t kept my promise that I made in my earlier blog, My vegetable patch and the mines of Peñarroya – Pueblonuevo, north of Cordova, Andalusia (28-01-2020) of keeping you updated as to the progress of my vegetable patch. I posted the first photos in January when the plants were just wee little things. Now six months on they have matured a lot and are all producing fruit, even if they look a bit higgledy-piggledy and worse for wear.

Looks cuddly — but beware!
One of the locals — also prone to gate-crashing my veg patch!

This isn’t actually my fault, but that of the wild boar, who, a few moonlit nights ago decided to make a bee-line for my green ‘oasis’ — (last year it was a stray cow that gate-crashed, eating all the vegetables, save for the chilli peppers — smart lass was she!).

The wild boar forced his way under the chicken wire, levering it up with his plough-shaped head and powerful neck, then trotted his barrel-shaped body down the lines of maturing courgettes, peppers, aubergines, tomatoes, spinach, Swiss chard and potatoes. He sniffed with delight the freshly-applied manure before then steadily hoofing around each plant while nuzzling away in search for roots and mushrooms.

Very powerful neck and head — good leverage, contrasting with the delicate feet!

He uplifted and neatly pushed aside each and every plant with his delicate paws, as well as the supporting canes. I must admit though, he did work methodically and meticulously in an organised sort of way.

 However, when I went down in the morning to water, I was met with catastrophe! It took a while to assimilate what had happened — but then I quickly set to. I feverishly started to restraighten and replug everything back in, recovering the exposed roots with the upturned earth — (while just clad in my pyjama shorts, skimpy top and flip-flops) — until I eventually brought some sort of normality back to my vegetable patch.

It took quite a bit of effort, but things haven’t quite returned to what they were beforehand, hence the unprofessional look. Also, the downside to me gardening in my summer pjs was that I got five nasty bites on my legs which swelled into big blisters and lasted about a week! I still have the marks now. (Must’ve been a horsefly or tiger mosquito.)

Mind you, it could’ve been worse, what with those amber-coloured scorpions and millipedes who are my regularly-visiting neighbours.

Yuck!
Double yuck!

My dogs, Zeus and Dingo, did try to ward off the boar by barking from afar. Here is a photo of the heroes. You can see that although they have their own cool, covered area, somehow they always decide to dig a hole in my border, pushing my watering pipe aside to then fall asleep on the freshly-watered earth.

My brave heroes — Dingo and Zeus

Oh for the joys of living in the Andalusian countryside!

So here are some recent photos (including the view looking south over the guadalquivir Valley, in the direction of the Sierra of Malaga, which lies at about 160 km / 95 mi away) :-

Thank you for reading — see you soon — hope you’re all well! xxx

(PS. If you’d like to know more about where I live — Posadas and previously, Cordova town — and what I’m up to, then you can take a peek at my blog: From Richmond Park to the historic town of Cordovahttps://anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/2019/12/19/from-richmond-park-to-the-historic-town-of-cordova/. )

WARNING: it is a long one, but does have many pictures, so just looking at these will give you a good idea of both these places!

The legend of the enchanted castle of Almodóvar del Río (province of Cordova, Andalusia)

Sunrise over the castle of Almódovar del Río, looking east towards Cordova

Not only is this enchanted, medieval castle one of the best restored in Andalusia, but it is also known for having staged the seventh season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and now more recently, chapter 3 of Netflix’s Warrior Nun(https://cordopolis.es/2020/07/08/el-castillo-de-almodovar-vuelve-a-las-pantallas-netflix-ya-ha-estrenado-warrior-nun/).

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In 1967, Camelot, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero was filmed there, as well as the famous Martini advert (1972). Fourteen years later, in 1986, the castle was again the stage set for another film, Harem / Dardanelos with Ava Gadner, Nancy Traver, Omar Sharif and Silvia Marsó, as well as the children’s Dutch series Pippo in 2002, the Russian singer’s Tiger Cave video clip in 2015, and later, in 2019, for a Budweiser advert, among various documentaries that took place in between.

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However, the castle is wrapped in history and legend.

An indigo sunset over the castle
Looking east towards Córdoba as the sun rises

The legend of the castle dates back to the 11th century when Andalusia was part of the Moorish caliphate, under the rule of Berber Almohad tribe (from The Atlas Mountains). The caliph of Cordova (‘Qurṭuba’, in Arabic) at that time was Prince Abu Nasir al-Fatah al-Mamum; his beloved wife was Princess Zaida, now referred to as ‘La Encantá’ (‘The Enchanted’).

