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Posts Tagged ‘Spanish civil war’

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A Little History 

This photograph shows all that is left of the railway bridge which like others was destroyed during the civil war. This part of the Ebro valley, like Mora d’Ebre and Gandesa, was also in the thick of the battle for the River Ebre and every year it holds a commerative day depicting the battle, with vehicles, authentic uniforms and enactments. During the Battle of the Ebre some of the bloodiest battles were fought about 8km north of Fayon.  In July of 1938 on the 25th the 42nd division of the Republican Army crossed the river in this area, but were then surrounded and massacred in the hills by the Franco’s army.

Fayon was part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lleida, but in 1955 Fayon along with Mequinensa was segregated from Lleida and merged with the Archdiocese of Zaragoza.

The original village is now beneath the waters of the dam and the present village of Fayon was built by ENHER the state-owned company who built the dam.  Like so many of these mountain villages Fayon was originally a mining community here it was coal.  But after the mines closed the village lost 50% of its population.

A Little Fishing

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These days it is better known for its fishing, and in the café where we had a coffee these were displayed on the wall advertising the fishing potential of the river.  As you can see catfish are a bit big and these well known fighters can and do give anglers a run for their money and quite a bit of excitement.  Some of these catfish can be as big or bigger than some of the boats, I remember watching an angler on his own,  trying to get on into his inflatable dingy. After I had watched his struggle for a while and seen him get half of this fish in the dingy I carried on into to town.  I later learnt that he didn’t manage it but at least he got his hook back, the next time I saw him he had a solid boat and companion.

Coffee Before The Event

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We arrived early and went for a coffee. We found the café overlooking the swimming pool that every town has regardless of size and enjoyed the view before we left for the courts.  What I did not know was this little ‘cafe’ is actually a very well known fish restaurant.  Its menu is varied with high quality recipes and good value for money, which explains why as we were leaving Fayon we noticed quite a few people heading for it.  We would have done the same, except I did not know then what I know now, it must be the best kept secret in Fayon.

Petanca

The Petanca competition is held on the local football ground with courts laid out.  Once again there seemed to be fewer teams playing which is a shame as it is one game that the youngsters would enjoy. The Café had wifi which pleased my wife as she had somewhere to work whilst I played, so once the competition had started off she trotted to return just at the right time.

The Prizes

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As you can see there were some very good prizes to play for.  Hams, olive oil and wine for the winning team, a selection of dried sausage, wine and olive oil for the runners up, followed by olive oil and cheese for the winners of groups and finally olive oil for those who came second.  So here in no particular order after the winners are the photos  our club last.  Hope you enjoy:-

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(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

 

 

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Today finds us sitting the FF Zone (fly free zone) enjoying the sun which is around 20° today. My wife has been suffering with her tooth and yesterday the last bit of root came out so her gum is quite sore.  So I decided it would be a jim-jam day and apart from sitting here in the sun she gets cool coffee and toofy pecks to make things better.

I’m enjoying sitting outside working, we both have our machines on the table and there are plenty of distractions. Boris and the others have been singing and diving around along with another newcomer to the fold.  We don’t know what this one is but its small about Robin size with a beak which I would say is for winkling out grubs, however when it opens its wings its back is yellow.  But it fits in nicely here as it spends most of its time shouting the odds or bathing in the water bar.  The Wall Walker is back and busy with his new nest either that or the eggs have hatched and its feeding time.  We missed so much at the beginning of this year, but are steadily catching up.

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It’s like the poppies.  We always imagined them being English, but they bloom everywhere here, the hillsides and our part of the forest are full of them.  My wife has counted around 5 different types in both red and white, taken the heads to sow more seeds in autumn, only to find the mice have been munching, I opium they enjoyed them.

© Michael Douglas Bosc

 

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Here in our part of Spain Wednesday 11th of September was Catalan Day, the day they remember the fallen of the 1714 – War of the Spanish Succession and the Spanish Civil War.  It cannot be easy for some families for, as like all civil wars, it divided some even to this day. This then is also their Remembrance Day.

