Sheepish: the spotlight on shepherds

Let’s put the spotlight on someone we all know…

Everywhere in Málaga. Every day. The shepherd. El ‘pastor‘!

Of cabras (goats) or ovejas (sheep).

Sheep on Forest Path

For Mary might have had a little lamb, we are so lucky to have thousands of them, and to see them live just as they did thousands of years ago:

From green pasture to tranquil waters, under the guidance of tireless dogs – and the responsible for their safety and well being, the shepherd.

The real oldest profession in the world?

shepherd-sheep

No, that would have been hunter or gatherer of course. Shepherd must have followed suit pretty quickly though.

Adam and Eve would have been herders.

There has been a period of herding in the lives of literally all prophets of all 3 Abrahamic religions, all the way from Abraham in 1800 BC to Muhammad in 600 AD.

Try to count the sheer number of porcelain shepherdesses, nursery rhymes, psalms, parables, metaphors, dogs that popped up in your life – it’s a profession that is deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness, which possibly is the reason why it fills us with a little bit of warmth whenever we encounter it. Its mere existence is a stress reducer.

The most famous shepherd of all time?

David-MichelangeloLittle David, that intriguing 5ft-something teenager with all his far taller brothers… but who was the one daring to take on Goliath, and went on to become King David and the author of the Psalm ‘The Lord is my shepherd‘.

Fast forward 3000 years and he ended up as the King of Spades in everyone’s deck of cards (early Middle Ages), another 200 years and Michelangelo made a (for sure slightly idealised) sculpture of him (1501-1504)… and yet another 500 years and he ends up in this blog that is world famous in downtown Guaro.

The work of a shepherd

sheepish
Sometimes we think that all a ‘pastor’ needs to do is to tag along all day, and strike the occasional photogenetic pose. Nothing could be further from the truth; he is the one behind your wool, cheese or milk needs and responsible for quality. For this he has to master quite the number of skills, absolute vigilance for his flock, care for the individual animal, and knowledge of pastures chief among them.

Nobody can wreck a land so much as a herd of cabras (goats) or ovejas (sheep). They can be the saviour of soil, but also its ruin. For that reason they need to be permanently on the move, according to the seasons and the type of grass.

Especially sheep are fragile creatures and prone to dozens of dangers, in today’s Andalucía dogs and parasites being the most known ones. A cast down sheep is not capable of getting up, so as its guide you have to be on the permanent look out that no sheep is left behind – and thus in mortal danger – and get it up and massage its legs for blood circulation.

Any shepherd can tell you that sheep come with their personalities, and one bad apple in the flock – for example the ewe teaching her lambs where to find holes in the fence, an overly dominant ram – can cause one headache after the other.

Shepherd in 2017

Shepherd-in-Malaga2In the midst of modern day traffic, a shepherd must sometimes really feel to be a little David, a little bit ignored amidst the hustle and bustle of all those more hectic brothers: it might have become easier to keep the flock free from predators, but not of stress.

Yet, little David was the only character in the Bible to ever have made God smile. “Somehow who is so good with his sheep, must be good with mine”. 

(*) The 4 most formidable kings that made it to the deck of cards are: Alexander, King DavidJulius Ceasar and Charles The Great. The most intriguing thing about the 2nd is whether he existed at all.

Fun facts about sheep

Sheep

There are 1 billion sheep in the world. The person who counted them fell asleep.

They are divided into 900 breeds.

Their natural average lifespan is of 10-12 years. The weight of a male can go all the way from 45 to 160 kgs.

The ram has become a symbol of virility, power and determination, and a lamb of tenderness. The female is named an ewe. Theirs is a highly hierarchical society, the moving of the flock is correlated with social dominance, and the horn size is a factor in the flock hierarchy.

They find that the wool of a black sheep is just as warm. And that humans look extremely alike and all bend out of the car window with the same camera in the same Selfie-angle: they call that ‘human like behaviour‘.

More about sheep here on Wikipedia.

Grapevine Properties
Guaro, Málaga
www.grapevine-properties.com

You can’t buy happiness…

…but you can be in Andalucía in spring. 

Can you all feel it? That pinch of primavera in the air? The first sparkles? Those first hints of the build-up of new life?

As seasoned travellers know: it’s never the destination, always the journey. It’s never the highlight of the season that is exciting, but its build-up. And, oh my, how Andalucía knows about theatrical build-ups.  

That’s why spring is our favourite time of the year in inland Málaga. New beginnings!

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Nature and humans alike are working on the movie set on 2017: babystep by babystep, the days are getting longer, the weather is evolving towards that ideal mix of warm in the sun and cool in the shade, and you can see spring in the step of people.