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However in 1091 (or round about then), the Almoravids launched a brutal attack on Cordova, wanting to claim this prosperous city for themselves. Princess Zaida was whisked off to Almodóvar castle where it was thought that she would be secure, and where she would await the safe return of her prince. Soon after, however, the fortress at Cordova fell, and with it, the prince. His assassination marked the end of the Almohad rule.

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The enchanted castle at night, illuminated by a golden aura and seranaded by ghostly medieval music

It is said that the princess woke up at the exact time of his death and wandered out to the Homage Tower dressed only in a white tunic. She searched long and hard into the horizon looking for her husband. Her eyes though, were met only with the sight of his white stallion galloping riderless towards the castle. She was filled by despair and fell into a state of depression. 

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Princess Zaida continued living within the confines of the castle as if a prisoner, accepting the attention only of her handmaids. Every night she would wander to the Homage Tower where she would look out across the Guadalquivir Valley in the direction of Cordova, anxiously awaiting the return of her beloved.

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The legend holds that on the 28th of March, one can spot the princess attired in her white gown, forlornly roaming the tower in search of her loved one.

The story is remembered every year when, during the 28th and 31st of March a play is acted out on a stage that forms part of the Medieval market named in Princess Zaida’s honour. The market is called ‘Zoco de la Encantá’ (The Enchanted’s Souk) and takes place upon the slopes of the castle’s Cerro de la Floresta hill.

If you would like to read other similar stories or know more about me and this neck of the woods where I live (the province of Córdoba, the Sierra Morena and the Guadalquivir Valley), you can find out more from my fully-illustrated, humorous book, An English Lady in Cordova — the ‘Alternative’ Guide available at https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/GillysWork?ref=search_shop_redirect

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog – thank you for reading!

A walk along my country path (Posadas, Córdoba, Andalusia)

The other day I braved the 37° C temperatures (= 98,6 F) to go for a short stroll along the country track that leads out of my home and wends its way past other fincas…

The stony track passes land populated by cork oak trees. They have been stripped of their bark — a process which occurs every seven years. (When the trucks do take the chunks of cork away, some inevitably fall onto the path, so I pick some of them up and use them for painting:-)

The fresh bark underneath is a lovely red oxide.

Flowers of the carrot family and other cousins of these umbelliferous plants stand proud above the baby blue and pale purple scabious.

The dark seed in the centre contrasts with the white flower, almost seeming as if there is an insect poised there.

The grasses that were bluish-green only a couple of weeks ago have already gone to seed as they are now dry and bristly. (Best to wear trousers and not shorts like I did!)

The fragrant myrtle is also in flower. Reminds me of William Blake’s poem In a Myrtle Shade:

Why should I be bound to thee,
O my lovely Myrtle-tree?
Love, free Love, cannot be bound
To any tree that grows on ground…

Some trees have died, but make beautiful, natural sculptures with their twisted, distorted branches and outstretched gnarled fingers.

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Cows gaze mutely at me as I pass by…

…simply turning their heads inquiringly.

There is a small, whitewashed cottage where the track bends to the right — it peeps out from behind the majestic cork tree.

Through a clearing between the cork and olive trees and the pistacia bushes, you can just spy the castle of Almodóvar del Río in the distance.

Here it is again, crowning La Floresta hill.

(If you would like to know more about this castle, its history and legend, then please read my earlier blog https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/785)

As I continued further, I was afforded some shade by the lofty pines — but then soon the hot sun started to dip and my shadow led the way along the burnished path.

I hope you have enjoyed coming on this walk with me.

Thank you for your visit!

Sunset over my home

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The huge Breña reservoir — but not even at 40% of its capacity. Desertification of Southern Spain?

It had been an unusually hot day for the last week of March — reaching about 36 degrees, and so my daughter and I waited for the onset of the evening before going for a spin and a short walk by the Breña Reservoir (which lies between Almodovar del Río and Posadas in the province of Córdoba). We were also taking advantage of the Covid restrictions being lifted a little, now being able to go for a walk after 8 p.m.

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By the time we had got there, the fluffy clouds were already taking on a daffodil hue and the celestial blue of the afternoon sky was becoming distinctly indigo. A light breeze picked up and caressed the surface of the mercurial lake.

Then mercury became lead as the buttery sun dipped lower on the western horizon, melting onto the National Park of Hornachuelos…

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Meantime, dusk started to descend from the east, from the direction of Córdoba, enveloping the castle of Almodóvar on its way.

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Then the honeyed sun made its glorious golden exit.