This is one of the boats the Republicans crossed the Ebre in after the bridge had been blown up. Today it is a memorial to those who fought for Catalunia and paid with their lives. Every organisation lays their own tribute, the Petanca club being amongst them, and this year they placed little upright crosses decorated with the flag of Catalunia and small bouquets.

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Fighting as in many places was fierce here, and I am told  there are recesses in the cliffs behind some of the houses along this little road where the hospital took refuge away from the german bombers. Over this past week they have also been celebrating the rebuilding of the bridge. In ‘Bar Turo’ Ramon has lined one wall with photographs of the construction and the people who re-built it.

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But we were off to our own celebration at the Petanca club, where as usual the Paella was king. We have been to many of these over the years and each time it has been fantastic.  This is what all the fuss is about, it is a mix of chicken and/or rabbit with a few raw prawns added (fish not Aussies). Jose is a very good paella chef, the fact that there is never anything left proves it. He takes the large paella pan  covers it in olive oil then adds bunches of rosemary and thyme along with turmeric (or if you are feeling really rich, saffron) to give it colour.  Then after this has infused  the herbs are removed and chopped garlic, onions and red peppers are added and its given a stir, and lastly the meat and fish go in.  Next water then the rice then after a good stir a cover of foil goes on and its left until meat, fish and rice are cooked.  Don’t worry if it forms a crust on the bottom that is how it’s supposed to be cooked.   Now this is not all that is on the table, there are plates of olives, crisps and salad all washed down with wine and water.  Then at the end of the meal before a game or two of Petanca there is melon, grapes from members own vines and small cakes plus coffee and whisky.   So here are the happy few:

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Oh yes, an incase you think we OAP’s only play Petanca, this cheerful chappie is Ripoll.  He is a ‘on line’ artist with exhibitions in Barcelona. As always we had a wonderful day spent with friends and wended our way home along side the river happy and contented.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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After leaving Gandesa (not in this cart i might add, the barrels are empty), I headed for Batea a small town situated in the  mountains about 19kl further on. You approach Batea along a country road past vineyards gently lazing on sunny slopes being tended by their owners and workers.

What I did not know was this town seems to be built on wine, it’s a wine lovers dream with a celler on almost every street, so many in fact that I shall be wandering in and out of here for some time.

As you enter Batea along its main road, you pass several neat and tidy buildings before noticing a small shop selling wine and olive oil. It is just past this you see a small press sitting in its own garden, a symbol that says a lot about Batea.  Here the road begins to climb towards the town centre and looking down some of the small side streets, I noticed several large painted posters advertising wine from another Celler.

We arrived in the square which has adequate parking for cars on either side of the tree-lined central plaza with benches under the trees to give shade to those sitting and watching their world go by. Here there were groups of old men sitting on benches discussing the world and remembering how it was in years gone by.

Like Gandesa, Batea was on the front line during the Civil War, and received quite a battering.  In the old quarter it has still managed to retain its individuality being one of the few remaining examples in the Terra Alta.  Some of  it’s porches, covered walkways and mediaeval buildings still remain, giving an insight into the architectural styles of those times. The largest example is the main street, with its arcade with ogive arches from the fourteenth century.

Well that’s a condensed history of Batea, but I was after wine and the Co-operatieva in particular.  I parked our wagon in the main square and wandered off in the direction of the Co-op.  It was whilst walking down little side streets there that I passed several other Cellers, three in fact, and none of these was the  Co-operatieva.

Walking down a street the countryside became visible and there was the new buildings and Botiga for Batea’s co-operativa.

This is an imposing modern building, unlike the others I have visited.  There is a soul you can feel when you enter the shop, it is light and airy displaying the wines, olive oil and other products. However, there is an almost spectral aroma, it is not there, yet….  it has to be the spirit of their total love for their wines. Farmers here had been producing wine and selling it individually in the local community for centuries but in 1961 they grouped together and the Celler was born. The wine is produced in the traditional ways using concrete vats both above and underground, which as always adds to the final product.

