Canada Slim and the Road to Utopia

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Tuesday 27 August 2019

Sometimes a place defines a person.

Sometimes a person defines a place.

 

 

Take the eminent Canarian author Alberto Vásquez-Figueroa as an example of the first.

 

Álberto Vázquez-Figueroa in Barcelona in 2009

 

Alberto’s grandfather was an architect.

Alberto’s father was born in Guadalajara while Alberto’s grandmother was there.

Alberto’s mother, the daughter of a local farmer, was born on Isla de Lobos, one of the Canary Islands.

 

 

Alberto himself was born on 11 October 1936 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, although he had not yet reached one year old when his family was exiled for political reasons to Spanish Africa, since his father was a Socialist Republican during the Spanish Civil War.

There Alberto spent his childhood.

His father was released, but he was admitted to hospital for several years because of tuberculosis.

While Alberto was in Africa, his mother died.

 

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Alberto’s care was picked up by his uncle, the civil administrator of the military fort in the Spanish Sahara where they lived.

His uncle provided Alberto books to read, especially beloved adventure novels, by authors such as Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness), Herman Melville (Moby Dick) and Jules Verne (Around the World in 80 Days), which would later become Alberto’s preferred genre.

Since his youth, Alberto visited the Sahara and would later describe the culture of the desert region in his writing.

 

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At 16 Alberto returned to Tenerife to study, working as a scuba instructor in the Cruz del Sur Diving School, along with Jacques Cousteau, where he would remain for two years.

Alberto worked on the rescue of bodies in Lake Sanabria after the Vega de Tera Dam burst, destroying the town of Ribadelago.

 

Monumento a las víctimas de la catástrofe de Ribadelago.

Above: Monument to the victims of Ribadelago

 

He attended the studios of the Escuela Oficial de Periodismo de Madrid in a 1962 and worked in the Destino specials.

He was a war correspondent in La Vanguardia, for TVE (Televisión Española) and for the program A toda plana with de la Cuadra Salcedo and Silva.

As a correspondent, he documented revolutionary wars in countries such as Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala.

 

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He later wrote his first novel, Arena y viento (Sand and Wind) and in 1975, he published as many as 14 to 15 novellas such as Ébano.

His other works include Tuareg and El perro as well as the sagas Cienfuegos, Bora Bora, Manaos and Piratas.

 

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Ébano was cinematized in 1979 by director Richard Fleischer and renamed Ashanti.

Ashanti (also called Ashanti, Land of No Mercy) is a 1979 action adventure film.

Despite its impressive cast and setting (on location in the Sahara and in Kenya, Israel and Sicily), it was widely panned by critics upon release.

Michael Caine was reportedly very disappointed with the project and claims it was his third worst film.

Ashanti is an action adventure film, set against the background of modern-day slave trading, with a man who determinedly takes on a perilous journey in order to find his beautiful wife, who has been kidnapped by brutal slave traders.

David and Anansa Linderby (Caine and supermodel Beverley Johnson respectively) are doctors with the World Health Organization (WHO).

On a medical mission carrying out an inoculation programme, they visit a West African village.

While David takes photographs of tribal dancers, Anansa goes swimming alone.

She is attacked and abducted by slave traders led by Suleiman (Peter Ustinov), who mistake her for an Ashanti tribeswoman.

The police can do nothing to find her and David has almost given up hope when he hears rumours that Anansa has been kidnapped by Suleiman to be sold to Arab Prince Hassan (Omar Sharif).

The African authorities deny that the slave trade even exists.

So David must find help in a shadowy world where the rescuers of slaves are just as ruthless as the traders themselves.

As David tracks her across Africa and the Sahara desert, he is helped by a member of the Anti-Slavery League (Rex Harrison), a mercenary helicopter pilot (William Holden) and Malik (Kabir Bedi) a tribesman who is seeking revenge on Suleiman.

 

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Alberto’s novel Tuareg was cinematized in 1984 by director Enzo G. Castellari.

Tuareg is a thriller novel that was his most critically and commercially successful, with global sales in excess of 5,000,000 copies.

It was adapted into a 1984 movie starring Mark Harmon, Tuareg – The Desert Warrior.

This is the first book in the Tuareg trilogy, followed by Los Ojos del Tuareg and El Último Tuareg.

 

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One day, two old men and a boy appear in Gacel Shayah’s camp in the Sahara.

He, a noble inmouchar observing the millennial tradition of the desert, shelters travelers.

But he fails to protect them.

People in dusty military uniforms violate the ancient hospitality law.

They kill the boy and take one old man away.

Gasel Shayah remembers the great commandment of the Tuareg people:

Your guest is under your protection.

Therefore, he must seek vengeance.

 

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Alberto’s novel Iguana was cinematized in 1988 by Monte Hellman.

Iguana is a 1988 American adventure drama/thriller film starring Everett McGill in the main role.

The movie is based on the life of a real Irish sailor called Patrick Watkins.

The movie was mainly shot on location in Lanzarote.

 

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The film takes place at the beginning of the 19th century.

Oberlus (Everett McGill), a harpooner on a whaling ship, is regularly subjected to ridicule and abuse by other sailors.

The right half of his face is bizarrely disfigured and covered with hummocky outgrowths, which leads him to being nicknamed Iguana.

One night, after a brutal beating, Oberlus escapes to the uninhabited Hood Island.

He is soon discovered by a team led by Captain Gamboa (Fabio Testi).

Gamboa brutally tortures Oberlus and ties him up for further punishment, but Iguana manages to escape and hides himself in a cave.

The ship leaves the island and Gamboa orders that sailor Sebastian (Michael Madsen) be tied to a post on the coast as punishment for letting Iguana escape.

Oberlus finds Sebastian and proclaims himself “King of Hood Island” and Sebastian his first slave, forcing him to cook his food.

Declaring revenge upon the world, Oberlus enslaves two other sailors thrown ashore after the shipwreck.

He keeps his captives in a cave with a disguised entrance.

After some time, a ship holding Carmen (Maru Valdivieso) and her fiancé Diego (Fernando De Huang), is moored near the island.

Oberlus takes them prisoner.

Oberlus kills Diego and makes Carmen his concubine.

The captain of the ship, assuming Carmen and Diego to have died in the storm, does not look for them, but sails away.

One day, Oberlus notices the arrival of his former whaling ship.

At night, he climbs on board, kills two sailors on the deck, takes Gamboa prisoner, and sets the ship alight, having previously locked the hull.

Gamboa fights Oberlus, but is killed by him.

Resigned to her fate, Carmen tells Oberlus that she is pregnant with his child.

Months later, the captain of the ship Carmen and Diego arrived on, returns with a group of armed sailors.

They begin their search and Oberlus has to flee to the other end of the island with pregnant Carmen and his surviving prisoners.

Oberlus plans to sail away with Carmen on the boat.

Carmen gives birth, but Oberlus takes the child, claiming that he will allow him to suffer.

With the child in his arms, he enters the sea, intending to drown himself and the child.

 

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Alberto’s novel Garoé (the name of a sacred tree in the Canary Islands) won the 2010 Historical Novel Prize Alfonso X El Sabio, valued at €100,000.

He has also published an autobiography entitled Anaconda.

He is also a screenwriter and film director and has made such films as Oro rojo (Red Gold).

 

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Alberto currently resides between an attic apartment in the Madrid neighbourhood of Argüelles and a home on Lanzarote.

I am not sure if that home is in the village of Haría in the north of the island of Lanzarote, but I suspect it might be, for Alberto once described Haría as the most beautiful village in the world.

Although this description is a tad exaggerated, Haría really does have a pretty bucolic setting, in a palm-filled valley punctuated by splashes of brilliant colour from bougainvillea and poinsetta plants.

 

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But we were not searching for Alberto and had we passed him on the streets we would not have recognized him.

Instead we were looking for a local legend, Lanzarote’s favourite son, César Manrique.

My wife and I spent our mini-vacation tracking down buildings across the Island of Lanzarote that César designed.

We hoped to understand why this place and this man remain inseparably intertwined in the hearts and minds of those who come here and those who knew him.

César Manrique defined Lanzarote.

To understand César Manrique is to understand Lanzarote.

We came to learn.

We began in Haría where his story ends.

 

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Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain,  Monday 2 December 2018

Much like César, our first discovery of Lanzarote was Arrecife.

For us it was the international airport north of Arrecife the day previously.

 

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On this day we drove our rented car, from our hotel in Costa Teguise (See Canada Slim and the Royal Retreat of this blog.), past an aquapark and golf grounds, through the town of Tahiche (more on this town in a future post), through Nazaret and Teguise (See Canada Slim and the Pirates of Teguise of this blog.), through Los Valles and past a windpark to arrive at Haría.

 

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(Los Valles, a quiet agricultural hamlet between Teguise and Haría, is situated in a valley at the foot of the Famara Massif.

Los Valles was founded by refugees from the village of Santa Catalina, which has been destroyed during the eruptions of 1730 – 1736 of Mount Timanfaya.

 

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The pretty, white village church of Ermita de Santa Cantalina stands at the bottom of the valley on the side of the highway.

 

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Immediately after you pass the restored Casa de los Perazas, one of the oldest buildings on Lanzarote.

 

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The road begins to climb steeply passing the Mirador Los Valles.)

 

César Manrique Cabrera was born in Arrecife on 24 April 1919, the son of Francisca and Gumersindo Manrique.

César’s father was a food merchant and his grandfather a notary public.

César preceded his twin sister Ampara by just a few minutes.

He had another sister and a brother.

Gumersindo came from Fuerteventura and emigrated to Lanzarote.

The Manriques were a typical middle class family, without financial burdens.

In 1934, Gumersindo bought property in Caleta de Famara and built a house next to the ocean.

This house left a visible impression on César that lasted his lifetime.

 

 

Ute and I on our first day spent a few hours on Famara Beach and like César did we remember it with joy:

My greatest happiness is to recall a happy childhood, five-month summer vacations in Caleta and Famara Beach with its eight kilometres of clean and fine sand framed by cliffs of more than 400 metres high that reflected on the beach like a mirror.

That image has been engraved in my soul as something of extraordinary beauty that I will never forget in all of my life.

 

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César would fight in the Spanish Civil War as a volunteer on dictator Franco’s side.

His experience of the War was atrocious and he refused to talk about it.

In the summer of 1939, once the War was over, César returned to Arrecife, still wearing his military uniform.

After greeting his family, he went up on the flat roof, took off his clothes, angrily stepped over them, sprayed them with petroleum and burned them.

 

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César attended the University of La Laguna to study technical architecture, which he would abandon after two years.

In 1945 he moved to Madrid and studied art at the Academia de Bellas Artas de San Fernando where he graduated as a teacher of art.

 

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In 1953, César began painting abstracts, which in Franco’s Spain was tantamount to treason, and one year later he exhibited his works alongside those of his friends Manuel Manpaso and Luis Féito.

By the late fifties César had made a name for himself in Madrid.

There followed exhibitions in major cities of Europe, Japan and America, which gave him international renown.

 

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In the fall of 1964, following the advice of his cousin Manuel Manrique, a New York psychoanalyst and writer, César lived in New York City until 1966.

He was the guest of Waldo Diaz-Balart, a Cuban painter, who lived in the Lower East Side, at a time when this was a neighbourhood of artists, journalists and bohemians.

Through César’s cousin Manuel’s friendship with the Director of the Institute of International Education, which was sponsored by Nelson Rockefeller, a generous grant allowed César to rent his own studio and produce a number of paintings which he exhibited with success in the prestigious New York gallery of Catherine Viviano.

 

Clockwise, from top: Midtown Manhattan, Times Square, the Unisphere, the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan with One World Trade Center, Central Park, the headquarters of the United Nations, and the Statue of Liberty

 

While in New York, he wrote his friend Pepe Dámaso:

More than ever I feel true nostalgia for the real meaning of things.

For the pureness of the people.

For the bareness of my landscape and for my friends.

My last conclusion is that Man in New York is like a rat.

Man was not created for this artificiality.

There is an imperative need to go back to the soil.

Feel it.

Smell it.

That’s what I feel.”

 

 

In his unpublished diary, César wrote of his homesickness for Lanzarote.

At the time he was still undecided as to where to set up his permanent studio.

In 1968, César travelled straight from New York City to Lanzarote, which he found exactly as he had left it in 1945.

He felt Lanzarote needed him.

He made himself the Island’s champion.

 

 

When I returned from New York, I came with the intention of turning my native island into one of the most beautiful places on the planet, due to the endless possibilities that Lanzarote had to offer.

 

 

The Canarian Island was then just beginning to develop a tourism industry, but César promoted a model of sustainability in an attempt to protect Lanzarote’s natural and cultural heritage.

This Manrique model was a determining factor in Lanzarote being declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993.

 

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In parallel with his commitment to the Island, César opened his creative work up to other forms of artistic expression.

He developed a new aesthetic ideology, dominated by art-nature / nature-art.

He began a dialogue of respect for the natural surroundings in which  values of local traditions blended harmoniously with modern designs.

Well versed in many forms of creative expression, a very real desire for integration with the surrounding natural landscape underlies César’s body of artistic work as a whole.

 

 

One of the fundamental preoccupations which has guided my artistic work has been to try to achieve harmonious integration of the forms and ideas of painting, sculpture and spaces into nature.

I believe that this way, of integrating the greatest possible number of artistic elements – colour, texture, dimension, ambience, proportion – leads to a greater aesthetic enjoyment and quality of life.

It is necessary to create and act in freedom, to break with formulae and extend the concept of art to everyday human life, to create non-hostile spaces modelled on the integration of art into nature and nature into art.

 

 

That César’s ideas were carried out on Lanzarote is all thanks to the man’s tireless energy, persistence, immense abilities and international fame.

Without César Manrique, Lanzarote would scarcely be what it is today.

It is his influence and his work that have shaped the Island.

César shaped planning policy on the whole island and his influence can be seen everywhere.

He began with a campaign to preserve traditional building methods and a ban on roadside hoardings.

He convinced the authorities to impose a universal ban on advertising and ensure that telephone and high voltage cables were laid underground.

A multifaceted artist, César turned his flair and vision to a broad range of projects, with the whole of Lanzarote becoming his canvas.

César was a painter, sculptor, architect, ecologist, monument preserver, construction advisor, urban development planner, landscape and garden designer.

 

 

César’s work is full of vitality, colour and light.

There is nothing gloomy in either his paintings or sculptures or in the buildings he designed.

 

 

Together with his friend from his youth, José Ramirez Cerdá, who was president of the Cabildo Insular (island government), César skillfully put his architectural projects into operation.

Luis Morales, an employee of the Cabildo, was a sympathetic partner in all this.

As a practical builder, Morales had the skills to execute Manrique’s plans.

 

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Above: Flag of Lanzarote

 

César encouraged the traditional cubic form of architecture.

A house is capable of growth.

The Lanzarotenos start with one or two rooms.

As a family grows, they add cubes of one or two storeys, arranged around a central courtyard and the water tank.

 

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César’s idea was harmony with nature and the continuation of natural processes.

He wanted to preserve Lanzarote tradition and achieve a landscape-related architecture in proportion to the natural surroundings.

He believed in a humane architecture where nature should be spared and not choked with buildings.

Tourism threatened to sweep away everything before it, but César’s ceaseless opposition to such unchecked urban sprawl touched a nerve with Lanzarote locals and led to the creation of an environmental group known as El Guincho, which has had some success in revealing – and at times reversing – abuses by developers.

 

 

As we drove through villages across the Island, we could see how traditional stylistic features still remain.

The standard whitewashed houses are adorned with green-painted doors, window shutters and strange onion-shaped chimney pots.