The almond and orange blossom scatters the countryside with white and pink, making you feel like singing ‘Edelweiss‘.

You start to debate whether it’s warm enough to swim in the piscina yet. The brave jump in and soon regret their decision. The not-so-brave dip their toe in and decide otherwise.

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The farmers plant their crops for the summer.

There is the first ‘shorts or trousers?’ debate in the morning. The first endearingly hopeful thoughts of how to obtain a beach body. The phones of personal trainers start to ring.

You begin to organise the first thought about the first barbeque.  Will it be a big affair or with just 5000 of your most intimate friends? This year you’re going to branch out from burgers and sausages. This year you’re going to grill fillets of pork and tuna steaks. No, peppers and mushrooms only. No, just salad. You stay optimistic.

The villages have their first meetings about the Semana Santa or the Romería. You see more horses on streets. More sheep shepherds. You see uninspired bloggers start posting photos of blossoms and writing about new beginnings.

If it’s your first time to our blog, pardon our enthusiasm. You will have to know that in this world there are enthused people, there are very enthused ones, and then those in inland Málaga.

We wish you a lovely journey into 2017!

Laura and Ben from the office of…
www.grapevine-properties.com
Guaro, Málaga

Spanish words of the month

So, I suppose we can all say ‘Feliz Navidad‘ en ‘Prospero Año Nuevo‘ now.
amigos
Learning a new language is that step-by-step process:

You pick up the vocabulary paso a paso. Or, more often than not, pasito a pasito: in little steps.

(Gamble with -ito or -ita at the end of a word and you are pretty sure it’s the correct diminutive. And if it’s not correct, we know how relaxed Andalusians are and always go for the good intention and never the correct packaging.

Some even experiment with adding more it’s in the middle: pie, piecito, piecisito… or foot, small foot, tiny foot… we suggest not to become too experimental though and avoid introducing –tititititito, you risk being taken for Apache instead of Spanish).

Back to the topic: last Friday it was Reyes Magos. That stands for the magical Kings, or the Three Wise Kings from the East. It was one of the most important national fiestas of last week.

Vale, we are ‘bromeando‘: kidding. The Andalusians are among the hardest working people in Europe: we are only being jealous that they’ve got life’s recipe so right! They always know that it’s not because it’s winter that the sunny mood should stop.

Sociologists sometimes indicate that where frutas (fruits) drop from the cielo (sky, heaven), there’s just less need for worries or the stress of planning: why be so anxious about tomorrow if the olives are instantly followed by the naranjas by the almonds by the avocados by the grapes, not to mention those annoying limones (lemons) that just keep dropping non-stop, without so much as you looking at the tree.

In inland Málaga the problem is never that you don’t have a lemon for your salad, the problem is that you’ve got 40 kilos of them. And a neighbour barricading the door so you can’t drop them with him. For he is struggling with his own lounge cum pecan nuts storage room.

Very, very hard work indeed (try being a builder or gardener in 40 degrees!): but less worries: tomorrow takes care of itself.

(We will skip the word for ‘tomorrow‘ at the time being for that one is too difficult).

imagesO Andalusian who is reading this, we are so sorry for such prejuicio! We are only teasing you, with lots of cariño (affection, love). We extranjeros might come here for the sun… we stay for the people. Sol y playa are wonderful for a holiday, Andalusians for a life.

We can struggle with the idioma, never get used to the horarios, always being three horas too early or too late, and never have the social customs precisely right. That we try so hard though and really really want to learn… is a great compliment and tribute to your culture. That also makes it so easy for us to make it ours.

Yes, yes, as many a Roman, Phoenician, Moor, Jew, Arab, Habsburger, Roma have been puzzled about: it’s one of the great mysteries of life why someone would want to live anywhere else than here.

Language and culture: always intertwined. You learn one and the other starts to shimmer through. Many a multi-lingual person even says: it ads to your personality, as though you develop another trait in yourself.

Feliz Año Nuevo a todos in Guadalhorce Valley!

Grapevine Properties
www.grapevine-properties.com

December 8th: the celebration of Immaculate Conception

You might have noticed: in winter the fiestas in Málaga are less ‘olé‘.

There is the Big Boomer of New Years’ Eve in Coin coming up, that miniature version of carnival in Rio, but apart from that also the festive character of the Andalusians is hibernating: the events are much more intimate and serious in nature.

That does not mean they are less lovely or less unique. As for example this exquisite little jewel: the celebration of Inmaculada Concepción on December the 8th. 

It is one of these little surprises that we as foreigners in inland Málaga can bump into, and reduce us to tears, and we don’t know why. Possibly it’s the feel of being reconnected to history, to our Christian roots or the evoking of simpler, purer days that gives us this chill down our spine.

