Via del Portico – Sagunt

Approaching Sagunt coming from Valencia you can’t miss the awesome sight of the massive castle on top of the hill dominating the city. It stretchesfor about 1km in length, plenty to walk around and explore. Below it on the same hill are other historical sites like the Roman Theatre, the Forum and, near the bottom, the Jewish quarter.

Sagunt castle

Sagunt castle

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

Entrance to La Juderia

Entrance to La Juderia

Before undertaking the steep hike up the hill, I went to see a fascinating discovery in the city center itself. Via del Portico adjacent to Plaza Antiga Moreria was the main approach road to Sagunt in Roman times. The perfectly straight road was covered by rubble and layers of other buildings, most recently a football field, until it was discovered when modern apartment and office buildings were constructed on top.

roadbest

Excavations revealed a massive area with the well preserved road, bordered by pillars which once supported a roofed arcade with shops and houses. Canalization is clearly visible as are the imprints of carts which drove along on their way to the prosperous Roman city.

The remains of other houses, side roads , cisterns and even discarded building material and lead pipes give an impression of what it looked like so many centuries ago.

pilars

houses

Discarded Roman bricks

Discarded Roman bricks

Lead pipes

Lead pipes

I had the privilege of a private guided tour by Carmen Antoni Balazan, an archaeologist who now looks after the museum/exhibition and was involved in the excavations. She told me that it wasn’t clear if this access road was a part of the famous Via Augusta which led from Rome to Cadiz but it’s possible.

The exhibition is impressive, because the road and houses are displayed beneath the black pillars which are the foundation of the building which was constructed above. In interesting combination of ancient and modern architecture.

To see this you must make an appointment at the nearby tourist office in Plaza Cronista Chabret.Admission is €1.

 

Enjoy tailor made tapas tours in Malaga

Tapas, the delicious little snacks, have been a basic staple of Spanish cuisine forever. Once upon a time they were mostly little fish in olive oil, called boquerones (anchovies), served on a saucer with a toothpick, a piece of tortilla de patatas or the good old standby –  ensalada rusa.

Tapas have come a long way from these basics. They are much more sophisticated now, including fusion and more exotic ingredients. Also, a new way of entertaining  visitors has emerged all over Spain: tapas tours.

tapas

If you happen to be in Malaga in the south of Spain, you are in for a special treat. Meet my friend Michael Soffe, who takes tapas tours to a new level.

Michael Soffe aka Mr. Malaga

Michael Soffe aka Mr. Malaga

After having made Malaga his home for 26 years, Michael is a true insider and ‘Malageño’. Anything that’s  happening in this wonderful city, Michael has his fingers on the pulse and is referred to by many as Mr. Malaga.

Naturally, as he and his co-director Laura run their tapas tour company, tapasinmalaga, for seven years now, he is interested in food, but it doesn’t stop there. The arts, music, ballet, opera, Michael loves it and these multiple interests are what make his tapas tours so special.

“Small is beautiful,” he says “and that’s why we don’t just add your name to an ever growing list and then set off on a tapas walking tour. No, we keep it small and after we have met you in the first tapas bar, we sit down with you, chat with you and find out what you like and want to try. That means that the shape the tour ultimately takes is flexible.”

onions

It isn’t just going from one bar to the next either. Michael offers themed tours, combining a special interest with sampling the most delicious tapas.

prawns

Museum lovers…join the Picasso, Art and gourmet tapas tour.

Want to experience flamenco: Michael has his Flamenco and Tapas Evening Tour

Want to shop but don’t know where to go? Book the personal shopping and tapas tour and you’ll find exactly the shops you are looking for without the stress and relax in between devouring the finest gourmet tapas.

There are a few more alternatives and Michael’s tapas tours are popular with cruise ship passengers too, who want to make the most of their one day stay on land.

Welcome to Malaga, the world of tapas and Michael.

 

Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post. I have received no benefits from Michael or his company.

 

 

 

 

The witches of Zugarramurdi

I’m just back from one of my shorter trips. A total of four days spent in Navarra, in Pamplona and on the witches’ trail in Zugarramurdi to be precise. It was sort of a tour de force because in my wisdom I went by bus from Alicante to Pamplona, 11 hours each way. But, it was worth the suffering because the rest was crammed full with wonderful things to do and see. In future however, I will revert to train travel, at least I can walk around and have a coffee and/or snack when the fancy takes me.
I spent the first day in Pamplona, following the foot steps of Earnest Hemingway who famously became a great fan of the fiesta de San Fermin, the bull run, as reflected in his first successful novel, The Sun Also Rises.
And the next day was dedicated to the witches. I found a fabulous tour operator, called www.tripnavarra.com who, given that it isn’t tourist season yet, laid on a trip in a private car for me alone. And didn’t charge me an arm and a leg either.
We set off from Pamplona in northern direction towards France. The first stop was a place called Baztan. See the river and the houses, many of which have been converted into utterly romantic inns.

baztan

inn

The landscape is woods, cattle and lots of greenery. No agriculture, no wheat no orchards. It was raining in Pamplona but the travel gods were with us and the further north we went, the more the sky cleared.
Finally, we hit Zugarramurdi, virtually within spitting distance of France. In the 17th century, the Inquisition had a field day here and in several other villages nearby. People lived in close communities with little contact to the outside world, so wise men and women knew about herbs, natural healing and other magic things. But, such close communities are also a breeding space for jealousy, gossip and nasty tittle tattle. The result was that the inquisitors Juan del Valle Alvarado and Alonso Becerra from Logroño became the target of malicious whispers, accusing several people in said villages of witchcraft. This was fuel to the mind of the Inquisition and some 300 people (of a total population of around 500!!) came under suspicion and were investigated. The ages of the accused ranged from six to 80. 40 were arrested in 1610 and dragged to Logroño to be ‘questioned’.

