10 April 2022: Galician woes; Camino growth; Nasty Germany; The trans phoney war; Cucumbers and me; & other stuff.

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galiza   

Says the Diario de Pontevedra . . . The departing President of the Galician Xunta  – Alberto Feijoo, on his way to becoming PP leader – succeeded in internationalising Galicia but lost it 100,000 of its population over his 13 year reign. I’m not clear how the latter can be attributed to him. Perhaps he didn’t have enough kids.

Someone been prosecuted locally for driving 12km with a seminude bloke on top of his van. Seems harsh to me. Must have been quite funny.

More seriously, 8 locals have been jailed for constructing the large, super-fast speedboats favoured by our narcotraficantes. Possibly before the (doubtless highly profitable) biz moved south to nearby Portugal.

Well, things are back to normal on the Camino Portugués. Last week saw the first 1,000 a day milestone and next week – Semana Santa – will see all the region’s albergues (pilgrim hostels) choc-a-bloc. So, we really could see an annual total of 120,000 this year – 13 times more than when I first walked the camino in 2009.


This country is getting a bad press these days. See here, for example.

And the one below, entitled: Ukraine is paying the price for Germany’s complacency.

The EU

See here to learn how Hungary has revealed the EU’s contempt for democracy.

Quote of the Day

There is a problem when groups such as Stonewall are allowed to dictate not only the law as they would like it to be but also reality as they would like it to be. There’s nothing like a war to bring a sharp dose of material reality to proceedings. Perhaps the clarifying influence of events in eastern Europe helps to explain why in the past 2 weeks we have seen so many marked reversals in the once-unstoppable advance of trans activism in the UK. Who needs culture wars when there’s a real one going on?

Finally . . . 

A friend who came to watch yesterday’s Grand National with me kindly brought a snack of sandwiches for us. Being Canadian, she assumed cucumber sandwiches would be just the thing for an Englishman watching the sport of kings. But the truth is cucumber and I can’t be in the same room together. One of the trials of my life was socialising with families in Iran, where it’s treated as a fruit. BTW: Does everyone know that, if you leave a melon too long, it tastes like cucumber? To me at least.

After several near misses over the years, I finally managed to fall down the stairs to my basement this morning. Quite an experience, tumbling over and over. But, luckily, no broken bones. Just a bang on the back of the cranium. And a headache. Life goes on.

For new reader(s): If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.


Ukraine is paying the price for Germany’s complacency. Berlin is destroying its international reputation by continuing to fund the Russian war machine: Katja Hoyer, an Anglo- German historian and visiting research fellow at King’s College London 

“Every euro, every cent that you send to Russia is bloody money,” Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko told reporters yesterday as he again called on Europe to stop funding Putin’s war through trade. In light of the reports of horrific atrocities committed against Ukrainian civilians, the EU is responding with a new sanctions package. But Germany still blocks the way to an import ban on Putin’s most lucrative asset: gas.

Berlin needs to accept that there is a price to pay for its complacent energy policy over the last two decades. At the moment Ukrainians are paying it. The number of victims is as yet unconfirmed, but there can be no doubt that civilians in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv, were shot, raped and tortured by Russian soldiers in a war that is funded in part through German energy bills. Since 2014 alone, Berlin has sent 170 billion euros to Moscow to pay for gas, coal and oil imports.

But Germany is struggling to cut the Kremlin’s economic tentacles. Despite some reductions being made, Germany still imports 40 per cent of its gas, a third of its oil and half of its coal from Russia. Much of the country’s energy infrastructure is also majority-owned by Russian companies – from pipelines and refineries to storage reservoirs. Currently, the government isn’t even entirely clear who owns Gazprom Germania, the Russian energy giant’s subsidiary in Germany. It has now been put under state control.

The government is understandably anxious about attempting to unroot the insidious Russian energy network from its economic nervous system. The rest of Europe should be, too. Take the oil refinery in Schwedt, 120km north-east of Berlin. The Russian oil firm Rosneft is the majority shareholder. Should it sabotage or close its asset, the entire region around Berlin would be affected as well as Western Poland. The same applies to gas passed on to countries like the Czech Republic, Austria and the Netherlands.

There is no doubt that the economic price to pay for an embargo would be large. Christian Sewing, the chief executive of Deutsche Bank, warned that “a significant recession in Germany would be virtually unavoidable”’ Economy Minister Robert Habeck agrees. He thinks it is “too soon” for an embargo. In his view, Germany is already doing what it can as “every contract that is halted hurts Putin”.

But to the people of Ukraine, a harsh economic blow to Moscow cannot come soon enough. Other countries have recognised the urgency of the situation. Poland is pressing ahead with a coal import ban and has successfully pushed the EU into proposing this as a bloc-wide policy in a new sanctions package. Lithuania has become the first EU country to give up Russian gas entirely. Even Italy, which is in a similar situation to Germany in terms of energy dependency, has said that it “will not place vetoes on sanctions against Russian gas”. Only Germany’s “Nein” to an embargo remains.

Yet most studies predict an economic contraction of 3-4 per cent as a worst case scenario should Germany stop importing gas immediately. Gas prices could rise five-fold, but the supply for private households would remain stable if alternatives are fully exploited. Some experts like Benjamin Moll of the LSE have even suggested the sooner a ban comes the less economically painful it will be due to reduced demand in the summer, giving the state and markets more time to adjust.

In fact, most experts don’t predict a catastrophic scenario should energy imports from Russia grind to a halt tomorrow. Habeck, too, has reassured the country that if Putin cuts off gas, “we will withstand the pressure and find solutions”. The risk is to German prosperity, not stability.

Germany cannot keep funding Putin’s war machine to avoid the economic consequences of its own mistakes. In light of the situation in Ukraine, that is both morally wrong and politically short-sighted. Germany has spent decades rebuilding its reputation, with Eastern European nations in particular. Every day it stands by as Ukrainian citizens are murdered with bullets funded through its energy bills, it haemorrhages trust.

If Putin’s invasion is indeed to mark a watershed moment for Germany, then chancellor Olaf Scholz needs to prove it. Berlin could withdraw Moscow’s funds for this war tomorrow.