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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Viking Ship Discovered at Las Teresitas

The Draken Harald Hårfagre is a clinker-built Viking longship.

Tenerife newspaper, Diario de Avisos, today report that experts from the University of La Laguna have uncovered remains of a viking drakkar - or longship - primarily used by the Scandinavian Vikings and the Saxons to raid coastal and inland settlements during the European Middle Ages - on Tenerife's Las Teresitas beach.

The find, they say, would mean completely reframing the idea of Canarian identity.

Just weeks after Santa Cruz mayor, Miguel Zerolo denied "irregularities", a new complication is added to the Las Teresitas case. After months of secret work on the Santa Cruz seafront, experts from the University of La Laguna yesterday confirmed that the remains of a boat, found between rocks on the beachfront, are from a Viking longship. The find has reportedly been carbon dated to twelve centuries old.

The presence of the boat, says the article, is not just an extraordinary archaeological find, but has also "violently shaken" accepted theories on the origins of the ancient Tenerife inhabitants and, would cast serious doubt on the wording in the preamble of the new Statute of Autonomy for the Canary Islands, which maintains that "the prehistoric population of North African origin, had no knowledge of the Roman civilization, nor any other outside influence, until the middle of the 14th Century."

This could dramatically change the use and value of the land at Las Teresitas, if the boat had to be preserved in situ and the area declared of cultural interest. Actually, that would strengthen the Santa Cruz town hall's case for acquiring the land, for its protection and for the probable siting of a future archaeological museum.

Diario de Avisos go on to say that, since the news broke, there has been a deluge of offers to transform the area. Descendants of former Tenerife resident and Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer, the late Thor Heyerdahl, have expressed an interest in starting a new cultural initiative at the Las Teresitas site.

Likewise, they say, Norwegian shipping company, Fred. Olsen & Co, have seen this discovery as being of tourist interest and, also do not discount constructing a fleet of fuel-saving Viking boats to use on their regular routes between islands. Observers of the maritime sector are reported to have said that, "If we resort to the wind and the rowing power of the passengers and, the Government will pay 50% of cost of the tickets, then Canary Islanders will benefit."

On the overpopulation in the Canary Islands and the unstoppable arrival of cayucos full of immigrants from Africa, the issue is brutally clear, according to a quoted leading expert from the Oslo Center of Scientific Studies, who says that, "Canarians should follow the example of the ancient Scandinavians and launch themselves toward the conquest of new territories to inhabit."

December 28th, Day of the Innocent Saints, is the Spanish equivalent of April Fools Day, when the media publishes BOGUS stories.

It's an old story - the Scandinavian explanation for the "tall and blond" Guanches being just a little too obvious, but the real giveaway was that the reporter was one Erik El Rojo - known to English speakers as Erik The Red. Nevertheless, laced with a number of "truths" and circumstances from various recent real news items, this was one of the cleverest examples of an inocentada - bogus stories that appear in the Spanish media on December 28th, Day of the Innocent Saints.

Image: Draken Harald Hårfagre in Lerwick © Copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Unforgettable Night Under the Stars

Originally uploaded by vituh2001.
This year, on the evening of Christmas Day, we opted to watch the traditional Concierto de Navidad (Christmas Concert), televised live from the port of Santa Cruz in Tenerife, by TV channel Televisión Canaria and, which was later repeated on their international channel. As in the description that goes along with this photo taken of the event, I wholeheartedly agree that it was an unrepeatable night.

Superior Spanish soprano, Ainhoa Arteta joined the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra to perform beneath the stars to the assembled audience of around 20,000 people.

The traditional Christmas Concert - which, incidentally, is free to attend - has been held in the open-air in Santa Cruz for the last 13 years and this year was the last for the OST's director of 20 years, Víctor Pablo Pérez. You can certainly say that he went out on a high note, with seriously high quality performances and an atmosphere that could be likened to an alfresco "Last Night at the Proms."

