“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. Let it come in. We think we don’t deserve love, we think if we let it in we’ll become too soft. But a wise man named Levin said it right. He said, ‘Love is the only rational act.’”
— Mitch Albom, from Tuesdays with Morrie
Two revelers kiss each other covered in tomato pulp while participating the annual Tomatina festival in Bunol, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos / Getty Images)
Flash mob delights Spaniards waiting in the unemployment line in a Madrid office with The Beatles classic “Here Comes the Sun.” The soloist is marvelous.
Recall the reports in August about the well-intentioned woman who defaced this prized Spanish fresco in Borja? Well, according to this piece from PRI’s The World, it looks like Cecilia Jimenez’s botched restoration has now become an economic boon to the local community. Tourists are flocking to the town, filling bars and hotels. And even the Sanctuary of Mercy Church is cashing in:
"In the entrance to the sanctuary, custodian Jose Maria Aznar, tended the till, charging one euro to get in, and 12 euros for a lottery ticket bearing the image of the defaced fresco. Entry used to be free. Aznar said he’s not used to handling so much cash, and messes up people’s change all the time.
'Usually in mid October we get about 20 visitors a day during the week,' Aznar said. 'Now, its 150. And on the weekends, we’re getting up to 1500 visitors. Everyone is really happy with what’s going on.'
The money, Aznar said, is being used to maintain the sanctuary, and to support an old folks home.”
What a magnificent few minutes of bird watching. I’m not a birder, per se, but the breadth and array of birds in Spain is remarkable — so many species and types of habitats. The filmmaker must have traveled thousands of miles getting these shots:
- Riglos and Valle de Tena (Pyrenees, Huesca)
- Bardenas Reales (Navarra)
- Montes de Toledo and Andújar (Jaén)
- Albufera de Valencia and Dénia
- Tablas de Daimiel (Ciudad Real) and Doñana (Huelva)
- Coast of Murcia and AlmeriaBeing an American, it’s the Spanish Imperial Eagle that captured my imagination: large, powerful, majestic. (Oh, you’ll know it when you see it!) It’s something to behold. Here’s a list of all the species in order of appearance:
- Bubo bubo
- Gypaetus barbatus
- Tichodroma muraria
- Chersophilus duponti
- Otis tarda
- Falco naumanni
- Pterocles orientalis
- Bucanetes githagineus
- Cercotrichas galactotes
- Aquila adalberti
- Sylvia hortensis
- Aegypius monachus
- Cyanopica cyana
- Galerida theklae
- Sturnus unicolor
- Dryocopus martius
- Dendrocopos leucotos
- Phylloscopus bonelli
- Serinus citrinella
- Montifringilla nivalis
- Pyrrhocorax graculus
- Prunella collaris
- Luscinia svecica
- Merops apiaster
- Upupa epops
- Circus pygargus
- Larus genei
- Porphyrio porphyrio
- Oxyura leucocephala
- Marmaronetta angustirostris
- Phoenicopterus ruber-Platalea leucorodia
- Grus grus
Beethoven’s Ninth on a Spanish Plaza (video)
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Let’s make no mistake here; this is a commercial for Banco Sabadell. And, yes, it’s a majestic, highly orchestrated flashmob organized by one of Spain’s largest banking groups. But, when I get an evening email from our founder and host confessing to shedding “happy tears” when watching it, I figure I better check it out.
And, if you read the comments on YouTube, you’ll see much more of the same sentiment being expressed.
On May 19th at six in the evening, what appeared to be a single, tuxedoed street performer playing a bass for people strolling around Plaça de Sant Roc in Sabadell, Spain (just north of Barcelona) turned into a mass ensemble performing a movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony — including more than 100 musicians and singers from the Orchestra Simfònica del Vallès, Amics de l’Òpera de Sabadell, Coral Belles Arts, and Cor Lieder Camera.
The production is lovely and highly produced, but it’s the fascination and pure joy of the passersby that makes the moment quite magical. Non?
Do You Know the Way to Sacromonte?
by Taline Voskeritchian, guest contributor, with photos by Tamar Salibian
The road may be — and almost always is — made of our footsteps, as Antonio Machado said, but there are places in the world, sacred sites, where arrival is at least equal to the effort of getting there, where our beginnings and our ends do actually know each other. The Camino du Sacromonte, which we recently climbed all the way to the Abbaye du Sacromonte at the very top of the trail is such a place.
