1 March, 2023

Awake, for morning in the bowl of night has flung the stone that puts the stars to flight.

And, lo, has caught the sultan’s turret In a noose of light!

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable

 Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galicia

Yesterday, I read that they’re building a new rail tunnel up in our hills, as the high-speed train to and from Madrid only uses one. Meaning that some trains must wait. And then I read of a horrendous train crash in Greece. Which got me worrying a bit.

I wrote the other day of Spanish judicial delays. Right on cue, a case down South against drug smugglers had been binned, as prescribed after a 15 year delay in getting it to court. Must have been hell for the innocent-until-proven-guilty accused. Some of whom, in the interim, could well have moved on to Heaven or the real Hell.

I also read yesterday of a woman who’d been mauled to death by her neighbour’s Presa Canario. And then, this morning, of a British woman killed down South by an abandoned Pit Bull Terrier she’d taken in. Further down the canine rabbit hole, I read there are legal obligations on owners of dogs considered dangerous – viz Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, Dogos Argentinos, Filas Brasileiros, Tosas Inus and Akitas Inus. But not the Presa Canario, despite its dimensions and its uses. Depending on various criteria – see here – other dogs can be considered dangerous under the Act. To complete this dissertation, here’s a comparison between the dangerous Dogo Argentino and the, allegedly, non-dangerous Presa Canario. They look rather similar to me. Give me a Whippet, a Border Collie or a Galgo any day. But, then, I don’t have any sheep to protect from wolves.

The New York Times tells us here of a rather wonderful little pazo here in Galicia, up near Ourense. The article tells us that: For centuries, Galicia was one of Spain’s poorest regions, with a neo-feudal social order that lasted well into the 20th century. I was reminded of an early comment to me back in 2000, to the effect that it still was ‘feudal’ here and that I’d soon find out how. Not sure I have.

That pazo is in Galicia’s stunning Ribeira Sacra area, which gets a mention is this article/extended advert for great holidays in Spain.

It you’ve ever wondered how the gypsies/Roma came to Spain, the article below will be of interest. It’s a tarted-up machine translation from Google, which managed to include just about every mistake that can be made when turning Spanish into English – gender, tense, word order, nuance, etc.

The UK

Those E-scooter riders again . . . At least in the UK they’re 3 times more likely to have drunken crashes than cyclists and are at greater risk of ending up in intensive care. Can’t say I feel particularly sympathetic. .

Here’s AEP in positive mood around UK-EU relations. Who know, he might be right.


I knew that the original inhabitants of ‘France’ were the German Franks, with whom the Romans had more than a spot of bother. But I didn’t know that: A number of modern French words and place names, including the eventual country’s name of France, have a Frankish (i.e. Germanic) origin. Indeed, France itself is still known by terms literally meaning The Frankish Realm in Teutonic languages – German(Frankereich), Yiddish(Frankraykh), Dutch and (Frankrijk), Afrikaans(Frankryk) and in Danish Swedish and Norwegian(Frankrike). Of course, back when they were Teutons, the French were less arrogant but better warriors . . . Just kidding-

The Way of the World

From a reviewer of a book by a Muslim: Most of the antisemitism is nothing special, such as the assertion that “the nature of the Jewish personality  does not tend to harmonize and interact with others” or that a kosher restaurant in Dubai is a sign of an impending Jewish takeover of the Emirates. But then we see something new. The author compares Israel’s supposed manipulation of the UAE to how Jews supposedly manipulated Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain in 1492: Jews persuaded the Queen to finance Columbus’s journey to America, convincing her of gold, silver and minerals in this land. Five of the Jews accompanied the trip. After the discovery of America, the Jews deliberately exterminated the original people, so that everyone would be immigrants and no one would claim that the land belonged to his ancestors. Indeed, the Jews dominated America, and they considered New York as the “promised land.” The reviewer signs off with: Jews have been blamed for every other awful thing in history, so of course they must be responsible for the native American genocide as well.

Did you know?

Someone has said that old laws are not necessarily bad laws. For example, he says, in England – under a law which was set down by the Prince of Wales in 1403 – it’s still possible to shoot a Welshman with a crossbow, if he approaches Hereford cathedral after dark.

For new readers:-

1. 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.

2. Should you want to, the easiest way to to get my post routinely is to sign up for email subscription. As opposed to using a Bookmark or entering the URL in your browser. And there’s the Thoughts from Galicia FB group.


The mystery of when and where the gypsies came to the Iberian Peninsula

Not even today there is consensus on the place of origin of this people dispersed throughout Europe, but from the linguistic point there is evidence of a common root with the Sanskrit

Between the myth and the reality it is told that a nomadic people entered the early fifteenth century in the peninsula from North Africa, after stopping in France, following a long march that sank in the night of time. Different Aragonese and Castilian towns granted their patriarchs under the fantasy belief that it was a people fleeing the great Turk and that, unable to defend the holy faith, had had imposed on them by the Pope the penance of touring the world until the end of days.