Among pieces performed on this occasion were; Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro", Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", Brahms' "Hungarian Dance no. 5" and various pieces by Strauss, including "The Blue Danube".

Whilst this really first rate concert certainly has to make Tenerife THE ideal place for classical music lovers to spend Christmas, for the atmosphere alone, this has to be one of the top Christmas attractions on the island for anyone visiting.

Just as a point of interest, apparently, a British company, B&M Sound, who are specialists in live classical music gigs, provided the sound for the event.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Secret Christmas Recipes of Tenerife Nuns

Convento de Santa Catalina La Laguna

In the past one would see long queues of people at the back of the Convent of Santa Catalina in La Laguna, Tenerife, there to buy Christmas sweets from the turntable that was the nun's only method of delivering their goods, unseen, to the public.

Today, the nuns' hand-made Christmas delicacies are only sold to order, since there are not as many nuns as there were in the convent olden times to carry out the necessary work, but those who have tasted these delights certainly don't mind how much they cost, because they have the pure flavour of tradition.

The Santa Catalina nuns are experts in special foodstuffs for Christmas Eve.

An old document from 1767 recounts that the nuns dined on eggs and chocolate and, that on the following day, being Christmas, their menu was based on meat, a fig pudding, roscas de manteca (lard cakes) and mistela. (Vin de liqueur.) In the past they made deserts, now disappeared, such as one based on rice with sugar, almonds and cinnamon.

The Mother Superior of the Santa Catalina convent, Sister María Cleofé López Lantigua, underlined that they continue to faithfully maintain the Christmas sweet making tradition. Although they used to make more sweets, production has been reduced, attending only to the orders from those persons who collaborate with the convent. This is because, she added, "there are very few nuns to do the work and, given the hours it takes, it isn't profitable." Though she doesn't reject the idea of opening a dulcería in the convent, teaching their culinary arts to youngsters via a workshop and school and, if the authorities don't apply heavy taxes, the money can be a benefit to the community and be used to restore the convent.

The current sweet and pastry maker in the Santa Catalina convent is Sister María Inés de León Domínguez, who is 71 years old. Sister Inés, who was born in La Orotava, learned the art from her grandmother, Remedios Méndez.

Sister Inés has lived in the La Laguna convent for 54 years, delighting many with her culinary magic and special flavours.

One of her principal specialities are rosquetes de vino, which are made with nutmeg, cinnamon, liqueur, flour, lard and salt. Then there are her galletas de leche (milk biscuits), formed with antique metal cutters in shapes of hearts, clubs and half moons, made with oil, butter, flour, milk and almond or coconut.

The mantecados (lard cakes), typical of the Christmas season, Sister Inés makes with lard, lemon, cinnamon, aniseed liqueur, flour, salt and ground almonds and, that are then decorated with a piece of crystallized fruit.

Her rosquetes de palo follow a very ancient recipe, with a paste made with oil, flour, lard and wine, to which is added water mixed with aniseed liqueur. She also makes truchas de batata (sweet potato pies) and tocinos de cielo (caramel puddings).

The star of the Santa Catalina nun's recipes though, is the tarta de almendra (almond tart), which has a crunchy exterior made with almond paste and, which opens to reveal a rich filling made with cabello de ángel (literally translated, this means angel hair and which is a type of pumpkin) and peach.

The Antique Recipe

Sister Inés says that all the sweets described contain a small secret that they guard and underlined that her oldest Christmas sweet, the recipe for which was revealed for the first time to EL DÍA, is the sopa borracha - literally: drunken soup. This is not a liquid, as the name suggests. The recipe is one of the oldest existing and takes 8 hours to make. The day before, a syrup is made by boiling water, vanilla pods, cinnamon and aniseed. Half of this goes to make a paste by adding almonds. The next day, the delicacy is made with layers of bizcochos de lengua de gato (oval sponge cakes shaped like cats tongues) which are moistened with rum and aniseed liqueur, followed by a layer of the almond paste and continued, alternately, into the form of a cone. The whole is then thoroughly "sozzled" with the cited syrup.

