In Catalonia (Spain) – some excursions around Hospitalet: L’Amettla

On 1st of November, we visit l’Amettla del Mar – south of Hospitalet de l’Infant, where we spend some weeks end October to mid November 2016 enjoying the small apartment of our friends.

L’Amettla del Mar is a small fishers’ town. We always buy fresh fish from l’Amettla at Jordi’s in Hospitalet (delicious!). Also Wikipedia says that fishing is the main activity of l’Amettla. The town is built on rocks overlooking the natural harbour where the fishing boats are resting during the day.

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The weather is warm and sunny.

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Along the rocks there is a promenade with outlook points.

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It is three pm – just the right time for dinner in Catalonia (uff, so late for me, my stomach always rebels much earlier).

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Dogs may understand Catalonian here.

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Many, many seagulls have congregated on the water of the Mediterranean Sea. These small white spots are seagulls…

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… and they are enlarged now.

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Tourism is the second source of income of l’Amettla – north of the city we find wealthy private houses.

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Behind this bay there is a camping site with an Olympia size pool (now closed) and a hiking path. A good place to camp in summer.

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We follow the rocky coast line and reach this cemetery that is now – on 1st of November – richly adorned with flowers and well visited by local people that remember their ancestors.

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Just before driving “home” to Hospitalet de l’Infant, we stop in this small oil mill – the third pillar of income of l’Amettla is agriculture.

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We buy honey and virgin olive oil.

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Great souvenirs and gifts for Christmas – at home I savour the tasty rosemary honey – it is delicious.

L’Amettla was a charming experience – there is so much to see around Hospitalet.

 

 

 

 

 

In Catalonia (Spain): Discovering Capçanes, Gandesa, El Pinell de Brai and Miravet

On a sunny Sunday we explore the Montsant and Terra Alta region near Hospitalet de l’Infant. In Hospitalet we spend a few days in the apartment of our friends (October/November 2016).

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Capçanes – a success story of some brave Montsant wine growers

My “Little Johnson” says that the cellar of Capçanes produces the kosher wine Peraj Ha’Abib that is to be recommended. We are curious and drive to Capçanes located in the hills not far from the sea with the vineyards slowly turning yellow now.

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The history of the cellar of Capçanes and their kosher wine impresses me. As described on their Website, the wine growers established their cooperative cellar in 1933. In 1995 the cooperative was asked by the Jewish community of Barcelona, whether they could produce kosher wine. We join a tour to the cellar. Our guide explains us that the wine growers decided to face the risk, took a credit and rebuilt the cellar of their cooperative including a separate production line for kosher wine. They were just ready, when the demand for bio wine emerged – and much of the production of kosher wines is similar to the natural and biological production methods (“beautifying” is not allowed for kosher wines). Now they had a regular buyer of their kosher wines (the Jewish communities) and their wines are also in high demand from  all over the world.

The Tagesanzeiger of 27th January 2017 (Michaelis Pantelouris) describes in detail, how strict the rules are for the separate kosher production line. This is the cellar for developing kosher wines.

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It is locked and sealed and only the Rabbi is allowed to access this part of the cooperative cellar. The enologist (Jürgen Wagner) has a cellar with the same setup, and he surveys the development of the kosher wines “indirectly” in cooperation with the Rabbi.

We buy some wines including a bottle of the Peraj Ha’Abib (from the non kosher production line). I will share it with a good friend of mine. Innovative is also their series of four terroir wines “La Nit de les Garnatxes” – I take a selection of two bottles. Furthermore we bought vinegar and olive oil called “Siurana” – gifts for Christmas 2016. I gave one bottle of Siurana oil to my nephew, an agroecologist, and he loves it.

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Gandesa – the welcoming capital of Terra Alta

Gandesa is the capital of Terra Alta, like Montsant also a DO wine region. Narrow streets in the old town. We can see the church of Assumpcio.

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The gate has just closed, because the Sunday service has finished. This is the Romanesque west gate of the church of Assumpcio. The PDF linked in describes the sculptures and freezes  (“Gandesa – a church in New Catalonia”, no author).

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The modillions above the arch and the sculptures on the capitals are, says the PDF document, modelled after Lleida, and they tell biblical stories and give advise for good behaviour.

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We say hello to St. Jacob the pilgrim standing in a shell with his walking stick and his large hat. This is a more recent statue.

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Now we are hungry. We find an unpretentious small restaurant. Inside we are heartily welcomed and the owner-cook tailors our lunch meal according to our wishes. “We are a restaurant, we have salad, we have tapas, we have whatever you wish…”, he says. With us are eating more guests and they all look happy. So did we. Our meal was delicious.

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El Pinell de Brai – the art nouveau wine cathedral or Catedral del Vi

We continue our way through the hills of Terra Alta. Our destination is El Pinell de Brai, marvellously located on a rock.

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We park our car at the entrance of the small town in front of the Catedral del Vi built in modernist style by César Martinell between 1918 and 1922.  The frieze is the work of Xavier Nogues. There are many more such wine cathedrals in Catalonia. At that time cooperatives were founded and many villages joined their forces to build beautiful and functional cellars for the future. As Don Ferranti Wines explains, the people of Pinell had to mortgage their houses to finance their wine cathedral (see Don Ferranti Wines).