The entire Island is a testimony to César’s influence and ever-enduring spirit.

 

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The awareness of the miracle of life and its brevity have made me see clearly that we are impoverished by the tragic sentiment of our existence.

The only important reality is the great mystery of life and of man with his inexhaustible imagination and his infinite ways of acting.

We must observe and learn from the energies of life.

 

 

Those who knew César only superficially ignored the streak of puritanism that ruled his conduct.

He was a frugal man.

He didn’t drink or smoke or allow others to smoke next to him.

He regularly went to bed very early and got up at dawn and began work in his studio very early.

 

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In all César carried out seven major projects on the Island and numerous others elsewhere in the archipelago and beyond.

At the time of his death, he had several more in the works.

It was the buildings that my wife and I were determined to visit on our five-day sojourn on Lanzarote.

We wanted to see how César’s life-affirming architecture relates to the Lanzarote landscape.

We were confused by descriptions that suggested that César’s buildings were generous but at the same time deeply modest.

Guidebooks wrote that César, with great aesthetic powers and unerring taste, had created places for the muses, of contemplation, of meditation, which radiate joy and tranquillity, places endowed with humanity.

It was written that César had striven to discover the beautiful and make it visible to everyone, but not simply beauty for beauty’s sake, but a unity of truth and intrinsic originality.

We wanted to see this for ourselves.

 

180° panorama photo taken from Mirador del Río showing La Graciosa

 

To speak of harmony with nature we need to speak of the landscape of Lanzarote.

On arriving in Lanzarote one feels transported in time, whisked back to the beginnings of the world, a fresh, clean world, in which the Traveller himself is the hero of discovery.

Here are seas of lava, enchanted grottos, columns of steam seeping from the bowels of the planet, magnificent multicoloured stone walls, threatening volcanoes, waves that furiously smash upon tortured cliffs that loom like giants frozen for all time in their march to the sea and eternally punished for such audacity, lurking lagoons that appear suddenly among the rocks, pockets scooped from deadly lava where livelihood-sustaining vines thrive to produce unsurpassable wine, golden beaches of skin-caressing sands, transparent blue waters….

Another world, another time, a unique place.

Here are peaceful, flower-bedecked whitewashed villages and a heritage of hardy people who overcame, will always overcome, the desolation that civilization commits and the fury of nature defied.

From lava and ash, drops of dew defiantly defended have been clawed from nature’s clutches and cultivated.

Yet these sturdy island warriors are kind, hospitable people who shelter guests in comfort and compassion.

Civilization’s constants are also found on Lanzarote, but they blend rather than blind the visitor to the natural delights of the Island.

 

 

By far the most beautiful place in the archipelago, Haíra lies within a sea of palm trees and has the charm of a small sheltered oasis.

Haría is a place to relax, a Utopia where the locals set the tone.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, locals traditionally planted a palm tree to celebrate a birth (two for a boy, one for a girl), thus resulting in today’s tourist viewing a palm-filled valley upon a barren Island.

 

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Haría has many positive qualities: magnificent flora, an abundance of trees.

The mind can manage this place so peaceful, so tranquil, as the body sits comfortably under wide spreading canopies of leaves.

No one, except children in haste, runs in Haría.

One strolls here.

The soul quietly smiles at the serenity.

 

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The central pedestrian avenue, Plaza León y Castillo, is shaded by lush leafy laurel and eucalyptus trees and cast-iron lanterns above benches where children play and seniors meet watching tourists gorge themselves at the Plaza’s open-air restaurant.

This is also the site of a superb Satuday morning craft and produce market.

 

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From the town hall up the street about 100 metres, the Traveller comes to the municipal arts and crafts centre, the Taller de Artesania Municipal.

Handicrafts are available throughout the week at the Taller de Artesania Reinaldo Dorta Déniz (to give its full name) on Calle Barranco de Tenesia, a town hall-backed craft workshop where local artists produce macramé, silverware, ceramics, dollmaking, embroidery and some charming pieces made of palm leaves and reeds, where one can watch the crafters at work before buying.

It is open Tuesday to Sunday 1000 – 1330 and 1600 – 1900, Monday only 1000 to 1330.

 

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The Mercado Municipal de Abastos, adjacent to the arts and crafts centre, is a small market here with a health-conscious attitude, with fruit, vegetable, meat and fish counters.

There is also a food stall here where the locals are tempted with tapas.

It is open Monday to Saturday 0900 – 1400.

 

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Haría does not boast any monuments of particular historical or architectural importance, for the history of this municipality is of little relevance.

Theirs is a past marked by poverty, foreign invasions and mass emigrations.

A 1587 account of the neighbourhood mentions a fountain and 100 people, a time when it was the only village on the Island besides the capital of Teguise.

In 1590, there were no more than 1,000 people on the Island, of which 250 were military, as well as 40 horses.

Population scarcity was due to three raids carried out for 16 years by Moorish and Turkish pirates.

One of the most devasting pirate attacks was that of the troops of Morato Arráez, who, in August 1586, burned down all the palm trees.

Fortunately they grew back again.

 

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What is immediately outstanding is the good taste of the town’s buildings and the way they blend into the landscape.

Some stately Andalusian-style houses date back to the 19th century when Haría at times played an important role in island politics.

 

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At the far end of the Plaza Leon y Castillo stands the modern parish church of Our Lady of the Incarnation.

The church was built in 1619 although it has suffered numerous setbacks over time.

The most significant was the storm of 1956, which left only the tower standing.

Inside the church five fine lovingly-carved arches support the ceiling.

 

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In front of the church is the La Tegala Cultural Centre, a more than 100-year-old house which has already served as a barracks, a shop and a workshop.

 

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A visit to the Diocese of the Canaries’ Museum of Popular Sacred Art in Plaza León y Castillo is recommended for the abundance of wonderful works springing from the imagination of the people of Lanzarote.

 

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At the Plaza de la Constitución, the small square next to the Plaza Leon y Castillo, stands the classical town hall also containing the local police station.

 

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Around the corner is the beautiful city library with its rich selection of Canarian historical and cultural materials.

 

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On the square there is a small rest area with benches, above the large cistern Aljibe which has been converted into a meeting and exhibition hall.

 

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Since the advent of tourism in the early 1980s Haría has flourished, but the tourists come not  only for the celebrated beauty of the town or for the Sacred Art Museum or for the handicraft workshops, but they come to see the Casa Museo César Manrique on Calle Elvira Sanchez.

 

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But before we remember the dead, let us honour the living while we can.

 

Behind the Museum one can, if lucky, witness an artist at work in a garage.

That craftsman is Don Eulogio Concepción Perdomo, signposted as “Cesteria“.

This man, the only and last basket weaver on the Island, is now over 80.

In patient manual labour Perdomo makes, from the strong fronds of Canarian date palms, stable baskets of various sizes and the famous Lanzarote conical-shaped hats.

We witness him making a small fruit basket, which takes more than an hour to produce, costs about €20.

I call his name and shake his hand.

Does he know of his fame?

Does he understand just how important he is?

 

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A palm-fringed property was the final home of Lanzarote’s favourite son and has been opened as a shrine to his memory.

This is a house frozen in time, complete with César’s clothes in the closet and personal art collection adorning the walls.

It is an intimate and personal view of César in his domestic surroundings.

It is a strikingly beautiful home situated in a lush palm grove in a charming village that is itself a showcase of Lanzarote’s traditional lifestyle.

This relatively new attraction of Haría, César’s last home, was opened in the summer of 2013.

 

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Surrounded by date palms and tucked away and back from the street, César’s home is a pleasure to stroll through.

The entrance fee is steep but the Museum is well laid out.

Rarely does one experience such harmonious living space with such a feel-good factor.

Within this spacious property, within the context of the comfortable and tasteful decor are many personal items, including painting items and incomplete works.

 

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The living room with a large fireplace and heavy wooden ceiling, the light-flooded dining room, the bedroom with high panelled ceiling, and, as always with César, an extravagant bathroom that opens with glass fronts to the outside, César designed his home with much love, a house that was far from completion when he died.

The Casa Museo César Manrique is open every day from 1030 to 1800 (last entry 1730).

 

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It is in Haría where César was lain to rest, when at the age of 73, still in good health and full of vitality and the joy of living, he was killed in an automobile accident on 25 September 1992, next to the present site of his Fundacion.

The irony of fate that he would meet his death in a car accident is rich as he loathed the massive amount of vehicles.

 

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Above: Painted BMW from 1990 Art Basel exhibition, Casa Museo César Manrique, Haría, Lanzarote

 

César’s final resting place in Haría’s cemetery is located at the exit to Arrieta atop a low hill.

His simple grave is located on the left in front of the small chapel.

César’s differs fundamentally from the other graves which are made of stone slabs and crosses.

His is a flat oval bordered by lava stones under a palm tree and adorned with succulents and cacti.

The carving “C. Manrique 1919 – 92” testifies that here lies Lanzarote’s loyal son.

From the forecourt of the cemetery there is a beautiful view of the valley below.

 

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In retracing his life in reverse chronology, I am reminded of a text he wrote to describe himself and his view of life:

I have never followed the signs indicating the road to Utopia.

Utopia, I do presently believe, is an inner path.

My enthusiasm, in any case, is the sole force that can guide me approximately.

 

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Starting from César’s endpoint is appropriate.

For it is in Haría we view not the celebrity César, not the artist César, but the man César, a man as common as we all are, mortal and preoccupied with all the minutae that comprise a life lived daily.

 

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To fully appreciate César’s impact on the Island one must journey out of Haría, away from a traditional Lanzarote, to a Lanzarote of the future built upon five volcanic bubbles of a lava flow 6km north of Arrecife, César’s birthplace.

The Taro de Tahíche is a dormant remnant of the 1730 eruption of the volcano Timanfaya on the northwest corner of the Island, and it is upon this that the Fundación César Manrique sits.

 

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From the Fundación and the overview of all that César Manrique was and did, the Traveller is encouraged to explore Lanzarote through César’s eyes and creations:

  • the Jameos del Agua

  • the Monumento al Campesino

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  • the Restaurante El Diablo

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  • the Mirador del Río

  • the Castillo San José

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  • the Jardín de Cactus

Jardin de cactus de Lanzarote.JPG

 

It is at the Fundación and at the aforementioned half-dozen Manrique creations that the Traveller senses how César’s life-affirming architecture relates to the Lanzarote landscape:

Generous and yet deeply modest.

With great aesthic imagination and impeccable taste César created monuments for muses, cathedrals of contemplation, monoliths of meditation, jubilees of joy, temples of tranquillity, havens of humanity.

He sought what was beautiful and brought to this beauty his strength of purpose and crystalline originality.

In Lanzarote posts to come his creations and the Island that inspired them will be patiently revealed.

I hope that you will enjoy learning of them as I shall enjoy the experience of sharing them with you.

 

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Above: Undiscovered Planets, César Manrique

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Fernando Gómez Aguilera, César Manrique in His Own Words / Wolfgang Borsich, Lanzarote and César Manrique: Seven Buildings / Lucy Corne and Josephine Quintero, Lonely Planet Canary Islands / Jorge Echenique and Andrés Murillo, Lanzarote / Eberhard Fohrer, Müller Lanzarote / Raimundo Rodriguez, Lanzarote

 

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Canada Slim and the Pirates of Teguise

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Sunday 5 May 2019

Imagine the perfect holiday.

Perhaps it is an active one spent hiking and windsurfing.

Perhaps you are a culture vulture mesmerized by museums and attracted to artefacts of days gone by.

Or perhaps you long for a lengthy siesta where your hardest decision is how much sunscreen to wear today.

 

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The Canary Islands have what you want, however you want it, but being all things to all people means this is a place of contradictions.

 

The Islands lie off the coast of Africa yet they are European.

 

The Canary Islands form a Spanish archipelago and the southernmost autonomous community of Spain located in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Morocco at the closest point.

The Canary Islands, which are also known informally as the Canaries, are among the outermost regions (OMR) of the European Union proper.

It is also one of the eight regions with special consideration of historical nationality recognized as such by the Spanish Government.

The Canary Islands belong to the African Plate, like the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the African mainland.

 

Location of the Canary Islands within Spain

 

The seven main islands are (from largest to smallest in area) Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro.

The archipelago includes much smaller islands and islets: La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este.

It also includes a series of adjacent roques (those of Salmor, Fasnia, Bonanza, Garachico and Anaga).

 

In ancient times, the island chain was often referred to as “the Fortunate Isles“.

But delving into Canarian history the casual observer has to ponder the question:

Fortunate for whom?

 

Historically, the Canary Islands have been considered a bridge between four continents: Africa, North America, South America and Europe.

And it has been their strategic location that has been both a blessing and a curse to those who have chosen to make the Islands their home.

 

Flag of Canary Islands

Above: Flag of the Canary Islands

 

The archipelago’s beaches, climate and important natural attractions, especially Maspalomas in Gran Canaria and Teide National Park and Mount Teide (a World Heritage Site) in Tenerife (the third tallest volcano in the world measured from its base on the ocean floor), make it a major tourist destination with over 12 million visitors per year, especially Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

 

 

Imagine living on an island where more people around you are tourists than residents.

 

Tourists are, by their very nature, selfish in that the pleasure principle dominates their every thought.

Most care nothing about those who reside there except in how the locals cater to their needs.

 

There is nothing new under the sun.

 

 

The islands have a subtropical climate, with long hot summers and moderately warm winters.

The precipitation levels and the level of maritime moderation vary depending on location and elevation.

Green areas as well as desert exist on the archipelago.

Rain seems rare and snow something never seen.

 

Due to their location above the temperature inversion layer, the high mountains of these islands are ideal for astronomical observation.

For this reason, two professional observatories, Teide Observatory on the island of Tenerife and Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, have been built on the islands.

 

The day sky is cloudless.

The night sky stretches to infinity and beyond.

The horizon beckons with promise.

 

 

So it may be reasonable to assume that piracy has existed for as long as the oceans were plied for commerce.

 

Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers upon another ship or a coastal area, typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable items or properties.

Those who engage in acts of piracy are called pirates.

Privateering uses similar methods to piracy, but the captain acts under orders of the state authorizing the capture of merchant ships belonging to an enemy nation, making it a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-state actors.

 

 

Due to the strategic situation of this Spanish archipelago as a crossroads of maritime routes and commercial bridge between Europe, Africa and America, this was one of the places on the planet with the greatest pirate presence.

In the Canary Islands, the following stand out:

  • The attacks and continuous looting of Berber, English, French and Dutch corsairs
  • The presence of pirates from this archipelago who made their incursions into the Caribbean.
  • Pirates and corsairs, such as François Le Clerc, Jacques de Sores, Francis Drake, Pieter van der Does, Murat Reis and Horacio Nelson, attacked the islands.
  • Among those born in the archipelago who stands out above all is Amaro Pargo, whom the monarch Felipe V of Spain frequently benefited from his commercial incursions.

 

During the time of the Spanish Empire, the Canaries were the main stopover for Spanish galleons – galleons seeking to be laiden with treasure – on their way to the Americas, which came south to catch the prevailing northeasterly trade winds.

 

 

Sailing off the coast of Africa the closest of the Canaries to be reached is the Island of Lanzerote and thus it became the first Canary Island to be settled.

 

Lanzerote is the northernmost and easternmost of the autonomous Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is located approximately only 125 kilometres (78 miles) off the north coast of Africa and 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) from the Iberian Peninsula.

Covering 845.94 square kilometres (326.62 square miles), Lanzarote is the fourth largest of the islands in the archipelago.

With 149,183 inhabitants, it is the third most populous Canary Island, after Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

Located in the centre-west of the island is Timanfaya National Park, one of its main attractions.

