This morning, as I looked out the galeria window over toast and coffee, the front pasture was veiled in mist and fog. This is a typical morning in Galicia, where mornings are misty and afternoons are sunny. Galicia is a land of hills and dales, with ancient villages of stone and winding rivers and streams everywhere. The topography and the proximity to two coasts -- Galicia is the Northwest corner of Spain -- contribute to the ever-changing weather of fog and sunshine (along with fierce rainstorms through the winters). We come in fall and spring, times of magic, when hillsides are lush and green from the wet winters. There always seems a little bit of mist somewhere, and in the mornings a gauzy cloak settles over the layers of greenery, each layer a bit paler, the landscape finally disappearing into dreamlike cloud swirls. I could sit at the window all day; it's an ever-changing scene: the mist thins, then thickens, then thins again, then fades entirely, and the sun spills golden highlights on everything, and then the hills become myriad shades of green.
Galicia has been called "Green Spain." It has also been called "Ireland with sunshine." I have never been to Ireland (although I would love to go someday), so I don't know how sunny Ireland can be. I do know it's often called "the Emerald Isle" because of its greenery. And Galicia does have a Celtic history. Some legends have it that Galicia was settled by Irish long ago; other legends say that Ireland was settled by Galicians long ago. In either case, Galicia has a strong identification with Ireland and there are even cultural exchanges between the two countries. In authentic Galician music, a prime instrument (whose name eludes me at present) is a variation of the bagpipe.
Galicia has its own language as well. Castiliano is spoken all over Spain, including Galicia, but the primary language here is Gallego, a "sister language" (not a dialect) of Portugese. Galicians are fluent in both languages, but lapse into Gallego more often than not, switching into perfect Castiliano to accomodate visitors from other places, including other parts of Spain. Signs in public places are also posted in both languages. (A pleasant offshoot is that a visitor can start picking up Gallego as well as Spanish). Until a few years ago, locals did not speak English, and our neighbors still do not. But, the influx of British ex-pats who have been buying and restoring old houses in so many villages, has created a new interest, and English language schools and classes have sprung up in the towns.
Still, except a phrase or two of English one hears from shop personnel, primary commercial communication is in Spanish. As a result, we are really forced to learn to speak Spanish, a bit of a thrill for us: Six years ago when we started coming, we were limited to the most basic "Como esta usted," with much thumbing through our pocket dictionaries. Now we can have actual conversations -- still limited, but a sign of progress.