The Dance of Death in Verges

May 31st, 2010 by nick

Verges: Dansa de la mort 2009 093 por dantzan.

130 kilometres north of Barcelona lies the small town of Verges.  Every Maundy Thursday Verges still “celebrates” the medieval European tradition of the Dansa de La Mort or “Dance of Death”. The macabre nocturnal display features five agile dancers who dance around the crowds in luminescent skeleton costumes. This is the last vestige of a once common spectacle throughout Europe. Above image by dantzen on flickr.

The origin of the dances of death lie in:

The deathly horrors of the 14th century—such as recurring famines; the Hundred Years’ War in France; and, most of all, the Black Death—were culturally assimilated throughout Europe. The omnipresent possibility of sudden and painful death increased the religious desire for penitence, but it also evoked a hysterical desire for amusement while still possible; a last dance as cold comfort. Wikipedia

Francis Barrett elsewhere on iberianature notes:

Verges, with remains of medieval walls and towers, is famous for its macabre Holy Week procession of very distinctive pagan origin, la Dansa del Mort, the dance of the dead. This is performed each Easter Thursday at the end of a long and rather tedious Passion Play, but, as the village bars remain impiously open all evening, is nevertheless well worth seeing.

Francis also notes:

The murmuring crowds lining the unilluminated medieval laneways fall silent at the approach of the torchlit crucifixion procession, led by skeletal figures advancing in a series of jerky stacatto rotations roughly choreographed to a hair-raising semi-irregular single drumbeat – by far the most disturbing aspect of the event.

Around the web

Also on iberianature

Cabo de Peñas – the northernmost point of Asturias

May 30th, 2010 by nick

Al norte del norte por batiskafo.

Cabo de Peñas in Asturias is the second most northern point in Spain. A well marked trail runs along the rugged coast. The photo is by batiskafo on Flickr.

In the heart of the Picos

May 30th, 2010 by nick

Peña Maín por batiskafo.

Photo of the imposing Picos de Europa showing Peña Maín in the centre and my favourite (though not to climb) Naranjo de Bulnes to the left. The photo is by batiskafo on Flickr.

Route up Peña Maín here “From the summit of Peña Main there are spectacular views of the whole of the central massif. This is a lovely route taking you over the Peña Main range and through the farming pastures above Tielve. Care is needed as the paths are not well defined in the higher section of this walk.”

The vineyards of Lanzarote

March 23rd, 2010 by nick

Archivo:La Geria vines.jpg

Vines in soils of volcanic ash (lapilli) protected by semi-circular dry stone walls in La Geria region of Lanzarote. Single vines are planted in pits 4-5m wide and 2-3m deep, with small stone walls around each pit. This agricultural technique is designed to harvest rainfall and overnight dew and to protect the plants from the winds. The vineyards are part of the World Heritage Site of Lanzarote. The La Gería wines area sub-zone of the Lanzarote Denominación de Origen wine region. More from Wikipedia. By Yummifruitbat on Wikipedia

The Ayoluengo petrol field

March 10th, 2010 by nick

The Ayoluengo oil field (campo petrolífero de Ayoluengo) is a small petroleum deposit in Burgos. It was discovered in 1963, and for a time many believed the area would become the Spanish Texas, though yields have been small with 17 million barrels produced since its opening in 1963. Some 80 barrels are currently produced on a good day with some 80-100 million barrels left, of difficult access.

Photo from here

Not the most picturesque of sites perhaps, but when you drive past, you have to remind yourself you’re in Spain. A number of the old pumps (known locally as `caballitos´- little horses ) stand to one side, a  cemetery of dinosaurs.
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Rioseco Abbey

March 9th, 2010 by nick

Rioseco Abbey (Monasterio cisterciense de Santa María de Rioseco) is a former Cistercian abbey in Rioseco, Burgos. The monastery was dispossessed in the 1820s, during the first Spanish Civil War. Most of the community’s goods were sold, but the monastery itself however found no buyer, and was left abandoned. In the 1850s the surviving buildings were stripped and reduced to ruins. There is now a campaign to save what is left of the the abbey and convert the site into a Romantic (with a capital R) botanical garden. Sounds a lovely idea to me. Read the rest of this entry »