The island was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1993.

The island’s capital is Arrecife.

 

Spain Canary Islands location map Lanzarote.svg

 

The Phoenicians may have visited or settled there, though no material evidence survives.

The first known record came from Roman author Pliny the Elder in the encyclopaedia Naturalis Historia on an expedition to the Canary Islands.

The names of the islands (then called Insulae Fortunatae or the “Fortunate Isles“) were recorded as Junonia (Fuerteventura), Canaria (Gran Canaria), Ninguaria (Tenerife), Junonia Major (La Palma), Pluvialia (El Hierro), and Capraria (La Gomera).

Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the two easternmost Canary Islands, were only mentioned as the archipelago of the “purple islands“.

The Roman poet Lucan and the Greek astronomer and geographer Ptolemy gave their precise locations.

 

 

Several archaeological expeditions have uncovered the prehistoric settlement at the archaeologic site of El Bebedero in the village of Teguise.

In one of those expeditions, by a team from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and a team from the University of Zaragoza, yielded about 100 Roman potsherds, nine pieces of metal, and one piece of glass.

The artefacts were found in strata dated between the 1st and 4th centuries.

They show that Romans did trade with the Canarians, though there is no evidence of settlements.

Lanzarote was previously settled by the Majos tribe of the Guanches, though the Romans did not mention them.

 

 

Guanches were the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands.

In 2017, the first genome-wide data from the Guanches confirmed a North African origin and that they were genetically most similar to modern North African Berber peoples of the nearby North African mainland.

It is believed that they migrated to the archipelago around 1000 BC or perhaps earlier.

The Guanches were the only native people known to have lived in the  region before the arrival of Europeans, as there is no evidence that the other archipelagos (Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira) were inhabited before Europeans arrived.

After the Spanish conquest of the Canaries they were ethnically and culturally absorbed by Spanish settlers, although elements of their culture survive to this day, intermixed within Canarian customs and traditions such as Silbo (the whistled language of La Gomera Island).

 

 

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Canary Islands were ignored until 999, when the Arabs arrived at the island which they dubbed al-Djezir al-Khalida (among other names).

An account of the Guanche population may have been made around AD 1150 by the Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi in the Nuzhatul Mushtaq, a book he wrote for King Roger II of Sicily, in which al-Idrisi reports a journey in the Atlantic Ocean made by the Mugharrarin (“the adventurers“), a family of Andalusian seafarers from Lisbon.

The only surviving version of this book, kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and first translated by Pierre Amédée Jaubert, reports that, after having reached an area of “sticky and stinking waters“, the Mugharrarin moved back and first reached an uninhabited island (Madeira or Hierro), where they found “a huge quantity of sheep, which its meat was bitter and inedible” and, then, “continued southward” and reached another island where they were soon surrounded by barks and brought to “a village whose inhabitants were often fair haired with long and flaxen hair and the women of a rare beauty“.

Among the villagers, one did speak Arabic and asked them where they came from.

Then the king of the village ordered them to bring them back to the continent where they were surprised to be welcomed by Berbers.

Apart from the marvelous and fanciful content of this history, this account would suggest that Guanches had sporadic contacts with populations from the mainland.

Al-Idrisi also described the Guanche men as tall and of a reddish-brown complexion.

During the 14th century, the Guanches are presumed to have had other contacts with Balearic seafarers from Spain, suggested by the presence of Balearic artifacts found on several of the Canary Islands.

 

Map of the Balearic Islands

Above: (in red) The Balearic Islands

 

In 1336, a ship arrived from Lisbon under the guidance of Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello, who used the alias “Lanzarote da Framqua“.

A fort was later built in the area of Montaña de Guanapay near today’s Teguise.

 

 

Castilian slaving expeditions in 1385 and 1393 seized hundreds of Guanches and sold them in Spain, initiating the slave trade in the islands.

 

Where there is profit to be found on the open seas there will be those who will seek to claim it.

Slavery and piracy differ only in that the plunder of the former is the lives of human beings.

The violence used by both is indistinguishable from the other.

 

French explorer Jean de Béthencourt arrived in 1402, heading a private expedition under Castilian auspices.

Bethencourt first visited the south of Lanzarote at Playa de Papagayo, and the French overran the island within a matter of months.

 

Above: Jean de Béthencourt (1362 – 1425)

 

The island lacked mountains and gorges to serve as hideouts for the remaining Guanche population and so many Guanches were taken away as slaves.

Only 300 Guanche men were said to have remained.

 

The Castilian conquest of the Canary Islands began in 1402, with the expedition of Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle (1340 – 1415) to the island of Lanzarote.

Gadifer would invade Lanzarote and Fuerteventura with ease since many of the aboriginals, faced with issues of starvation and poor agriculture, would surrender to Spanish rule.

 

 

At the southern end of the Yaiza municipality, the first European settlement in the Canary Islands appeared in 1402 in the area known as El Rubicón, where the conquest of the Archipelago began.

In this place, the Cathedral of Saint Martial of Limoges was built.

The cathedral was destroyed by English pirates in the 16th century.

The diocese was moved in 1483 to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Roman Catholic Diocese of Canarias).

 

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In 1404, the Castilians (with the support of the King of Castile) came and fought the local Guanches who were further decimated.

The islands of Fuerteventura and El Hierro were later similarly conquered.

 

In 1477, a decision by the royal council of Castile confirmed a grant of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, with the smaller islands of Ferro and Gomera to the Castilian nobles Herrera, who held their fief until the end of the 18th century.

In 1585, the Ottoman admiral Murat Reis temporarily seized Lanzarote.

In the 17th century, pirates raided the island and took 1,000 inhabitants into slavery in Cueva de los Verdes.

 

From 1730 to 1736, the island was hit by a series of volcanic eruptions, producing 32 new volcanoes in a stretch of 18 kilometres (11 miles).

The priest of Yaiza, Don Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo, documented the eruption in detail until 1731.

Lava covered a quarter of the island’s surface, including the most fertile soil and 11 villages.

100 smaller volcanoes were located in the area called Montañas del Fuego, the “Mountains of Fire“.

 

 

In 1768, drought affected the deforested island and winter rains did not fall.

Much of the population was forced to emigrate to Cuba and the Americas, including a group which formed a significant addition to the Spanish settlers in Texas at San Antonio de Bexar in 1731.

 

 

Another volcanic eruption occurred within the range of Tiagua in 1824, which was less violent than the major eruption between 1730 and 1736.

Thus the island has become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve protected site.

 

According to a report in the Financial Times, this status was endangered by a local corruption scandal.

Since May 2009, police have arrested the former president of Lanzarote, the former mayor of Arrecife and more than 20 politicians and businessmen in connection with illegal building permits along Lanzarote’s coastline.

UNESCO has threatened to revoke Lanzarote’s Biosphere Reserve status, “if the developments are not respecting local needs and are impacting on the environment“.

The President of the Cabildo of Lanzarote denied “any threat to Lanzarote’s UNESCO status“.

UNESCO logo English.svg

 

Piracy upon the open sea beside the shores of Lanzarote may be a thing of the past but greed remains eternal.

 

 

Teguise, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Sunday 1 December 2018

As described in a previous post of this blog, my wife and I arrived on the island and drove from the airport near the island capital of Arrecife to the resort town of Costa Teguise where we overnighted for the entirety of our stay on Lanzarote.

(Please see Canada Slim and the Royal Retreat of this blog.)

 

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Above: Lanzarote Airport

 

Our previous research gleaned that Sunday was market day in Teguise so soon after we checked into our hotel we quickly headed here.

 

Teguise, also known as La Villa de Teguise, is a village in the Municipality of Teguise in the north central part of the Island, 12 km north of Arrecife.

Here North Africa meets Spanish pueblo.

Like no other place on Lanzarote, it has preserved its historic appearance to this day.

It is an intriguing mini-oasis of low buildings set around a central plaza and surrounded by the bare plains of central Lanzarote.

The small old town forms a compact whole that impresses in its uniformity.

The Andalusian style of southern Spain sets the tone.

 

Plaza Mayor

 

The outwardly simple, white houses have high, carved wooden portals and large shutters in front of the windows.

The former capital was built in the 15th century for fear of pirate raids in the middle of the island, right at the foot of the striking Montana de Guanapay.

Built in the Spanish colonial style, it presents a magnificent ensemble of stylish churches and monasteries, harmonious squares, magnificent old houses and quiet streets.

Old town Teguise has been a listed heritage site for over twenty years and is the jewel of Lanzarote.

It is considered one of the best preserved settlement centers of the Canaries.

As of 1 January 2018 the village’s population was 1,776.

 

The town was founded in 1418 and served as the capital of the Kingdom of the Canary Islands from 1425 to 1448 and as capital of Lanzarote until the capital was moved to Arrecife in 1852.

Teguise is said to have been founded by Maciot – the successor of the aforementioned Jean de Béthencourt – who is rumoured to have lived here with Princess Teguise, the daughter of the Guanche King Guadarfia.

 

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Various convents were founded and the town prospered.

But with prosperity came other problems, including pirates who plundered the town several times.

 

Although the strategic location of the city was favorable – protected to the north by the Famara reef, in addition to the Castillo de Santa Bárbara enthroned above the city, a broad overview in all directions, the following centuries were marked by numerous bloody pirate attacks, undoubtedly reactions to the brutal raids of Teguise’s feudal lords, who had previously deported thousands of Berbers to slavery on the African coasts.

Teguise went through hard times and was said to be no more than a miserable village with thatched huts.

 

In 1586, Algerian pirates stormed the city under their infamous leader Morato Arráez and put down everything that stood in their way.

The Callejon de Sangre (Blood Alley) behind the parish church recalls this terrible tragedy.

 

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In 1618, plundering Berber hordes burnt down the city completely, enslaving much of the island’s population.

As a result, Teguise’s historic buildings were increasingly economically unattractive for most of the late 17th and 18th centuries.

 

And this is why, in 1852, the up-and-coming port city of Arrecife was named the new capital of the island, while Teguise evolved into the open-air museum that it still represents today.

 

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Firmly on the tourist trail, there are several shops here selling flowing garments and handmade jewellery, plus restaurants, bars and a handful of monuments testifying to the fact that the town once was the capital.

This is a town of spacious squares and well-kept cobblestone streets lined with beautifully restored houses that testify to Teguise’s former glory.

For a stroll, however, you should choose a really sunny day, because Teguise is located in a relatively uncomfortable island corner, namely on a cold and draughty plateau.

During the week, Teguise is a quiet place, ideal for a leisurely stroll through the streets.

 

Sunday is all about the huge folksy market that takes place here every week.

It is a day of flourishing handicrafts in the market with throngs of tourists shopping and gorging themselves into a satiated stupor and locals lounging beneath a gentle breeze and a warm sun.

Throughout the entire old town, stands are close to one other, in between streams of visitors from the whole island crowded here for this one moment in time, the bars and restaurants bursting in an exuberant mood.

A day for dancing, if being leisurely was not so tempting.

 

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What strikes the visitor to Teguise Market the most is the foreign feel of the artists, the arts and crafts, the ecological and esoteric scene.

Various shops around the two central squares offer natural products, jewelery, antiques and so on – certainly not only because Teguise is so “beautiful“, but above all for tangible commercial reasons, because during the big Sunday market, the city is always very well attended.

 

But as well Canarian culture has a focus in Teguise.

Thus, the former capital of the island is considered the place of origin of the timples, the traditional guitar-like string instruments of Canarios, of which an exhibition in the Palacio Spinola proudly praises in the central square of Teguise.

 

 

The timple is a traditional 5-string plucked string instrument of the Canary Islands.

On La Palma Island and in the north of the island of Tenerife, many timple players omit the fifth (D) string, in order to play the timple as a four-string ukulele, though this is considered less traditional by players and advocates of the five-string version.

The players of the four-string style, in return, say that they are simply playing the timple in the old-fashioned way from before the time when a fifth string was introduced in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

Timple players (timplistas) of note are Benito Cabrera from Lanzarote, José Antonio Ramos, Totoyo Millares, and Germán López from Gran Canaria, and Pedro Izquierdo from Tenerife.

 

Antonio Lemes Hernández, at Calle Flores 8, is one of the last to build the famous Canarian guitars.

He also supplies many music groups in other Canary Islands.

Various sizes are produced, from the mini-model to the contratimple.

The Cabildo de Lanzarote, through its Departments of Culture and Industry, has recognized Antonio Lemes Hernández for his involvement of more than half a century in the production of timples.

Lemes, a craftsman from Teguise, has been building timples since he was very small.

He himself recognizes that:

“I have not done anything else, all my life making timples.
I made them out of cardboard as a child.

We brushed them and made them from that material, but of course, I made them and broke them, I did not have a teacher.” 

So he perfected his technique.

And to transform the wood….
I used to make them from polisandro, moral, mahogany, and the lid, which is always made of pine.

The important thing is that it is good wood so that they can tune well.

 

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Sixty years after his first contact with the timple, Antonio’s hands continue to mold, giving life to the sound camel .

To play what is the treasure of Lanzerote music.

 

Antonio Lemes Hernández, popularly known as Lolo, was born in the stately Villa de Teguise.

As a child he learned the technique of woodworking in the School of Crafts of Teguise, although it was his carpenter companion, Antonio de León Bonilla, who had some knowledge of the timple, who taught him to shape the sound camel.

Little by little, Antonio became fond of this instrument, so today his works are highly valued and requested, some to make sound alone or at parties and others are conservative and wish to possess a timble like a real jewel in private storage.

 

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Antonio Lemes has always been linked to the world of music.

In his youth he was part of the famous orchestra of Teguise known as Lira and Lido and he was also a part of cultural institutions such as Rancho de Pascuas de Teguise.

 

At present, Antonio Lemes enjoys his retirement, although as he can not stand idly by, so every day he goes to his workshop located on Flores Street, where he continues to practice the work that made him fall in love as a child, the construction of the timple.

 

In 2016, the Guagime Folkloric Association of Tahíche showed him public recognition by giving him their highest award, the ‘Silver Insignia‘, for his dedication to the development of the timple.

 

 

The eclectic church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe skulks in the town square.

Constructed in the mid-15th century, it has been rebuilt many times that it feels like the divine is in a perpetual state of confusion

Inside neo-Gothic furnishings surround a statue of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, but it was afternoon when we arrived in Teguise, so we were forced to imagine the scene rather than witness it for ourselves.

 

Teguise.jpg

 

On the opposite side of the square stands the Palacio Spinola.

The light of God facing the darkness of man.

 

The Palacio, completed after half a century in 1780, is beautiful with a small patio and a well.

It now doubles as both a museum and the official residence of the Canary Islands government.

It too was closed by the time we decided we wanted to visit it.

 

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This impressive edifice is host to the Casa del Timple – a museum dedicated to the small guitar like instrument which plays a big role in local folklore and tradtional music.

 

The building was renovated during the 1970´s by the ubiquitous César Manrique- and provides the perfect opportunity to step back in time and sample the lifestyle of an affluent nobleman in 18th century Lanzarote, whilst also learning more about the role of the timple in island life.

 

César Manrique

Above: César Manrique (1919 – 1992)

(“For me, Lanzarote was the most beautiful place on Earth, so I made it a point to show Lanzarote to the world.“)

(More on this amazing man in a future post….)

 

Today, echoes of the glorious past still resonate through Teguise´s cobbled streets – which are home to some fantastic old buildings and a wealth of colonial architecture that cannot be found anywhere else on Lanzarote.

Making La Villa, as it is known locally, one of the best-preserved historic centers in the whole of the Canary Islands.

Many of these buildings are now private residences and are therefore hidden away from public gaze behind green wooden shutters.