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With an audio guide we follow the round tour. We love these stairs hanging on the wall.

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Here we are above the vats (where the wine developed). This viaduct has an Archimedes screw inside to transport the grape pulps. The pressing area is behind us. The high vaults prevent the production area from warming up too much. There is also a cooling system that helps to slow down the fermentation process which gives the wine or more intense taste. The construction of the cellar-cathedral was well thought-out.

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This area is no longer used for producing wine. There is a separate cellar was steel tanks for that (see Don Ferranti).

Also in Pinell we buy some souvenirs such as vinegar, olive oil and wine. One bottle we share with our friends at Monthey, when returning the key of the apartment.

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Miravet – the castle above the river Ebro in the evening light

Miravet is a castle above the Ebro river. It dates from Arabic times and after having been conquered by the Christians in 1153, it was the property of the Order of the Knights Templars.

We look at the defensive walls – the castle has closed its gates just a few minutes before we arrived. We will have to return some other time.

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We enjoy the evening atmosphere of the river Ebro instead.

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Then we return “home” to our cosy apartment in Hospitalet.

 

 

Around Basel on a rainy day – in search of the Benkenspitz or Bänggeschpitz

Today it is a rainy and rather warm mid-February day in 2017. I set out to discover the Benkenspitz or “Bängeschpitz”. This is a narrow forest “wedge” of Benken (Switzerland) extending into France between the two French villages Hagenthal and Neuwiller (the border between Switzerland and France is drawn in pink on this Swissmobility map).

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This “wedge” called “Benkenspitz” is some 900m long and some 100m wide. The narrowest place is at the “entrance” in the south – just 62m wide. In the Internet I found some secondary information that says this forest “wedge” has already belonged to Benken, when Basel acquired it in the early 16th century. It is assumed that this might have been a good place for hunting. Actually I came across quite a few hunting stands in this area both on the Swiss and on the French side.

My  blog “Around Basel – looking for old boundary stones on a sunny cold day” talks about my cold winter walk to the boundary stones between Oberwil (that until about 1800 belonged to the Bishopric of Basel) and Benken (that – with Biel – had been acquired by the town Basel soon after 1500). Today it is rather warm and rainy. The Passwang is still covered with snow.

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I am on the Bielhübel in front of the water reservoir with its natural pond.

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Not far from here are the beautifully restored boundary stones from the 17th and 18th century that mark the border between Oberwil (Bishopric of Basel) and Biel-Benken (belonging to Basel).

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I continue my way above Biel and come across a lady on a very, very dirty mountain bike. “Have you seen anyone on a mountain bike – I have lost my husband… no?… “Matthias, Matthiaaaas”… I do not want to frighten the animals, there is so much deer around here… I am from Spain… Matthiaaaas, Matthiaaaaaaass…” and finally Matthias replies and she is happy. “You are looking for boundary stones?… there is one not far from here…”, she says knowing well the history of Biel-Benken. Right, here it is, shortly before reaching the Swiss hiking path marked in green at the Swiss-French border.

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From here I continue along the Swiss-French border between Neuwiller and Biel-Benken. A small footpath follows the boundary stones, marked with the Swiss cross on one side…

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… and with the “F” for France on the other side (1816 – this was just after the Congress of Vienna in 1815).

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Later this well prepared hiking path ends and continues as a muddy path. EXACTLY where the nice path ends and the mud begins is – guess what – the border between France and Switzerland.

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I cross this road to continue following the boundary stones. I meet a lady with two dogs. She comes from Neuwiller in France and takes out dogs of various owners. We speak French with one another while one of the dogs barks loudly at me – with a French accent.

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After having paved my way through a muddy meadow, I cross the road connecting Benken with Neuwiller. Again, it is very clear, where the border is. Baselland (Basle Country), the canton of cherry trees, says good-bye to the cars crossing the border and driving to Neuwiller in France.

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I cross the road and follow the ditch that is the border between Switzerland and France. This one boundary stone is nicely coloured on the Swiss side.

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Still following the ditch I approach the “entrance” of the Benkenspitz. It starts on the meadow between the two forests.

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I first see the boundary stone to the west of the “entrance”. I am confused, but then I find the stone marking the east of the “entrance” to the forest “wedge” and enjoy the view of the Jura hills in Switzerland.

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I continue along the east line – one boundary stone after the next to make it all clear, where Switzerland ends in this narrow wedge and where France starts.

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A huge tractor cuts trees – in France. I  have reached the end of the Swiss wedge called “Benkenspitz” and return back along the west border – again well  marked.

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I leave the Benkenspitz behind me and continue to follow the French-Swiss border. This is an interesting cooperation: A Swiss traffic sign (only residents are allowed to drive here) and a French hiking sign of the Club Vosgien.

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And – across of this French-Swiss cooperation – be aware, following this hiking sign takes you to France, only allowed when having nothing to declare!

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Along vineyards the boundary stones lead me down towards Benken.

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I take the bus back to Bottmingen – good that public transportation works so efficiently.