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Ruzafa, historic and modern at the same time
5 July, 2017 /

Neighborhoods

Ruzafa neighbourhood, reconverted into a cool area of Valencia, is delimited by the old and vanished gardens which gave it its name and the future green lung of the city

According to the chroniclers, the district of Ruzafa (“Russafa”) owes its name to the recreational estate that the peaceful prince Abd Allaah al-Balansí (“the Valencian”) authorised to be built to the south of fortified Valencia. In this way, al-Balansí sought to replicate the residence that his father (the emir Abderramán I) had founded in Cordova, in memory of the orchard also raised in Syria by his predecessor.

More than a millennium would have to pass until, in 1877, the then populous and active suburb was officially integrated into the Valencian capital. Since then, many years and stories have taken place in its streets, but it was only a little over a decade ago when the affordable prices of its homes rebounded. Several generations of young people began to settle in the neighbourhood, succeeding an ageing population and ending the famous “ pound shop” and bad reputation that the area had acquired.

This push would make Ruzafa what it is now: a modern district of Valencia, which is very attractive both for its restored facades and its powerful activity.

Animated during the day

RUZAFA_Diego Opazo_HeyvalenciaTo know Ruzafa well, we propose you go deep into its colourful market in the morning. About 5,000 square metres and 160 posts feed and entertain Ruzafa’s residents. Its high quality products are required by the new neighbourhood’s inhabitants and by the surrounding families who shop in this place. In addition, the street vendors’ stalls that move across Valencia make it even more lively every Monday.

In the market you can have coffee or snack something between meals. But the summer aperitif will be more pleasing in any of the terraces that populate the neighbourhood’s epicentre: the recommended San Valero’s church square and its adjoining streets. You can even stop there to eat before or after wandering around Ruzafa.

It is worth walking through the more and less frequented streets to find shops with tradition and recently created ones that, maybe you did not expect to visit in Valencia until now. Decoration, fashion, design, art galleries, second-hand bookstores or a shop that sells honey produced in-house, are just some of the examples of the wide commercial offer that will come your way.

Alive at night

The long summer days in Valencia complement each other perfectly with Ruzafa’s nightlife. The terraces and the cultural offerings in the neighbourhood’s cafes, to which Ubik Café owes much, are ideal for a well-deserved evening’s relaxation. However, its very assorted gastronomy will help you to recover strength as it will provide you with the necessary calories to close the night dancing in one of its bars and nightclubs or listening to music at Café Mercedes Jazz.

A green lung in project

The park at Manuel Granero square is the only green space in the current Ruzafa neighbourhood. However, the Parque Central project is getting closer and closer. It will cover the North and Sorolla stations’ tracks. The call to be the new lung of Valencia, will rejuvenate Ruzafa giving it back its former natural freshness.

If after your stay you are happy to have known this neighbourhood, imagine it in the future!

‘Clóchina’, the mussel from the ports of Valencia and Sagunto
11 June, 2017 / ,

Gastronomy

Did you know that “clóchina” is the term that refers to the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), which is cultivated in the ports of Valencia and Sagunto?

Before coming to Valencia if you already had any Valencian friend, the chances are you have heard of the “clóchinas”. And surely, not only that, your friend (or girlfriend) will also have talked about their size, their colour, of how different they are from any mussel you may have ever tasted; in short, nuances with more or less scientific rigour, but they have always relied upon much enthusiasm because, for Valencians, “clóchinas” are a delicacy! their taste, their texture… Everything!

But, what is the true origin of the “clóchinas”? What makes them so special?

At the beginning of 1900, in the port of Valencia a trough already existed dedicated to the cultivation of “clóchinas”. It was in front of the dockyards, in tune with the rest of the port activities. So much so that, as the port developed, the troughs also grew to register an optimal number. At present, 22 of these floating platforms coexist in the Valencian Community. These are concessions and all of them are found in the ports of Valencia and Sagunto.

