Tagged: europhiles

An Interview with a Proud Catalan

Catalonia, a region in the north of Spain most famous for containing Barcelona, is in the process of trying to become an independent state. There are divided opinions on the subject, so we interviewed Max, an 18 year old proud Catalan who lives just north of Barcelona, to tell us a little bit more.

1. Hola Max! What’s the current situation in Catalonia?

Hi! Well, currently Catalonia is in a sovereignist process in which we are trying to separate from Spain, to become an independent state. This process started after the massive demonstration (more than 2 million people on the streets) that was held in Barcelona the 11th of September of 2012 and the situation is now in a crucial state. The Catalan people are asking the Spanish government to let them vote in a referendum, but the answer is always no. Nevertheless, a date for the referendum has already been fixed by the Catalan government for later this year: 9/11/14.

2. Why do you want Catalonia to be an independent state?

I want Catalonia to become an independent state for many reasons. First of all, because I do not feel Spanish at all. We have our own language, flag, institutions and traditions which are almost 1000 years old. Catalonia has only been part of Spain for the last 300 years. Before being defeated by Felipe V, Catalonia was, along with Aragón and País Valencià, a sovereign country (Corona catalanoaragonesa). Through these 300 years of Spanish occupation of Catalonia, we have been abused day after day and year after year. The Catalan language and the Catalan institutions have been banned several times through these 300 years in an attack on the Catalan nation. Therefore, I don’t want to be part of a state which hates me and which has been unfair to mine.

Secondly, I want Catalonia to be an independent state also for economical reasons. Catalonia is one of the most prosperous regions of Spain, and as an Autonomous Community (AC), each year it gives a large amount of money to the Spanish government. The thing is that, although being one of the AC that gives the most money to the Spanish state, it is the one which receives the least money back. Every year Catalonia loses 16 thousand million euros to Spain. This is a very important amount of money that would prevent the Catalan government to use restrictive policies and to cut the budget if we were independent. We are also abused in many other ways. Catalan students are the ones who are given less scholarships, Catalonia is one of the the few AC with tolls, and the investments in the improvement of the railway system are ridiculous compared to those made in AC like Madrid, Andalucia or Castilla La Mancha, which are AC that give much less money to Spain than Catalonia. The centralism of Spain harms the catalan economy so much, and the situation in unsustainable.

3. Do you think it would be a problem to come from a country with such an unusual language spoken by only 11 million people? Would schools only teach in Catalan or would students learn Castilian too?

Not at all. I’m very proud of being a Catalan speaker. Catalan is such a cultivated and historical language and the fact of being bilingual is so useful. Catalan dates back to the XI century and played a great role in the Middle Ages. Great and famous novels have also been written in the region, like Tirant Lo Blanch, the first chivalry novel ever. Plus the language is spoken in four countries ( Spain, Andorra, France and Italy) which gives the language more repercussion. If Catalonia became independent, Castilian wouldn’t stop being taught in school since bilingualism is one of the things that defines Catalonia. And as former members of Spain, it would be nonsense to stop teaching Castilian.

4. When is the soonest that Catalonia could become an independent state?

I think the soonest Catalonia could be independent is 2015. Providing, of course, that the answer to the referendum were yes. If the referendum eventually couldn’t be celebrated, there’d be plebiscitary elections and 2015 would also be the soonest Catalonia could be independent.

5. Do all your Catalan friends agree with you? Do most people have strong opinions, or do some not care whether it becomes independent?

Yes, the vast majority of my friends are in favour of independence – up to 90% of them. Although there are people who don’t care very much, almost everybody has his respective opinion about the subject. And there are also some people in the region who don’t want Catalonia to become an independent state but want it to become a federal state of Spain, like the Socialist Party of Catalonia, PSC.

Map-Of-Catalonia

Read about a famous Catalan tradition here

Read about Barcelona here

Read about Catalonia’s national day here 

Read about another Catalan city, Girona, here

Read about a novel set in Catalonia here

36 Hours: 125 Weekends in Europe

Even though I live in London, England, and therefore do not have much contact with America, I like to read the New York Times. As travelling the world would be the first thing I’d do if I won the lottery, I LOVE the NYT book “36 Hours In…” which offers itineraries for weekend stays in various places. Naturally, the most interesting one for me is “36 Hours In Europe”, which was published in 2012.

