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Pessebres Viventes – Living Cribs

Every year around Christmas time, committed inhabitants of historic medieval villages come together – the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren of the cobbler, the hairdresser, the potter or the carpenter. They have fished out the antique tools of their ancestors from sheds and broom closets and are now assembling in courtyards, alleys, and public places to form living pictures. In Báscara, Castelló, Pals, Peralada, and at many other places workshops, markets, and the birth of Jesus become alive. “Pessebres Viventes““Living Cribs“ are tradition in Catalonia and so nearly every village is filled with new life around the Christmas period.

Living Cribs sometimes only take place on one evening but mostly on every holiday. Families and guests will join together being actors or visitors then. One can hear children laughing mixed with the cackle of ducks and chicken, being interrupted by hammering noises coming from imaginary workshops, shrouded in the smoke coming from old chimneys, and lighted up by tiny campfires and the light of torches in the wind. This is the picturesque and colourful scenery which every year creates the right feeling of Christmas – the feeling that Catalonia is on a travel through time back to the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the hinterland of the Costa Brava, in Báscara, you get one of the most impressive stagings. Here, more than 300 amateur actors annually transfer their visitors back to the Palestine of more than 2000 years ago. This crib performance takes place in the medieval alleys and ruins of the municipality since 1973.The living pictures in the midst of the beautiful landscape and on the bank of the river Fluvià, in front of the backdrop of innumerable rocks, springs, and waterfalls are nearly film material.

One crib figure with naked bottom causes serious amazement among non-initiated visitors here in Báscara and at other places. This is probably because you can only find this in Catalonia: Someone pulls down his trousers and puts a stinking poop close to the Christ child and the crib, in the midst of the most beautiful photo motive. If you now assume a new type of joke, you are wrong. This strange happening is a fixed crib ceremonial since the age of baroque. 
The small Caganer – “the crapper“ is considered to be a lucky charm and reflects the Catalan mentality – blithely indifferent to the holy and rather thinking practically of fertilizing the fields and of having a great harvest afterwards. 
If you are looking for the individual lucky charm for 2015 to give for Christmas, you will be spoilt for choice. Football stars, politicians, characters of films, as well as Queen Leticia with naked bottom are available for 16€ onward. The incredible beststeller of the year 2014 is the Pope.

In all holiness we wish you a Merry Christmas and the perfect start into the New Year 2015.


Visiting a Spanish Market – Discovering, Haggling, Cheering!

Whereas visiting a market in Germany means taking a tour to the city hall to buy sausage, cheese and eggs from the farmer round the corner, Spain seems to be overfilled by various markets:

Every Wednesday, there is a market in Sant Pere Pescador, on Saturdays Empuriabrava attracts with numerous souvenirs, fresh vegetables as well as clothing at its Promenade and on Sundays you can stroll along the stands in L’Escala.


These markets are closely followed by specific regional markets, such as the Medieval Market in Besalú, which takes place in the context of its Festa Major, the evening-night White Summer Market in Serres de Pals or the antique markets of the region.

With our shopping bags in our hands and willig to make one or another bargain we were heading to the market in Sant Pere Pescador – including rummaging and haggling, of course. There was a long way framed by countless booths and stands with plenty of colorful shining jewelery, filigree dresses as well as toys and designer handbags – originally, or not.


Sunglasses here, leather bands there, accompanied by bags filled with fresh vegetables and fruits, the image of a lively market that has a lot to offer joined up.
Especially the hand-made goods gathered all my attention: There were those woven baskets and bags in African style, finely decorated ceramics, and colorful deocorated purses, that were embedded in Indio Music and the smell of incense sticks.


Stunned by all the affortable prices and the opulent banns of goods, the intention that we actually don’t need anything was quickly replaced by the wish and the occasion just to take home everything.

A Place Like Ibiza

White Summer, a market that takes between 8pm and 1am, and is located nearby the sea of Serres de Pals, awaits its customers to go for open-air-shopping. Self-made jewelry, art, furniture and some beach bars attract many people to come to the small village, even on a Monday evening. The red full moon lights up the old golf club romantically, half dark, half covered by candlelight, and the air is full of love.
True to the motto, we are all dressed in white, leaving behind the crowded parking area and stopping with our VIP tickets nearby the entrance where we went in quite quick and got a free welcome drink. We sat down on wooden pallets which were covered with white pillows and placed upon the sand, and breathed in the pleasant smell that came from those little VW-Busses.


We smelled freshly-baked chocolate cupcakes, decorated with pink sugar toppings that were curled like cream. The seller wore a laced apron, smiled at the queue that became longer and longer, and didn’t get tired of selling her bakery produce to the customers.


We broke lose, followed the crowd and strolled along jewelry for the old as well as for the young. The stalls lay there, decorated with candles, chains of light, scarfs, and figures to attract the customers’ attention.


A DJ was playing his songs enthusiastically, to which some visitors were dancing on the grass. Happy children were running around, taking longing looks at sweets that were sold. The youth was sitting cool at chillout lounges and the rest seemed to be so filled with happiness that catching the atmosphere in a picture became difficult for me.


In the old golf building, we came along with art. We saw colourful picture frames to put a memo or an old cinema ticket into them, small bag with little mirrors on it, waiting for be taken out, and self-painted dishes that longed to be used for a Sunday cake.