The working part is mainly on the other side of the road, so we crossed over to take a look.  Here I found the concrete vats standing square and proud with more underground, maceration vats, very much, you might think, like the other Cellers, but there was something different here, once again that presence. These concrete vats are used for the production of the white wines.  The grapes are first placed into stainless steel vats for one day to macerate naturally. Then over night the final press is carried out and the  ‘musk’ is transferred to the concrete vats where it spends 3 weeks fermenting, from here they go to the French oak barrels to mature.   These concrete vats each hold 20,000ltrs of wine with 60 vats underground and 33 above.

The Grapes used here to make the white wine are White Macabeu, Garnatxa, Muscatel, Chardonnay and Parellada.

The red wine is fermented in Stainless steel vats in the new building next to the Botiga. There is a total of 29 imposing structures with each vat holding 50,000 ltr.  The grapes are Garnatxa red, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon red, Tiempre negre and Carinyena. These wines provide some of the nicest sipping wines I have tasted in Terra Alta.  There is also a wine which gets a second pressing, this I will be looking at later in the summer.

The Celler has around 1445 Hectares of vineyards, and uses natural cork in their bottling plant.  The vineyards are located in several different micro climates within this region it is as the names suggests ‘The High Country’, with little valleys giving the wines rather peculiar characteristics but make for some interesting and pleasant drinking.

The Wines: I have selected a few of the wines which I think you might like.

The First is a  Rosat: Vall Major.  This wine is a bright pink cherry in colour, with just enough acidity to appreciate its freshness and elegance. There is the hint of raspberries and roses, a fine combination that served chilled is a good early evening drink.
The grapes used to achieve this wine are  Garnatxa Red and Syrah
The Reds: this is Vivertell Negre
This wine has a rich ruby colour and good legs indicating a high llevel of alcohol.  There is a spicy aroma with the hint of fruit which gives it a Nadal feeling, christmas.  It sent my taste buds on an adventure, being both soft and fresh. This is most definitely a wine to be sipped and enjoyed.
The grapes used to produce this wine are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnatxa Tinto, Tempranillo and Syrah.
The next red is  Tioicitat  This wine has a deep dark colour well bodied.  Here there is an intense nose of fruit and spices, rich and sensuous. The flavour is full with again a hint of spice. This one reminded me of a very good Sherry or Port, definitely one for relishing or complementing a good meal.
The grapes used for this are: Garnatxa Red, Syrah and Tempranillo
I now come to the white wines.  Terra Alta is known for their splendid white wines and I have picked  Primicia Chardonnay and Vallmajor. I will start with the Chardonnay.
This wine is a fresh tasty wine pale yellow in colour tingeing on pale green at the edge.  The nose is fresh with hints of tropical fruits and an underlaying touch of citrus.  It’s fresh to the mouth not too acidic and very moreish with a pleasant lingering taste. One for the fridge and cool evenings.

The grape used in this wine is: 100% Chardonnay which gives it that pleasant sensual feel.
Now the Vallmajor Blanca
This wine is pale yellowish green in colour, and has a balanced taste. It’s nose again reflects floral notes with a hint of freshly cut grass.  This is one to be sipped whilst enjoying the late evening sun and reminiscing.
The grape used in the wine is: Garnatxa Blanco
 You will find these wines on www.cellerbatea.com  or you can contact them on cellerbatea@cellerbatea.com . I can say that you will not be disappointed in fact you may even feel like visiting them and seeing for your self.  Their fax is: 0034 977430589  I hope you enjoy Cheers.

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As I have mentioned I live in Catalunia in a forest near the river Ebro where I own a small olive finca in the forest. The Battle of the Ebro  raged across the river through the mountains to Corbera D’Ebro then on to Gandesa.  I have written about Corbera http://bit.ly/qvGwGd where I talked about the town and the battle which crushed Cobera and left the streets covered with dead.  How the people rebuilt a new town below the original which they have left as a monument to all those who fought and paid with their lives

Beyond Corbera lies Gandesa which was the main target of the Republicans.  Gandesa is around 25 km west of the river ‘Ebro, and was the cross-roads into Catalonia with the roads running both north/south and parallel to the river making it a vital supply point. The land around the town is extremely hilly with three mountain ranges around it the Serra de Pandols, the Serra de Cavalls and the Serra de la Fatarella.

