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Archive for August, 2020

Sepharad is the name given by the Ancient Hebrews to the Iberian Peninsula. Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in Spain for centuries until 1492 and their cultures, religions and customs coexisted in harmony.

We would like to introduce you one of the endless combinations to crafting a Sephardic Heritage route, covering, not only some of the most important Jewish settlements in middle-ages Spain, but also some of the most visited sites in our country. Barcelona, Girona, Segovia, Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, Córdoba and Granada are sites of great beauty and charm, and the cradle of important and well preserved Jewish quarters. An itinerary from north-east to south Spain that will allow you to discover not only Sephardic gems but also astonishing monuments and buildings listed as Heritage Site by UNESCO. Stroll through the narrow streets of ancient Jewish quarters, enter a synagogue or visit museums that aim to preserve this legacy. Travelling to any of these cities is an experience that combines history, art, traditions and a very unique gastronomy.

Source: eSefarad
Source: eSefarad

Barcelona will be our entry airport. The city has much to offer but we will focus on its Call Jueu, the Jewish medieval district situated within the nowadays known as Gothic Quarters. Stroll around its well preserved net of narrow streets and small squares that hosts the oldest synagogue in town. Surrounding El Call, medieval churches as Santa Maria del Mar are worth a visit. Complete your day with Gaudí’s Modernist masterpieces, visit one of the countless art museums or just take a relaxing walk along the seaside and beaches.

Girona, situated 1 hour drive from Barcelona is our next stop. The so-called “City of the Four Rivers” invites visitors to trace its more than 2000 years of history through 2 fortified enclosures, dating to the Roman foundation. The city’s artistic heritage has been preserved in the numerous monuments that have survived until today.

Located within the Força Vella, the Jewish Quarter or Call is one of the city’s most emblematic areas. It consists of a labyrinth of narrow streets and patios that have maintained their medieval atmosphere and it is one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in the world and clear evidence of the importance of the Jewish culture in Girona. The heart of the district hosts a synagogue and centres of cabbalistic studies.

Set in this walled enclosure and dominating the city stands the Cathedral, with the widest Gothic nave in Medieval European architecture.

Madrid. The Jewish community of Madrid is as old as is the city. The first Jews settled here in the ninth century. The first “Judería”, name given to the Jewish neighbourhood, dates back to 1085 and laid near the present-day Teatro Real Opera House and Arenal street, right in the heart of historic Madrid. Next to the Judería was the cemetery, located in where today is Plaza de Oriente. Three centuries later, after Black Death pest, Jews were forced to move to a new district, made of some twenty homes and a synagogue, scattered across six blocks. Later on, Almudena Cathedral and the Royal Palace were built in this same area. The Jewish Community Museum of Madrid is aimed to preserve the medieval legacy of Jewish Madrid, with a collection of photographs, documents and published materials.

Source: Fundaciäon Madrid Centro Histäorico

Toledo. A true “city within a city”, this is how the madinat al-Yahud, or city of the Jews, was described, a urban space that occupies almost 10% of walled Toledo. Divided into different districts, corresponding to different stages of its expansion, the Jewish neighbourhood of Toledo is said to be one of the oldest and most important in the Iberian Peninsula.

A stroll in the Judería will bring you to visiting two emblematic synagogues: El Tránsito, hosting the Sephardic Museum, and the oldest one, Santa María La Blanca. In addition, the Casa del Judío, a house that preserves the traditional rooms can also be visited. Moreover, Toledo, the city of three cultures, has magnificent examples of architecture from different eras and styles: Mudejar, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque.

Source: Turismo de Toledo

Segovia. This smaller city north Madrid has a valuable rehabilitated Jewish Quarter. Start your visit at the Jewish Quarter Educational Centre – located in the old house of Abraham Seneor – and continue to the old main synagogue – now Corpus Christi Church – and the Gate of Saint Andrew, an exceptional viewpoint to take in views of the Jewish cemetery and its anthropomorphic tombs. 

Listed by UNESCO as Heritage Site, Segovia will greatly surprise you with its famous Roman aqueduct, numerous Romanesque churches, the Cathedral and its Fortress or Alcazar, one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape.

Source: Segovia Audaz

Sevilla. Nowadays the capital city of Andalucia, Sevilla has a gorgeous heritage to offer. The Real Alcázar, Europe’s oldest palace, and the Giralda Cathedral, listed as well as UNESCO World Heritage sites, are just a couple of examples no visitor will miss. With focus into Jewish history, we will stroll in the most famous district of Sevilla, Santa Cruz Quarter, which was the place that hosted the old Judería – Jewish neighbourhood, a labyrinth formed by narrow streets and charming small squares.