The exhibitors were happy to get feedback and clients knew about the extraordinary articles so that they payed a fair price for them. We went upstairs the old golf building and hit a room full of fashion. Long, white dresses and vests made out of lace gave us the feeling of being on Ibiza. 
Long after midnight, we left White Summer, amazed by all those impressions that we got.




Town with the Montgrí and the castle

Torroella de Montgrí

Montgrí and the castle built on its summit dominate the scenery of Torroella de Montgrí. The hills highest point lies about 309 metres above sea level and is only six kilometers from the beach. On a nice and cool day, the walk up the hill takes approximately an hour. From up there, the view onto the bay of L’Estartit and Pals and the Isles of Medes is breathtaking.

Lovely town at the Costa BravaKing Jacob II meant to have Montgrí Castle constructed there – but his plans never came true. All that was ever built were the walls and four round lookout towers. In 1988, the castle was restored and the lookout towers are no open to the public as view points.

Town with the Montgrí and the castleThe town itself, Torroella de Montgrí, lies cradled at the mountain’s base, at the banks of Ter River. With its old palaces and medieval mansion’s, the town is well worth exploring during a morning stroll through shaded alleys. In 1273, the town was declared as kingly and was offered the right to hold markets. The Old Town is thus dating back to the Middle Ages. It used to be surrounded by a city wall and most of it Toroella de Montgrí has some architectural treats you do not want to miss. There is the gothic parish church named Sant Genís, the Can Quintana with the associated Center for Medieval Culture and the Les Bruixes tower which dates back to the 15th or 16th century. Other points of interest are the city’s gate, named after Santa Caterina and built in the 14th century and the Roman Sant Antoni Chapel on the arcade-fringed Placa Major. The El Mirador palace was constructed between the 9th and 14th century. Now used as a luxury hotel, it is situated on the Paseo de l’Esglesia. An international music festival is held in Torroella de Montgrí every year.
There is a market each Monday, but the small Old Town is a good place to go shopping any day of the week. Freshly caught fish, sun-kissed vegetables and fruit from local farms and delicious cheese and sausages can be bought in one of the many endearing dairies. And for those on the lookout for fancy dresses and accessories – there are a number of boutiques in Torroella.


Christmas in Catalonia

They say: “You should celebrate the festivals whenever they are!” Good, that there are numerous celebrations around New Year. First of all: Christmas.

In Catalonia they attach importance to spend the time with the family. On the 24th of December they are having a copious dinner and clink glasses with Cava. Seafood, poultry, precious ham cheese and smoked salmon are probably the most popular elements of Christmas dinner.

An old tradition is to wear at least one new garment on Christmas Eve. This pledges luck for the next year. The old custom turned into buying a complete new outfit for Christmas Eve, wherewith the boutiques are not unhappy.

The living cots

Another highlight are the living cots, which can be seen in many mediaeval villages right before Christmas. The authentic coulisse is perfectly staged by the inhabitants.

The whole village participates in the festival, to move their town into the Palestine of 2000 years ago. The most popular “Pessebre vivent” takes place in Báscara. But also the one in Pals belongs to the most beautiful cots. It´s not just Jesus with his parents and the three Magi you can marvel at. In the whole village craftsmen, chandlers, farmers and jugglers do their work as if they lived 2000 years ago. Everything is feastfully enlightened. The former life on market and in villages is impressively displayed. Bread is baked, flax is yarned, there are smiths, cooks and everybody celebrates. The most important biblical story can be witnessed here. The celebration attracts more and more people every year.

Christmas in Catalonia

In Catalonia the “Tío de Nadal”

In Catalonia the “Tío de Nadal” might seem the most exotic tradition. “Tío” is the catalan name for a burning stump, which warmed the houses in former times. Then, it was a denotative present. Although most houses do not have a fireplace in their house anymore, many catalan families take a stump in the christmas time and adorn it with a red nose, a coat and a cap. From the 8th of December (Día de la puríssima) on, the children feed him with pumkins, potatoes and vegetables. On Christmasday the “Caga Tío” lets presents fall out of his behind: sweets and toys – sometimes also a bottle of champagne for the adults. If finally just onions and garlic appears the stomach of the “Tío” is completely empty.

After the Christmassy holidays there´s just small time to relax. Few days later the “Feliz ano Nuevo!” has to be celebrated. Of course the culinary side is the most important for the Catalans. On the verge of New Years Eve they have dinner with family and friends. A tradition for this occasion is to eat twelve grapes in the last twelve secconds of the year. It promises luck for every month of the following year. Different to other countries, the spanish people do not enkindle firework, but play parlour games and dance until the small hours.

Optic control

On the day of the three Magi the waiting for presents finally ends for the children. The three kings from the Orient arrive by camel, train or boat in every town in the evening of the 5th january. To present a dignified greeting, music is played and you join the three Magi on their proces­sion through the town. In glad expectation the children wonder if the three might have received their list of wishes?! In Girona one can find the most magnificent procession. But also in Roses and L´Estartit the three Magi wander around and give sweets to the children.

An old custom is it to eat a cake on the 6th of january, wherein a small figur of a king and a hard bean is. The one who has the figure in his piece might be the king for one day. The one who´s got the bean has to pay for the cake.

By January 8th, however, everyone finally returns to everyday life – until then, we wish you all the best for the festive season!