But the house-museum at the Palacio Spinola is open to the public.

 

The Palacio Spinola is located in the heart of Teguise in the Plaza de San Miguel – also known locally as the Plaza de Leones because of the two statues of lions that stand guard opposite the entrance to the Palace.

Construction on the building started in 1730 – the same year that the south of the island was subjected to a six-year volcanic eruption that forged the national park at Timanfaya.

These eruptions obviously disrupted life on Lanzarote and the building of the Palacio took another fifty years to complete.

The Palacio was originally known as the Inquisitors House – as it was once the HQ of the Holy Inquisition.

From the middle of the 18th Century it became home to the Feo Peraza family, the best known of whom was the policitican Jose Feo Armas.

But by 1895 the Palacio had passed into the hands of the wealthy Spinola family.

The impressive frontage of the building with its six huge windows enclosed by intricately carved wooden shutters is a clear indication of the prosperity of the original owners.

 

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You needed serious money to afford this sort of opulence in the early 18th century.

 

Visitors walk through a formal entrance way, tiled with volcanic stone – where a small admission charge of €3 is made (free for children under 12 years) – and they are then free to explore the passageways and patios of the Palacio with the help of a basic printed guide which outlines the function of each room.

Amongst the most fascinating of these are the kitchens, with a chimney arrangement that is open to the elements in order to carry away cooking smoke, a latticed viewing gallery that overlooks the two main salons, or living rooms, a massive dining room with seating for thirty two guests and a small private family chapel, featuring an intricately carved wooden altar.

Throughout the Palacio, modern paintings by local artists, such as Aguilar, are juxtaposed with antique and reproduction furniture.

The exterior of the building is equally impressive, as long passageways lead visitors out into a delightful courtyard area that houses two stately old Canarian palm trees as well as a variety of flowering plants such as hibiscus and strelitza as well as an array of colourful succulents.

Here, visitors can observe the giant wooden door guarding the entranceway – built to a height that would allow both a horse and rider to enter unhindered.

 

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The Palacio Spinola isn’t huge – comprising eleven rooms in total, so it will probably only occupy an hour or so of your time at best, but it is an extremely well preserved example of 18th century architecture.

And who knows – you might even bump into a modern day grandee.

As the Palacio Spinola is also now the official residence of the President of the Canary Islands when he is visiting Lanzarote.

 

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Above: Fernando Clavijo Batlle, current President of the Canary Islands

 

 

Towering over the town is the Castillo de Santa Bárbara, built in the early 16th century on top of the 452-metre (1,480 foot) high Guanapay Peak and provides a view almost over the entire island.

Visible from afar, the fortress Santa Bárbara perches on a bare crater ridge above Teguise.

A real mini “knight’s castle” with massive masonry, drawbridge and small round towers awaits the visitor.

Inside, a pirate museum has been housed here for several years.

 

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The Museo de la Pirateria (Pirate Museum) has an exhibition that deals with an almost existential theme for Teguise and is also good for children.

With cartoon figures, picture stories, dioramas, historical signs and museum relics, the city’s hard times come to life again.

Excerpts from pirate films with six galleys from 1586 under Morato Arráez who conquers the castle and leaves Teguise with 200 prisoners, including the wife and daughter of the city commander Marquis Agustin Herrera y Rojas, for which Arráez finally receives 20,000 ducats for their ransom.

 

For me, Teguise, and most especially the Pirate Museum of Castle Bárbara, struck me as incongruous and felt somehow wrong.

 

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Teguise had made a fortune from the slave trade until it was punished by Africans from whose populations these slaves had come.

The mercantile nature of the town, exhibited on a Christian day that is supposed to be free of commerce and labour, though less barbaric than former times, still resonates in the overpriced restaurants with substandard food and at the overvalued merchandise stalls where the buyer need be aware of deals done deceptively.

 

The Pirate Museum bothers me intensely, for it seems inherently callous to make profit from all the pain and violence committed by these bandits of the sea, celebrated and packaged glamourously for children’s consumption.

Pirates have always been and shall always be bloodthirsty bastards unable and unwilling to earn a honest day’s labour for the bread on the table.

How many hardworking families lost all that they had, including their lives, at the gory bloody hands of murderous, torturing and raping pirates?

And yet we have given pirates a mythical mystique of free men thirsting for liberty outside the confines of society.

We have made legends out of murderers, rapists and thievies and have given them colourful sobriquets like Blackbeard and Calico Jack.

 

Above: Pirate Cemetery, Île Sainte Marie, Madagascar

 

Beginning with Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, piracy has become a celebrated cause since 1724.

 

Cover page of "A General History of the Pyrates" (1724) by Captain Charles Johnson.jpg

 

Since then we have had Long John Silver of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Captain Hook as Peter Pan‘s aristocratic villain of J.M. Barrie’s play, and the sea stories of Rafael Sabatini.

These have led to films like Captain Blood, The Black Swan, and, of course, the immensely popular Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

 

Captain Blood.jpeg

 

Somehow we have brainwashed ourselves with glamourous images of men walking the plank, being marooned, buried treasure, wooden legs and black eye patches, Jolly Roger flags and parrots squawking “pieces of eight, pieces of eight“.

Somehow we have come to warmly embrace and bring to life a seagoing world, befuddled twixt fact and fantasy, favouring felons of murderous, greedy, untrustworthy character, addicted to violence, crime committed casually, consciousness lacking conscience.

Somehow we don’t see unarmed fathers and sons viciously attacked, but instead we see elegant choreographed duels and sword fights, and not the bloody encounters where merciless men hack innocents down with axe and cutlass.

Real pirates bore little resemblance to Errol Flynn or Johnny Depp.

 

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Above: Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

 

And women aboard ship were rarer than chocolate truffles at a homeless shelter despite what Hollywood would have you believe with their lovely heroines playing a key role in the outcomes of their films.

 

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Pirates are a frequent topic in fiction and, in their Caribbean incarnation, are associated with certain stereotypical manners of speaking and dress, most of them wholly fictional:

Nearly all our notions of their behavior come from the golden age of fictional piracy, which reached its zenith in 1881 with the appearance of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

 

 

Hugely influential in shaping the popular conception of pirates, Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pirates, published in London in 1724, is the prime source for the biographies of many well known pirates of the Golden Age.

The book gives a mythical status to pirates, with naval historian David Cordingly writing:

It has been said, and there seems no reason to question this, that Captain Johnson created the modern conception of pirates.

Such as a person costumed like the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp’s lead role in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series.

 

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Some inventions of pirate culture such as “walking the plank“–in which a bound captive is forced to walk off a board extending over the sea–were popularized by J. M. Barrie’s novel, Peter Pan, where the fictional pirate Captain Hook and his crew helped define the fictional pirate archetype.

 

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English actor Robert Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver in Disney’s 1950 film adaptation of Treasure Island also helped define the modern rendition of a pirate, including the stereotypical West Country “pirate accent“.

 

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Other influences include Sinbad the Sailor and the recent Pirates of the Caribbean films have helped rekindle modern interest in piracy and have performed well at the box office.

 

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The video game Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag also revolves around pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy.

 

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The classic Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Pirates of Penzance focuses on The Pirate King and his hapless band of pirates.

 

 

Many sports teams use “pirate” or a related term such as “raider” or “buccaneer” as their nickname, based on these popular stereotypes of pirates.

 

Such teams include the Pittsburgh Pirates, who acquired their nickname in 1891 after “pirating” a player from another team.

 

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The Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both in the National Football League, also use pirate-related nicknames.

 

Oakland Raiders logo

Tampa Bay Buccaneers logo

 

In the early 21st century, seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue (with estimated worldwide losses of US$16 billion per year in 2004), particularly in the waters between the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, off the Somali coast, and also in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore.

 

Today, pirates armed with automatic weapons, such as assault rifles, and machine guns, grenades and rocket propelled grenades use small motorboats to attack and board ships, a tactic that takes advantage of the small number of crew members on modern cargo vessels and transport ships.

They also use larger vessels, known as “mother ships“, to supply the smaller motorboats.

 

Above: Somalian pirates

 

The international community is facing many challenges in bringing modern pirates to justice, as these attacks often occur in international waters.

Some nations have used their naval forces to protect private ships from pirate attacks and to pursue pirates, and some private vessels use armed security guards, high-pressure water cannons, or sound cannons to repel boarders, and use radar to avoid potential threats.

 

Piracy in the 21st century has taken place in a number of waters around the world, including the Gulf of Guinea, Strait of Malacca, Indian Ocean, and Falcon Lake.

 

Due to the crisis in Venezuela, issues of piracy returned to the Caribbean in the 2010s, with the increase of pirates being compared to piracy off the coast of Somalia due to the similar socioeconomic origins.

In 2016, former fishermen became pirates, appearing in the state of Sucre, with attacks happening almost daily and multiple killings occurring.

By 2018 as Venezuelans became more desperate, fears arose that Venezuelan pirates would spread throughout Caribbean waters.

 

Above: Gasoline smugglers, Limon River, Zulia State, Venezuela

 

Piracy on Falcon Lake involves crime at the border between the United States and Mexico on Falcon Lake.

The lake is a 100-kilometre-long (60 mi) reservoir constructed in 1954 and is a known drug smuggling route.

A turf war between rival drug cartels for control of the lake began in March 2010 and has led to a series of armed robberies and shooting incidents.

All of the attacks were credited to the Los Zetas cartel and occurred primarily on the Mexican side of the reservoir but within sight of the Texas coast.

The so-called pirates operate “fleets” of small boats designed to seize fishermen and smuggle drugs.

While the events have been referred to colloquially as piracy, all the waters of Falcon Lake are considered either US or Mexican territorial waters and therefore are not technically piracy under Article 101 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

 

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Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea affects a number of countries in West Africa as well as the wider international community.

By 2011, it had become an issue of global concern.

Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are often part of heavily armed criminal enterprises, who employ violent methods to steal oil cargo.

In 2012, the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program reported that the number of vessels attacks by West African pirates had reached a world high, with 966 seafarers attacked during the year.

 

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has evolved over the first decade of the century.

For some time, smaller ships shuttling employees and materials belonging to the oil companies with any involvement in oil exploration had been at risk in Nigeria.

Over time, pirates became more aggressive and better armed.

 

Above: The Gulf of Guinea

 

As of 2014, pirate attacks in West Africa mainly occur in territorial waters, terminals and harbours rather than in the high seas.

This incident pattern has hindered intervention by international naval forces.

 

Pirates in the region operate a well-funded criminal industry, which includes established supply networks.

They are often part of heavily armed and sophisticated criminal enterprises, who increasingly use motherships to launch their attacks.

The local pirates’ overall aim is to steal oil cargo.

As such, they do not attach much importance to holding crew members and non-oil cargo and vessels for ransom.

 

Additionally, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are especially noted for their violent modus operandi, which frequently involves the kidnapping, torture and shooting of crewmen.

The increasingly violent methods used by these groups is believed to be part of a conscious “business model” adopted by them, in which violence and intimidation plays a major role.

 

By 2010, 45, and, by 2011, 64 incidents were reported to the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (UN – IMO).

 

However, many events go unreported.

 

International Maritime Organization Logo.svg

 

Piracy acts interfere with the legitimate trading interests of the affected countries that include Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As an example, trade of Benin’s major port, the Port of Cotonou, was reported in 2012 to have dropped by 70%.

The cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea due to stolen goods, security, and insurance has been estimated to be about $2 billion.

According to the Control Risks Group, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea had by mid-November 2013 maintained a steady level of around 100 attempted hijackings in the year, a close second behind Southeast Asia.

 

Piracy in the Indian Ocean has been a threat to international shipping since the second phase of the civil war in Somalia in the early 21st century.

Since 2005, many international organizations have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy.

Piracy impeded the delivery of shipments and increased shipping expenses, costing an estimated $6.6 to $6.9 billion a year in global trade according to Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP).

 

 

According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), a veritable industry of profiteers also arose around the piracy.

Insurance companies significantly increased their profits from the pirate attacks as insurance companies hiked rate premiums in response.

 

Combined Task Force 150, a multinational coalition task force, took on the role of fighting the piracy by establishing a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) within the Gulf of Aden and Guardafui Channel.

By September 2012, the heyday of piracy in the Indian Ocean was reportedly over.

 

 

According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirate attacks had by October 2012 dropped to a six-year low, with only one ship attacked in the third quarter compared to thirty-six during the same period in 2011

 

By December 2013, the US Office of Naval Intelligence reported that only 9 vessels had been attacked during the year by the pirates, with zero successful hijackings.

 

Final ONI seal.jpg

 

Control Risks attributed this 90% decline in pirate activity from the corresponding period in 2012 to the adoption of best management practices by vessel owners and crews, armed private security onboard ships, a significant naval presence and the development of onshore security forces.

 

Pirates in the Strait of Malacca near Indonesia are normally armed with guns, knives, or machetes.

Many reports on attacks could have gone unreported because the companies are scared of the pirates attacking them more often because the company told the authorities.

The pirates in this area also attack ships during the night.

If vessels sound an alarm, the pirates usually leave without confronting the crew.

Pirates in the Singapore Straits attack at night, while ships are underway or anchored.

 

 

According to the Control Risks Group, pirate attacks in the Strait of Malacca had by mid-November 2013 reached a world high, surpassing those in the Gulf of Guinea.

 

 

I am all for generating income to feed a family and I realize that Teguise is highly dependent on tourism to feed theirs.

But a community that claims to be Christian should not be making a market day out of a day of rest and religious reflection.

 

I am all for having a museum that portrays reality historically accurate, but I find it objectionable to package criminal barbarity as a fun day out with the kids.

Piracy in all of its horror is not something that should be forgotten, but neither should it be glamorized nor sanitizied as entertainment for children.

 

Perhaps being a tourist is all about ignoring the realities of life, escaping from life.

But nothing is learned from life or travel if all we choose to see is only pleasureable.

 

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Teguise is a beautiful town worth visiting but it has forgotten what value truly is.

Heritage is not a commodity to be sold at the expense of faith.

Heritage is not a commodity to be sold at the expense of truth.

 

When houses of worship are ignored on a day of faith to increase a merchant’s profits….

When violent crime is packaged to sell tickets to children….

Then a community has sold its soul for filthy lucre.

 

I liked the streets of the town and the warm sunshine after the cold and damp of Switzerland, but I longed for real people uninterested in garnering money or attention from visitors.

Real folks content with living life on their own terms rather than that dictated by others.

 

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The aforementioned timple maker Antonio Lemes Hernandez is one.

Don Pillimpo is another.

 

On the access road from Mozaga, diagonally across from the petrol station, there is a house with a garden full of original sculptures, everyday and art objects, children’s toys, teddy bears and dolls.

 

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Pillimpo, who is actually known as José Garcia Martin, is constantly expanding and changing his unusual collection, the children of Teguise bring him their discarded toys, new color paintings enliven the large sculptures, unusual compositions call out for the viewer to notice.

 

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This strange collection of statues frequently stops passers by in their tracks.

Cars pause in the road whilst their passengers stare.

Pedestrians stop to browse the chaotic display of figurines.

The colour of the statues change frequently, shades of grey, green and pale pink.

 

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The house is referred to as the Casa Museo Mara Mao after the statue holding this name up.

The front door is generally open, although it is said the artist is shy about being photographed and doesn’t like people entering his garden.

Rogue dolls’ heads daubed with paint and teddy bears chained to the tree  have been embraced into this artist’s eclectic display.

In his 60’s Don Pillimpo is free to use his quirky imagination for everyone to wonder at.

Thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, pass the Pillimpo figurine park every year, but few people know the name of this artist.

 

Speechlessness, astonishment, amusement and helplessness is felt by those who pass by Pillimpos’s garden, as well as rejection, a sad shaking of the head, indifference, even fear.