Las Hoces de Rio Piedra

March 9th, 2010 by nick

Las Hoces de Rio Piedra is a delighful verdant gorge running through the sparce uplaods of Daroca in south-eastern Zaragoza near the Castilla-La Mancha border. Griffon vultures soar above the canyon. Makes a nice trip from Gallocanta or Daroca. Read the rest of this entry »

Monument to woman devoured by wolves

March 8th, 2010 by nick

On Mt Gorbea in the Basque Country is a monument to a young shepherdess who was allegedly devoured by wolves in 1308. She became lost in the fog. The next day the only all her family could find were some strands of her hair. The only photo I could find is from this nice cycle blog blog.

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Alcubierre: George Orwell in Aragon

February 24th, 2010 by nick

Trazado de las trincheras

George Orwell spent the freezing winter of 1937 on the Alcubierre front in Aragon. The Sierra de Alcubierre at heights of 700-800 metres dominates the plains of the Ebro Depression and who controlled the sierra would control the northern access to Zaragoza, and so the Republican spent great efforts trying to break through the front here. The trenches, refuges and other military remains have been now restored and rebuilt as part of the so-called Ruta George Orwell. Panels explain the historical context. See also Spanish Civil War tours Read the rest of this entry »

Almanzor Peak

February 21st, 2010 by nick

The granite peak of Almanzor (2592 m) is the highest mountain in the Sistema Central, the range that cuts the great Meseta of Spain in two. It crowns an immense glacial cirque in the Sierra de Gredos, known as the Circo de Gredos (read about legend below). The mountain is also known as Pico de Almanzor and Moro Almanzor.

Almanzor takes its name from Al-Mansur (the victorious), the de facto Moorish ruler of Al-Andalus during the late 10th-early 11th centuries. His rule marked what was probably the peak of Islamic power in Spain. Legend has it that Al-Mansur passed by here after a terrible battle with the Christians. He was taken by the beauty of the mountains which at the time functioned as a frontier between Islamic Spain and the Christian lands, and so he decided to set up camp for the night. Under the stars, he was captivated by the stories of shepherds from the area. They told him than in the heart of these mountains, terrible noises could be heard that would echo along the gullies and ravines, and which would shake the very hearts of the people of these parts. The next day, the Moorish king bade the shepherds to lead him to the place they spoke of: a magnificent cirque in centre of the Gredos mountains. When the company reached the place, they were greeted by a deafening silence. Fearful of the Kings reaction, they began to shout his name, which the mountain duly returned amplified as an echo.

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The village of Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente

February 20th, 2010 by nick

The great Spanish naturalist Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente was born in the village of Poza de la Sal. He described the village of his birth as a “human community” in “harmonious coexistence with the landscapes” which formed a “zoomorphic universe”. As a child he began to explore the natural area, watching and learning about the wildlife of area, which would later greatly influence his vision of the world. One day he saw a peregrine catch a duck here which led him to the world of falconry and then into natural history film making.

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Cable car in the Picos de Europa

February 18th, 2010 by nick

The cable car at Fuente Dé takes you up a dizzying 750 metres past the sheet rock faces in four terrifying or exhilarating minutes, depending on your head for heights, to the wonderful alpine meadows at height of 1850m. The cable car (teleferico in Spanish) is said to be the longest unsupported span of cable car in the world. There isn’t much to Fuente Dé itself save for a campsite and a few bars, but its situation at the foot of the cliffs which tower around forming an incredible glacial cirque is very impressive indeed. Once at the top there is great hiking all around including up to Peña Vieja or Pico Tesorero (2570 m). Alternatively, from here you can walk 2.5 miles to the Refugio de Aliva, which serves snacks and drinks. From here you can take the path down to Espinama below, a few kilometres down the road from Fuente Dé.

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Sant Martí d’Empúries – the most beautiful village in the Costa Brava?

