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Archive for December, 2013

once upon a time (not that long ago), júzcar was a village just like any other village in the south of spain. sun-bathed, quiet and relaxed, but most importantly, traditional and white.

the houses here were the way people expect them to be in southern spain, with whitewashed, mediterranean façades. traditionally, in andalusian villages people whitewash their houses once or twice a year, for both practical and aesthetic reasons. such goes the fame of these villages that they have become known as ´los pueblos blancos,´ the white towns, or even the new tuscany, pretty as a postcard.

and in the middle of all of these white towns stands up júzcar, now a blue village, somewhat defying its neighbouring towns, at the same time increasing their fame. ´blue´ you might ask? yes, blue, a bright blue that reminds one of the clear sky and the crystal clear summer sea.

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júzcar before and after the smurf invasion 2011

 

only reminds though, because this is the unmistakable smurf blue tint of colour. in 2011, the pretty village of júzcar was chosen to help promote the launch of the new movie from the smurfs franchise. everything was painted in the unique blue, from houses and bars to the town hall and even the church and the cemetery! and even though the village was promised a return to its original white appearance after the end of the promotional campaign, the villagers decided against it, and so júzcar remains until the present day covered in blue.

juzcar by javier mazorra blog

juzcar by serrania de ronda

gato pitufo

 

who knew that this small village of 250 inhabitants would in fact know how to embrace this marketing opportunity and turn itself into a proper touristic destination. not only are all the buildings painted in blue, but they organise special smurf-related kids activities, they have a smurf-market (mercapitufo), and several places that serve smurf-snacks (pitu-tapas). the beer is still beer-coloured, no worries, but of course while in júzcar, one must call it pitu-caña (smurf-beer).

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you can find júzcar, the only smurf village in the world, 25 km from ronda and 144 km from málaga.

 

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nowhere else are food fights as loved as they are in spain!

 

surely the most famous one, the mother of food fight festivals, is la tomatina in buñol, valencia. but leave it to the spaniards to find fighting potential in many other foods, and even drinks (from wine in haro, la rioja, to grapes in pobla del dec, valencia, to meringues and candies in vilanova i la geltrú, catalonia).

one less known spanish food fight festival, but at least equally ´dirty´ and fun, is els enfarinats, the flour fight in ibi, near alicante. it takes place on the 28th of december, which is perhaps the reason why there isn´t so big of a tourist crowd as for the summer festivals la tomatina or the haro wine fight.

the enfarinats is a game, a charade, a ludic battle between two opposing teams in a reenactment of the political situation of the region. one team, the enfarinats, acts as the government, while the other represents the opposition, and they fight for the control of the town. of course it is all playful fun, as the weapons used are merely flour and eggs, and the occasional firecracker.

enfarinats from 20minutos

 

the flour war starts between the two gangs, but spectators get quickly involved too. they are required to obey all the silly rules imposed by the ´government´, otherwise they will receive a floury punishment. no wonder nobody cares too much about obeying any rules, since everyone is there for some good laughs and fun!

enfarinats from socialphy

 

showing that some traditions cannot and should not change, the group of enfarinats is always made up of married men (absolutely necessary that they are married), usually 14, men that are friends in the ´real life,´ which means that it is not easy for an outsider to become an enfarinat. led by the pretense town mayor, the group collects ´taxes´ from all shops, trades and banks as a charity for the elders care home, which gives the whole day a meaningful scope in its playfulness. during all of this tax collection the epic street battles between the two groups don´t stop, which means that by the end, everybody is left looking the same, powdery white.

enfarinats from oppiminen

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perhaps unlike the tomatina, the flour food fight is more organized, it follows a plot, and participants play a certain role in the storytelling. it is thus a different type of fun: while the end result is the same (food covered faces and a distinguishable smell on the streets), els enfarinats is more about following, or even breaking, certain rules, rather than just getting the others and oneself buried under a mountain of flour (or tomatoes).

so if you find yourself on the eastern coast of spain during the winter holidays, stop in ibi on the 28th of december and admire these fighters carrying on some old traditions, or dare to participate and throw a fistful of flour in the face of the authorities!

 

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when they hear granada, most people will connect it directly to the brilliant alhambra palace. it is an amazing place without doubt, but do you know anything else about granada? have you ever heard that one of the most beautiful places to see the sunset  is in granada?

you probably haven’t, so let’s have a look at what granada has to offer. as the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so enjoy these photos as a preview of what you could enjoy in granada. but remember “seeing is believing”, so you should come here and experience this beautiful moment by yourself!

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you can find this breath-taking view at very top of the sacromonte quarter, which literally means the “sacred hill”. it is located in the gipsy area of granada, a hill truly worth exploring with its small, whitewashed houses during the day, and be on the top for the sunset. don’t miss the beautiful change of colours!

from here, you can also see on the left side the alhmabra palace, and the way the sunset colours hit the ancient walls of this spectacular building will be one of the best memories you will take from granada.