But if you ask someone about these characters, who makes them, if they have any meaning, why Pillimpo dresses them in new colors over and over again, you only hear shrugs.

Maybe because it is not easy to approach the creator of this chaotic world?

 

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Because the God of this Garden, of these saint sculptures, dolls, teddy bears, plush moose, Santa Clauses and action toy monsters with names like “Cloverfield” or “Zombie Spawn” does not show his world to the audience?

Pillimpo does not want to explain his world.

This world is dominated by larger than life figures of sand and cement, and the iconography reminds all those who grew up in the Christian context of saints that in the midst of society children have become disposable victims.

 

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I never saw a greater balance between order and chaos, kitsch and authenticity.“, wrote a Spanish admirer of Pillimpos art on his blog.

Horrible.  I do not like it.  It’s just too heavy for me.“, an island-renowned German artist described his feelings about Pillimpo’s work.

Another artist looks at Pillimpos’s work from his own perspective of usual order and harmony:

So if my garden should look like this then you can instruct me!

 

So, is this art?

 

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Art is a human cultural product, the result of a creative process.

The artwork is usually at the end of this process, but can also be the process itself.

Admiration, as such, is essential to art, but this does not have to be immediate in time and can only be the result of gaining knowledge.” is one definition of art according to Wikipedia.

 

Perception, imagination and intuition are some of the requirements for the artistic process.

Pillimpo’s creativity and imagination are innate to him, he says.

A gift from God that he believes in, for which he is grateful.

He emphasizes this again and again.

He knows his art is not universally loved.

In their opinion, I disturb the cityscape.“, says Pillimpo.

 

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But they can not easily get rid of the man.

Thank God.

 

The land is his property.

The house in which he lives, and which is also inhabited by his creatures inside him, belongs to him.

He built it with his own hands.

No problem for the skilled bricklayer, who was born over half a century ago in his grandfather’s house near Teguise.

 

A hard time was the time of his youth, he recalls, and speaks of his mother, who gave birth to five more children, three girls and two boys.

Even as a young boy, Pillimpo had a thriving imagination.

Every morning, as he gazed at the sunbeams that filtered through the holes and cracks in the meagerly plastered walls, he was fascinated by the play of light and shadow and the forms his imagination accepted.

Too high reaching dreams for a boy from poverty, on Lanzarote, where at times, water was valuable, food scarce and schooling almost impossible.

Although little José could go to school, it was not fun for him.

When you come into the world, God has already given you all the skills you should have.

He gave me imagination.

 

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Pillimpo leaves the subject quickly behind, almost as fast as the questions – about the meaning of his characters, whether he gives them names, why he always wraps them in new colors and how often he does that, where do the toys come from and why does his art matter – come flying at him.

It’s as if he does not hear these questions right.

He mentions that he gets the toys from local children.

He is happy when they look into his garden as they hold their parents’ hands and proudly point to their old teddy bear.

A special meaning?

Do his characters have names?

Names?  What names ?  No, they have no names.

As for the colours, I change, because I just enjoy it.

I love colors and I love all these things.“, says Pillimpo.

 

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And, with that, the explanation is done for him.

Pillimpo goes into the house.

When he comes back, he has a magazine in his hand.

He leafs a bit until he finds what he’s looking for and then proudly shows an article about himself with many photos of his sculpture park and a poem.

He reads it aloud.

The interviewers are silent.

They go home but their thoughts remain in this other world for a long time.

In Pillimpos’s world.

 

In Pillimpos’s world, toys cast out of children’s rooms find a new home, new appreciation and attention.

A new place where they are admired or pitied.

Here, childlike feelings return to the adult.

No viewer can escape the power of this mixture of chaos and order, kitsch and originality.

 

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Who is this man and why does he do what he does?

It is futile to ask others.

Nobody really knows anything about him.

There are only stories, rumours, now and then a grin.

 

Pillimpo began to scrape drawings in the sand with a stick and form figures out of loam, sand and water.

He often sits for hours, giving free rein to his imagination.

 

Not everyone likes that, but his mother had understood.

She had protected him, even defended his “quirks” from others, and did not laugh when he started to make music and dreamed of becoming an actor.

 

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Pillimpo speaks of his dreams only to those able to exchange views with a true philosopher.

I would like to speak with a great thinker, so maybe I can know if I’m right in my views or if I’m a bit of a fool.“, he says seriously.

 

I cannot help but compare and contrast the Pirate Museum with the garden of Don Pillimpo.

 

The former forms the fantastic from facts best forgotten in the frentic thirst for profits.

The latter at no cost leaves a legacy of nostalgia for the children we once were.

 

The Museum claims to be history but it is not.

The garden makes no claims about being art but it is.

 

Teguise, for me, will never be about El Mercadillo (the name of this Sunday market) or the Castillo Santa Bárbara, despite how both dominate the attention.

Teguise is instead quiet humble pride whispered from a timple workshop and an eclectic sculpture garden.

 

And this is something no pirate could ever take from me.

 

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Canary Islands / DK Eyewitness Canary Islands / Eberhard Fohrer, Lanzarote / http://www.lanzarote37.net / https://lanzaroteinfomration.co.uk

Canada Slim and the Swedish Pinot

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 20 April 2019

The Norwegians find them insufferably puffed up.

The Danes consider them to be party poopers.

The Brits see them as sexy but cold.

The Americans think they are Swiss!

 

Flag of Sweden

Above: Flag of Sweden

 

Author Sven Linquist summed it up thus:

The Swedes look at the world through a square frame nailed together by Martin Luther, Gustav Vasa (the founder of the Swedish state), the Temperance Movement and 100 years of socialism.

Luther contributed the Swedish taste for simplicity.

Vasa gave the Swedes a national identity.

The Temperance Movement gave rise to the Swedish tendency to be sanctimonious.

Socialism gave the Swedes a mentality of work as necessary but not everything.

 

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Foreigners living in Sweden find the natives socially impenetrable, as neighbours mind their own business and colleagues go straight home after work.

The Swedes themselves don’t actually dislike any nation in particular, because they are quietly confident in Swedish superiority.

Foreigners are good news, because with their funny faces and horrific habits they remind Swedes how wonderful it is to be Swedish and normal.

 

 

I have vacationed in Sweden with my wife and I have worked with a Swede in Switzerland and I find very little that is objectionable about the Swedes.

I find them less puffed up than Parisians, more party hardy than my fellow Canadians, as sexy as teenage voyeurism once suggested but not tempting enough to test my marriage vows, and I see in them more similarities with their Scandinavian neighbours than they would care to admit.

 

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Simple?

Maybe the architecture and IKEA furniture is, but a Swedish woman is no less and no more complicated than her international counterparts.

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Patriotic?

Certainly, they are not more patriotic than Canadians or Swiss.

Though they display their national flag everywhere as the Americans do theirs, the Swedish are far more secure in their superiority than the Americans are.

 

The Swedes don’t need to boast.

They simply and quietly know their own value.

 

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Above: The coat of arms of Sweden

 

Sanctimonious?

Perhaps the women are, for the Swedes believe that they are the first in the world to achieve total equality between the sexes, thus a man who isn’t taciturn and submissive is a threat to that uneasy balance between the sexes.

I feel that in the quest to be emancipated the Swedish female feels threatened if the male requests the same.

Only a woman dares tell a man how wrong he is.

A man dares not do the same to her without serious conflict and consequence.

 

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As for the work ethic, I can only say that the Sweet Suede that I once worked with was a hardy and competent and well-respected worker beloved by both staff and customers.

 

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I never thought that I would even think about Sweden and Swedish women during my visit to the Alsace Wine Route.

I was wrong.

 

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Alsace, France, 2 January 2019

Alsace is the smallest region in France as regards area, but the most highly populated as regards density.

Alsace has 1,734,000 inhabitants – 209 inhabitants per square kilometre, whereas the average number of inhabitants per square kilometre in Metropolitan France is 108.

This is by no means the only peculiarity of this region….

 

Location of Alsace

 

Officially the Alsace Wine Route is broken into two sections: the one most folks travel and the northern section most don’t.

The northern section begins in the town of Wissembourg.

 

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I have written about Wissembourg before.

A monastery town and former garrison, Wissembourg offers numerous attractions such as the Abbey Church of St. Peter and St. Paul with its gigantic representation of St. Christopher, the Fritz House built in 1550, and the Bruch – the town’s old quarter.

 

 

(Please see Canada Slim and the Burning King of my other blog Building Everest for more on Wissembourg.  https://buildingeverest.wordpress.com)

 

Far away from the traditional half of the famous Alsatian wine route between Marlenheim and Thann, quite competitive wine is also being produced near Wissembourg at the base of the first foothills of the northern Vosges in heavy, fat clay soil.

 

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Viticulture here has a long tradition.

Introduced by the roamin’ Romans, later promoted by the monks of Wissembourg, today 200 sideline wine makers cultivate some 175 hectares of all sorts of grape varieties like Graubünden, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer, from the five villages of Rott, Oberhoffen, Steinseltz, Riedseltz and Cleebourg.

 

 

Private wine sales are not common as the wine makers deliver almost all of their grapes to the Cleebourg Wine Cooperative which wine lovers should not miss.

 

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In the lovely hilly countryside around the five villages with their vineyards and numerous fruit trees you can also go for a walk and then stop in at the Ferme Auberge Moulin des 7 Fontaines (Mill of the Seven Fountains) in the area – a particularly beautiful place.

 

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A 47 minute, 3.5 kilometre stroll south west of Wissembourg finds the pedestrian in the village of Rott (population: 473) where one finds a barrel that the enterprising Mayor Louis Andres Rott turned into a bar, engraved with the worthy maxim:

If you drink, you die.

If you don’t drink you die, so….

 

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Above: Rott, Alsace, France

 

Rott is one of 50 Alsatian communities with a simultaneum (or shared church) with different Christian denominations meeting at different times and presided over by different clergy.

Above the village on the Col de Pigeonnier stands the electric tower, the Émetteur de l’Eselsberg.

 

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The Cleebourg vineyard is at the northernmost point of the Alsatian winemaking area and covers all its communes as well as Wissembourg, the main town in the canton.

The vineyard stretches from Rott, with its belfry / clock tower overlooking the cemetery that doubled as a defensive hideout in the 18th century, to Riedseltz on the banks of the Rhine.

Planted mainly with hybrids or fallen into disuse until the end of the Second World War, the vines were uprooted and the vineyards replanted with the now-famous classic Alsace varieties since the 1950s.

The local wine producers belong to the Cleebourg cooperative, which has an excellent reputation for all things Pinot, including a blanc de blanc crémant, the Prince Casimir.

 

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Follow the signs of the small rural routes to the village of Oberhoffen lès Wissembourg.

With about 300 inhabitants, Oberhoffen-lès-Wissembourg is one of the smallest communes in the community of communes whose main resource comes from the communal forest.

 

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Orchards and vineyards surround the village.

The vines that contribute to the development of the Karschweg, the Pinot gris (formerly Tokay pinot gris) local vinified by the Cleebourg cooperative cellar.

 

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The discovery of the village can also be done by taking the tree path that crosses the town.

 

Located at the foot of the Vosges hills, Oberhoffen-lès-Wissembourg was first attached to the bailiwick of Cleebourg, then passed under the influence of Puller de Hohenbourg to finish as the Duchy of Deux-Ponts where it will remain until the revolution.

It was not until 1927 that the town became known as Oberhoffen-lès-Wissembourg because of its geographical proximity to Wissembourg.

 

 

Close by is the equally small village of Steinseltz by the River Hausauerbach in the region known as Outre-Forêt (“beyond the forest“).

 

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The origin of the history of Steinseltz is closely linked to that of the Abbey of Wissembourg, founded in the 8th century by the monk Dagobert of Speyer.

Locals still bear witness to this distant time like that of Auf der Hub.

A hub was a plot of land rented by the convent to private individuals against a well-defined tenancy.

In 1401, after the decline of the Abbey of Wissembourg, the lords of Hohenbourg, seized the village as well as those of Cleebourg, Oberhoffen-lès-Wissembourg and Rott.

His successor Wirich II built Castle Cleebourg in 1412.

 

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In 1475, Wirich III allied with Duke Louis de Deux-Ponts against the Elector Palatine Frédéric.

Victorious, the latter annexed the village of Steinseltz.

 

In 1504, Maximilian of Habsburg attributed the village of Steinseltz to the Duchy of Zweibrücken, which thus exercised a right of collation.

They integrated Steinseltz to the Bailiwick of Cleebourg, which they held until the Revolution.

 

On 4 August 1870, the Imperial Prince Frederick William went to the locality of Schafbusch to bow before the remains of Abel Douay.

 

In Steinseltz, every August in odd years, there is a feast in honor of the geranium, a symbol of Alsace.

 

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At the heart of the village, Ferme Burger welcomes, every first Wednesday of the month, a market of local and organic products.

There are food products (breads, vegetables, fruits, oils, chocolate, honey) as well as aesthetic products such as essential oils, soaps or herbs.

 

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And Steinseltz produced Marie….

 

Marie (Trautmann) Jaëll (17 August 1846 – 4 February 1925) was a French pianist, composer and pedagogue.

 

 

Marie Jaëll composed pieces for piano, concertos, quartets, and others.

She dedicated her cello concerto to Jules Delsart and was the first pianist to perform all the piano sonatas of Beethoven in Paris.

She did scientific studies of hand techniques in piano playing and attempted to replace traditional drilling with systematic piano methods.

Her students included Albert Schweitzer, who studied with her while also studying organ with Charles-Marie Widor in 1898-99.

Her father was the mayor of Steinseltz in Alsace and her mother was a lover of the arts.

 

She began piano studies at the age of six and by seven, she was studying under piano pedagogues F.B. Hamma and Ignaz Moscheles in Stuttgart.

Marie’s mother served as her advocate and manager.

A year after she began lessons with Hamma and Moscheles, she gave concerts in Germany and Switzerland.

In 1856, the ten-year-old Marie was introduced to the piano teacher Heinrich Herz at the Paris Conservatory.

 

 

After just four months as an official student at the Conservatory, she won the First Prize of Piano.

Her performances were recognized by the public and local newspapers.

 

The Revue et gazette musicale printed a review on 27 July 1862 that read: “She marked the piece with the seal of her individual nature.

Her higher mechanism, her beautiful style, her play deliciously moderate, with an irreproachable purity, an exquisite taste, a lofty elegance, constantly filled the audience with wonder.

 

On August 9, 1866, at twenty years of age, Marie married the Austrian concert pianist, Alfred Jaëll.

 

Above: Alfred Jaell (1832 – 1882)

 

She was then known variously as Marie Trautmann, Marie Jaëll, Marie Jaëll Trautmann or Marie Trautmann Jaëll.

Alfred was fifteen years older than Marie and had been a student of Chopin.

The husband and wife team performed popular pieces, duos, solos, and compositions of their own throughout Europe and Russia.

As a pianist, Marie specialized in the music of Schumann, Liszt, and Beethoven.

They transcribed Beethoven’s “Marcia alla Turca Athens Ruins” for piano.

The score was successfully published in 1872.

Alfred was able to use his success and fame to help Marie meet with various composers and performers throughout their travels.

 

In 1868, Marie met the composer and pianist Franz Liszt.

A record of Liszt’s comments about Marie survives in an article published in the American Record Guide:

Marie Jaëll has the brains of a philosopher and the fingers of an artist.

Liszt introduced Marie to other great composers and performers of the day—for example, Johannes Brahms and Anton Rubinstein.

 

By 1871, Marie’s compositions began to be published.