Córdoba. Discover the European city that hosts most UNESCO Heritage World Sites. The Jewish Quarter reveals spots that still retain the medieval memory of the city of three cultures, with Sepharad house, Tiberiades square and the street where the old secluded synagogue is located. Maimonides was born within the walls of old Córdoba, the best-known part of the historic centre. We cannot leave the city without stopping to visit the impressive Mosque-Cathedral, a unique building in the world.

Source: Junta de Andalucía

Granada. Most famous for its spectacular Moorish fortress, the Alhambra, Granada was once a place of religious tolerance with thriving Jewish community. Situated at the foot of Sierra Nevada mountains and overlooked by the imposing Alhambra Palace, the city hosts a cosy Jewish Quarter –  El Realejo – and a cosy neighbourhood with white houses, step streets and squares, the famous Albayzin.

Like all Jewish communities in Spain, Jewish Granada prospered under the Ummayad caliphate (755-1013), the dynasty that ruled Al-Andalus from Alhambra city. They were involved in the cotton and silk trade, as well as in banking and jewelry.  

Source: Guías Viajar

Granada seems to us a suitable place to end this tour. It was here the Treaty of Granada was signed in 1491, also known as the Capitulation of Granada, to end the war between Sultan of Granada and Catholic Kingdom of Ferdinand and Isabella. This treaty was also the end of the Jewish era in Spain: as a result of the decree and the prior prosecution, Jews in Spain were forced to either convert or be expelled. Over 200,000 converted to Catholicism and between 40,000 and 100,000 left the new Catholic Kingdom.

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Nearly 50% of olive oils in the world are produced in Spain, with 25% of the entire olive oil growing areas and over 260 endemic varieties. Almost 50% of the production is exported, which means that 1 of each 2 bottles in the world contain Spanish olive oil. Harvesting season will start in autumn, which gives us the perfect excuse to invite you to come to Spain and discover the leading production regions, visit olive oil mills and experience a gastronomical tasting.

Source: Turismo Provincia de Jaén

Designation of Origin & the importance of varieties

Denominaciones de Origin (DO)

Denominación de Origen (Designation of Origin) is a seal a seal that recognizes extra-virgin olive oils produced in a specific area with particular olive varieties and under very strict production and quality standards.  There are 29 DO in Spain, with Andalusia and Catalonia leading the ranking. In Andalusia, Jaén region gathers 20% of DOs.

Varieties

More than 200 varieties of olives are grown in Spain, each one with its own unique flavours and aromas: Picual is the most extended variety in the world and its name refers to the fruit’s pointed tip shape; Picudo, one of the great Andalusian varieties, with significant presence in the provinces of Córdoba, Granada, Málaga and Jaén; Arbequina, characteristic of Catalonia (Tarragona and Lleida) and Alto Aragon, although its growth has spread to practically the entire country, and we could continue with the 26 sorts that complete the DO list.

Source: Olive Oils of Spain

Olive oil, the liquid gold, a treasure dating back to Ancient Greece

Olive oils had a leading role in the economy of Ancient Greece, who began to produce and sell throughout the Mediterranean.

“The liquid gold”, as the Ancient Greeks referred to it, was introduced in Spain by the Phoenicians for 3000 years ago but it was the Romans who spread the oil groves across their colonies. As a result of its expansion into the Iberian peninsula, olive oils produced in Spain became most appreciated throughout the Roman Empire and Spanish olive groves fed the commerce throughout the same.

Spanish olive oil production regions

Large extensions of olive trees can be found in 34 regions across Spain. Among them, one area outstands above the others, Jaén, known as the “world’s capital of olive oil”.

andalucia – Jaén

The Andalucian region occupies the southern third of the peninsula, and it produces approximately 75% of the total olive oil produced in Spain.
With a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers, winters with mild temperatures, and irregular precipitation, throughout the year many areas of Andalucia enjoy over three thousand hours of sunlight.
The production of olive oil is concentrated primarily in the provinces of Jaén and Córdoba. It is interesting to note that the province of Jaén produces more olive oil than all of Greece, another large producer of olive oil in the world.
The types of olives cultivated in Andalucia for the production of oil are: Picual, Hojiblanca, Lechín, Verdial and Picudo.