List of some of the accused from the museum

List of some of the accused from the museum

Of these 40, 11 were condemned and burnt on the stake.
Presumably the activities of the witches and sorcerers were carried out in what’s today called the Cave of the Witches. Orgies were celebrated, spells cast, mysterious potions brewed in big caldrons, dances and worse with the devil performed in a nearby meadow under the full moon.
The cave is rather big and has been created by a river which flows on the side. Dramatically lit it is a great scenario which fires the imagination. In reality, instead of being the scene of devilish deeds, many of the persecuted witches sought refuge here and the cave served also as storage for contraband.

caveoverview

cave

stairs2
On the 18th of August each year, a festival is held which culminates in a meal, prepared on the ‘altar’ where supposedly human sacrifices to the devil were made in the times of the witches.

lights
A few steps away is the Witchcraft Museum which documents the history, mythology and everything connected to witchcraft. It certainly brings a very dark part of Spanish history to life and, like every museum in the world, there is a museum shop where you can buy books as well as rather expensive carved thistles to ward off evil spirits… just in case.

soccerer

chat

witch

kapuzen
If you want to visit, bear in mind that the museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays regardless to season. In the summer months and during the Fermins it tends to be very crowded, yesterday we had the place to ourselves.

Polishing my broom-on the witchcraft route in Spain

Since a long,long time I have been interested in all things to do with witchcraft, magic and the occult. When I was living in Miami and due to the proximity of Cuba and the many Cuban residents there, I got into voodoo, Santeria etc. reading all books I could lay my hands on.
I have participated in séances, spoken to mediums and to this day, I read my horoscope, although I only believe in it when it’s good.
I am an on and off Spanish resident, having lived in Marbella for several years in the 80s and 90s, followed by a stint in Miami, then Turkey, and now I am back on the Costa Blanca. I first experienced legends, tales and sites related to witches and the devil on a trip to Galicia. Further books were added to my magic collection.

Bridge in Pontedeuma, according to legend built by the devil

Bridge in Pontedeuma, according to legend built by the devil

Witches are everywhere

Witches are everywhere

Other interests prevailed, but recently, when I was doing research for weird and wonderful festivals in Spain, witchcraft came up again. And now, I’m following through for a while.
What caught my interest was the Festival of Magic and Witches in a place called Trasmoz. It’s a tiny village with just 65 inhabitants about an hour from Zaragoza and the history is deeply steeped in witchcraft.

TrasmozBrujeria2014024
The festival revives the memory, just look at their colorful website. Although it doesn’t take place until July, I have decided to go next month because I wanted to see Zaragoza anyway. So, I’ll combine the two and make my way to Trasmoz, the medieval castle and the witchcraft museum.
And then, I happened upon the witches of Navarra and Zugarramurdi not far from Pamplona. Given that there is an AVE from Zaragoza to Pamplona, I’ll make my way there and then follow the witchcraft route. Should all turn out very nice and interesting because it’s out of season and, along the way, I’ll tell you all about my magic adventures.
So, the broom is polished and, just after Easter, I’m ‘flying’ off to the realm of the occult.

A winter wonderland in the south of Germany

Could you resist visiting a place which is called Reit im Winkel, which translates into’ Reit in the nook?? ‘ The skiing paradise in the south of Bavaria was first put on the map internationally thanks to Gold Rosi. Rosi Mittermaier an alpine skiing champion, went on to win two Gold medals in the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck Austria. A fresh faced always smiling young woman, with trade mark dimples, the nation went wild after her first medal.
Rosi, Rosi, noch einmal, es war so wunderschön!! (Rosi do it again, it was so wonderful) was the chant which could be heard everywhere. And Rosi obliged and won a second medal. She did, of course, hail from Reit im Winkel where she still lives, running a particularly nice hotel.
It’s still snowing and cold in Germany, so this post about my trip to Reit im Winkel, although it happened last year, is spot on. I was visiting my favorite town, Prien am Chiemsee and looking for daytrips to places nearby which I had never explored before.

Prien in winter

Prien in winter

That’s how I happened upon Reit im Winkel when I spotted a bus which went there.
The bus ride alone which lasts about an hour, was already fabulous. Reit is one of those lucky destination which are popular in all seasons. Skiing paradise, particularly Nordic skiing and rodeln (sleighs) in the winter, endless hiking paths for all tastes and states of fitness in the summer. As the name suggests, the town in located in a ‘nook’ formed by the surrounding, snow covered mountains.

carriages in reit

carriages in reit

The bus meandered through many small villages, stopping frequently until entering dense woods and starting a vertiginous climb towards Reit. There was no snow in Prien, but it was a very different picture in Reit. Happy skiers were everywhere, touting their equipment and having fun on the loops. A picture book perfect blue Bavarian sky, sunshine and glittering snow…what else could I have wished for.

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I wasn’t there to ski this day, but I was very, very tempted to rent equipment and join in the fun. Instead I walked along the village, admiring the church and the artfully painted facades of the chalets and many hotels. Then, after a ‘Brotzeit’ of Weisswurst with sweet mustard I went and watched the Nordic skiers.

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Honey, a local speciality

Honey, a local speciality

A pretty souvenir

A pretty souvenir

Local celebrities include not only Gold Rosi but also the folklore duo Maria and Margot Hellwig and a Japanese by the name of Takeo Ishi who, believe it or not, is a celebrated ‘Jodler’ and loves to wear Lederhosen.
To me, the little ‘nook’ represents the essence of Bavaria and is a true wonderland in winter.