Yes, celebrated possibly as early as the 5th century (in Syria) and in the Spanish Empire non-stop for the past 400 years, very little has changed or has been adapted to momentary fashion to this celebration – of the conception of the Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne.

Mary might be the only person in history who does not get birthday wishes, but a celebration of her conception (ergo: no fiesta on September 8th, but 9 months earlier).

According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, this stands for the Virgin Mary’s freedom of original sin by virtue of the foreseen merits of her son Jesus. Mind: the Church does teach that Mary was conceived by normal biological means, but God acted upon her soul at the time of her conception, keeping her ‘immaculate‘.

On that procession of the night of December 7th, for sure someone might want to start humming “Happy conception to you, happy conception to you” – and yet this is the magic of processions in inland Málaga: in all the sarcasm or irony of our post-modern 21st century, in which snow has become ‘traffic misery’ and the sky polluted, there are still moments in which we celebrate purity. Just like our forefathers did. It’s a moment of absence of centuries of luggage.

Hence why a procession, no matter how small, can trigger such an emotion in us?

www.grapevine-properties.com

Dia de Todos Los Santos in Málaga

You may have seen by now in the local supermarkets, the sections dedicated to Halloween, a U.S holiday that has been adopted now worldwide.

This adoption in Inland Málaga only really began around 10 years ago and has been growing ever since, 2016 easily beating previous with regards to decorations and festivities. Never have I seen so many carved pumpkins and bags of themed sweets.

In Spain however it’s not the 31st that is traditionally celebrated, but the 1st of November. It’s a day known as Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day, in English).

This Catholic public holiday is dedicated to honor those that have passed. People often visit the cemetery on this day to lay flowers, traditionally chrysanthemums, and pay respects. You will actually notice that the cemeteries leading up to and after this holiday are immaculately decorated with floral designs left by loved ones. This tradition is especially popular with the older generations, some even taking time before the 1st to go and clean the grave to prepare it beforehand.

As for most public holidays in Spain, there are also traditional things that are eaten too! On this occasion the sweet treats prevail, the most popular being:

Buñelos de Viento (Doughnut balls of the wind): Doughnut balls filled with fresh cream, crème patisserie or chocolate. This baked good was created during the reign of Felipe II towards the end of the 17th century when it was believed that eating one of these doughnut balls would save a soul from purgatory.

Huesos de Santo (Saint’s Bones): these are finger-like tubes of marzipan filled with a sweet egg yolk mixture. The name comes from the bone color they turn when baked.

Panellets: originally from Cataluña, rounds treats are made of almonds, potato, sugar and pine nuts. It is suggested that these are enjoyed with a glass of sweet moscatel wine.

Are you going to celebrate Día de Todos Los Santos?

Grapevine Properties SL
Guaro, Málaga
www.grapevine-properties.com

Spain on 带 路

Do you know what these Chinese characters stand for?

If so, congratulations, you are more 21st century than 99.99% of humanity. For you have heard of the most grandiose project of our time – connecting 60 countries and influencing the world economically, socially and politically. And you even recognise how the Chinese refer to it. Welcome to 带 路… or OBOR.

‘One Belt, One Road’

Also named The New Silk Road, that trade route that connected China with the Middle East and Europe for over 1000 years. And which is the inspiration for this mind boggling project.

What is it?  China wanting to connect over 60 countries by means of roads, trains and shipping routes. The BELT goes over land in the north, the ROAD is the shipping route in the south.

one-belt-one-road

And it all ends in Madrid. So, yip, Europe is not out of the picture yet, we might all still feel the fringes of its waves.

What’s so spectacular about OBOR?

China buying a harbour such as Piraeus in Greece? OBOR.
A 3000 km long railroad through the Amazone? OBOR.
The duration of shipping routes slashed in half? OBOR.
Previously half forgotten countries as Georgia and the -Stans becoming the new hubs of 60% of the world’s economy? OBOR.
Not the best of friends – Russia, India, China – at least integrating a bit economically, which is always the best foundation for peace? OBOR.
The Chinese for years having been constructing motorway in East Africa? OBOR.

It is intended to improve, intensify and lift up the whole economy and be mutually beneficial for all countries on the belt. Arguably especially China: monitoring the tests of trains between Madrid and China, the Spanish are not very impressed so far: the trains arrive full but mainly leave half empty back to China, so it’s not greatly improving the export (of olive oil).