The troughs cannot be on the high seas, they need shelter and sufficient space to guarantee a good harvest. Harvest yes, you have read well, since one of the peculiarities of the “clóchina” is that, despite being a marine mollusc, the terms used by the “clochineros” come from agriculture and not from fishing.

As the Mediterranean water undergoes many temperature fluctuations during the year, it is in the epoch that the cold begins, around the months of September-October, when the seeds (teeny “clóchinas” selected for spawning) are fastened to cords and are immersed in the sea until their collection; which will last from April to September.

Everything that escapes the impositions of nature is measured: there must be a minimum of 70 centimetres between one string and another so that the seeds can obtain the necessary nutrients for their development; the troughs’ decks measure about 25 meters in length; the ideal size of the “clóchinas”, that by the conditions in which they are raised they do not grow much more, is determined by the sieve; the time they spend in the treatment plant until they are packed in sacks (meshes) is between 12 and 24 hours. And this goes on and on, to which the experience of those who cultivate them is also added, an average of 30 tonnes are harvested per season in each trough.

Characteristics and name

In relation to the taste of “clóchina”, the salinity of the water, of more than 30 percent in this part of the Mediterranean, is considered crucial compared to the fresher waters of the Ebro Delta, to put a geographically close example although it has different characteristics being an estuary.

In relation to colour and size, we can compare the “clóchinas” with Galician mussels, to give an example of constantly cold Atlantic water. While Galician mussels are larger and reddish, the “clóchina” is smaller and of a pale orange colour.

But what about the name? Why is this variety of Mediterranean mussel is called “clóchina”? According to tradition, the etymological origin of the “clóchina” is onomatopoeic. It would come from the noise they emit when are being cleaned: “Clo, clo, clo …”. When you order some “clóchinas” in a restaurant, make two of them collide and you will see how they sound … Because, you will not think of leaving Valencia without trying them, right? In addition to how tasty they are, we recommend you eat at least a portion of “clóchinas”, so that it is your own palate that gives you the best definition of texture.

Do not let any Valencian tell you anymore! Surprise them!

Source: Juan Aragonés Just, president of the Association of “Clochineros” of Valencia and Sagunto Ports.

 

Related article: Steamed Valencian ‘clóchinas’

Holy Chalice’s description
1 June, 2017 / ,

In the late 1950s, the Archbishop of Valencia’s Cathedral commissioned Antonio Beltrán, Professor of Archeology at the University of Zaragoza, to doresearch work on the Holy Chalice. His main conclusions are recognized in a publication which can be acquired at the Cathedral’s Museum.

In the report, it is noted that the chalice is composed of three parts:

  1. A vessel of semi-precious agate stone on top, dating from the fourth century BC. and I D.C.
  2. A central part carved in gold, made in medieval times.
  3. And a base, at the bottom, realized around the 10th century by an oriental workshop, also set in gold and precious stones.

The goblet that, according to tradition, was blessed by Jesus, corresponds only to the upper part; a fine cup of agate stone about 3mm thick. Therest are parts that were subsequently added.

Text by: Ana Mafé, Holy Grail Phd student.

Related articles:
Is the Holy Grail in the Cathedral of Valencia?
The Holy Grail Route in Castellón and Valencia

The Valencian ‘barraca’
4 May, 2017 /

Did you know that the vernacular Valencian countryside house is called ‘barraca’ and is made with natural materials?

The Valencian “huerta” (vegetable garden), since ancient times, has been the environment that has characterised the surrounding landscape of the city of Valencia. As a pragmatic response to their essential needs, the agricultural workers took advantage of mud, straw and reeds provided by nature to build their homes.

These houses, called “barracas”, consist of a very simple rectangular construction, with a door on one side and a small window on the other. The ground floor is enclosed by exterior walls with a height of about 2.5 metres, composites of cob (a mixture loamy clay and straw). A roof is coupled over the top which binds a gable fixed with wood and covered by earth and wattle.

