Oh yes! It’s that time of year again. And Spain does Christmas so well. The lights are up, and in every corner a little nativity scene is built.
Oh no! It’s that time of year again. And Spain does fiestas so well. The chorizo is sliced and the mosto decanted, and Colmenar prepares for its Fiesta de Mosto y Chacina – officially a Ruta de Tapas, unofficially the bar-crawl round every bar in the village.
I love Málaga. It’s an often under-rated city, frequently just passed through en route to coastal resorts. Yet for anyone who stops awhile to get to know it, it is full of hidden gems. Especially at Christmas. Last year’s plasticene nativity scene was unforgettable (photos of that can be seen here).
I love Colmenar. My 17 months here (feels so much longer!) have only reinforced my attachment to my adopted village. I love Colmenar when it is quiet, but it too comes into its own at fiesta time. Oh boy these folks know how to throw a party!
So, list of Malaga’s belenes (nativity scenes) in hand, the journey begins. First stop is the Ayuntamiento. It’s one of the biggest belenes and always beautifully presented. This, and the little bar inside Riogordo town hall, always reminds me of how different English town halls are from their Spanish counterparts. Not too much of a queue, and the policia local point the way for us to shuffle past the belén.
So, list of Colmenar’s bars in hand, the journey begins. First stop is the big tent by the silo, to browse the stalls, sample the embutidos for which Colmenar is famous (sausage, chorizo, and other pork products) then pick up the card for all the bars to stamp as we wend our way round the village. Then it’s on to Bar Los Pepes in the centre, to await our Malagueño friends off the bus. After a frantic search on all the bar’s shelves, the stamp is found and our cards are marked. Tapas in Bar Bartola gives us our second tick.
Over to the Museo Carmen Thyssen where a small but beautiful belén is bathed in natural light from the stunning pyramid skylight that sits atop the building. Then a short walk north to the Museo de Vidrio y Cristal where all the figures on the belén are Lladró porcelain. This is a real delight, so unusual, and it was a particular joy for me to see the little “Girl with Geese” piece that I have, at the foot of the scene. So much to see within one artwork (for it surely is art, isn’t it?) – truly unforgettable.
We wander up the hill to Balcon de Los Montes and to Hotel Belén. Again we seem to be the first people asking for our cards to be stamped, and a little confusion ensues before the official stamp and ink-pad are found. Outside Hotel Belén, two coaches from Manilva decant their passengers. Our village Ruta de Tapas is drawing the crowds.
Disappointment at the cathedral. The simple outdoor nativity figures are in place by the west door, but the indoor nativity isn’t finished. Despite the dates printed on the official list of belenes, this one will not be available for another week.
Disappointment at Bar Tele-Club. The promised tapas of migas is not available. But another round of mosto is ordered (it’s sort of a cross between wine and sherry, only rougher!) and the cards are stamped. On to Peña Flamenca where our Malagueño friends continue to knock back the mosto, while the rest of us move onto softer things.
In Málaga, a short drive to the east of the city centre, just north of Pedregalejo, is an amazing demonstration of community spirit. The Barriada (neighbourhood) La Mosca has created the biggest belén at about 50ft long. All hand-made by local people, the buildings, figures, countryside and backdrops come together to create a stunning effect. Two volunteers from the nearby houses are on duty. Three Policía Local with guns patrolling an almost-deserted suburban nativity scene strikes me as odd, until they explain they are not guarding the belén but have taken a short break to come and admire it. They are tourists, just like me.
At the Bodega José Molino, José himself as always proudly shows off the pictures of his vineyards and explains the grapes and the processes. The all-important stamp has been mislaid, so we depart with José’s signature in the box on our cards. We like it. We realise that we won’t complete the full list of eleven bars in time to enter our cards into the raffle, so the cards themselves will be our prize. We like that too. Bar La Ventorro and Méson Pilar provide two more drinks, two more tapas, and two more stamps. At this stage the Malagueños have to get the last bus home. We locals are content that our visitors enjoyed seeing Colmenar en fiesta.
Wandering the back-streets of Málaga it is the odd corners that provide the joys. A tiny house with a wreath or a few candles, a little shop with a miniature tree and some lights. Christmas is a week away, and in far-away corners of many different countries, people are connected, preparing differently, yet in the same way. Málaga, like London, Paris, Madrid, Prague and Shaftesbury, is en fiesta.
We have to go a bit further to find our final two destinations. Bar Diego is up the hill but is worth the climb to get the second-to-last stamp. It’s getting dark as we head out to Arco del Sol, so as Rosa searches for the stamp, we decide to stay awhile. Our feet under the table, the night falling around us, Rosa brings plates of lamb stew with grapes and the finest chips in all of Spain. Best of all, the missing stamp is found. A final coffee, complimentary rosquillas, and the task is done. Stomachs and cards full. Satisfaction all round. Journey over.
Málaga is a truly great city, and never more so than at Christmas. New traditions in a new country – for me, now, Christmas is unimaginable without a few days wandering in Málaga. Satisfaction all round. Journey over.
© Tamara Essex 2013
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT:
Please excuse this. I use the language point in the blog to pin down something I am struggling with. I find that trying to explain it, sets it more firmly in my brain. And this week I’m trying to get to grips with ECHAR. Echar de menos, echar en falta – why two things that mean the same? Ah well.
Voy a echarle de menos. Voy a echarla en falta. I’m going to miss him/her. Voy a echar de menos estos días cuando vuelva al trabajo. I’m going to miss these days when I return to work. Te echo mucho de menos. I miss you greatly. Echo en falta tu compañia. I miss your company. Vas a echarle de menos. You’re going to miss him.
Thank you. That’ll help. It’s a jolly odd construction though, isn’t it?