Saturday, December 6, 2008

Roller Hockey

Liceo 0 Barcelona 3

I attended my first ever roller hockey match yesterday. The match was a Spanish top of the table clash in La Coruña. The visitors handed Liceo their first defeat of the season with a surprisingly comfortable win. Obviously a newcomer to the sport does not see it through the same eyes as a seasoned fan, but it looked to me as if Egurrola, the Barça goalkeeper (if that's the right term) had an outstanding game, while Liceo spurned too many chances.

Roller hockey is a sport that’s particularly popular in Catalonia. Most of the best teams in the Ok Liga are Catalan and many cities there have their own club. Surprisingly, a little research tells me that Great Britain played a leading role in founding the sport and were once regarded as the best in the world. But since the Second World War they have been very much overtaken by Spain, Portugal and Italy. Roller hockey is also quite popular in South American countries like Argentina and Chile.

A game consists of two halves of 25 minutes. However, the clock stops between plays so the duration is roughly the same as a football match.

Advantages over football? Well, it’s reasonably priced for a start. I paid 7 Euros for my ticket. The cold slab seating may not be up to the standard you expect at top class football these days, but it’s a comfortable indoor environment where you don’t get really cold or wet.

The atmosphere was good with nearly three thousand in the stands and drummers backing their team throughout, while a few “Ultra” fanatics with a megaphone ensured the crowd didn't get too sedate. It was also pleasing to see the home fans accept defeat in a gracious away. Some applauded the victors off the court while the Liceo players were also given praise for their sterling effort – not something I could envisage taking place in the “beautiful game” after a 3-0 home defeat.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Homage in Vigo

Around a hundred people congregated in Pereiró Cemetery in Vigo this summer to pay homage to Emilio Martínez Garrido and seven other socialists and Republicans who were lined up against the cemetery walls and shot on 27th August 1936.

A spokesman for the Vigo collective 'Memoria do 36' said: "We are here without political colours* in defence of democracy and freedom. This was the date when the Fascist hordes tried to murder us, which they did for forty years."

The group held up a placard displaying photos of the victims along with the words "Non esquecemos" - Galician for "Don't Forget Us".

* A Spanish Republican flag was centre stage at the event.

Loosely translated from an article in El País, 28th Aug. 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Depor in Europe

Deportivo La Coruña enter the group stages of the UEFA tonight with a tough tie in Moscow against CSKA. Next month they face Feyenoord in Coruña on 27th November. The third match will be a trip to play Lech Poznan in Poland in the first week in December before rounding things off against Nancy in Riazor a week before Xmas.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Galician Tartan

Santiago Bernárdez, a designer from Cangas de Morrezo, has started selling Galician kilts. Although Santiago lived in Scotland for five years, the idea occured to him while attending the Ortigueira Celtic Music Festival on the northern coast of Galicia.

He designed a tartan, signed up with the Tartan World Register (at a cost of €400) and called a Scottish friend to order thirty kilts. They sold quickly. He has now ordered another hundred, which are on the market for €27.99 each. The kilt is a combination of cobalt blue and navy blue with a touch of white.

Galicia is not the first foreign land to register its own tartan by any means. The likes of Germany, The Netherlands and Australia already have their own.

Info from Galician supplement in El País, 30th July, 2008.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Lusophone Commonwealth

The Xunta will have to come to an agreement with the Spanish central government in order to obtain permission to become an associate observer of the Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa (CPLP), whose full members are the Portuguese speaking countries of Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, East Timor and Portugal itself.

CPLP Executive Secretary, Luis Fonseca, has advised Galicia to request permission from Madrid to join as the CPLP does not want get embroiled in diplomatic conflicts with central governments.

He pointed out that the body is made up of countries and not regions, so Galicia could only hope to become an associate observer like the former Portuguese colonies of Goa (India), Macao (China) and Malay (Malaysia).

Fonseca added that if Galicia applied through the Spanish central government it would have every chance of gaining the statute thanks to its shared values and similarities with the Portuguese and Lusophone culture.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Paulo Coelho St.

"I embarked on the pilgrimage thinking mainly of the personal quest but I discovered the Way is simplicity, contact with the people." - Paulo Coelho

The Brazilian writer was in Santiago this week where he was met by the news that he will have a street named in his honour there. His first published book, 'O Diário dum mago' was about the Way and had the Spanish title 'El peregrino a Compostela'.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Football Round Up

It has not been a great season for Galician football in all honesty. Celta Vigo’s new coach, Alejandro Menéndez, is their fourth of the season. Having given up hope of promotion to La Primera a few weeks ago, the club still needs a few more points to ensure they do not suffer consecutive relegations. Celta are just above fellow Galicians, Racing Ferrol, who have enjoyed a better second half to the season. If Racing stay up it will be a satisfactory achievement considering they were promoted last season.

Deportivo La Coruña have been in excellent form recently after a disastrous start to the season. Read my thoughts on the main reasons for the turnaround at

Friday, April 25, 2008

Did You Know?

Image by Barry Kay, Set Designer

Galicia and the neighbouring region of Castilla y León produce 20% of Spain's wind energy but consume only 8% of the total.

Jousting with Giants

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Long Way Round

On 1 April, two Cantabrians set out from Torun, Poland, on a trek that they hope will take them to Santiago de Compostela. Eduardo Benájes (58) and Jesús Molleda(62), expect their walk will take three months to complete.

Their route passes through Germany and France to Roncevalles on the French-Spanish border. When they arrive in Spain, they plan to opt for the Northern Way, across the Basque Country, Cantabria and Asturias. The two hardy souls have been awarded €1,000 by the Cantabrian culture department. However, they estimate their journey will cost fifteen times that amount.