We had been walking for quite some time now and it was getting late, and we hungry, so we got back in my little Peugot and started heading home, driving some 15 minutes in a westerly direction, towards the village of Posadas.

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You can see the castle of Almodóvar del Río just beginning to be lit up, standing proud atop La Floresta hill (top left corner) — and towards the top right, the Moorish atalaya watchtower

We noticed that the sky here hadn’t as yet received its goodnight kiss from the setting sun. So we got out of our car on our country track and waited silently for the show to commence. (I say silently, but it wasn’t really, because the wheateaters, thrushes and sparrows decided to give their full repertoire in accompaniment to the maturing day.)

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And then the show started once more. Aqua-marine to grey-blue streaked with light indigo. The tall wheat in the fields blushed as the grasses on the wayside tickled and nodded in their direction…

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You can see the enchanted castle of Almodóvar del Río in the background again. (If you want to know about its history and legend, then please see my earlier blog: 11 – ‘The views from my southeasterly-facing porch and the enchanted castle of Almodóvar del Río’.)

…and now a dewy haze wafted up from the nearby Guadalquivir River, affording light refreshment after a stewy day, making all the afore well-defined lines blurry.

But the colours in the sky took on greater definition…

…what with their pastel of subdued blues, rosy orange and peach…

…violets, cobalt and Prussia softened by rouge…

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…toasted pinks licked by silvery tongues…

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…mauve, pewter, coral and powder blue…

…cornflower, salmon and ash…

… a rich kaleidoscope, a true marriage of colours…

where the beauty of nature never ceases to amaze…

Thank you for visiting — I hope this blog finds you in good health and spirits. See you soon!

(For more words and art for sale from this neck of the woods, please visit: https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/GillysWork?ref=search_shop_redirect)

Easter Week ‘Semana Santa’ of Cordova (Andalusia)

Today is Easter Saturday — a day of waiting, hope, renewal and a second chance. Here in Spain the streets are usually jam packed with the people hustling and bustling about, pushing and elbowing their way through the crowds as they fight to get a better place to see the Semana Santa processions. But this year, what with the virus, things are markedly different — no processions, no outward shows of faith, no dramaturgical representations — just confinement. This is heart breaking for many — but then again, so is the whole dammed situation. Instead, we endeavour to keep this all-so-important week alive via virtual methods and the social media: processions of the past, masses, prayers, meditations and words of inspiration are all posted, televised and shared, making this valued, prized time reachable to thousands. I have posted some of my last year’s photos of the processions of Córdoba on my Facebook (see https://www.facebook.com/gillian.mir.1 )

But I have also included below, an extract from my book, An English Lady in Cordova – the Alternative Guide (available at https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/GillysWork?ref=search_shop_redirect) describing and illustrating some of the Easter Week processions.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog, and thank you in advance for visiting me!

Semana Santa is a hectic, feverish time of pageantry where narrow streets brim with spectators who jostle, shove and push their way to get a better view of the many floats and processions that pass in front of them.

There are numerous gold and velvet-clad Virgin Marys that are borne aloft on these ‘pasos’: they stand with rosy but sorrowful faces and tearful eyes, clutching rosaries in their slender, pale fingers as they rise from a bed of red and white carnations.

They are flanked by highly ornate, golden or silver candelabras from which many curving branches, in silver or gold, hold burning candles, some protected from the breeze by bell-shaped glass.

Silence reigns in a sign of respect as Mary passes by. The only audible sounds are those of the slippered feet of the ‘costaleros’ (statue-bearers) that carry the float aloft on their cloth-protected shoulders and turbaned heads. There is the metallic clinking of the chain as it touches the thurible containing smouldering incense; or whispers from those that are praying in hushed tones. All these muffled sounds are punctuated by the orders that are given by the ‘capataz’ (guide) to the costaleros through the grille of the float, as he manoeuvres them on their blind way; they scuffle forward bit by bit, feet clad in flat canvas slippers or some even barefoot. Often there are scuffles as one costalero will try and elbow another out from under the float so that he (or she) can have the honour of carrying the statue.

Clouds of smoke rise from the incense and are mixed with the heavy, sweet perfumes of crushed roses, spikenard and orange blossom. And overcome by emotion, a heaven-inspired devotee might break out into a lugubrious, flamenco-style ‘saeta’, as he or she is inspired by the poignant scene; others throw bagfuls of white carnation petals from the rooftops onto the fair, sad-faced Virgin as she passes.

