08 January 2013


After a bit in Madrid I went "home" for Christmas to Segovia. It was the best ever. I love that place. And the people in it.

While I was there I was psyched to see a flock of sheep invade the back yard one afternoon. (That would so never happen in Barcelona). Here they are eating the neighbor's garden:

And in the roundabout.

Just look at this gorgeous pastoral landscape. Instead of running to Plaça Catalunya in the morning, I went running down those little dirt paths and said hi to the horses.

In Spain the Christmas ham is a big deal. People order one in advance, and then haul all 20+ greasy pounds of it home on busses, trains, and on foot. This shows their devotion to the ham -- they're slippery, heavy, and hard to lug around. (Imagine carrying an oily bowling ball. With a leg attached). Then the hams get mounted on "jamoneros," which secures the ham while you slowly eat it over a period of several months.

The ham is no laughing matter. Here is our ham undergoing a serious inspection:

And this is the Roman aqueduct with the Christmas lights up in the roundabout. (ROMAN AQUEDUCT). It doesn't matter how many times I see the thing, I can't get over it.

My favorite people!!! Segovians are very into going on evening walks down the Calle Real, and we did a lot of that together.

Feliz Navidad:

The Cathedral. I stepped inside for a Sunday morning mass, and to see the vestments of Bishop Juan Arias Dávila, who commissioned the first printed book in Spain.

The Ayuntamiento. It is flying the flags of Castilla y León, Spain, and the EU.

Wonderful people who adopted me for Christmas. I was so grateful and happy to spend the holidays with them. In Spain, Christmas starts on the 24th (nochebuena) with a really big meal. Then Christmas day on the 25th is just a relaxed day at home with family. On New years' eve, in Segovia, people usually have a big dinner with their families too, then go out to party. On new years' day (you guessed it) the Spanish eat a big meal and take a siesta. One really fun thing is watching the clock in the Plaza del Sol strike midnight in Madrid. On each 'campanada' you eat a grape and try to get all twelve down in time!

In Segovia it is typical to eat a roasted baby pig for Christmas. The dish is called 'cochinillo' and it's usually roasted for several hours in a 'zarzuela', a round terra cotta pan. When the piglet is done, you serve it by cutting it with a plate, to show how tender it is. If you are at a wedding (when cochinillo is also served) they might also throw the plate for good luck. :)

I'll admit that I was totally unprepared for the sight of a dead baby pig in the fridge. It just looked too much like the dissection lab in my Bio 100 class. But it is actually tasty when cooked. Maria brought up a good point: when I asked her how she could stand eating a baby pig at Christmas, she asked me how Americans could stand cutting down baby trees at Christmas.

We saw several elaborate Nativity scenes up around town. I thought they were so beautiful -- little Mediterranean landscapes filled with shepherds and Spanish tile roofs. The three wise men are a big part of the Nativity story in Spain, and Spanish sculptors who carve nativity scenes put a lot of detail into the kings.

Where's that pesky star?

At the Esteban Vicente museum I got a special tour from one of the educators. She took me to an exhibit that combined silkscreened images by Vicente with an edition of letterpress printed poems. Then she told me all about the building the museum was in (palace -> seat of the inquisition -> private home -> hospital -> art school -> abandoned ruin -> modern art museum). SPAIN IS SO OLD. 

The streets in Segovia were lively! We saw folk music, a brass band, and an a capella ensemble. The cold didn't deter the musicians at all.

This is a teeny tiny printing museum in Segovia. When I got there to take a tour (late), the museum still wasn't open. Two hours later, after I took a little walk down to the river, the museum ... still wasn't open.

 Eventually I gave up and went to a concert in a romanesque church instead. But check this out: the 17th century version of a cat door:

The concert was good and I was interested to see how they've conserved the building. I like that it continues to be used regularly by the community (unlike some of the other romanesque churches around town). 

On New years, Segovians line the streets to watch their fellow townspeople run a 5k race. We came and rooted for everyone. It's really fun because everybody runs (there's this tiny old lady who always brings up the back) and people dress up in funny costumes to run it. I saw cows, martians, santa claus, cross dressers, and the pope.

On the three kings' day, the 6th of January, the three wise men come to Spanish homes and fill the shoes of good children with gifts. This is when people give each other gifts, too. The night before, Segovia has a parade with the three wise men in it. It starts at the castle, which is all lit up for the night, and there are balloons and fireworks and a telling of the christmas story and a choir. Then the parade starts, and it's full of dancers, musicians, fire eaters, stilt walkers, and segovian children dressed up as the Kings' helpers. The kings throw candy at the crowds and take letters from the kids.

Pretty magical, huh? I will remember this Christmas forever!

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