Image: Koppchen [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Shopping in Tenerife

Originally uploaded by Sly-Dog.
La Laguna is the "traditional" place to do Christmas shopping on the island of Tenerife and, as well as the perfect atmosphere provided by the town's beautiful architecture, more pedestrianization seems to be strengthening La Laguna's position.

The forecast in La Laguna is good and, already many small shops have items reserved for Los Reyes (The Three Kings - who traditionally bring the gifts on January 6th), with the hope that sales will be higher than in 2005.

In Santa Cruz, meanwhile, stores are having to make do with volume only equal to last year's Christmas season and, shopkeepers are worried that sales will be low, with some claiming that the city is in a situation of crisis. Lack of parking or other modes of transport - a tourist shopping bus has been suggested - are among reasons why Christmas shoppers find Santa Cruz less convenient.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Adeje Prohibits Nudism on the Beaches

Originally uploaded by R.Duran.
The town hall of Adeje on the south of Tenerife yesterday approved a package of measures to control the use of the municipality's beaches, which prohibits nudity, street selling, camping, foot massages or lighting fires.

The objective of these new bylaws is to protect and improve quality for all users and the environment along the coast. On all of the beaches themselves, the practice of nudism is now prohibited, as are massages; something that had recently become popular on the beaches of Playa Fañabé and Bahía del Duque.

The installation of any type of unauthorized building or temporary structure is also prohibited in all of the coastal area of Adeje and beach furniture must be the type accredited by the town hall. Camping is prohibited throughout the year.

Noise or vibration, caused by any means or musical instrument, which could prevent others from enjoying the quiet use of the beach is also prohibited.

Tourist and Environmental councillors also emphasized the prohibition of street selling of food and drink products or products of any other nature. As well as apprehending street sellers, police can now seize and destroy such merchandise.

Other measures include prohibiting access to the beaches to any type of animal and all types of vehicles, except, naturally, emergency and security vehicles.

Leaving or throwing rubbish on the beach is also prohibited and, as well as receiving a fine, offenders will be obliged to clean up. Lighting fires, such as barbecues, using gas stoves or any mechanism that produces a flame is also prohibited.

Beach users may not use soap, gel or shampoo on the sands, in the footbaths or showers in the bathing areas. Motor or sailing vessels may not enter the bathing areas, fishing is prohibited on the bathing beaches and, jetskis and surfboards may only be used in the areas specifically provided for their use.

Fines for breaking these rules, depending on the seriousness of the offence, range from 450 euros to 6,000 euros.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Concentration Camp at Fyffes, Tenerife

Not all of Tenerife's "secrets" are pleasant ones, as this image reminds us. It is of the first Spanish concentration camp, installed in the British company, Fyffes', banana packing plant in Santa Cruz in Tenerife. (The Fyffes Banana Company bought their first terraces on Tenerife in 1922, in Santa Úrsula, and built galleries to provide water to the crops.) Thousands were imprisoned there, in inhuman conditions, after Franco's coup in 1936 - launched from the Canary Islands on July 18th of that year - during the Spanish Civil War and beyond.

Spanish writer and poet, Pedro García Cabrera, who was born in Vallehermoso, on the island of La Gomera, was imprisoned at Fyffes in 1946 (after initially escaping and being re-caught), showing that it was in use as a prison for many years. In the Canary Islands, there wasn't a Civil War, exactly, but there was massive repression that cost many lives. Many of those who sympathised with the opposition were either taken out and shot, or "mysteriously" fell into the sea. But, as well as the deaths, an estimated 4,000 were imprisoned, mostly without trial.

Some 2,000 political prisoners were held at Fyffes. Unlike many of the other prisons, there was no forced labour on site at the Fyffes plant (only because of its location). Instead, prisoners were taken to Los Rodeos and Granadilla and forced to work on various public works, such as the construction of the roads up to Mount Teide.

Remember that, next time you drive up to admire the scenery!