|Trasulfe in the far upper right; lower, to the left is a neighbor's farm. (The neighbor who brought us the quemada described later in this post.)|
When people learn how often we go to Galicia, Spain, they often just hear "Spain", and ask us if we've seen Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla . . . No, we haven't been to any of those places (except for the Madrid airport).
Somehow Galicia has cast its spell over us, and, except for two short trips to Portugal (which we loved, and I'll write about in a later post), we haven't gotten out of Galicia. There is, of course, the famous city of Santiago, destination of pilgrims from all over the world, with a beautiful cathedral and an interesting old part of the city (as is the case with so many of these ancient cities in Galicia.) And I wrote about Lugo my previous post. But what captures our hearts so completely is the tiny village of Trasulfe. We bought a restored house there from friends, and the people of Trasulfe and their way of life have become an integral part of our lives.
|One of the bends in the road on the way.|
|The road we take is on the other side of this building|
|And there it is: The village we love.|
Trasulfe once had a population of 84 people (counting the children) and a couple of grand houses that have fallen to ruin. Many of the stone buildings are in ruins. It is a rural area, and for years young people have left for the big cities or even gone out of the country to find jobs. Our neighbor across the lane worked for many years in Switzerland before returning home to care for his mother, and now he tends sheep. The couple down the hill lived in Barcelona for many years, but are originally from Trasulfe. The man who built our garage lives in a nearby town/village of Turiz, (or Toiriz in Gallegan), but his wife is from Trasulfe, and he tends his cows in a pasture nearby. And our neighbors down the lane who have had such an impact on us, Eva and Manolo, are both from Trasulfe. All of them have siblings, cousins, or grown children, who are living in places like Madrid or Barcelona or abroad in Argentina or Venezuela. The old villages are emptying out, and it's a shame.
Originally, as I said, Trasulfe had a population of 84, and now it has a year-round population of 8! This is the story of a lot of the hill towns of Galicia, and also other parts of Spain. The village populations are aging, but they still carry on their way of life, keeping chickens, pigs, rabbits, sheep, cows (never a huge herd), and growing crops and vineyards. When we arrive, our neighbors bring us wine and eggs regularly, along with whatever is growing that time of year. (We go in spring and fall, so it can be anything from tomatoes, walnuts, chestnuts, peaches, figs -- whatever they have, they generously share.)
|One of our neighbors' vines.|
|Our neighbor across the lane and his sheep.|
|Gary Larson cows, gossiping.|
|From our galería window.|
|From our galería window.|
|Piñeiro, a village on the far slope.|
|Another day of mist and sunlight.|
|Another view from our galeria.|
|Spooky chestnut forest.|
One of the turning points on the way to Trasulfe is a hunting preserve filled with chestnut trees. It always freaks me out, because it reminds me of the forest in Disney's original Snow White, when the trees seemed malevolent. But actually neighbors from all the nearby villages go there to pick chestnuts. The chestnuts were late this year, due to a very dry summer.
Galicia -- all of Spain, in fact -- abounds with festivals and fiestas, and we missed two crucial ones this year: The festival in Toiriz Santa Maria which ended the day before we arrived is one we usually go to. It is not related to the wine harvest at all -- it's a saint's day fiesta -- but it follows the wine harvest (or vendimia), so it's always associated in our minds with the vendimia. But the festival at Santa Eulalia is actually a festival of the chestnuts, a one day festival that had an orchestra this year, and it was on the very day we were leaving, sad to say. The fiestas are so much fun. Orchestras and dancing mostly, but people come from nearby villages and it's an opportunity to catch up on talk.
|You can see why these good people have stolen our hearts.|
Another moment of great sociability at day's end is gathering at the bench or some convenient group of rocks to just sit and talk. We look forward to this, despite our broken Spanish, and each year we can understand more and more. The picture to the right is from a couple of years ago, as we haven't yet downloaded all of this trip's pictures. It is always such a pleasure to see them again.
This photo is from our very first fall trip, which coincided with the vendimia. Friends and relatives were helping to make wine -- a wine that is very low in alcoholic content, as they don't add sugar when making it. They've been making it in their families for centuries, and every household has its bodega with a store of wine.
What does have a high alcoholic content is the aguardiente, a clear brandy they distill, similar to grappa in Italy. All the neighbors make it in small quantities for home use, and sometimes they keep it clear, and sometimes they make herbal or coffee liquors from it. But it's always strong: A little goes a long, long way! We have a bottle going back years, because we drink it once or twice only, when the neighbor who gave it to us comes over for meriendas (snacks) a couple of nights before we leave.
This year we had a delightful surprise: I call it "The Night of the Quemada". We invited our neighbors down the road in for meriendas one evening, as they had given us a lovely lunch one day, and they brought the quemada and invited our neighbor across the road too. Quemada is made in a special clay bowl and prepared in a special way: You peel an orange, an apple, and a lemon, and put only the peels in the bowl, along with some sugar, then a generous handful of coffee beans.
|Quemada bowl with peels, beans, and aguardiente.|
Then you pour a generous quantity of aguardiente over it -- and set fire to it! The fire burns a soft blue with some yellow, and it has to burn for a few minutes so that the drink picks up all the essence of the fruit peels and beans. It's a marvelous aroma! (Our little dining room smelled so good afterwards!) Then it's served in very small cups -- and for good reason!
|The fire burned . . .|
|The fire was set . . .|
|Everyone was merry . . .|
|And I was more than a little surprised!|