February 16th, 2010 by nick

Sant Martí d`’Empúries is a pretty village with a Romanesque church, several good bars and restaurants and some great views of the Gulf of Roses. Originally an island, this was where the first Greek traders established a settlement. Count Sunyer II (862-915 AD) of Empùries moved his residence from Sant Martí into Castelló circa 860 AD Historians think that this was due to Norman and Barbary pirate raids and pillaging along the coast. If you walk out onto the ancient stone pier, you may experience a very odd electrical phenomenon! Read the rest of this entry »

The exclave of Llivia

February 15th, 2010 by nick


Llivia is what is known as an exclave, a piece of territory wholly surrounded by the territory of another state, in this case France. This curious state of affairs was brought about by the stipulations of the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees which ceded the counties of the Northern Pyrenees and Roussillon to the French crown. Llívia was excluded as the treaty stipulated that only villages were to be ceded to France, and Llívia was considered a city due to its status as the ancient capital of Cerdanya. In 1939 at the end of the Spanish Civil War, there was discussion on the idea of Llívia remaining a free territory of the defeated Republican government, but nothing ever came of the plan, and France gave Franco’s troops permission to occupy the town. Today a single road connects it to Catalonia.

Llivia is home to what is reputedly the oldest chemist in Europe, now a museum, possibly dating from the early 15th century. The small town is set in the beautiful Vall de la Cerdanya.

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The birthplace of Goya

February 15th, 2010 by nick

Hidden away in deepest Aragon is the small village of Fuentedetodos, birthplace of none other than Francisco de Goya. You can visit his modest abode with its spartan furnishings. The house is a typical example of the late 18th century farmhouse. The Museum of Etchings here contains works by Francisco de Goya including some from the series of  the Disasters of War, Los Caprichos, Los Disparates, and La Tauromaquia. Fuentedetodos is set in the stark sheep-rearing highlands of Zaragoza. Read the rest of this entry »

Aitxuri, the most prominent in the Basque Country

February 15th, 2010 by nick

Urbia 2.JPG

Aitxuri (1551m) meaning white stone in Basque is the most prominent peak (943 m) in the Basque Country, and the highest in the Montes Vascos. It is located in the limestone massif of Aitzkorri. Photo: wikipedia

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February 13th, 2010 by nick

Daroca is an attractive medieval town enclosed by impressive 4km-long walls. As for 2010 many of the town’s historic buildings were in poor condition, which is of course sad, but also conveys a certain charm. The town was named by the Arabs who occupied it for 400 years. During the Peninsular War, Napoleons troops entered Daroca destroying a good part of the Dominican convent.

I have rather unpleasant memories of this rather pleasant place as my coxis jerked out of position here I was adminstered with large shots of painkillers at the friendly local health centre, which in addition to the local fare I also recommend. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arenas de Rey earthquake

February 11th, 2010 by nick

The earthquake in Arenas de Rey, Granada in 1884 was the most deadly in modern Spanish history. The earthquake had an estimated magnitude of 6.5-7 (Richter) and an intensity of 10 (MSK). Almost 800 people were killed and 1,500 were injured. 14,000 homes were destroyed. Most of the town was destroyed and so today’s centre dates back to the end of the 19th century, which was rebuilt with money raised throughout Spain.

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Site of the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa

February 11th, 2010 by nick

Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.jpg

The site of the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, one of the most important in Spanish history. The battle took place on 16 July 1212 and was an important turning point in the Reconquista and in the medieval history of Spain. The forces of King Alfonso VIII of Castile were joined by the armies of his Christian rivals, in battle against the Berber Muslim Almohad rulers of the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula. The crushing defeat of the Almohads significantly hastened their decline both in the Iberian Peninsula and in the Maghreb a decade later. It enabled the Christians to take over almost all of southern Spain in the ensuing forty years. The above painting is a somewhat fanciful portrayal.

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Unspoilt fishing village in Asturias

February 10th, 2010 by nick

Lastres is an unpretentious and unspoilt fishing village in Asturias. This is an authentic working fishing village bursting with salty charm.Wonderful fresh fish is to be had at a restaurant at the harbour called El Puerto.

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