Monday, 31 March 2014

Spanish jamón II

In one of my previous blogs I have already written about the famous Spanish jamón looking at its history and its degrees of quality (you can read more about it here). We have also visited Jabugo, the Mecca of jamón lovers where we ended up buying more than we wanted (you can find that blog here).

If my blogs made you want to rush to Spain, go to the first shop and buy a whole leg of pig I’m more than satisfied with the result, however I would urge you to consider buying the flight tickets for a minute. One cannot just buy a whole leg and take it home to cut it up and eat it. There are a few things we have to look into before it happens.

First of all you have to decide which leg you want to buy, the rear one or the front one? There is a difference in size which matters when you consider the number of people eating it. Usually they sell the rear leg which is the jamón, which is around 10kg and costs from 50 euros up. If you are only two of you you might want to choose the front leg, the paleta which is around 5-6kg. And how long would it last for for two people? Obviously it depends on the amount you eat. Our friends said they bought a front leg weighing 5kg and it lasted them about a month and they were eating from it at least twice a day!

Secondly, when you buy the first leg of your life you have a few other things to spend money on, too, for example the leg-holder, the jamonera, and three different types of ham carving knives.

Thirdly, you have to learn how to cut a leg. If you want to enjoy your jamón to its fullest you have to pay attention to the anatomy of the animal and cut the meat in a certain way so that you get the most meat off the bone. There are many sites on the internet that teach you how to do this properly, for example this one which even includes a pdf for those who can’t understand Spanish.This 10-minute-long (!) video might also come handy.

As you can see, cutting jamón is an art. Therefore it’s not surprising that on a Spanish wedding the biggest slice of the wedding money pool (sorry for the pun) goes to the professional jamón cutter. It is also true of the Feria de Abril in Seville where these professionals are the most sought after and the most expensive part of the fiesta.

Don’t lose heart, though, it’s not too late to start. The taste of a freshly cut, good quality jamón on fresh, olive oil soaked bread will put a smile on everybody´s face.

Friday, 28 March 2014

The mysteries of the Spanish language

We have been living in this beautiful country for almost a year now and making slow progress at learning the language. All those conjugations, irregulars and the 26 different tenses have a very positive effect on my life, not to mention the dreaded subjuntivo…help!

There are however many expressions and words that make me smile. For example the fact that the Spanish, and especially the Andalusians love using the diminutive. It confuses the hell out of the poor Spanish speaker wannabe when every noun seems to have an –ita/eta or –illa/ella ending and it always takes a few seconds to realise that no, it’s not a new word, it’s an old one with a diminutive ending. It’s kind of like children’s talk in English when they say ‘doggie’ instead of ‘dog’ or ‘dolly’ instead of ‘doll’. It all sounds cute from the Spanish children’s mouth however when I go to the butchers and a huge, 50 something, stocky man with what looks like murder in his eyes asks me whether I want a ‘bolsita’ (bolsa - bag), I cannot help but be surprised, to say the least.

My other favourite part of the language is the way they create their shop names. They surely didn’t sit in a circle for days to think about them. All they do in most of the cases is to put a – ría ending behind the word. For this example:
Cerveza (beer) – cervecería (pub)
Fruta (fruit) – frutería (fruit&veg)
Pelo (hair) – peluquería (haridresser)
Carne (meat) – carnicería 
And the list goes on.

In the first months of our Spanish adventure we often walked down the street and spotted more and more examples for this rule which provided endless fun. You can imagine our surprise when we saw a shop with a huge sign in front of it that said 'ferreteria'. We curiously looked through the shop window to see whether they really sell ferrets but to our huge disappointment it was only a hardware shop. We had the same puzzled expression on our face when we saw a 'joyeria'. According to the above mentioned rule they should be selling 'joy' here but it turned out it was a jewelry shop. Anticlimax.

The best example is the one I got from the time I was looking for the Foreign Office in Seville´s Plaza España. I asked a lady to point me to the direction of the Oficina de Extranjeros when she asked back ‘You’re looking for the ‘Extranjería’? So next time I wanna buy some foreigners, I know exactly where I have to go!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Hungarian Pavilion (Seville World Expo ´92)

We were out one day with Paul, cycling along the Rio Guadalquivir when we passed the site of the ´92 World Expo on the other side of the river. I looked back and spotted a familiar sight, the seven towers of the Hungarian building. We turned back to see whether the gate was open and fortunately we could just walk through it to have a look around.

The building was built by Imre Makovecz who is probably the most famous Hungarian architect in my country. He has many amazing constructions and in most of them he uses the symbolism of the Hungarian folklore.

Even during its construction it attracted attention and it´s talked about as the most innovative building of the site. After the World Expo the architect tried everything in his power to take it to Hungary however he wasn´t successful. The sight of it today would break his heart, as it broke mine.

It saddened me greatly to see that this amazing building is already falling into disrepair. I admit I did try to go inside but I couldn´t. You can see a few photos about the inside and the outside of the building just after it was built here.