La Via Regia or Regal Way, is an old medieval route connecting Eastern Europe with Paris before it heads south for Santiago. It was an old commercial route used by merchants in the Middle Ages, passing through key German cities like Leipzig and Frankfurt. This is also known in Germany as the Salt Route. Another way begins in Kiev, some 5,000 miles from Santiago de Compostela.

Rising in the Dark

As I have to get up earlier these days, I wasn't too happy when the clocks went forward. Geographically, it would make sense for Galicia to be on the same time as the UK and Portugal, but of course we are an hour ahead. According to an article in La Voz there is 40 minutes difference in the daylight hours between Catalonia in the east and Galicia in the west. I ask myself why we need to have daylight until 9pm at the end of March, while we have to get up in the dark just before 8am.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Santiago Syndrome

Psychiatrist, Jesús de la Gárdara, has studied 38 cases of "Santiago Syndrome" in the last 7 years. All the sufferers have 3 characteristics in common: they are affected by strong mystic feelings, fatigue from so much walking, and they have a history of psychiatric conditions.

70% of those who suffer from this syndrome which strikes while walking to Santiago are males. The average age of the sufferer is 40.

Symptoms include: psychiatric episodes, delirium and intense emotional disorders of a manic nature accompanied by paranoia.

The victims spent 10 days in a psychiatric unit in Burgos and only 4 of them continued with the walk. The rest went home.

Translated form an article in La Voz de Galicia, 27 Sep. 2007

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Hercules Legend

As most people know, Hercules, son of Zeus, was a nasty character who killed his wife and children and was punished by the oracle of Delphi. King Eurystheus set Hercules the task of tracking down Gerion.

Hercules used the same boat for his journey that the Sun had used on his travels. However, the Sun did not want to hand over the boat but decided it was for the best after a salvo of arrows from Hercules. On his voyage he had to threaten the Ocean who tried to sink his boat.

According to one version of the legend, Hercules came ashore in Galicia. After killing Eurition and his dog on Ons Island, where Gerion had taken refuge, the son of Zeus set out again in pursuit of the giant. Gerion arrived first at Punta Hermina. He raised his boat on his shoulders and climbed to a clifftop where he hid under the vessel to rest. But Hercules was smart and guessed his hideout.

The two giants had a fight to the death which lasted three days and three nights. Hercules decapitated his enemy and buried his head in the ground. This image appears in Coruña’s coat of arms with the skull and crossbones of Gerion. Hercules lit a bonfire as a sacrifice to Zeus. The bonfire was the original “lighthouse”, which would later become the Tower of Hercules. Legend claims that Hercules built the tower himself using the same stones he used for Gerion’s tomb.

In thanks, King Eurystheus ordered resettlement of the zone. One theory is that the city was called Cruña after the city’s first female inhabitant.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More Stats! Emigrants This Time

Over 325,000 Galicians living abroad have the right to vote in next month’s Spanish general election. Did you know that there has been so much emigration from Galicia to Argentina over the years that Spanish immigrants in general are known as Gallegos?

Below are the ten countries with the highest number of Galician emigrants:

Argentina (116, 682)
Venezuela (33,109)
Switzerland (29,253)
Brazil (29,156)
Uruguay (28,438)
France (16,057)
Germany (13,356)
UK (10,033)
USA (9,397)
Cuba (9,516)

Source – La Opinion 29th Jan. 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


As you may have noticed, there are no shortage of cafes, bars and restaurants in Spain. A report published at the end of last year, tells us that Cyprus is the only EU country with more bars per head of population. Galicia is the Spanish region with the third highest number of bars per person, with a bar for every 165.1 people. But Galicia’s neighbours have even more choice. Asturias has a bar for every 163.9 inhabitants and Castilla y León comes in second (164.9). However, the larger region of Andalusia has the most bars (35,981).

In culinary terms, Catalonia has the highest number of restaurants (11,564, although this figure also includes cafes) and for your fill of caffeine, the Valencian community has plenty of choice, with 2,324 cafes.

Source – Mercasa and INE. Info published in the Galician language daily, De lunes a venres.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Changing Times

Emmigration is a recurring theme in Galician history but nowadays more people are moving in. Immigration into Galicia has increased by ten percent in a year. Most incomers are South Americans: Brazil (8,309), Columbia (8,091), Argentina (6,390), Uruguay (4,449) and Venezuela (3,860). However, the largest single nationality group are the Portuguese (14,352). Other significant numbers of immigrants into Galicia came from Morocco and Romania. In contrast to many other parts of Spain, more French than British incomers arrived to enjoy Galician life. Although only 2.97% of the total Galician population is foreign, the immigrant population is almost double the figure of just five years ago. The figure is around 9% in Spain as a whole. Extremadura is the only autonomous community with less immigrants than Galicia.

From a report in La Voz de Galicia, 18th Jan. 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fraga on Franco

"Figures of the calibre of Franco can't be judged until a certain amount of time has passed." Thirty odd years clearly isn't long enough for Manuel Fraga, Franco's former Minister for Information and Tourism and president of the Xunta (Galician Govt.) until as recently as 2005.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Shelling Out

The Galicians love of seafood goes overboard during the Christmas period. Demand is always high for the much-prized percebe or goose barnacle (pictured). This festive season, Galicians were prepared to pay up to 330 Euros per kilo for them. A more typical price was 150 Euros for 1200g for the quality Roncudo type although they could be bought for as little as €20 per kilo if you were prepared to accept the frozen version from the North Sea.

Average prices for small crabs were 40 Euros per kilo for local produce and €12.50 for frozen ones from Ireland. Larger crabs cost €60 for the local goodies and those brought from Scotland were available frozen for just over 20 Euros.

Lobsters were more pricey – around €180 per kilo fresh although you could get them for less than €30 if you were prepared to rough it with the frozen ones imported from Cuba.