At this time the Republican army was being supplied by Russia, but when Russia joined the International Consensus in 1938 they stopped supplying the Republicans and with no one else to supply them with arms they found themselves stranded and trapped.  When the battle stalled Franco sent in around 500,000 troops with some heavy artillery and it was basically over. However, because the landscape was so difficult Franco’s advance was delayed which meant that the battle actually lasted for another 2 months finally ending on the 16th of November 1938.

Over the years whilst working on my finca I have found live bullets along with bits of shrapnel.  So one year I decided to take these finds along to the museum in Gandesa just in case they could use them.  We arrived to find an old building jam-packed with artifacts from the war, plus photographs on the walls depicting all areas from the Ebro to Gandesa. That was then!

I had decided to write about both the museum and wines in the Terra Alta region. So I drove to Gandesa to do some research on the battle still expecting to see the original facade. However, today when I drew up I found it had a new facade and inside although smaller it was bright and spacious.

The entrance hall is light and you enter via sliding glass doors and facing you are an arrangement of machine guns, here you turn right past a bomb towards the desk. Before this building became a museum it was the local school, then during the battle it became the hospital after which it reverted back to the school until it was taken over and opened as a private museum.  The tiles in the entrance hall are the original ones that have seen all phases of the building’s history.

Beyond this in a long room are displays of grenades, medals, badges and bayonets displayed in white cabinets ranged along the walls.  In the middle at one end of the room is a large glass cabinet displaying bombs, shells, and two uniforms plus other artifacts, whilst on either side hanging from the ceiling are two models of the planes used by the Germans.  In the middle of this room is an electric map which gives you an idea of what went on depending on which of the three screens you touch.

At the far end is a moving screen which tells personal stories, with interviews and memories from people who lived through those times.

Off to one side is a room with an equipped tent in it, and when you turn round you find you are looking at a machine gun wall, with ammunition boxes and guns set up.

On the other side of the entrance hall you find a viewing room where films are shown so you can learn more of the battle.  Here the walls are hung with pictures, newspapers, posters, the Republican Flag and newspaper cuttings a very interesting place.

This museum is privately owned and still undergoing renovation as and when funds allow. It is about the Battle of the Ebro it does not take sides, but tells the story from every point of view no matter how sad it is to find families against each other, that is war and part of history. If you visit the museum I would ask if you could leave a small donation.  If you would like to visit the region which is full of interesting places and stay in comfortable accommodation with fine views of the river Ebro you might like to contact Dena @EbroApartments.

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At this time of the year people are either getting over Christmas or planning their holidays.  Here in the wine region it is almost the same.  The grapes have been picked, wines processed and festivals planned to celebrate the harvests.  In the fields the rows of vines are being pruned and checked for problems, the ground fed and tidied.  So most of the Cellers are closed for a breather whilst preparing for the coming summer and harvest.

Living in Catalunia’s wine region is a bit like being on holiday, lots to do but only a short period to do it in.  However, as those of you who follow my writing will know I have been looking into not only the wines but the history of Cellers and villages in the regions.  I live on the edge of the Priorat region, and have visited some of the Cellers there, but behind my Finca to the west lies the Terra Alta Region, the high country.  This is the area which first started me on my journey into the wines of Catalunia, so, with visitors gone and the pruning of the olive trees under control, I turned my face westward, hitched up my wagon and headed out…

Well, perhaps not this far

I decided to visit Gandesa which is the heart of the region, and has one of the Wine Cathedrals, a beautiful Celler built by one of Gaudie’s followers, and an architectural monument to fine wines.  As you are driving West out of Mora D’Ebro you notice the road begins to climb, gently at first in a long gradual climb, then it becomes a more defined rise as you wend your way through the mountains towards Gandesa.

