Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Veiled Galicia




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.


13 comments:

Richard said...

Interesting post. A good blend of scenery, history, local customs, and personal experience.

Richard said...

Also, nice photos. I'd like to see more of the scenery--the buildings and the local people.

Richard said...

Perhaps you should live there for a full year and write a memoir: A Year In Galicia.

Richard said...

I looked through your blog and see you've been posting a lot over the years about your travels. Maybe you can organize your posts into a book, or use them as the basis of a book. Just a thought. (I've done a bit of travel writing and photography, which is why I'm interested in this. You already have a wealth of information and experience.)

Rosi said...

Beautiful pictures -- both those you took with your camera and those you painted with your words.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Beautiful pictures, Elizabeth and a wonderful post that makes me wish I can plan a trip to Spain some day.

I agree with Richard, you should use Spain as a setting in your next book, you will not just do justice to it, you will bring it alive for your readers (including me) as your descriptions are simply great.

Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog.

tgayer said...

Hello Elizabeth
I am now officially in love with Galicia. You so eloquently woven the spell of this place around me that I will surely add it to my lists of places to visit.
Thank you for commenting on my recent post.
Warm regards
Tee

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Thanks, Richard and Rosi and Rachna. I know Galicia will eventually figure into a story for sure; and who knows, I may end up with a travel book, because everytime we come here, I write and write and write. My husband takes most of the photos, by the way, although I've taken some too. If any of you want to see more photos of the area and our neighbors and such, to to my Facebook. I have a small album there.

Hi, Tee, glad you have discovered Galicia. If you ever visit, you won't regret it!

Jennifer Shirk said...

So beautful! Interesting that they have their own language too.

EBENEZER ADOKWEI said...

Wonderful piece of post with great combination of scenery.Plz do pass by my blog on freeing your mind, follow and comment to improve my works too.Thanks.

Vicki Tremper said...

Beautiful! Thanks for stopping by my blog. It's always nice to meet new writing friends.

Milo James Fowler said...

Beautiful photos!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Hi, Jennifer, yes, I was surprised at first to learn that. In my innocence, I thought there was, well, Spanish in Spain. Apparently there are 5 languages, and Castiliano is the one everyone has learned to speak.

Vicki, loved your post on POV.

Ebenezer, your post is inspiring.

Milo, I'll pass the compliment on to my husband. He takes most of the pictures.