The interior is divided into two almost equal parts. Upon entering, one finds an ample corridor that serves as an entrance hall, living room, dining room and kitchen, where it was common to have a “tinajero” (two jars to store water). On the other side there are three bedrooms. All rooms are separated by partition walls and its access occurs through a curtain instead of a door. The upper part or “andana” to which ascent is via a stairway, located in the last bedroom, was destined to store crops and breed silkworms.

The shacks, usually dispersed sites across the “huerta”, were supplied with water by means of wells. The reason for their not being grouped was due to the high risk of fires to which they are exposed. Another curiosity is the white colour that the use of lime gives them. It is a substance that is also used to ward off insects.

Due to its quick, easy and economical construction this typology appeared spontaneously in a large number of countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece, France or Switzerland, always in the vicinity of rivers and wet coastal areas. Hence it is also common to find them in the Valencian Natural Park of “La Albufera” and have given name to the maritime district of Cabañal, where they sheltered the fishermen, until the twentieth century.

Source: ARAE Patrimonio y Restauración.
Facebook: @ARAEpatrimonio

Let’s go and eat the ‘mona’!
30 March, 2017 / ,

Pastry-making

The ‘mona the pascua’ is the most enjoyable sweet of this time of the year

Some historical sources claim that the name comes from the Arabic term munna, which means mouth provision, and that its consumption could come to us from times when the Mediterranean areas were dominated by Arab culture. Whether this origin is correct or not, the fact is that nowadays, its consumption is directly related with Easter and, more specifically, the end of Lent.

In the Valencian Community, the tradition was marked by the final day of the Catholic festival, which obliged fasting and abstinence. At the end of Lent, it was typical that the godfather gave the child the mona de pascua, an Easter cake made of flour, milk, sugar, yeast, butter and eggs.

According to tradition, the sweet dough was baked and crowned with as many eggs as the child had in age. The minor was only given this present up to the age of 12, when it was time for him to take the first communion. Over time this custom became popular and is now typical consumption among the family.

The mona can take a range of appearances from the classic rounded form, to animal shapes. They are decorated with raisins and nuts, coloured anisettes or sweet egg whites and are often topped with a boiled or chocolate egg.

Among the smallest, and not quite so small, there is a very funny practice in its use when the mona’s egg is a boiled one. It is a about chasing friends to break the eggshell on their foreheads in order to eat it afterwards.

Written by: Carol Vegas @carolinavegaslife

First paper, first books
30 March, 2017 /

International Book Day

From the cradle of Europe’s paper industry to the printing of Don Quixote’s second edition

Did you know that the English word paper is directly related to the Valencian word paper?

If paper was invented in China about 2,000 years ago, the first mill dedicated to paper production was established in the Valencian town of Játiva around 1050, the origin of the paper industry in Europe. Forty years before the first mill of these characteristics was set up in France and more than a century before that of Fabriano in Italy.

Some experts have even come to indicate that what would have given more international fame to Valencian handicrafts of the Muslim era would have been paper, generally fabricated by Jews.

As a consequence, during the twelfth century the book industry would be developed in Valencia, in which its bookbinders were to also acquire a special prominence.

Also fundamental to this, was the sector’s adaptation to the technological advances. The press invented by Gütenberg around 1440, arrived in Valencia three decades later. At that time, Valencia recorded a moment of demographic, economic and cultural splendor.

So much so that the first literary work printed in Spain would come out from a city workshop around 1474. That was Obres e trobes en lahors de la Verge Maria, a book of Marian poems written mostly in Valencian, but also in Castilian and Italian, the only copy of which is preserved in the Libraries and Archives of the University of Valencia.

Added to that landmark is the printing of the second edition of El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes, the most outstanding book in the Castilian language. After the success achieved with the first edition, held in Madrid a few months earlier, Pedro Patricio Mey’s printing press would be commissioned in 1605 with carrying out such an order.

A tombstone situated where the Mey family business was located, in the well-known calle de San Vicente Mártir, commemorates this historic event for universal literature. International Book Day is celebrated every April, precisely in memory of the date on which both Cervantes and the English writer William Shakespeare and the Peruvian Inca Garcilaso de la Vega had died: 23rd April 1616.