The first place you come to is Corbera D’Ebro, where a fierce battle was fought in the Civil War resulting in the village being raised, people left without food or proper shelter and bodies left lying in the streets.  The people, some of whom had fled to the countryside for safety, gradually returned and began to build their lives.  A new village was built at the foot of the old one and as this is a wine growing region a new Celler was raised out of the devastation.  I wrote about this last year http://bit.ly/qvGwGd  and mentioned that the old village is now a monument to all those who died, which can be visited and is a peaceful place where you can sit and contenplate both history and the scenery.

A further 5km on you approach Gandesa.  As you enter the town on the left hand side you will see a large hotel with a very good restaurant, the car park always has vehicles in it which here means the food is good.  Driving further into the town, the first thing you see is the Cellers wine shop then immediately behind this is the actual Celler.

I was delighted to see that the old Celler has been given a facelift with the outside fresh and gleaming in the sunlight.  There is a very strong leaning towards heritage  in the region and people are being encouraged to take care of and where possible restore their buildings.

This is the building I shall be visiting to find out the history of the wines and Celler in March, which is something I am looking forward to.  There are some fine wines and Cava sold here, yes I am still on the Cava trail but there is a whole year for that.

On the opposite side of the road is the  Civil War Meseum. You can park in the main road on the right hand side for free and usually outside the museum.  Now I have not been this far for nearly a year maybe more, so I was very pleased to find that the museum was now open again, as it had been shut for renovation. This was not the only thing to delight me, the old Wine Cathedrel has been restored.  It now has a nice new facade but work inside not yet completed.  So as is my want history and wine combined I first visited  the museum and found a light and spacious interior displaying artifacts of the Civil War from both sides, here there is a distinct bringing together of history, no taking sides too many lives were lost, just memories of a peoples war.

I have therefore made the Meuseum my first article which I hope you will enjoy reading the article and visiting both the Meuseum and Celler.

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The village of Corbera D’Ebre is in the Terra Alta wine region around 3 kilometers from Gandesa.  It is here that the last battle of the Spanish Civil War in this region was fought. This is not only a story of war but also a story of wine, regrowing out of death, destruction, and hardship. Of the people’s struggle and determination to regain their lives, to produce the wines that are enjoyed today, it’s about a village, a co-operative, a band of brothers, a celler born out of austerity.

It is July 15th 1938. The Republican armies have stormed across the river Ebro in small boats, all the bridges having been destroyed by German bombers practicing their skills for the blitz on England.  The fighting was fierce.  It ranged across mountainous terrain, through the valley’s and passes. The infantry based attack pushed the Nationalists back inland onto the flat ground of the Terra Alta. Here, Corbera D’Ebre is sited in a perfect defence position built on one of three hills, good all round views overlooking land that funnelled towards Gandesa.

The battle was intense and total, the village destroyed, most of the people had left for Aragon or Miravet to escape the destruction. Today the remains of the original village are tended as a memorial to those who fought and died, a monument, a grim reminder of war and death. The original church stands proud against the skyline a marker to the memorial.

Today the people have started to restore it using it as an exhibition and cultural centre if you look carefully you can still see the bullit holes made by heavy rounds.

The battle of the Ebre lasted four months, destroying Republican forces and effectively ending the Civil War, although the war continued until April 1939.  Many people left Spain, entering Southern France as stateless refugee’s. But their suffering was to continue with the fall of France and a Vichy government.  These people were eventually deported to concentration camps in the east as slave labour, some survived…

On your way to or from the church you will pass this plaque, a remembrance to those who died, a wall of small plaques each with the imprint of a child’s hand a poignant reminder…

Ernest Hemingway was a war correspondent and reported the battle at Corbera D’Ebre for the North American Newspapers being one of the last to cross back over the Ebre. George Orwell was among many who made up the International Brigades and fought for the Republican Army which were all disbanded shortly after, this was the longest and bloodiest battle of the Civil War, a final loosing throw of the dice.  It is quite likely that both these men drank and enjoyed the local wines.  After the battle people began to return to Corbera beginning to pick up their lives again, replanting fields that were destroyed,  finding unexploded bombs or shells which cost lives. Replanting where needed, tending olive and almond trees, but more importantly the vines.   The village built the co-operativa brick by brick, dug the large holes to contain the concrete tanks to hold both olive oil and wine. The people who whilst this was being done still produced their wines in the traditional way.