We had begun rather unambitiously, meandering up and down through the alleyways of Albaicin, until we suddenly found ourselves on the Sacromonte trail. On one side was the lush landscape atop which sat the Alhambra; on the other side, and at a sharp elevation, we could make out the Abbey. It was a grey afternoon. We walked slowly and quietly, for there was not much sound around us save for a few tourists and locals, and the dogs of which there are an unusually large number in Albaicin. We stopped here and there, the landscape taking our breath away — literally. And then on a little bit more, and then another stop.
Then, it began to rain — first softly for a while, the droplets of whispers. The rain stayed with us all the way to the top, sometimes a mere hint, at other times a downpour. We continued walking for a long, long time, and then the rain became more ferocious as we made our way up the arch of the abbey. The path became more treacherous, but we persisted, stopping to catch our breath and then start again. For more than ten minutes, we ascended, our feet muddied, our hearts beating fast, our ears alert to the tiniest movement. But most of all, we were sustained by the smell of the absorbent landscape — the earth saturated with that moist fragrance, the vegetation holding the water in its roots but also on its surface.
It was not fear that seized me for that instant, though I may have expressed it in those terms. We’re alone, there’s no one around, just these two little women from Boston, speaking a foreign language, huddling against each other. It was awe, and awe is always mixed with an undercurrent of terror as though at any moment invisible figures — the ghosts of the gypsies for whose “education” the abbey was originally constructed in the seventeenth century — would suddenly jump out in an ambush. But it passed, that terror, leaving in its trail an unfamiliar but sweet sense of being gathered together, of being held, by the invisible hands and secret thread of the gods and their shadows, propelled by something transcendent.
We made it to the top and into the abbey, which was completely devoid of sound and sight. We sat in the foyer, looking out at the landscape ahead of us through the small iron gate. In the distance the Alhambra of the Muslims extended across the entire top of the mountains, and here, in this spot, the Christian abbey built on the grottos of the gypsies: a quintessential moment of faiths in violent embrace.
We sat for quite a while, looking ahead and inward, waiting for the rain to subside, which it did not. No sense of triumph, no sense of victory, but something else, pure and of this place, at this moment. Perhaps this is what faith feels like, we said. This sense of being on top of the world, held — contained is a better description — by something invisible, something beyond this religious edifice. But ask the question and you’ve subverted the sentiment, you’ve sullied the faith. But if not faith, then what?
There are places in the world where you can go down on your knees — even if you are a card-carrying secularist — and rail and curse and bless and thank your gods. Such places are removed from the push and pull of everyday life, from the noise and verbiage of human chatter. You can go down on your knees and when you come up again, you are less vulnerable, more resilient, at least for a little while — and a bit less wet. Camino du Sacromonte is such a place.
After some time, we decided to go down to the main road and find a way to get home. We did not have the foggiest idea, except that we had heard that bus #35 passed from the main trail.
We made it back to the main trail, and within five minutes, bus #35 came speeding through the narrow street. It was going in the opposite direction, up to the Abbey, but the driver motioned to us to jump in. Inside the bus was a rowdy, laughing bunch of passengers whose noise turned wilder with each jolt and turn of the bus. They all seemed to know each other, or acted that way, which is more likely. Before we made it to the top, the self-appointed “leader” of the gang asked if anyone was going to the abbey. No one was, and so with a rather wild turn of the steering wheel our driver took a right downhill turn, which I thought would land the little bus at the base of the ravine on its side and throw us into an accident from which we would be delivered to the community of ghosts that inhabit these mountains. But nothing of the sort happened though the swerve was pretty precipitous.
We made it back to the main trail and to the Albaicin. No doubt the gods and the ghosts were on our side, all of them that roam these lands — Christians, Muslims, Jews, the gypsies, the heathens, the believers, the kings, the commoners. Those who were burned at the stake, those who were occupied, those who were expelled, and those who built their monuments on top of the destruction, the mayhem.
The ashes. All in the name of faith. But if not faith, then what?
Taline Voskeritchian is a translator and teaches writing at Boston University. Her work has appeared in many publications, including The Nation, BookForum, London Review of Books, Agni Review, and in Alik (Iran), Warwick Review(UK), Daily Star/International Herald Tribune (Beirut). She also blogs at Passages Home.
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