With the death of her husband in 1881, Marie had the opportunity to study with Liszt in Weimar and with Camille Saint-Saëns and César Franck in Paris.

She also had composition lessons with César Franck and Camille Saint-Saëns, who dedicated his Piano Concerto No. 1 and the Étude en forme de valse to her.

Saint-Saëns thought highly enough of Marie to introduce her to the Society of Music Composers—a great honor for women in those days.

 

After struggling with tendonitis, Jaëll began to study neuroscience.

The strain on her playing and performing led her to research physiology.

Jaëll studied a wide variety of subjects pertaining to the functioning of the body and also ventured into psychology:

She wanted to combine the emotional and spiritual act of creating beautiful music with the physiological aspects of tactile, additive, and visual sensory.

Dr. Charles Féré assisted Jaëll in her research of physiology.

 

Her studies included how music affects the connection between mind and body, as well as how to apply this knowledge to intelligence and sensitivity in teaching music.

 

Liszt’s music had such a tremendous influence on Jaëll that she sought to gain as much insight into his methods and techniques as possible.

 

This research and study lead to Jaëll creating her own teaching method based on her findings.

Jaëll’s teaching method was known as the ‘Jaëll Method‘.

Her method was created through a process of trial and error with herself and her students.

Jaëll’s goal was for her students to feel a deep connection to the piano.

An eleven-book series on piano technique resulted from her research and experience.

Piano pedagogues have since drawn insight into teaching techniques of the hand from her method and books.

In fact, her method is still in use today.

As a result of her studies, Jaëll was able to compile her extensive research into a technique book entitled L’intelligence et le rythme dans les mouvements artistiques.

This text is used by pianists and piano pedagogues as a reference, specifically with hand position and playing techniques.

She died in Paris.

 

 

Walk out of Jaell’s Steinseltz and head west and then south following signposts to Cleebourg.

Cleebourg is a quiet village, with some half-timbered winemakers’ houses built on sandstone bedrock.

Cleebourg’s vineyards are the northernmost point of the Wine Route and though they are planted with the classic varieties, Pinot Gris is indisputably the most successful wine made here.

The grapes, grown on a rocky volcanic soil, produce crisp wine with a characteristically smoky aroma with lily undertones.

Cleebourg used to belong to the Palatin Zweibrückens, but a curious love story in the 17th century brought it under the Swedish crown….

 

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John Casimir, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken-Kleeburg (1589 – 1652) was the son of John I, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken and his wife, Duchess Magdalene of Jülich-Cleves-Berg and was the founder of a branch of Wittelsbach Counts Palatine often called the Swedish line, because it gave rise to three subsequent kings of Sweden, but more commonly known as the Kleeburg (or Cleebourg) line.

 

Johan Kasimir, 1589-1652, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken (David Beck) - Nationalmuseum - 15921.tif

 

In 1591 his father stipulated that, as the youngest son, John Casimir would receive as appanage the countship of Neukastell in the Palatinate.

Upon their father’s death in 1611, however, the eldest son, John II, Count Palatine of Zweibrucken, instead signed a compromise with John Casimir whereby the latter received only the castle at Neukastell coupled with an annuity of 3000 florins from the countship’s revenues (similarly, John Casimir’s elder brother, Frederick Casimir, received the castle at Landsberg with a small surrounding domain, instead of the entire Landsberg appanage bequeathed to him paternally).

On 11 June 1615, Casimir married his second cousin Catherine of Sweden, and their son eventually became King Charles X of Sweden.

Five of his children with Catherine survived infancy:

  • Christina Magdalena (1616–1662)
    • married Frederick VI, Margrave of Baden-Durlach.
    • King Adolf Frederick of Sweden was her great-grandson.
  • King Charles X Gustav of Sweden (1622–1660)
  • Maria Eufrosyne (1625–1687)
    • married Count Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie
  • Eleonora Catherine (1626–1692)
    • married Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Eschwege
  • Adolf John (1629–1689)

 

Catherine of Sweden (Swedish: Katarina) (1584 – 1638) was a Swedish princess and a Countess Palatine of Zweibrücken as the consort of her second cousin John Casimir of Palatinate-Zweibrücken.

 

Katarina, 1584-1638, prinsessa av Sverige pfalzgrevinna av Zweibrücken (Jacob Heinrich Elbfas) - Nationalmuseum - 15100.tif

 

She is known as the periodical foster mother of Queen Christina of Sweden.

 

Catherine was the daughter of King Charles IX of Sweden and his first spouse Maria of the Palatinate-Simmern.

Her personality was described as “a happy union of her father’s power and wisdom and her mother’s tender humility“.

Her mother died in 1589 and Catherine was placed in the care of the German Euphrosina Heldina von Dieffenau, whom she praised much later in life.

 

In 1592, her father remarried to Christina of Holstein-Gottorp.

She reportedly got along well with her stepmother and was close to her half siblings, especially her eldest brother, the future King Gustavus Adolphus, who is noted to have been very affectionate toward her.

In later letters to her consort, however, it seems that she was not always as much in agreement with her stepmother as she gave the impression to be.

 

Her father became regent in 1598 and was crowned king in 1607.

 

In 1611, her brother succeeded her father as King Gustavus Adolphus.

Her brother found Catherine sensible and wise and she is reported to have acted as his confidante and adviser on several occasions.

 

Catherine married late for a Princess of her period.

Although she was a great heiress, her status on the international royal marriage market was uncertain because of the political situation in Sweden after her father had conquered the throne from his nephew Sigismund.

Her parents’ marriage had been an alliance with the anti-Habsburg party in Germany, which in turn was allied with King Henry IV of France and the French Huguenots.

 

Coat of arms of Sweden.svg

 

In 1599, there were plans to arrange a marriage between her and the Protestant French Prince Henri, Duke of Rohan, leader of the French Huguenots.

Henry married Marguerite de Béthune in 1603.

After the Treaty of Knäred in 1613, her status became more secure.

 

With the support of her stepmother Queen Dowager Christina, the queen dowager’s brother Archbishop John Frederik of Bremen arranged the marriage between Catherine and her relative (Count Palatine) John Casimir of Palatinate-Zweibrücken.

Though relatively poor, he had contacts which were deemed valuable to Sweden, though Count Axel Oxenstierna opposed the marriage.

The marriage took place on 11 June 1615 in Stockholm.

 

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Above: Stockholm Royal Palace

 

Catherine was, by the will of both her parents as well as by the law regarding the dowry of Swedish Princesses, one of the wealthiest heirs in Sweden.

As the economic situation at the time was strained, she remained in Sweden the first years after her marriage to guard her interests.

 

In January 1618, she left for Alsace.

There, the couple was given the Kleeburg Castle as their residence.

The year after, John Casimir started to build a new residence, the Renaissance Palace Katharinenburg near Kleeburg.

 


 

In 1620, the Thirty Years’ War forced them to flee to Strasbourg.

In 1622, her brother King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden asked her to return to Sweden with her family.

The death of her younger brother in Sweden, as well as the lack of heirs to the Swedish throne was evidently the reason why the monarch wished to move her to safety away from the Thirty Years’ War.

Catherine accepted the invitation and arrived to Sweden with her family in June 1622.

At her arrival, the birth of her son Charles immediately strengthened her position.

 

In Sweden, she and her consort were granted Stegeborg Castle and a county in Östergötland as their fief and residence and as payment of her dowry:

Catherine was styled Countess of Stegeborg.

Catherine and John Casimir settled in well at Stegeborg, where they maintained a royal standard of living:

They kept a court with 60 formal ladies-in-waiting and courtiers and an official table.

 

 

Catherine actively engaged herself in the management of the estates, and was in 1626 given Skenas Royal Estate as her personal fief.

 

Catherine was on very good terms with her brother King Gustavus Adolphus, who is known to have asked her for advice.

During his trips, he often asked her to try to console and control his consort, Queen Maria Eleonora.

 

Catherine was exposed to certain intrigues at court with the purpose of blackening her name in the eyes of the royal couple, but she managed to avoid these plots.

She was on good terms with the dynasties of Pfalz and Brandenburg, with whom she corresponded and who considered her to be wise and to have good judgment.

 

In 1631, Catherine was given the custody of her niece, Princess Christina, the heir to the throne, when the queen was allowed to join the king in Germany, where he participated in the Thirty Years’ War.

Christina remained in her care until Maria Eleonora returned to Sweden upon the death of Gustavus Adolphus in 1632.

 

After the death of King Gustavus Adolphus, the couple came in conflict with the Guardian Government of Queen Christina over their position and rights to Stegeborg.

When John Casimir broke with the royal council in 1633, the couple retired from court to Stegeborg.

Catherine did not show any interest in participation in state affairs.

 

In 1636, however, Queen Dowager Maria Eleonora was deemed an unsuitable guardian and deprived of the custody of the young monarch, and Catherine was appointed official guardian and foster mother with the responsibility of the young queen’s upbringing.

The appointment was made upon the recommendation of Count Axel Oxenstierna and she reportedly accepted the task with reluctance.

This appointment destroyed her relationship with Maria Eleonora.

 

The years in Catherine’s care are described by Christina as happy ones.

Princess Catherine personally enjoyed great respect and popularity in Sweden as a member of the royal house and as the foster parent of the monarch:

 

However, this respect did not include her consort, who was given no task or position at court whatsoever.

John Casimir was himself careful to point out her rank as a Royal Princess, but he was himself exposed to some humiliation because of their difference in rank.

One example was at the opening of Parliament in 1633, when Catherine in accordance with the wish of the Royal Council followed Queen Christina in the procession, while John Casimir was given the choice to stand and watch the ceremony from a window or not be present at all.

 

Catherine died in Västerås, where the royal court had fled from an outbreak of plague in Stockholm.

At her death, Axel Oxenstierna said, that he would rather have buried his own mother twice, than once again see “the premature death of this noble Princess“.

After her death, the royal council appointed two foster mothers for the queen to replace her: Countess Ebba Leijonhufvud and Christina Natt och Dag.

The Katarina kyrka in Stockholm is named after her.

 

Katarina kyrka January 2013 02.jpg

 

The marriage of John and Katarina reminds me of two other marriages: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and my own.

 

 

Victoria and Albert were, like John and Katarina, cousins.

The Princes Consort were considered less worthy of respect than their lady heiresses to major kingdoms’ thrones.

Both royal couples gave birth to children who would rise to great power.

 

My wife and I are not cousins nor nobility of any sort, but, like Katarina, my wife is considered sensible and wise.

She, like many women, could certainly have married a man far more appropriate for her and her ambitions, and yet we, like John and Katarina, like Victoria and Albert, have remained together despite our inequalities.

Like John and Katarina, my wife and I lived apart from one another for years despite our union.

I, like John, followed my bride to her home country.

 

 

(Less than 4 kilometres south of Cleebourg is the municipality of Drachenbronn-Birlenbach, where one can find both the original site of Katharienburg as well as the Musée Pierre Jost.

The Pierre Jost Museum is situated near the Ouvrage Hochwald, one of the major fortifications of the Maginot Line in France, which documents the story of the fortifications before, during and after World War II.

The Ouvrage Hochwald fortification was built in the Hochwald massif between 1929 and 1935 and was the strongest in Alsace.

It was capable of housing 1,200 men.

It had eleven blocks, with turrets, casemates to house the infantry, three entry blocks and an anti-tank ditch.

 

Maginot Line 1944.jpg

 

Construction of the Museum in honor of the builders and defenders of the Maginot Line began in 1972, led by Pierre Jost.

The Museum was set up in the old M1 magazine.

The original museum was closed in 2009 since it no longer met public safety standards.

On 12 September 2011 the museum was re-opened in building T4 at airbase 901 in Drachenbronn-Birlenbach.

The new premises, opened in time for Heritage Day on 18 September 2011, has more than 350 square metres (3,800 sq ft) of space.

 

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The first room has some artillery pieces, in use until 1940, and press clippings of the early days of liberation towards the end of World War II.

The Museum has rooms for exhibits that cover each period in the life of the fortification:

  • Construction in 1930–1935
  • Occupation by the French in 1935–1940
  • Occupation by the Germans in 1940–1945
  • The Cold War, when the fortification was viewed as defense against Soviet tanks advancing towards Paris.
  • The room for the 1935–1940 period has the equipment, arms and personal effects of soldiers of that period.
  • The 1940–1945 room has German propaganda posters and relics from the liberation.
  • Part of the Museum also tells the story of the airbase.
  • There are many photographs showing the daily life of the soldiers during the different periods.

Sadly, the Musée Pierre Jost is open only during the Journées des Patrimoine, three days each September.)

 

Alsace is wine-growing country.

 

Image result for alsace wine route images

 

It has long been so and will probably long be so, but Sweden, on the other hand….

 

 

Sweden is well north of the area where the European vine, Vitis vinifera, occurs naturally.

 

There is no tradition of wine production from grapes in the country.

 

Some sources claim that some monastic vineyards were established when the Roman Catholic church established monasteries in Sweden in medieval times, when Sweden’s climate was milder, but traces of this supposed viticulture are much less evident than the corresponding activities in England, for example.

Small-scale growing of grapes in Swedish orangeries and other greenhouses have occurred for a long time, but the purpose of such plantations were either to provide fruit (grapes) or for decoration or exhibition purposes and not to provide grapes for wine production.

 

Towards the end of the 20th century, commercial viticulture slowly crept north, into areas than the well-established wine regions, as evidenced by Canadian wine, English wine and Danish wine.

This trend was partially made possible by the use of new hybrid grape varieties and partially by new viticultural techniques.

 

The idea of commercial freeland viticulture in Sweden appeared in the 1990s.

Some pioneers, especially in Skåne (Scania), took their inspiration from nearby Denmark, where viticulture started earlier than in Sweden, while others took their inspiration from experiences in other winemaking countries.

 

Perhaps surprisingly, the first two wineries of some size were not established in the far south of Sweden, but in Södermanland County close to Flen (in an area where orchards were common) and on the island of Gotland, which has the largest number of sunshine hours in Sweden.

Later expansions have mostly taken place in Scania, though.

 

There are also small-scale viticulturalists who grow their grapes in greenhouses rather than in the open.

 

Small quantities of a few commercial wines made their way into the market via Systembolaget from the early 2000s.

Only a handful of Swedish producers can be considered to be commercial operations, rather than hobby wine makers.

In 2006, the Swedish Board of Agriculture counted four Swedish companies that commercialized wine produced from their own vineyards.

The total production was 5,617 litres (1,236 imperial gallons; 1,484 US gallons), of which 3,632 litres (799 imperial gallons; 959 US gallons) were red and 1,985 litres (437 imperial gallons; 524 US gallons) white, and this amount was produced from around 10 hectares (25 acres) of vineyards.

The Association of Swedish winegrowers estimates 30-40 vinegrowing establishments in Scania, but this number includes hobby growers with a fraction of a hectare of vineyards.

 

 

And here’s the thing, the point I am trying to make….

 

Sometimes things, sometimes people, thrive where no one thinks they will.

Sometimes places, sometimes people, have a past never imagined by others.

 

There is absolutely no reason to imagine that this quiet obscure section of the Alsace Wine Route could produce anything or anyone worthy of attention.

And yet the wine is very fine and the region has fostered both talent and royalty.

 

 

There is absolutely no proof in my possession that John and Katarina ever inspired Swedish wine production through their Alsatian experiences, but nonetheless I am seduced by the possibility.

 

There was no reason why the Maginot Line should not have defended France for centuries to come.

Unless invading Germans simply go around this line of walled fortifications.

 

(Trump could learn from the Maginot Line that a border wall is useless if desperate folks use desperate tactics like simply flying over the thing.)