‘We’ve had a difficult century’

Leave it up to a Chinese diplomat to say such a thing. If your language is 5000 years old, very roughly competing with the likes of Hebrew and Persian, and you can recall cultural highlights of 3000 years ago – one does not have a short time attention span. We could guess that OBOR has been in the ropes for – and aimed at – a very Chinese ‘while’.

OK, we are at the fringe of it, an ‘end station’. Which is better than 130 other countries can say – and if you live in Andalucia, it’s not because you want to be in the centre  of it all. But but but  it’s pleasant to know though that also in the 21st century, our country will still be a ‘player’. Also Málaga with its ‘Málaga Valley’ project is a great sign that at least this corner of the sleepy Old Continent intends to forever keep reinventing itself.

See you soon at Malaga Maria Zambrano, buying a ticket to Peking.

We hope this article , as any other, was a garden carried in a pocket. May your business flourish, and wish us a long life to share the beauty of this graceful autumn light.

Grapevine Properties
Guaro, inland Málaga
www.grapevine-properties.com

About the Flemish, the Flamenco and the flamenquin

Everyone the world over might know the song ‘Y viva España‘.
Few know though that this was a Flemish song, written in 1971 – in Dutch – for the singer Samantha from Antwerp.

(Flanders is the Dutch speaking north of Belgium: because of the typical accent it’s often referred to as ‘Flemish‘).

The Flemish and Spain: a few conquests but mainly a love affair – and one that goes back 600 years. And Spain has always been sending kisses back. You don’t have to monitor the voting behaviour at the Eurovision Song Contest to see there’s forever a silent greeting between the 2 people. For example…

1. Meet the flamenquin, the dish

meaning-of-flamenquinLong, thin and blonde.

Thus the inventors of this very popular Andalusian sausage roll did not have to think long about a name for it:

‘Flamenquin’, or little Fleming!

That was in the 19th century in Córdoba, so one could wonder why a Cordobese of that century had to think about an inhabitant of Flanders when serving a sausage.

Why, say, not the Vikings?  Well, probably nobody remembered them. Whereas this person…

2. Meet Charles V, the emperor of emperors

Or, in Spain better known as Carlos I of Spain.
This best known of all emperors of the Holy Roman Empire was born – and had his seat – in Ghent in Flanders.
charles-vFrom there this heir of 3 leading dynasties ruled over not less than 4 million square kilometers. His empire was the first to ever be described as ‘the empire on which the sun never sets‘.

When in the 16th century he traveled to his castles in Sevilla and Granada, he did so with a very, very large entourage.

In those days that must have been quite the spectacle, such a colourful and long convoy criss crossing mountains and villages. Thanks to the flamenquin we can safely assume they were mostly blonde, tall and thin (or otherwise a real dish).

Just one part of the convoy consisted of his own musicians, playing music ‘a la flamenco‘ – or like a Fleming. This is almost surely the reason why the word ‘flamenco‘ slipped into the Spanish language – and why the weeks long parade left such a mark it sunk deep into the collective memory.

3. Meet Flamenco, the music and dance style

Now, the question remains how that word ‘flamenco’ then got attached to the music we know nowadays. After all, that music or dance style is not Flemish at all.  And the art of Flamenco was only born in the 19th century.

musicians

One train of thought is that it was Andalusian humourthe first singers and players of Flamenco to be gypsies, short, stocky and dark.

But in fact it’s one of these mysteries of history, the reasoning or links lost in the mist of time: myths tend to have a long lifespan.

(Just think of how we still speak of Gypsies, centuries after we know they do not come from Egypt).

Not a myth: also that other Superstar of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, the first unifier of Europe after the crumbling of the Roman Empire, was thought to be born in current day Belgium: in his case in the French speaking region.

in 2016 the Belgians are thought to be 5th on the ranking of which nationalities buy most property in Spain – after nationals from the UK, France, Russia and Germany. In inland Málaga they are almost equally divided between Dutch- and French speakers, and a few German speakers from the small German speaking eastern part of Belgium).

‘Eviva España’

That, by the way, was the original title of the song. It was a spelling mistake: the word ‘eviva‘ does not exist in Spanish.

The song was surfing on the birth of the popularity of beach holidays abroad – and the knowledge of the language still had to follow. Today, Spanish is the 4th most popular language to study in Belgium – and that’s quite something since the other languages or more or less compulsory or national languages.

PS: On October 1, 2 and 3 you find us on the Second Home Expo at the Expo in Brussels. 

A bientôt  / Tot gauw – in French, Dutch, Flemish, English, Spanish…

www.grapevine-properties.com 

The original version:

Other songs you didn’t know where from Belgium:
– Pump up the jam
– The Way To Your Heart
– Hey, even Gotye of Somebody That I Used To Know was born in Bruges as Wouter De Backer