The celler kindly allowed me to use these pictures, they can tell this part of the story far better.

                                        The Begining
 

 
 
 
Today

The Celler like others in the area has underground vats which can hold 450 ltrs of wine, plus a few above ground which are still used today for the wines they produce on site.  Because these vats are naturally insulated by the earth they allow the wine to stay a constant temperature thus many years ago the vintners were way ahead in the green stakes. Also found in the celler are the maturing barrels, stacked here and there.

They have also used some of the underground vats, opened them to make a wine celler.  Here because of the temperature, they can store bottles and barrels.  The vaults are constructed from a few of the underground vats which have had arches built into them, the walls cleaned, to make the perfect celler.

In the next building are the stainless steel vats. From here this wine is placed into tankers and carried to the Celler UNIO where it is blended and bottled.  Celler UNIO is a large celler. Corbera supplies bulk mature wine for bottling, this is available in Tesco’s, and many restaurants in the Barcelona area.

My wife was shown round the celler by two young ladies Montse and Elizabeth.  Montse works in the main office of the Celler and it was she who showed us the pictures.  Elizabeth speaks English so she accompanied them answering questions, she is also the Wine Blender. Then there is Carlos, he is the man in charge of the Celler. Nice people who love their work and take a pride in it.

As you enter the co-operativa, you will find facing you barrels which contain the wines. This is where you can take your own containers, have them filled with your preferred wine, something which I think is most civilised as does the village.  In the display you will also find the Olive Oil sitting as they should be side by side as if at the dining table.

The local wines sold here are Mirmillo and Mas del Tio, both of which are pleasent to the palet and very resonably priced. These wines are mainly for local consumption, and can be found in bottles or it can also be purchased in bulk from the barells in the entrance  hall.  Yes we do go there for some of our wine, we are made welcome and they know what we like.

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El Celler Cooperatiu Del Pinell de Brai

I was wondering what to do today as it was one of my wandering days. The sort of day when you want to do something but don’t really know what.  I have been trying to get to El Pinell de Brai, a small village in the Terra Alta region of Cataluna, amongst some of the finest wine makers in the region.I was actually trying to visit the Co-opratieva there. This is a grand building which hides within its walls vast concrete vats. However when we arrived it was the wrong time and day so we have an appointment for tomorrow morning.  As we were leaving the building, my wife spotted a small cellar opposite and we wandered over to have a look.

Celler Serra de Cavalls

What we found was a little gem just like those small vineyards in the champagne region of France, excellent wines without the hype. This vintner uses five growers to produce excellent wine in the traditions of their ancestors but using modern equipment. The results, although with a limited production, are some very fine wines which, I might add although having drank them and been delighted with their flavour, I never for a moment thought I would find the cellar. The wines are, for their quality, reasonably priced from a very good 5€ up to  an excellent 12€.  I have not tried the Blac Barrel but it is definitely on my list. I now know where some of my Petanca friends go for their wine.

The vines used are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, white Garnatxa and black Garnatxa all of which are grown naturally, no chemical sprays, hence the distinctive taste and bouquet. However you will not find vast hillsides of vines, this is not the way we do things here.  Instead you will find small farms (fincas) dotted around with vineyards who, when the time is right bring their grapes to be pressed. It is  very much a farming community, and they are true to their history they speak Catalan which, as we have found out is a very hard language to learn, but if you live in the countryside (Campo) you have to speak the language.

The Shop

So this morning I returned to Pinell de Brai, to tour the La Catedral del VI, the co-operative cellar to you and me.

This Is Where The Tour Begins

After a beetle invaded the vines and caused untold damage, leaving farmers with little or no income. Some left and went to the cities, others decided to stay replant new vines and start over. Then they got together and decided to form a co-operative, they would grow the grapes and decided that someone who knew how to make the wine would run the cellar. This did two things: First it left the farmers free to concentrate on growing the grapes and second with someone who know how to make wine in charge of the co-op there would be no falling out. So they began to build..