 

There is no just cause why Alsace should be considered either French or German despite centuries of struggle and bloodshed, for even the smallest of walks through the Alsatian countryside reveals that these people are neither French nor German but are instead indefatiguably, eternally, proudly and uniquely Alsatian.

Pano.cernay.JPG

 

Is life in this tiny corner of France simple?

It is no less fascinating, no less complicated, than anywhere else humanity has chosen to settle.

 

Flag of France

 

Are Alsatians proud French patriots?

In the sense of defending their homes against the destructiveness of invasion, Alsatians are patriotic, but this patriotism is reserved for Alsace alone.

 

Flag of Alsace

 

For here the visitor hears both French and German spoken, and sees le francais and Deutsch written everywhere.

Alsace once upon a time was conquered by the French, was then conquered by the Germans, then liberated once more by the French.

But it is a long way, both geographically and philosophically, from Berlin and Paris.

 

 

Could one suggest that Alsatians are sanctimonious?

Perhaps.

But only because they quietly know their own value and sense their own superiority.

 

 

Today is Saturday and all of this conversing about wine has given me a craving for a fine glass of pinot.

I wonder whether the wine shop between Starbucks and the train station in St. Gallen will be still open after my shift ends.

I wonder whether I will buy a bottle of the Alsatian or the Swedish.

 

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Peter Berlin, Xenophobe’s Guide to the Swedes / Marie-Christine Périllon, Alsace: A Tourist Guide to the Entire Region / Jacky Bind & Jean Claude Colin, Alsace: The Wine Route / Michèle-Caroline Heck, The Golden Book of Alsace / Antje & Gunther Schwab, Elsass / Rough Guide France / Lonely Planet France

Canada Slim and the Chocolate Factory of Unhappiness

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 30 January 2019

This is not India, but nonetheless there are a few sacred cows in Switzerland one would be wise to not offend.

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First, one should never question Switzerland’s superiority….

In anything.

Just as the laws of physics decree that the bumblebee cannot possibly fly, so the laws of economics similarly decree that Switzerland should not be doing so sickeningly well.

Bumblebee October 2007-3a.jpg

It is land-locked, has a home market smaller than London, speaks four languages, has no natural resources other than hydroelectric power, a little salt and few fish, no colonies nor membership in any major trading block, Switzerland should have faded from existence centuries ago.

Instead the Swiss are the only nation to make the Germans appear inefficient, the French undiplomatic and Texans poor.

Thus their mountains are higher, their tunnels longer, their watches superior, their cheese holey, their chocolate legendary and their gold real.

Flag of Switzerland

Second, appearances are deceiving.

Switzerland is not really a nation but rather a collection of 26 nations (or cantons) which finance themselves, raise their own taxes and spend them as they want.

Or one could also easily argue that it is not a collection of 26 cantons but rather an assemblage of 3,000 totally independent communities each making their own decisions about welfare, gas, electricity, water, roads and public holidays.

Image result for cantonal map of switzerland images

They are successful and proud of what they have accomplished yet simultaneously refuse to believe they are doing well and are convinced that tomorrow they will lose everything they have worked for.

They are officially quadlingual polyglots.

Yet not only have I never heard of anyone who can speak all four (French, German, Italian and Rumanisch) languages, I have rarely encountered outside of Freiburg/Freibourg and Biel/Bienne anyone who is bilingual in even two of the four.

In the Bundeshaus in Bern (the national/federal parliament in the capital) one sees a minor miracle of one member speaking in one language while the other member responds in a different one with no loss of comprehension or pause in conversation.

But beyond Bern, when the Swiss have to communicate in an official language not their own, then in all likelihood the French speaker will address his German counterpart in English and vice versa.

 

The Swiss Army doesn’t actually use the Swiss Army knives the tourists buy.

Swiss cheese is not called Swiss but Emmentaler.

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Swiss fondue is simply (cheese) fondue while a meat fondue is inexplicably called a Chinese fondue.

Swiss fondue.jpg

Two Swiss national heroes are also problematic puzzlers.

 

Heidi, everyone’s favourite Swiss Miss, though created by a Swiss writer, was actually a German girl who moved to Switzerland to live with her Swiss grandfather in Frau Johanna Spyri’s books.

William Tell (or Wilhelm) is a proud Swiss symbol of independence but whether he actually existed or whether he was invented by those who were not Swiss (Germans Goethe and Friedrich Schiller / Italy’s Rossini) is debatable.

The cuckoo clock is not Swiss.

It is German from the Black Forest, despite what Orson Wells would have us believe.

 

Trains are not as punctual as the legend suggests that folks could use their stopwatches to predict a train’s exact arrival.

The S8 connecting Schaffhausen with St. Gallen is, in my personal experience of using it on an almost daily basis, more often tardy rather than timely.

SBB-CFF-FFS.svg

 

The Swiss are world class diploments who make the world believe that they want the world to love them, but they have a problem with not loving the world in return but not liking other Swiss as well.

 

They are famous for their neutrality yet armed to the teeth.

 

And much like my fellow Canadians, they are proud of their homeland yet would be hard-pressed to say what exactly that identity is of which they are proud.

 

They are conservative to the extreme, yet Switzerland has harboured radicals of every political ideology imaginable (including Mussolini and Lenin), has surprised with artistic movements (like Dadaism and Bauhaus) and has sheltered movie and music legends who revolutionized the world with their creativity and talent (like Freddy Mercury, Charlie Chaplin and Tina Turner).

Switzerland is dull and uninspiring.

Even though Mary Shelley was English her Frankenstein‘s Monster was as Swiss as the Matterhorn.

 

James Bond is the product of a Swiss mother and a Scottish father and much of Bond lore (movies and literature) has taken place within Switzerland.

 

A land of contradictions with an identity as firmly guarded as a bank vault.

 

Let us consider Swiss chocolate.

The world over, chocolate is the foodstuff most readily identifiable with Switzerland.

Chocolate is everywhere.

It is the afternoon pick-me-up, the sensual indulgence, the accoutrement to seduction.

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The ancient Aztecs believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac and Emperor Montezuma would gorge himself on chocolate in advance of his trysts as a type of non-prescription Viagra.

 

The solid, moldable chocolate “bar” was developed by the Bristol confectioner Joseph Fry in 1847.

But many early pioneers of chocolate-making were Swis:

  • Francois-Louis Cailler, who started production of what was then largely sold as a restorative tonic at Vevey in 1819.

  • He was soon followed by Philippe Suchard in Neuchâtel.

  • Until 1875, all chocolate was dark and bitter, but in that year Vevey-based Daniel Peter, a candlemaker who married Cailler’s daughter, became involved in chocolate-making, invented milk chocolate, aided by his neighbour Henri Nestlé.

  • Nestlé started his firm (now one of the world’s largest food multinationals) by manufacturing condensed milk, which Peter used in chocolate manufacture in preference to the too-watery ordinary milk, creating a concoction that was not only more palatable than previously available but less expensive as well.

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  • In 1879 Rodolphe Lindt of Bern invented “conching“, a process which creates the smooth melting chocolate familiar today.

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  • Jean Tobler, also of Bern, was another pioneer and today every one of the seven billion triangles of Toblerone eaten annually are still produced in that city.

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Today, more chocolate is sold in Switzerland per head of population than any other country.

 

The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavor.

After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted.

The shell is removed to produce cacao nibs, which are then ground to cocoa mass, unadulterated chocolate in rough form.

Once the cocoa mass is liquefied by heating, it is called chocolate liquor.

The liquor also may be cooled and processed into its two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Baking chocolate, also called bitter chocolate, contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions, without any added sugar.

Powdered baking cocoa, which contains more fiber than it contains cocoa butter, can be processed with alkali to produce Dutch cocoa.

Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter or added vegetable oils, and sugar.

Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk.

White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids.

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Chocolate is one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world, and many foodstuffs involving chocolate exist, particularly desserts, including cakes, pudding, mousse, chocolate brownies, and chocolate chip cookies.

Many candies are filled with or coated with sweetened chocolate, and bars of solid chocolate and candy bars coated in chocolate are eaten as snacks.

Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes (such as eggs, hearts, coins) are traditional on certain Western holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Hanukkah.

Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, such as chocolate milk and hot chocolate, and in some alcoholic drinks, such as creme de cacao.

 

Chocolate is big business.

In 2005 the global market was approximately $100 billion.

Each year, the world consumes close to three million tons of chocolate and other cocoa products.

One Swiss firm alone, Lindt & Sprüngli had a revenue of CHF 4.088 billion in 2017.

Logo

 

It was my discovery that Lindt has their headquarters and outlet shop in Kilchberg (near Zürich) and a separate visit to Maestrani’s Chocolarium outside the town of Flawil (near St. Gallen) that made me curious about the actual production of chocolate….

Image result for lindt chocolate factory kilchberg images

 

Bern, Switzerland, 12 March 2013:

Lindt produces the Gold Bunny, a hollow milk chocolate rabbit in a variety of sizes available every Easter since 1952.

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Each bunny wears a small coloured ribbon bow around its neck identifying the type of chocolate contained within.

The milk chocolate bunny wears a red ribbon, the dark chocolate bunny wears a dark brown ribbon, the hazelnut bunny wears a green ribbon, and the white chocolate bunny wears a white ribbon.

Other chocolates are wrapped to look like carrots, chicks, or lambs.

The lambs are packaged with four white lambs and one black lamb.

During the Christmas season, Lindt produces a variety of items, including chocolate reindeer (which somewhat resemble the classic bunny), Santa, snowmen figures of various sizes, bears, bells, advent calendars and chocolate ornaments.

Various tins and boxes are available in the Lindt stores, the most popular colour schemes being the red and blue.

Other seasonal items include Lindt chocolate novelty golf balls.

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For Valentine’s Day, Lindt sells a boxed version of the Gold Bunny, which comes as a set of two kissing bunnies.

Other Valentine’s Day seasonal items include a selection of heart-shaped boxes of Lindor chocolate truffles.

 

They are the symbol of Easter in Switzerland, but the golden Lindt bunnies aren’t Swiss.

As revelations go, this one is up there with Heidi was German and Switzerland isn’t neutral in terms of shock value.

How can those cute little gold-wrapped bunnies not be Swiss?

They are made by Lindt & Sprüngli, one of the oldest and most famous chocolate makers in Switzerland.

Except they are made by Lindt & Sprüngli in Germany.

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Diccon Bewes discovered this thanks to a friend from Helvetica LA who bought a Lindt bunny in Los Angeles only to find it was made in Germany.

Fair enough, Bewes thought, as America is an export market.

But surely the ones in Switzerland would be made here?

Wrong.

All the ones in the supermarkets in Bern are made in Germany, although you have to have good eyesight to discover that.

On the back of the bunny the ingredients are listed in German, French and Dutch but down at the bottom are the words:

Fabriqué par / Geproduceerd door: Lindt & Sprüngli GmbH (Allemagne/Deutschland) D-52072 Aachen.

Oddly this isn’t written in German given that they are sold in Germany.

Obviously they don’t want to have that anywhere for fear of scaring away canny Swiss consumers – even though most of them can understand the French anyway!

To reassure anyone who does cotton on to the fact that the bunny isn’t Swiss, there are the words:

Garantie de Qualité Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli Kilchberg/Suisse.

In other words, Lindt in Switzerland is the distributor for the German Lindt products.

At a time when “Swissness” is being debated in the Federal Parliament, it is interesting to see that this Swiss icon is not Swiss at all.

Bewes checked the shelves and Lindt very carefully marks their chocolate bars with SWISS MADE where it applies (so the bunny does not get that stamp of approval).

There was a proposal that foodstuffs get the SWISS MADE stamp only if 80% of their ingredients are Swiss, unless they include things that cannot possibly be Swiss because they are not grown here….

Diccon Bewes Logo

 

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 29 January 2019

But here’s the thing.

Not only is much of Swiss chocolate production reliant on imported sugar, but cocoa, the raw material of chocolate, itself isn’t grown in Switzerland.

Although cocoa originated in the Americas, West African countries, particularly Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, are the leading producers of cocoa in the 21st century, accounting for some 60% of the world cocoa supply.

Thousands of miles away from the American and European homes, where the majority of the world’s chocolate is devoured – Europe accounts for 45% of the world’s chocolate revenue – lies the denuded landscape of West Africa’s Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest producer of cocoa.

As the nation’s name suggests, elephants once abundantly roamed the rain forests of the Côte d’Ivoire.

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Today’s reality is much different.

Only 200 – 400 elephants remain from an original population of hundreds of thousands.

Much of the country’s national parks and conservation lands have been cleared of their forests to make way for cocoa operators to feed demand from large chocolate companies like Nestlé, Cadbury and Mars.

 

Washington DC, 15 September 2017

NGO Mighty Earth released the results of an in-depth global investigation into the cocoa cartel that produces the raw material for chocolate.

The chocolate companies purchase the cocoa for their chocolate production from large agribusiness companies like Olam, Cargill and Barry Callebaut, who together control half the monopoly of global cocoa trade.

Most strikingly, the investigation found that for years the world’s major chocolate companies have been buying cocoa grown through the illegal deforestation of national parks and other protected forests, in addition to driving extensive deforestation outside of protected areas.

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In the world’s two largest cocoa producing countries, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the market created by the chocolate industry has been the primary driver behind the destruction of forests.

Much of Côte d’Ivoire’s national parks and protected areas have been entirely or almost entirely cleared of forest and replaced with cocoa growing operations.

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In the developed world, chocolate is seen as an affordable luxury that gives ordinary people a taste of sensuous delight at a modest cost.

But in West Africa, chocolate is rare and unaffordable to the majority of the population.

Most Ivorian cocoa farmers have never even tried chocolate.

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Much of Côte d’Ivoire was densely covered by forests when it achieved independence in 1960, making it prime habitat for forest elephants and chimpanzees.

Elephants are on the verge of total disappearance.

A female African bush elephant in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania

13 of 23 Ivorian protected areas have lost their entire primate populations.

Chimpanzees are now considered an endangered species.

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Côte d’Ivoire once boasted one of the highest rates of biodiversity in Africa, with thousands of endemic species.

Pygmy hippos, flying squirrels, pangolins, leopards and crocodiles are rapidly losing their last habitats.

Today less than 12% of the country remains forested and less than 4% remains densely forested.

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The cocoa industry in Côte d’Ivoire has not been content with landscapes it was able to clear legally.

In recent years, it has pushed large-scale growing operations into the country’s national parks and other protected areas.

Needless to say, clearing forest to produce cocoa within protected areas violates Ivorian law.

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Above: Flag of Côte d’Ivoire

 

A study conducted by Ohio State University and several Ivorian academic institutions examined 23 protected areas in Côte d’Ivoire and found that seven of them had been entirely converted to cocoa.

More than 90% of the land mass of these protected areas was estimated to be covered by cocoa.

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Mighty Earth investigated Goin Débé Forest, Scio Forest, Mt. Péko National Park, Mt. Sassandra Forest, Tia Forest and Marahoué National Park.

Three of the world’s largest cocoa traders – Olam, Cargill and Barry Callebaut – buy cocoa grown illegally in protected areas.

They sell this cocoa to the world’s largest chocolate companies like Mars, Hershey, Mondelez, Ferrero, Lindt and others.

Other traders engage in similar practices.

Illegal deforestation for cocoa is an open secret throughout the entire chocolate supply chain.

 

Between five and six million people, largely small landholders, grow cocoa around the world.

In Côte d’Ivoire, cocoa farmers, who produce 43% of the world’s cocoa, earn around US 50 cents per day, 6.6% of the value of a chocolate bar.

By comparison, 35% goes to chocolate companies and 44% goes to retailers.