This beautiful area of Spain is the perfect place to combine gastronomy & cultural heritage. Only 1 hour from Granada, you can enjoy olive oil routes, visits to “almazaras” (mills where olives are crushed), tasting & gastronomy experiences, while you let yourself be charmed by two cities full of history, Úbeda and Baeza, World Heritage Sites awarded by the UNESCO. These 2 small towns retain a 500-year old charm, with churches, palaces and museums, in an urban setting surrounded by a landscape of olive groves.

Andalucia – Córdoba

The province of Córdoba, is home to four different DO: “Bae­na”, “Priego de Córdoba”, “Montoro Adamuz” and “Aceites de Lucena”. In numerous villages it is possible to organize virgin olive oil tasting sessions and gui­ded visits. A must is Hornachuelos Nature Reserve, home to more than 100,000 ha. of oil groves.

Combine oleotourism and cultural heritage. Visit oil mills and small villages with ancient production history and take the chance to discover the fantastic heritage Córdoba city offers, with the impressive Mosque to its historic charming old town plenty of beautiful palaces and famous “patios”.

Castilla La Mancha

The Castilla – La Mancha region is located in the center of the peninsula, to the south of Madrid. This region produces about 14% of the total olive oil produced in Spain. With 4 designations of origin, the production of olive oil extends to the southeast of the region, concentrating in the provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real.

The variety of olive that is cultivated in this community for the production of oil is Cornicabra, although in the southern region bordering Andalucia there are small areas that cultivate the variety known as Picual.

The historic city of Toledo may be the best known area of this region but, not only this UNESCO site is attractive. When we speak olive oil, the DO Montes de Toledo is a must. Its history with production goes back to Phoenician and Greek colonisations, that brought Cornicabra variety, which results in a production of an olive oil with remarkable health properties within cell aging and heart diseases.

Visit Mora and enjoy the “Fiesta del Olivo” in Mora, declared of National Tourist Interest, or the Virgin-Extra Olive Oil Fair. In this town, you will also be able to visit the Museo del Aceite, which keeps a collection of pieces to transmit the culture they witnessed, through the history and different periods, the olive tree, the olive and the olive oil; its uses, the farming olive elements and the machines to obtain it; the contrast of a 19th century oil mill with the 20th century ones. It Is structured divided in three rooms: container room (strainers, jugs, oil bottles), weights and measure room (weighting scales, steelyards and measure traditional system) and rural culture room (it shows the farmhouse with traditional jobs of the rural environment). We will end the visit with the tasting we all are waiting for: taste different varieties, visita an almazara and enjoy a walk through the olive tree fields.

Source: Turismo de Castilla-La Mancha

Catalonia

The Catalonian Community occupies the northeast corner of the peninsula and produces approximately 4% of the total olive oil produced in Spain. It is the second region in number of DO, with 5 designations, and production extends throughout the western region, bordering Aragón. The types of olives cultivated in Catalonia for the production of oil are Fraga, Empeltre and Arbequina.

Places not to be missed are: the olive oil eco-museum in Pobla de Cèrvoles; Castelldans olive oil museum; Uldecona’s greatest collection of thousand-year-old olive trees in the world and the olive oil theme parl in les Borges Blanques. A must not to be missed when speaking about gastronomy in this region is its famous pà amb tomàquet (sliced bread rubbed with tomato and topped with virgin olive oil as its best).

Olive oil products benefits go far beyond gastronomy. Did you know that olive oil is a great product for moisturising and exfoliating the skin? For years it has been applied as part of beauty treatments in various Catalan spas. What are you waiting for to live the olive oil experience?

Source: Agència Catalana de Turisme

Olive oil and gastronomy

Many are the travellers who when asked about “the best of Spain” respond sharply: “the food”. The importance of production of extra virgin olive oil and the boast of production of an excellent product has pushed Spanish gastronomy to a leading place in the world.

A tour to regions we introduced in this post will give you the needed knowledge about the common categories of Spanish olive oil and  you will be be ablre to pick out the one that best suits your needs.

With a strong flavour, extra virgin olive oil is the best choice to dress a salad or other cold dishes and it is the oil you will most find topping a cold tapa. It’s the best Spanish olive oil for preparing traditional Mediterranean dishes that are sauteed or pan-seared, too. But you do not want to use extra virgin olive oil to prepare fried dishes. It has a heavier taste and a lower smoke point. Instead, let’s use refined olive oil, the most basic, with a lighter taste and a higher smoke point that better withstands heat. Also, make sure to use the oil and not keep the bottle open for too long. Once opened, the olive oil should be used within a few months.

Source: Spain.info

 

Source: Mundo Agrario

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