Concrete Vats Each Holding 30,000 Ltrs

They installed concrete vats that held 30,000ltrs of wine, with four rows of these vats about 8 vats long and 2 deep. You can walk across the tops under the beautiful carved vaulted ceilings.

The Vaulted Ceiling

Where the caps of the vats sit like lids on the floor, and the railing which abound everywhere carry water for cleaning them.  The cellar was started in 1918 and finished in 1922, and built by a student of  Gaudi, Cesar Martinell i Brunet, who was passionate about the co-operative movement. The Spanish government was to pay for the commissioned buildings but as the bills got bigger and no money arrived the hand decorated tiles which Brunet had ordered were stored away so that no one could say the builders had been extravagant.

Further Vats and Arches

A Vat Lid

Then during the Spanish civil war, it was badly bombed but when it was rebuilt  the hand painted tiles were taken out of store and placed along the front at long last.

The Tiles In Place

As for the wines they are few but enjoyable. The Tinto is a pleasant fruity country wine with a slight sweetness. The Vi Aperitiu is a pleasant vermouth, with the distinctive taste.  There is also a cooking wine definitely not for drinking, and a white that is not exactly sweet but not sharp. The Mistela is sweet, warm and very drinkable.

It is an unfortunate fact but these days olive oil is the main product at this press with only the listed selection of wines produced. But this is a village that prides it’s self on it’s artists crafts and produce.  If you are ever in the Terra Alta region of Catalunia take a look at this Co-op it is well worth the visit and long may it be so.

 

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc  author

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It is a fact of nature that water reflects the sky.  A sunny day and the river has put on a shimmering blue dress as she runs towards the Mediterranean.  If it’s a cloudy day she will wear either a greenish grey dress with a mirror coat reflecting the trees along her banks, or she will try to cheer us up by wearing a shimmering dress of a silvery grey colour which now and again gapes to give a glimpse of a blue petticoat as she rushes on her way.   

Sometimes if it has been raining very hard she will drag fallen trees along, sending them bobbing and turning as they round stones and other hidden obstacles in the water.  But on a sunny day she will flow gently with the occasional ripple as she runs over large rocks and sandbanks on her way to the Mediterranean.

Passing under bridges of history from the Civil War, which were destroyed then re-built gently washing them as though remembering the pain when the bombs dropped laying waste the arches and tipping rails and masonry into her waiting arms.   

 

Last Templars stronghold at Miravet

Then on she flows towards the delta past Templer strongholds, castles of history who’s down fall is played out each year as part of the local history.

On through gorges with fields of vines on the banks, past orange groves, and relics of bygone factories harking back to the days when there was trade on the river. 

 

Then after a while she reaches the weir, which she slips over quietly, then on she glides towards Tortosa slipping through the town at peace with her surroundings. Past rice fields irrigated by her waters, past small towns, ever onwards to her destination, the Delta. 

There you will find majestic beaches of golden sand, the occasional palm tree their tops gently moving in the sea breeze. There is always something of  interest to be seen, especially when they are fruiting, grouped on the beach surrounded by the golden sand against a back drop of a blue sea and sky. You would be forgiven for thinking you were some where exotic and expect to see a camel appear with sheik to carry you off.

                                                                                        

Here the river fills the delta pools with her water where the Flamingoes forage for shrimps, and bulls roam the marsh fields while Marsh Harriers fly over head hunting for their dinner.

The irrigation is helped by small pumping water mills compact and picturesque, leaving you with images of times gone by, a hard but seemingly peaceful life. It is here more rice is grown along with a variety vegetables, watered the generous river.  

So, after she arrives and joins the sea all that is left is to turn north to the mountains where she first breathed life as a small stream then gradually grew up into the lady we now know, La Rio Ebro.

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When you think of a forest  you picture tall trees, sun dappled glades, leafy paths, bramble patches, carpets of bluebells, swaths of primroses dotted with wood anemones. Flat tracks wending their way through the forest, perhaps a house here and there nestling in the arms of the trees, birds, deer, rabbits, foxes, badgers and other wild animals.

