July 12, 2009


The ocean has always tempted me. The waves moving like enormous hands stroking the shore making the "shhhh..."-sound, as if calling my name. And the rocks that brake the water, and the wind that blows my hair of my face. And the horizon that promises so much..

Galicia has it all for someone who's looking for such an experience. The GZ coast has it's extreme points of land, that you'd call the edge of the world if we lived about the 14 century. The most famouse ones are Fisterra (Finis Terrae) - the extreme west; and Cabo Ortegal - the extreme north.
Another Saturday tour was to the north. We took a bus ride along the peaks of the rocky coastline from the Atlantic ocean to the Cantabric sea. Lovely weather, blue bays, eucaliptus forrests on the hills around, wind farms and wild cows. And a fishermen town of Cariño(Tenderness) with a fish tin factory.
It was the day of blue.

A Muiñeira

Many centuaries ago the celts came to the galician land and marked it forever. For example by introdusing the bagpipes. No matter what route you choose for a stroll by the streets os Santiago, you'll hear the melody of a gaita. That would be mainly the CDs played in the souvenir shops. But if you're looking for live experince, there are certain bars where the Galician folkies come to play.
And if the bar is big enough, they also dance. A muiñeira is the most popular traditional dance. O muiño means a mill.
On the last one the Galicians are dancing with the guiris, i.e. with us the foreigners. And the girl in the red headband, Sandra, won the best dancer prize that weekend in a big contest in A Coruña. I've already asked her to teach me!

Cherry words - pull one, get a bunch!!

Here's a short academic post. I'm in Santiago taking a summer course of the Galician language and collecting material for my thesis. The idea is to translate a Galician book of short stories to Russian. We're in the middle of discussing it with the author, but i think i have his permission.Hehey!!

So, i'm having classes with ILGA at the Facultade de Xeografía e Historia, at the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, working at the library sometimes, cause we are supposed to wright several pages for each block of lectures. When they close the library i sometimes go to a bar near some praza.
Last week i went to Centro de Investigacón Ramón Piñeiro to interview Xesús Ferro, a major Galician fraseologist. He gave me some bibliographic advice, and now i have to visit the Universidade de Vigo, because the translation department is over there.

And on our lunch bracke on the lawn at Bonaval girls talk linguistics))No matter how boring all this may sound, i'm quite enjoying it!

July 8, 2009

Lugo come, e Pontevedra dorme (day 2)

Once, an Englishman, a Cuban, and a Russian went on a Sunday trip to Pontevedra. Pontevedra is one of the towns in the Rias Baixas region, a small and a calm one.
We came early in the morning, it's one hour on train away from Santiago. A big surprise is that it was really very untidy. I suppose it's because of the music festival, but the rubbish was actually rolling over the streets.
What's also remarkable is that it's all covered with graffity, some of it looks good to me.
The place is famouse for being a hometown to some leaders os the nationalist movement, such as Castelao.

Pontevedra is really small. Some churches, a river, a Parador (some royal home reconstructed into a luxury hotel) and several monuments.

We were walking practically alone, the locals either went to the sunday service or slept. So, by lunchtime, we'd walked all of the old center, and i've seen the Castelao's spectacles!

As Pontevedra is in the head of the Ría de Pontevedra, we took a bus to a nearby village of Marín and went down to the beach.

As we never sleep at night here, a nap hit us, and i got my first light sunburn.

Four hours with Jesus

The ILGA offers us a magnificent selection of conferences, held by the country's most famous politicians, wrighters, directors, singers and also by some really great linguists.
Xesús Alonso Montero is, perhaps the most famouse marxist in Galicia, but he is also a brilliant literature critic and linguist. With him we were talking about Ramón Piñeiro and the renovation of the galician culture in the 50s, after having repassed the history of galician poetry.
The same day he was presenting a book of letters written by the local guerrilleros and revolutioniers during the franquismo.
Alonso Montero is a wonderfull public speaker, and talked a great deal, but mainly not about literature. And he told us, Always say what you think, even if it's not marxist!

The language problem is very debated here, galician was prohibited during the franquismo, so all the people were aware of their galician identity (which is different from spanish) had to learn and speak their language in secret. Those who were born in the 30s of later adopted spanish (castellano) as their mothertongue, and only later learned to speak galician. So, these people are called neofalantes, the newspeakers.
My galician friends, who are not yet in their thirties, call themselves neofalantes, because they spoke spanish, like their mothers, until a certain age, and at school, too. And Alonso Montero, 81 years old, calls himself a neofalante, though he started with galego when he was 14. The old newspeaker. And there are thousends.

(His favourite words in galego are "liberdade" and "agarimo" - liberty and tenderness)

July 5, 2009

A Queimada

The magical galician purifying potion keeps following me with a surprising persistense. A Queimada is one of the local specialty strong drinks, made of aguardiente, sugar, coffee seeds, citrus peeals, and, optionally, cinnamon, apples, etc., that burns with blue flames while the head of the ceremony reads the spell.
The Santiago nights are unpredictable, and one the welcome one one kind galician friend took me to a farewell party of some brazilian erasmus students, who made the queimada part of their little home botellón. And after coming back from the exhausting Lugo trip, we found our cinematografic students' flat full of people, friends of the american room-mate, who was also throwing a goodbuy thing before taking off to walk O camiño de Santiago. This time the magic was performed by his galician fellow student, who really made it look and sound spooky and magical. Queimada means it's hot. And while rinking, it first burns your eyes and nose, and only then warms up the throat. But really rich, so is worth it!

Lugo come, e Pontevedra dorme (day 1)

Lugo eats, and Pontevedra sleeps

The early morning in Santiago smells of soup and fresh bread. Because all the cournes bars and cafes are prepareing for the new day. And the streets are empty. The sun comes out through my right window and paintes rough lines of light and shadow on the old stone walls and tiled roofs. And the morning also comes with the melody of a fluite played up the nearby street that leads
to the Praza Cervantes.

You get the chance to enjoy the ritual of the old city being reborn if you're part of the group of linguistics students that take a saturday bus trip. This time they headed Lugo.

As a lovely touch of spanish spontaniety, we started with a little detour to the house-museum of Victor Corral Castro, local sculptor working with stone and wood. In his workshop he has a telephone in the form of a pigeon. I asked him if there were any live ones, and he said, "Well. this one takes messages" and gave me a kiss on the forehead. The park with his sculptures was the best part of the day.
Then we saw some enormouse rocks natural fenomenon, a castle and a church, then the Castro de Viladonga, one of the famouse celtic settlements, in which Galicia is abundant.

And as usual Paqo and Malores through us a 3 hours long tipical spanish food-is'meal, after which i never can eat til the next day. Not far from the tavern we also saw the place where O pia Miño, the father Miño, the biggest river in Galicia, is born. There's a legend about devil throwing down here a pile of rocks and the water coming from under it.

Lugo is a nice town famouse for its roman city walls. It's the capital of the Terra Cha region, home to the Manu Chao's ancestors. Saturday is a traditional wedding day here, i saw about 5, with all the ladies in fancy dresses walking around the Ayuntamiento.

At the faculty we're taking an overview of the galician poetry, and Lugo is covered with encarved lines of tha fine troubadours of the 20th century:

(From the sea by the beach
I watched her walking,
Star on her forehead,
In her kiss a song.)

The russians had this a bit earlier:
За морем царевна есть,...
Месяц под косой блестит,
А во лбу звезда горит. ...
А как речь-то говорит,
Словно реченька журчит.

Молвить можно справедливо,
Это диво, так уж диво