Apart from the Hungarian building the World Expo site has lots of awesome-looking buildings so it’s worth doing the short trip over the river.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Plaza de España

When I got my job in the language school in Seville I was sent straight away to get my NIE number from the Oficina de Extranjeros to Plaza de España. I didn’t know anything about Seville at that time so I got a map, got on a Sevici bike and after getting lost a few times I eventually found my way to the square. When I turned around the corner my jaw literally dropped.

The Ibero-American Expo in 1929 had a great influence on Seville’s planning. Amongst many other projects the Parque the Maria Luisa got a new design and at the end of the park, to crown it all, they created the beauty that is the Plaza de España.

The Plaza hugs the park in a semi-circle with a lovely fountain in the middle. There’s an artificial lake that follows the shape of the building with gorgeous-looking bridges arching over it. The whole square is full of light, water and colour.

Apart from wondering around and enjoying the sun you can hire a boat or a horse carriage that can take you around the park and can show you other important sights, too.

Apart from it looking absolutely stunning and beautiful there’s one more thing that makes it very special. Around the square there are seats that are dedicated to each of the 50 provinces of the country. They all have an image that show an important part of the region’s history. I love looking at them and learning the stories behind them.

I recommend visiting this lovely place after the sun goes down, too, as its atmosphere completely changes. The bright colours all disappear and the shapes come into focus. The lit up fountain makes it especially attractive.

This plaza is so beautiful and it’s not a surprise that it was chosen as the location for some famous film scenes such as the Star Wars. Do you recognise Princess Amidala’s planet, Naboo and its city, Theed?

Special thanks to Peter Vagvolgyi and Paul Hughes for their gorgeous photos.

Saturday, 15 March 2014


One day before I started my class at the language school one of my students gave me a little present. She brought me a few slices of torrijas which is the typical dessert of Semana Santa. They looked delicious and as soon as I got home we tucked into them with Paul.

The torrija is basically French toast (or sweet bundas kenyer as we have it in Hungary) in its Spanish variety. There’s a certain type of bread you have to buy which is long and already cut up, the slices shouldn’t be wider than 2 cm. It’s better when the bread is a few days old so it can soak in the hot milk better. Then they get dipped into egg batter, then fried in olive oil. When they are golden brown on each side then a sweet syrup is poured over them which is generally made of water, honey, sugar and some sweet wine. If this is still not enough, you can pour more honey or sprinkle icing sugar or cinnamon on top.

It is especially favoured during the Holy Week as it uses up the leftover bread and it’s a simple, filling meal for when you can’t eat meat.

Friday, 14 March 2014


Alájar is one of the prettiest village in the Sierra de Aracena and our last walk started/finished here, too. It is a gorgeous little place with a small main square in the middle of it.

It is also very rural and it was proved quickly as when we arrived we saw a horse tied up just in front of the square.

It has lots of nice white washed houses and in front of many doors there’s a cobbled portal which is very typical in this area.

It is generally a lovely place to stroll around or have an ice cream on one of the benches, like we did.

Behind the village on the side of the hill there’s a great viewpoint, the Peña de las Arias Montano. There’s a lovely church here and a hermitage. It looks slightly touristy with the amount of souvenirs on display.

There’s a nice looking white washed belfry, too.

There are many nice walks around this area so it’s worth looking into.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Sierra de Aracena – The Walk of the Forgotten Hamlet

This walk is described by Guy as ‘one of the loveliest walks in the Sierra’ therefore we chose this as our second and last hike in the Sierra de Aracena. It connects two lovely villages, Linares and Alájar. We drove up to the latter.

We really enjoyed this walk. The route lead us amongst many oak farms and we were desperate to find some black pigs. The view over the valley was lovely.

Suddenly, three small pig-like things came running over the low stone fence toward us! Here they are, the famous black pigs! We quickly got out our cameras and phones and started to take photos of them. We even made funny noises to catch their attention! Then anxiously looked around to make sure that there was nobody else around as this was a highly embarrassing moment.

It was a relief that finally we spotted them but unfortunately I could only see euro signs on them. One pig has four legs (according to my last count) and it means that four of those black feet bring in a tidy sum of about 1200 euro each!

After the forgotten hamlet we spotted a lovely field on the side of the walk and sat down to enjoy the view. At first it was all idyllic and peaceful but as we looked and listened the field came to life, birds were tweeting, insects were buzzing, cow bells were ringing, huge birds of prey were circling above us, flowers were swaying gently in the breeze. Spring has arrived to Andalusia!

After a few minutes we continued our walk and saw that a donkey was walking towards us! It walked right up to me and stopped. I couldn’t help myself and stroked its clean and still soft fur. It seemed to enjoy the attention. I really wanted to keep it but Paul didn’t let me. As usual. I had already been refused a baby elephant and a sea turtle a few years ago. Where is my freedom of action in this relationship?!

We got to the village of Linares all tired and thirsty. We found a lovely bar that was called the ‘Balcón de Linares’ and managed to score the prime spot on its small balcony.

The way back to Alájar was shorter but steeper and it felt good pushing ourselves before arriving to the main square in the sunshine.