What you do not think of is war. Death, fighting, guns with bullets flying around, men fighting and dying on the terraces amongst the trees. A bloody time in Spanish history, when men fought their own people, even their own families, fighting for freedom and their rights – Civil War. This is the story of such a forest the one I live in and love.

The Bombed Church at Garcia

From 1936 to 1938  the Spanish Civil War  centered around this area, the river, train line, and mountains.  The village of Garcia was bombed by the Germans who used the civil war to practice their skills for when they took on England and the rest of Europe.  There the church was badly damaged, it has been left untouched, a memorial, and a new one was built in the village.

The rail bridge that crossed the Ebro was also bombed and destroyed  in an attempt to cut off supplies to the Republicans. It was later re-built in its present form providing a service to Barcelona one way and Llieda the other. Although passenger trains still run it is mostly freight that uses it now.

Memorial at Mora de Ebre

Every year the town of  Mora de Ebro re-enacts the crossing of the river and street fighting between the Republicans and Franco’s troops.  The town has erected a steel boat in commemoration of the event and planted a shrub at each corner.  On Catalan Day, the various organisations the Petanca Club included, lay flowers there.

The Republicans fought Franco and forced him back as far as Corbera de Ebro. The Russians, who had been supplying the Republicans with arms, stopped the supply, and the last battle in this area was fought at Corbera de Ebro. The village being raised, has been left as it was, their memorial to those who died both soldiers and civilians. A new village has grown up around the ruins and a thriving wine industry has developed. Amongst the fighting men of the International Brigade was George Orwell whilst Ernest Hemingway wrote for the North America papers, keeping people informed of the struggle

Since we have lived here I have dug up bullets and machine gun ammunition, some of it still live. We took a batch to the  History museum at Gandessa, here they have a pictorial history of the war as well as artifacts. Here we found out the just what the fighting had meant and saw a photograph of the railway bridge at Garcia destroyed by the Germans.

At peace

But that was then.  Today the forest is a place of quiet, with a sense of peace and safety. The only disturbance is the odd vehicle or bicycle going up or down the valley.  The track that wanders towards our farm, twists and turns its way through it, crossing the baranca then upwards and onwards. It is rough and stony, kept as natural as possible allowing nature to repair and heal its scars.

Parts are in dappled shade others in full sunlight, tall pine trees line the way whilst the natural oak trees, more like bushes than trees, dotted here and there, fight for their place in the ecological way of things. Today that is the only type of battle here, takeing a walk along the track reveals birds and flowers of  various types, some already known others new and interesting.

           

At this time of year the forest comes alive. Grape hyacinths, minature daff0dils, asters, poppies and much more flora than I can name. These are followed by wild Jasmin and Honeysuckle their perfume filling the evening air. The one flower we look forward to seeing is the little Orchid that grows under one of the olive trees. It’s small but perfect blooms are the highlight of the season, small purple slippers on green stems.

On a logging trip

I forage for fallen trees to stock up the winter log pile, noting where the squirrel drays and the misletoe balls are.  There are all sorts of shrubs and trees to be seen if you look between the pines. We have the odd Carib tree, Witch Hazel its stems corkscrewing skywards. There is one bush which spreads and covers a wide area, green with a reddish tinge in winter, which in spring is covered with red berries a birds delight.

To one side of the house is a terraced hill from where the views are spectacular, the local hunters  hunt there during the season on Sunday mornings.  Sometimes they shoot a wild boar but more often than not they leave as they arrived empty-handed.

A Squirrels Dray

The squirrels here are dark red almost black in colour. Thin furry sticks of mischief with pointed ears and a thick bushy tail, they dart along the branches of the firs playing games of run and jump.  It is later in the year we notice them more, when they are hunting for their winter stores. There is a Dray near the small house which is refurbished from time to time.

I have tried not to disturb my surroundings in the years I have been here.  Because I do not use chemicals on the land, the birds and insects have gradually returned to their habitat.   The olive trees, some hundreds of years old are doing well and with selective pruning, provide enough oil for the year.

Considering what has happened here over the years we feel safe. It is as if the forest envelops us in a healing of souls, just us and nature. This then is my forest valley, my home.

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