Then as the procession continues on its way, and the statue is borne aloft once more after having given the costaleros a short break, people clap encouragingly, crowds follow behind, first the dignitaries, then the ‘penitentes’ dressed in long robes, with tall, cone-shaped ‘capirote’ hats on their heads, with their faces covered by the ‘antifaz’ veil so they remain unrecognised. They bear wooden crosses that are supported against their shoulders or they hold long, dripping candles between their gloved hands.

There are also the ‘madrinas’ who are the patronesses that follow behind: they are dressed in black garb with long, lacy veil ‘mantillas’ securely fastened to their hair with the traditional Spanish ‘peineta’ comb. Behind the dignitaries and madrinas follow the crowds of children dressed in cassocks or uniformed dresses, some holding candles and baskets full of matches or incense. Other children standing among the awe-filled spectators press forward to beg a few drops of the molten wax that drips from the long candles, with which they mould a steadily-growing ‘lucky’ wax ball.

Behind the children comes the brass band that pipes out heart-stirring melodies in time with the thumping of the drums. Each step of theirs is marked out by the solemn drum beat or the clicking of the wooden blocks which uncannily calls to mind the jangling skeletal bones of any historic phantom that might still be lingering in this ancient area.

Other bands are led by the khaki-bereted ‘legionario‘ soldiers who swear allegiance to their velvet-robed Virgin: they pay homage to her by singing out words of admiration, glory, flattery and encouragement, all in time with the raising and lowering of their rifles. Sometimes the soldier that leads his ‘troupe’ also walks with a sheep held by a lead. The legionnaires are very impressive and seem to highlight the seriousness and sobriety of the moment.

Other bands are led by the khaki-bereted ‘legionario‘ soldiers who swear allegiance to their velvet-robed Virgin: they pay homage to her by singing out words of admiration, glory, flattery and encouragement, all in time with the raising and lowering of their rifles. Sometimes the soldier that leads his ‘troupe’ also walks with a sheep held by a lead. The legionnaires are very impressive and seem to highlight the seriousness and sobriety of the moment.

Moody and tangy sounds that accentuate the already intense emotions—ones shrouded in smoky haze as Mary goes nodding on her way, following her Son who leads ahead on another float; He either makes His triumphal entry astride a donkey, with palms at His feet, or sits with the twelve disciples at the Last Supper. On another float, He is sentenced by Pontius Pilate, or He carries the cross, perhaps helped by Simon of Cyrene and accompanied by Veronica who wipes His face.

Then as Holy Week progresses, ‘Jesús’ is seen prostrate in a glass coffin before He finally makes His last appearance on Easter Sunday: then He is seen as a resurrected angel with holes marking his hands and feet.

This is definitely a time—no matter how believing or unbelieving one is—where emotion is intensified by poignancy and devotion; these feelings are all the more heightened by the heady perfumes and incense that fill the air, and where the concoction of feeling and experience is veiled in a time-honoured, impenetrable mystery.

However, all the sorrow ends on Easter Sunday. The week doesn’t culminate in chocolate bunnies and the hunt for Easter eggs, but (as is the case of Priego de Córdoba) the blessing of pastry-encased boiled eggs, known as ‘hornazos’. It really is a sight to see! Crowds gather on the hill known as the Calvario (reminiscent of Golgotha) where there is also a hermitage church. A priest emerges, says a few words—a benediction—then under the ever-watchful eye of the resurrected Jesús, the jostling crowd offers up with outstretched arms these tasty morsels before Him. By some miraculous feat, He waves His arm up and down as He bestows His blessing upon all and sundry.

The crowd sighs with relief—deep, heart-felt sighs that release all the tension and anxiety that has accumulated over the past week. As the blessing is given, a sea of dark heads and olive complexions (and quite a few foreign ones too) nod in gratitude, while some villagers comment on how well He is looking today!

To continue the happy festivity, the day is celebrated with a good lunch, typically ‘cordero’ (lamb) or paella, followed by Easter pastries and cakes, such as ‘torrijas’ (thick slices of bread soaked in milk, beaten egg and sometimes anisette, fried in olive oil and glazed in honey); ‘pestiños’ (fried dough flavoured with white wine, sugared and sprinkled with sesame); ‘monas’ (cakes covered with chocolate figurines); ‘roscos’ and ‘buñuelos’ (small donuts made with sweet wine, and sprinkled with sugar and Moorish cinnamon). This is just to mention a few of the irresistible delicacies!

Well, I hope that I have transported you in place and time and that you have been able to experience a little of what the Andalusians experience and to feel something that is so important to them.

Thank you for your visit — take care, stay well, see you soon!