 

Additionally, the chocolate industry is notorious for labour rights abuses including slave labour and child labour.

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According to the US Department of Labor:

21% more children are illegally laboring on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast than five years ago.

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An estimated 2.1 million West African children are still engaged in dangerous, physically taxing cocoa harvesting.

Rather than eliminate the problem, the industry has merely pledged to reduce child labour in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana by 70% by 2020.

 

The investigation implicates almost every major chocolate brand and retailer, including Lindt & Sprüngli and my employer Starbucks.

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Mighty Earth shared the findings with 70 chocolate companies.

 

None denied sourcing cocoa from protected areas.

None disputed any of the facts presented.

 

Kilchberg, Switzerland, 12 August 2018

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This bedroom community of Zürich has only 8,470 people, but it is a significant place for three reasons:

  • It was the final home and resting place for Nobel Prize German author Thomas Mann as well as his wife and most of his children.

Mann in 1929

Above: Thomas Mann (1875 – 1955)

(See Canada Slim and the Family of Mann of this blog.)

  • It was also the final home and resting place of Swiss author Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, in whose honour Kilchberg has a Museum.

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Above: Conrad Meyer (1825 – 1898)

(See Canada Slim and the Anachronistic Man of this blog.)

  • It was the final home and resting place of Swiss chocolatier David Sprüngli-Schwartz and his son Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann, and it remains the headquarters location of the company they founded, today’s Lindt & Sprüngli.

In 1836 David and Rudolf bought a small confectionery in the old town of Zürich, producing chocolates under the name David Sprüngli & Son.

Two years later, a small factory was added that produced chocolate in solid form.

With the retirement of Rudolf in 1892, the business was divided between his two sons.

The younger brother David received two confectionery stores that became known under the name Confiserie Sprüngli.

The elder brother Johann received the chocolate factory.

To raise the necessary finances for his expansion plans, Johann converted his private company into publicly traded Chocolat Sprüngli AG in 1899.

That same year, Johann acquired the chocolate factory of Rodolphe Lindt in Bern and the company changed its name to Aktiengesellschaft (AG) Vereingte Berner und Züricher Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli (the United Bern and Zürich Lindt and Sprüngli Chocolate Factories Ltd.).

In 1994, Lindt & Sprüngli acquired the Austrian chocolatier Hofbauer Österreich and integrated it, along with its Küfferle brand, into the company.

In 1997 and 1998, respectively, the company acquired the Italian chocolatier Caffarel and the American chocolatier Ghirardelli, and integrated both of them into the company as wholly owned subsidiaries.

Since then, Lindt & Sprüngli has expanded the once-regional Ghirardelli to the international market.

On 17 March 2009, Lindt announced the closure of 50 of its 80 retail boutiques in the United States because of weaker demand in the wake of the late-2000s recession.

On 14 July 2014, Lindt bought Russell Stover Candies, maker of Whitman’s Chocolate, for about $1 billion, the company’s largest acquisition to date.

In November 2018, Lindt opened its first American travel retail store in JFK Airport’s Terminal 1 and its flagship Canadian shop in Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Toronto.

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Above: Lindt Yorkdale

 

Lindt & Sprüngli has twelve factories: Kilchberg, Switzerland; Aachen, Germany; Oloron-Sainte-Marie, France; Induno Olona, Italy; Gloggnitz, Austria; and Stratham, New Hampshire, in the United States.

The factory in Gloggnitz, Austria, manufactures products under the Hofbauer & Küfferle brand in addition to the Lindt brand.

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Caffarel’s factory is located in Luserna San Giovanni, Italy, and Ghirardelli’s factory is located in San Leandro, California, in the United States.

Furthermore, there are four more factories of Russell Stover in the United States.

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Lindt has opened over 410 chocolate cafés and shops all over the world.

The cafés’ menu offers mostly focuses on chocolate and desserts.

They also sell handmade chocolates, macaroons, cakes, and ice cream.

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Above: “The Little Wash House“, Lindt Café, Zürich

 

Originally, Lindor was introduced as a bar in 1949 and later in 1967 in form of a ball.

Lindor is a type of chocolate produced by Lindt, which is now characterized by a hard chocolate shell and a smooth chocolate filling.

It comes in both a ball and a bar variety, as well as in a variety of flavours.

Each flavour has its own wrapper colour.

Most of the US Lindor truffles are manufactured in Stratham, New Hampshire.

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Lindt sells at least 29 varieties of chocolate bars.

 

Lindt’s “Petits Desserts” range embodies famous European desserts in a small cube of chocolate.

Flavours include: Tarte au Chocolat, Crème Brulée, Tiramisu, Creme Caramel, Tarte Citron, Meringue, and Noir Orange.

 

Lindt makes a “Creation” range of chocolate-filled cubes: Milk Mousse, Dark Milk Mousse, White Milk Mousse, Chocolate Mousse, Orange Mousse, Pistachio and Cherry/Chili.

 

Bâtons Kirsch are Lindt Kirsch liqueur-filled, chocolate-enclosed tubes dusted in cocoa powder.

 

In Australia, Lindt manufactures ice cream in various flavours:

  • 70% Dark Chocolate
  • White Chocolate Framboise
  • Sable Cookies and Cream
  • Chocolate Chip Hazelnut
  • White Chocolate and Vanilla Bean

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The curious visitor and chocolate lover can have a guided tour of the Lindt production facilities by contacting Zürich Tourism in the Zürich Main Station.

Tours take place from May to September, Monday to Saturday and last 40 minutes for individuals or groups up to 16 people.

(http://www.lindt-experience.ch)

The factory outlet shop outside the factory is open from Monday to Friday 1000 – 1900, and Saturday 1000 – 1700.

The shop is seductive, the chocolate sinful.

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In 2009, Swiss tennis star Roger Federer was named as Lindt’s “global brand ambassador” and began appearing in a series of commercials endorsing Lindor.

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Roger Federer has huge popularity in the world of sport, to the point that he has been called a living legend in his own time.

Given his achievements, many players and analysts have considered Federer to be the greatest tennis player of all time.

No other male tennis player has won 20 major singles titles in the Open Era and he has been in 30 major finals, including 10 in a row.

He has held the world No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for longer than any other male player.

He was also ranked No. 1 at the age of 36.

Federer has won a record eight Wimbledon titles and a joint-record six Australian Open titles.

He also won five consecutive US Open titles, which is the best in the Open Era.

He has been voted by his peers to receive the tour Sportsmanship Award a record thirteen times and voted by tennis fans to receive the ATP Fans’ Favorite award for fifteen consecutive years.

Federer has been named the Swiss Sports Personality of the Year a record seven times.

He has been named the ATP Player of the Year and ITF World Champion five times and he has won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award a record five times, including four consecutive awards from 2005 to 2008.

He is also the only individual to have won the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year award four times.

Federer helped to lead a revival in tennis known by many as the Golden Age.

This led to increased interest in the sport, which in turn led to higher revenues for many venues across tennis.

During this period rising revenues led to exploding prize money.

When Federer first won the Australian Open in 2004 he earned $985,000, compared to when he won in 2018 and the prize had increased to AUD 4 million.

Upon winning the 2009 French Open and completing the career Grand Slam, Federer became the first individual male tennis player to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated since Andre Agassi in 1999.

He was also the first non-American player to appear on the cover of the magazine since Stefan Edberg in 1992.

Federer again made the cover of Sports Illustrated following his record breaking 8th Wimbledon title and second Grand Slam of 2017, becoming the first male tennis player to be featured on the cover since himself in 2009.

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Federer is one of the highest-earning athletes in the world.

He is listed at No. 1 on the ForbesWorld’s Highest Paid Athletes” list.

He is endorsed by Japanese clothing company Uniqlo and Swiss companies Nationale Suisse, Credit Suisse, Rolex, Lindt, Sunrise, and Jura Elektroapparate.

In 2010, his endorsement by Mercedes-Benz China was extended into a global partnership deal.

His other sponsors include Gillette, Wilson, Barilla, and Moët & Chandon.

Previously, he was an ambassador for Nike, NetJets, Emmi AG and Maurice Lacroix.

In 2003, he established the Roger Federer Foundation to help disadvantaged children and to promote their access to education and sports.

Since May 2004, citing his close ties with South Africa, including that this was where his mother had been raised, he began supporting the South Africa-Swiss charity IMBEWU, which helps children better connect to sports as well as social and health awareness.

Later, in 2005, Federer visited South Africa to meet the children that had benefited from his support.

Also in 2005, he auctioned his racquet from his US Open championship to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.

At the 2005 Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, Federer arranged an exhibition involving several top players from the ATP and WTA tour called Rally for Relief.

The proceeds went to the victims of the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

In December 2006, he visited Tamil Nadu, one of the areas in India most affected by the tsunami.

 

He was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF in April 2006 and has appeared in UNICEF public messages to raise public awareness of AIDS.

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In response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Federer arranged a collaboration with fellow top tennis players for a special charity event during the 2010 Australian Open called ‘Hit for Haiti‘, in which proceeds went to Haiti earthquake victims.

He participated in a follow-up charity exhibition during the 2010 Indian Wells Masters, which raised $1 million.

The Nadal vs. Federer “Match for Africa” in 2010 in Zürich and Madrid raised more than $4 million for the Roger Federer Foundation and Fundación Rafa Nadal.

In January 2011, Federer took part in an exhibition, Rally for Relief, to raise money for the victims of the Queensland floods.

In 2014, the “Match for Africa 2” between Federer and Stan Wawrinka, again in Zurich, raised £850,000 for education projects in Southern Africa.

 

On 24 November 2017, Federer received an honorary doctorate awarded to him by his home university, the University of Basel.

He received the title in recognition for his role in increasing the international reputation of Basel and Switzerland and also his engagement for children in Africa through his charitable foundation.

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But is he aware of the damage that Lindt’s demand for cocoa is doing to West Africa in regards to the destruction of both human lives and the environment?

Or, if he is aware, is he like many things Swiss – deceptive in appearance?

 

Flawil, Switzerland, 16 January 2018

As you pull into St. Gallen train station, you can’t miss the huge Chocolat Maestrani sign suspended above the tracks.

The local firm in nearby Flawil and the chocolate factory is within easy reach west of St. Gallen.

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The name Maestrani has stood for exquisite chocolate creations since 1852.

At Maestrani’s Chocolarium – the Chocolate Factory of Happiness – the history of chocolate is brought alive in a fascinating Experience World for young and old alike.

Whether independently or on a guided tour, guests can explore the interactive zone and discover where chocolate comes from and how it is produced.

They also have the chance to view chocolate being produced live.

What’s more, sampling is actively encouraged!

At the end of the tour, for a small surcharge, a show confiseur will mold a fresh bar of chocolate, which guests can decorate as they wish.

Besides a movie theater, a cafe and chocolate molding courses, during which guests can make their own chocolate creations, sweet-toothed visitors can purchase their favorite chocolate products from the factory shop.

He who sees the world through the eyes of a chocolate lover will find true beauty and happiness.” Aquilino Maestrani, founder and chocolate pioneer, (1814-1880)

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The Chocolarium at Toggenburgerstrasse 41, Flawil, is open Monday to Friday 0900 – 1800, Saturday 0900 – 1700, Sunday 1000 – 1700, the last tour is one hour before closing.

The tour includes a gallery above the factory floor to watch the production lines.

To get there, take a train to Flawil from St. Gallen (12 minutes) then switch to a bus for the five-minute ride to “Flawil Maestrani” bus stop.

(http://www.maestrani.ch)

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Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, 30 January 2019

It is a stunner, shingled with starfish-studded sands, palm tree forests and roads so orange they resemble strips of bronzing powder.

This is a true tropical paradise.

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Above: Azuretti Beach, Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire

 

In the south, the Parc National de Tai hides secrets, species and nut-cracking chimps under the tree boughs.

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Above: Parc National de Tai, Côte d’Ivoire

 

The peaks and valleys of Man offer a highland climate, fresh air and fantastic hiking opportunities through tropical forests.

Above: Dent de Man, Côte d’Ivoire

 

The beach resorts of Assinie and Grand Bassam are made for weekend retreats from Abidjan, capital in all but name, where lagoons wind their way between skyscrapers and cathedral spires pierce the heavens.

Collection of views of Abidjan, featuring St. Paul's Cathedral, the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium, the Republic square, the beach of Vridi and the CBD named Le Plateau.

Above: Images of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

 

Assinie and Dagbego have surf beaches.

In Yamoussoukro, the capital’s basilica floats on the landscape like a mirage.

Above: Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire

 

Sacred crocodiles guard the Presidential Palace.

Tourists gather as they are fed in the afternoon.

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Above: Lac aux Crocodiles, Presidential Palace, Yamoussoukro

 

This is a culture rich with festivals and some of the most stunning artwork in Africa.

This is what the tourist sees.

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The process of deforestation starts with settlers who invade parks and other forested areas.

They progressively cut down or burn existing trees.

Trunks are denuded of their crowns and are left as ghostly reminders of the great forests that once reigned.

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With the forests gone, the settlers plant cocoa trees, which take years before they are ready to harvest.

Each cocoa tree bears two harvests of cocoa pods per year.

Farmers hack off the ripe cocoa pods from the trees with machetes.

They split open the pods to remove the cocoa beans, which are sorted and placed into piles.

The beans are left in the sun to ferment and dry and turn brown.

 

It is at this point that a first level of middlemen called “pisteurs” buy the cocoa beans from the settlers, transport it to villages and towns across the cocoa-growing region and sell them onto another set of middlemen, known as cooperatives.

The cooperatives then either directly or through a third set of middlemen bring the cocoa to the coastal ports of San Pedro and Abidjan, where it is sold to cocoa traders Olam, Cargill and Barry Callebaut, who ship the cocoa companies in Europe and North America.

Illegal towns and villages called “campements” have sprung up inside Côte d’Ivoire’s national parks and protected forests.

Some campements boast tens of thousands of residents, along with public schools, official health centres, mosques, churches, stores and cell phone towers in plain sight of government authorities.

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There is an excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides that is killing the country’s biodiversity.

Deforestation and exposure to the fullness of the sun makes the environment suspectible to disease.

Over two million children are victims of the worst forms of child labour.

This is a land of child workers, slaves and low wages.

Low pay foments food insecurity and low school enrollment and attendance rates.

Inadequate prices paid for the coffee means farmers live under the poverty line.

Chemicals pollute the waterways, killing wildlife and harming communities.

This is a true tropical hell.

 

And what of the future?

 

Demand for chocolate continues to rise by 5% every year.

The chocolate industry has aggressively expanded to other rainforest nations around the world – Indonesia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Peru – exporting the same bad practices that are contributing to the destruction of West Africa’s forests and the creation of a living hell for its people.

Deforestation for cocoa has a significant impact on climate.

Tropical rainforests have among the highest carbon storage of any ecosystem on the planet.

When they are cleared, they release enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

A single dark chocolate bar made with cocoa from deforestation produces the same amount of carbon pollution as driving 4.9 miles in a car.

 

In Switzerland, life is rich and sweet.

In Côte d’Ivoire, life is poor and sour.

 

In Canada, a remembered jingle asks:

When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?

Do you suck them very slowly or crunch them very fast?

It’s candy and milk chocolate, so tell me when I ask:

When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?

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An important question for these dark and bitter times, eh?

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Facebook / The Rough Guide to Switzerland / Lonely Planet The World / Lonely Planet Africa on a Shoestring / Etelie Higonnet, Marisa Bellantonio and Glenn Hurowitz, Mighty Earth, Chocolate’s Dark Secret: How the Cocoa Industry Destroys National Parks / http://www.dicconbewes.ch / http://www.lindt-experience.ch / http://www.maestrani.ch