Reading its publisher Taschen’s description of the book makes me want it even more:

Culture, history, natural beauty, fine cuisine, artistic masterpieces, cutting-edge architecture and style—Europe overflows with so many riches that a lifetime seems too short to appreciate them. But with the right guidance, you can go far in a single weekend. Stylishly written and carefully researched, this updated and expanded collection of the popular New York Times 36 Hours feature offers you 125 well-crafted itineraries for quick but memorable European trips, accompanied by hundreds of color photographs to fire your imagination. Explore the expected: the Renaissance in Florence, surfing in Biarritz, flamenco in Seville. And discover the unexpected: Sicilian mummies dressed in their Sunday best, a dry-land toboggan ride on Madeira, a hotel in Tallinn with a KGB spies’ nest on the penthouse floor. World capitals, ancient nations that once ruled wide domains, tiny countries with big personalities—it’s all Europe, and all fun to read about (whether you actually go or not) in this handsomely designed and illustrated book.

All I need now is lots and lots of money, and I’m off. (The book has also inspired me to invent my own 36 Hours In London… for teenagers)

Recipe: Greek Tzatziki

On a recent trip to Crete, I went to a cooking lesson (!!) where I learnt how to make tzatziki, a popular local dip which is usually eaten with crudités. It’s widely available in other countries – in England, you can buy it at any supermarket – but it’s always nicer to make it fresh. The best thing about the lesson was that the chef was called ‘Ares’ (after the god of War)… Best. Name. Ever. Anyway, I am by no means a Michelin star-deserving chef, but even I am capable of making this, which demonstrates how simple it is.

1. Grate one medium cucumber

2. Strain the grated cucumber (very important, otherwise the dip is too watery)

3. Stir the cucumber into 1kg of full-fat Greek yogurt

4. Soak some crushed garlic in a small bowl full of olive oil, and then add this to the mix

5. Add salt and pepper to taste

6. Add vinegar

7. Leave in the refrigerator for 2 and a half hours

8. Serve with chopped up celery, pepper and cucumber

Invisible Cities – an Italian novel

Written by Italo Calvino and published in 1972, Invisible Cities is a collection of page-long descriptions of cities, as described by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan. The two men do not have a common language, so we realise that Polo is describing his travels using not only words, but hand gestures and props to make himself understood to his host. The novel, written originally in Italian, is incredibly vivid and explores our imagination. It’s complex, but there’s an enjoyment to be had from just reading it at face value without adding your own interpretation or thinking about it too deeply. Although the cities are described in a clearly exaggerated way, the images are too intense for them to be totally made up…. This is definitely worth reading – it’s totally captivating and although there’s no plot as such, it’s almost impossible to put down. Also, you look kind of intelligent reading it on public transport, which is always nice.

Wallpaper* City Guides: an obsession

These things are amaazing. I must admit, I love everything about them: their size, their layout, their colours… The Wallpaper* City Guides just look so nice stacked up on your bookshelf. According to the company who publishes them (but verified by me), the City Guides “provide the savvy traveller with a need-to-know checklist of the best a location has to offer, whether you are staying for five days or 48 hours”. As I am, naturally, a savvy traveller, these books are my new obsession. The best thing has actually been buying the London edition – I live here, and it gives really cool and unusual suggestions of where to eat/shop/go. As only one small section is about hotels, it’s definitely worth spending £6.95 to buy one for your hometown…

 

                                    

Human Towers – Catalonia, Spain

Human Towers or castells in Catalan, are (as the name says) human towers that have been built in Catalonia for more than two centuries.  It was initially the final icing of a dancing called ball dels valencians but with the time they acquired more and more importance and finally emancipated from the ball.  Castells are built by colles castelleres all around Catalonia . There are plenty of colles castelleres in Catalonia,with Els castellers de Vilafranca and Colla vella dels xiquets de Valls being the most famous ones. Every two years Tarragona hosts the most important Castells competition which is seen by ten thousands of people in the Tarraco Arena. On Novermber 16, 2010, castells were declared by UNESCO as Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Since then, castells have been performed in several places such as New York or recently, London.

– Max, Barcelona