This was believed by the authorities of Jaén in November 1462, when they entertained with food, drink and bed any individual who presented, together with a seal of one hundred people, such as the Count of Egypt. To these first groups were added the Greeks, pilgrims who entered the Mediterranean in the eighties because of the fall of Constantinople. Both continued to wander around the Peninsula, being well received in a friendly way until 1493, the year in which a group of Egyptians arrived in Madrid, where the council agreed “to give alms to those of Egypt, ten reales, to avoid the damage that three hundred people who’d come could do“.

Even today there is consensus on the place of origin of this people dispersed throughout Europe, but from the linguistic point there is evidence of a common root of its original language with the Sanskrit, so that the origin of the Roma people can be established in the northwest zone of India. Between the XI and XIII centuries the invasions of the Turkish and Mongol armies forced the settled tribes of gypsies to take different paths: the Ben group would travel through Syria to the East and the Mediterranean to the Nile Valley; the Phen group through Armenia to Byzantium. It was then that the first arrivals began to be documented to the Peninsula, first as princes then as dangerous strangers.

From reception to persecution

By the end of that century, no one considered that the Egyptians were uprooted aristocrats. Rather they saw in these nomadic groups endless public order problems. The Catholic Monarchs demanded that the gypsies coming into the cities be punished and wandering young people be penalised by jail and forced enlistment. An 1499 Order of these monarchs in established that “if they were found or taken together, without a trade, without gentlemen, that they be given each one hundred scourges for the first time and perpetually banish them from these kingdoms, and for the second time, let their ears be cut off, and put in chains and banished.” Such threats served little with a group that did not stop growing in the following centuries, just the opposite of Jewish and Muslim communities.

What nobody freed them was to become the scapegoat of the authorities. The proliferation of vagrants and people of bad living in the cities placed the gypsies in the focus in the mid -18th century. In the eyes of the population and the authorities, the way of life of this ethnic group was a challenge to the laws against nomadism. The legislation against the Egyptians tightened in 1745 with a ID card that extended the death penalty, reserved until then to “acuadrillados” gypsies who’d been surprised with firearms, also to those “found with weapons or without them outside the terms of its neighborhood”. “It will be lawful to make weapons on them and take their lives”, said the text. Not conforming to this, in the zenith of his power, the Marquis de Ensenada launched a great raid to “exterminate such an evil race”, as he defined their ethnicity in his letters, despite the reports that assured him that, by then, most gypsies were already in the process of integrating into their communities.

The La Rioja minister convinced Fernando VI of his particular final solution: “After the reduction of the cavalry[?] is concluded, the extinction of the gypsies will be ordered.” The plan would consist of first taking a census of the gypsies and, after locating them in each of the towns, arresting them all on the same day at the same time throughout the length and breadth of the peninsula. Thus, the intention was to separate husbands and wives to “prevent reproduction”, that is, to separate men and women so that they would not procreate. In addition, boys over the age of seven would be taken away from their mothers to be placed with the men. Fernando VI authorized the raid in the summer of 1749, when some 9,000 gypsies were detained on the same day. Many managed to slip away through the protection of nobles and ecclesiastics, while others planted responded with resistance or fled into the mountains.

Ensenada requested the intensifications of the persecution of the fled, but the overcrowding in the houses of mercy and the imminence of the riots frustrated his plans. Not even he knew what to do with the gypsies once they were arrested – Force them to engage in public works and offices in perpetuity? Expel them from the country? Take them to America so that, as many claimed, they would be assimilated by the Indians? In the end, he relented, but he did not solve the problem generated by his confinement of the gypsies.


  1. Dear Colin,
    I have to confess you’ve really foxed me over the Germans being the original inhabitants of France. I’d always believed they arrived towards the end of the Roman rulership of France which had previously been known as Gaul, hence Caesars Gallic Wars.
    Can you elucidate please?


  2. Hi, James.

    Yes, inexact comments on my part. Sorry about that.

    I really meant that the ‘French’ were German before they became known as ‘the French’. Descendants of Germans, in other words.

    But, as you say, the Celtic(?) Gauls and the Romans were in ‘France’ before the Franks. And yes, it was the Gauls with whom the Romans had the bother.

    “The Celtic tribes, known to the Romans as Gauls, spread from central Europe in the period 500 BCE–500 CE to provide France with a major component of its population, especially in the centre and west. At the fall of the Roman Empire, there was a powerful penetration of Germanic (Teutonic) peoples, especially in northern and eastern France. The incursion of the Norsemen (Vikings) brought further Germanic influence.”


  3. Tony Gatlif produced Latcho Drom in 1993, about the Romani people’s journey in music, from north-west India to Spain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwx0X4tAXn4

    As for that Google translated article, I would suggest the Wikipedia entry is far more accurate about Romani origins. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romani_people

    Archaeologically, the Gauls were bearers of the La Tène culture during the 5th to 1st centuries BC. This material culture was found not only in all of Gaul but also as far east as modern-day southern Poland, and Hungary. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaul

    As usual, it is important to follow the references at the foot of Wikipedia articles.


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