Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The inexplicable beauty of inland Andalusia

This is an article about 'duende', the dominating atmosphere of inland Andalusia. 

Duende, as most of the very best things in life, is inexplicable. 
You can't catch it in words, and you definitely can't explain it to others.
You feel it. 

If you prefer to hear and feel rather than to read on, definitely open this song in YouTube: 'Hijo de la Luna' by Mario Frangoulis. It might be a glimpse into the ancient heart of Andalusia - which still exists today.

For there's Andalusia, it's coasts and gorgeous touristy cities... and there's inland Andalusia: a land of gypsies and farmers, cultural highlights and a stunning history, under a Moorish moon.

It's 2015 and 1492 at the same time. You can walk through modern towns with all the amenities and services of the 21st century, and at the same time feel the way of life of the 19th century. 

How can we foreigners who live in inland Andalusia explain to friends in northern Europe why it's sometimes so heartbreaking to leave Andalusia? Why if you live here for a year and slowly start to feel it rather than to just see it, it's a bond for life? 

It's that heightened sense of emotion, expression and authenticity... the 'duende'.

Slowly, very slowly, it sneaks into our own lives and that makes that Andalusia is not just a place where you've been, but that you carry with you. 

Hemingway felt it, Orson Welles is buried here. Carmen, the cigarette girl is from here, as well as the original Don Juan. Foreigner after foreigner, after first having felt no connection whatsoever with the 'fandango', suddenly says: now I get it! 

The 'route 66' feel of stopping at a Venta (a diner) long a windy road, the sitting at a fireplace in a bar, the wind carrying the voices of people practising the next procession, a youngster playing a 'rumbita' on a Spanish guitar... other people saying 'olé' for loving the twists and turns of the voice... and then obviously that great big and pure love for living, breathing, singing, dancing, tasting, loving...

Olé! for inland Andalusia, that distinct, unique and stunning corner of Europe. 

May you too be so lucky to feel and be carried away one day by its duende! 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The 3 Christmas traditions in Andalucia

What do Andalusians do or prepare for at the turn of the year?

1. Go where the Christmas lights are!

They are stunning. The tradition to illuminate the town centres is quite a new one, started by Malaga, and they drew in so many visitors that many towns along the coast followed - and now the pride of the inland villages demands they follow suit.

If southern Spaniards spot a chance to exuberance, they grab it. Many a foreigner is flabbergasted by the elegance and festive feel of the lights. Follow the lights!

(Remarkably enough Andalusians are not big on Christmas itself: it's spent at home, with close relatives, without the tradition of dinners and presents of northern Europe).

2. The lucky grapes of New Year's Eve

Before midnight on December 31st, head for the main plaza. You will be surrounded by many, all waiting for the magical moment.

And when it happens, everyone pulls out grapes.

To be precise, 12 of them.

And at every chime of the clock, you eat one.

According to the tradition that dates back to 1895, and became popular at the beginning of the 20th century, this will lead to a year of prosperity.

Ask an Andalucian friend if you can join him or her, for 'las doce uvas de la suerte' is - as anything else in Andalucía - a social habit, enforcing the unity between friends or in families.

3. The King Cake at Reyes

'Reyes' means Kings. And is the name by which all know Three Kings Day.

Put it in your diary: January 6th is the day of days.

Far bigger than Christmas actually: this is a day no Andalusian can miss.

It's a Must for families to gather, with as highlight the dividing of the King Cake.

Traditionally a small plastic or porcelain baby is hidden in the cake (usually gold, green  or purple, the colours of this holiday).

Whoever finds it in their slice, will enjoy a year of luck and prosperity - and is responsible for making or purchasing the cake of the following year.

We from InlandAndalucia can't send you a cake, but wish you luck and prosperity. May 2015 be a very special year for you and your loved ones.

Merry Christmas everybody!