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finally, there is one more surprise only for this season! can you see in the background the snow on top of the sierra nevada mountains? the combination of muslim mystical architecture and snow and sunset is something that you have to put in your must-see list!

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arriba,

abajo,

al centro,

pa dentro!

…would say the spanish when sharing a drink with friends. it is just one of the hispanic drinking rituals, a game, a phrase said before having the drinking which literally means up, down, to the centre, inside! and it is not the only tradition they ´serve´ with their many drinks specialties! apart from a wide range of famous wines (perhaps most notably the rioja and the ribera de duero), the spanish people have embedded in their traditions some other delicious drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, which have become must-tries while in spain.

 

sangria – the world-renowned king of spanish drinks, it has become synonymous with the spanish summer, the august heat, or one-of-those-spanish-things you have to try in spain. it is a mix of red wine (hence the name, which comes from ´sangre´, the spanish word for ´blood´) and lemon or orange juice, a variety of fruit and for a true kick a splash of brandy or rum, depending on where it has been prepared. a true summer must!

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cava – typical catalan drink from the penedes region. it is the most popular spanish sparkling wine, usually white or rosé. this drink is best appreciated during spanish celebrations, whether during a wedding, a birthday or the winter holidays.

cava by arlo j and by angela llopcava  cellary in penedes

 

horchata de chufa – some might say that while in valencia, there are two things you must try, one is the famous and highly-sought paella, the other one is the less-known milky-looking drink that is horchata. it is a non-alchoholic summer drink, made of water, sugar and chufas, which are valencian tigernuts. horchata is one of the main legacies left by the moors during their domination over the spanish territory, so by trying it you can be proud you have tasted some hundreds years of spanish culture!

horchata and fartons by dayer3 and by duncanhorchata is best served with another valencian treat, the sweet ´fartons´

 

cider – this is a typical low alcohol drink from the asturias region, with its own  protected designation of origin ´sidra de asturias´, a natural apple cider that has been produced here for centuries. the cider tradition is not as wide-spread here in spain as it is, for example, in the uk. here the cider has remained traditionally apple based, following the old asturian recipes, without mixing it with other fruit or artificial flavours.

not only in the north of spain, but throughout the country, you will be expected to enjoy a cider by pouring it the traditional way. this is done by holding the bottle horizontally high above your head and letting the drink pour slowly into the glass you are holding as low as you can. this tradition has a scientific reason behind it, as it allows the cider to oxygenate and become bubbly, but ultimately it is a fun way of drinking and it allows you to act and look quite silly doing it!

sidra by iván villar and by lluriPhotonot everybody looks this professional when pouring cider the traditional way!

 

rebujito – this is a typical sherry mix popular in the southern region of andalucia. it combines sherry, a mixture of sugar and soda, ice and mint. add a slice of orange and two straws to make it ideal for lovers, which is the way it was originally served! even though the idea of this cocktail is not 100% spanish, with roots in the english ´sherry cobbler´, it is now known in spain as the star of the andalucian festivals, starting with the famous april fair in seville.

rebujito by fran linerosflamenco dancers enjoying a rebujito during the april fair

 

orujo – a strong spirit made from the skins of grapes, known in other parts of the world as schnapps or marc. here in spain it is a type of ´aguardiente´, which shows how strong the drink is, since it can be translates as ´burning water´! the orujo is very popular in the north, in the region of cantabria (where it even has a festival, and where people take the art of tasting it very seriously) and moving a bit to the west, in galicia, where you will also find the ´orujo cream´. this is a traditional creamy mix of orujo, condensed milk, coffee and cocoa powder, with a touch of vanilla. if you are serving this drink to impress your galician friends, make sure you prepare it in advance, as it tastes better if you let it rest overnight.

orujo by aherrero and by jose.jhga chupito of aguardiente (a shot of this burning water) and its cousin, the orujo cream, which is typically home-made

 

´anís del mono´ – literally translated as the ´monkey´s anisette´, is another very popular liquor from badalona, in catalonia. this is a truly emblematic drink and brand in spain, everything from its history, its factory, its advertising and packaging, its founder and its story is legendary and somehow wrapped in a magical aura. more than 140 years old, the brand has allegedly used charles darwin as an inspiration for the image on the bottle, also it launched spain´s first lighted billboard in puerta del sol, in 1913. the bottle itself almost has a celebrity status, it has a statue in badalona, it has appeared in ´the godfather´ movie, it has been also painted by juan gris and exhibited in the reina sofia museum.

anis by lapendejajuan gris´ 1914 collage of the anis label, the famous bottle and the statue in badalona

 

drinking is, without doubt, a large tradition in the spanish life, whether at home with a meal, or out with friends, or for a special celebration, or friday after work… but their way of drinking is more a social activity than a meaningless act of drinking, it is a celebration of being alive and enjoying life, enjoying the presence of the dear ones, the quality of the food, the weather, or the never-ending discussions about the political and social events of the day…

spanish people consider drinking in moderation to be a healthy sign; because of that, when they cheer, they actually say health in spanish:

¡salud!

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