Category Archives: Culture

Report: Christmas around the world

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The city’s and villages are decorated with lights, stars, pine trees and fake snow. It is (almost) Christmas. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ generally it is celebrated on the 25th of December. But now a days it’s also very normal to eat large meals with family or have gifts.


America and Britain

The most famous way to celebrate Christmas is the English or American way. In their homes they have a big Christmas three that is decorated and sometimes people hang lights on their homes. The Americans and Britain celebrate Christmas with the family and some people go to church on Christmas Eve. They often celebrate Christmas Eve also with a special Christmas dinner “turkey and Christmas pudding”, a Christmas pudding is a pudding in large part from raisins is further plays Santa a big role.


Santa

Someone who plays a big role in celebrating Christmas in English and American country’s is Santa Claus. He bring gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours on December 24: Christmas Eve. Santa was founded from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, which may have part of its personality in tales about the historical figure of gift giver Saint Nicholas.

Dutch Sinterklaas

In Holland Christmas isn’t celebrated that big. On the 5th of December the Dutch people celebrate Sinterklaas, the figure who is the founder of Santa. On the night of December people are together with family, drink hot chocolate milk and sing special Sinterklaas songs. Then with a lot of pounding on the door Sinterklaas and het Zwarte Pieten (Black Pete’s) are coming. Sometimes they just leave presents in a big bag in front of the door or in the house, but they can come and visit you. The ask you if you are nice and they will check it in the big book of Sinterklaas.

Christmas in Holland is eating with the family or going to church. But a lot of family’s have a Christmas three in their homes and it becomes more usual to also have gifts. The Dutch celebrate two days of Christmas, witch are also free days for the hole country, on the 24th and 25th of December.

Basque Olentzero

In the Basque Country they don’t have Santa but Olentzero. According to Basque traditions Olentzero comes to town late at night on the 24th of December to drop off presents for children.

One story’s about Olentzero is being one of the jentillak, a mythological race of Basque giants living in the Pyrenees. Legend has it that they observed a glowing cloud in the sky one day. None of them could look at this bright cloud except for a very old, nearly blind man. When asked to examine it, he confirmed their fears and told them that it was a sign that Jesus will be born soon. According to some stories, the old man asked the giants to throw him off a cliff to avoid having to live through Christianisation. Having obliged him, the giants tripped on the way down and died themselves except Olentzero.

Olentzero doesn’t look like Sinterklaas or Santa Clause (who both have red clothes, a white beard, red hat and helpers). Olentzero weirs a txapela ( a typical Basque hat), has a scarf, a black shirt and blue pants and he doesn’t have helpers.

But there is one thing that Sinterklaas, Santa Claus and Olentzero all have in common: they are old men with white beards who give good children presents.

Funny facts

  • The colors red and green are used a lot at Christmas but have a relation with Jesus Christ. Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus, which was shed in his crucifixion, while green symbolizes eternal life, and in particular the evergreen tree, which does not lose its leaves in the winter.

  • Jews don’t celebrate Christmas but have Hanukkah. It is also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.

  • In Mexico, Christmas begins on December 16th. Until December 24 there are the “posadas”. These are processions of children and adults, with statues of Mary and Joseph are carried. It is acted out how Mary and Joseph were looking for a place to stay. On the last day carried the baby Jesus, at the end of the evening is laid in a manger.

  • In Italy, the Christmas witch “La Befana” presents around on Epiphany. She is looking for Jesus Christ and brings good children candy, naughty children get coal or dark candy.

Hmmm… Art

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Yesterday before I went to school I wanted to go to the park. But when I was walking to the big La Florida (to my beautiful bench) and I also past the big square in Vitoria, La Virgen Blanca. There was something special going on there. On the big square just in front of the big statue Celedón where standing other statues.One of the sculptures of Rodin

Some of the statues where rapped in paper, they had to be revelled yet, but others where unwrapped. Their were big bronze sculptures of man, who a where different but had a sad look on their faces.

The statues where made by the French sculpture Auguste Rodin. And are her in Vitoria from 13 October to 23 November. When I was making pictures I saw how beautiful the art pieces really where.

And I realised that I really like art!

An astonishing schoolbuilding and great Erasmusstudents

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On Monday we had our first day at school. I was really excited because now my life here  was really beginning. Meeting the other Erasmus students and see my new school. We took the bus to Eskoriatza, because that is the town where the University is located. When is saw the building I was astonished. The building was really old with an open square in the middle. It looked really beautiful. You can see the sky while you are in the building. 

Mondragon universityschoolgang

In the classroom I saw all the other Erasmus students. A lot of the students are from Holland. I didn’t expected that at all. Because the info I got said that there were 2 students from every country. We are with 2 people from Estonia, 2 from Belgium, 1 from Finland and 8 from The Netherlands. But I think we are going to have a lot of fun.  So we  are with 12 Erasmus students. 4 in Media and 8 in Education. In the beginning of october there are coming more Erasmusstudents, from other countries as well. I am really excited about that.

Erasmusstudenten

After we introduced ourselves we watched each other’s houses. Just to know how and where everybody is living. After that we all took a siesta. In the afternoon we went for a drink together, to get to know each other a little bit more.  In the evening we went out for a pizza with the people that are living in Mondragon. It was a really nice pizzeria. After the pizza I went home. My roommate was home and we get along really well. So we talked a lot about the Bask country and the differences between here and The Netherlands. She told me about her hometown called Bermeo. And we decided that we are going there soon because it is a really authentic and beautiful town on the coast. After that i went to bed, beacause meeting a lot of new people is really fun but exhausted.

San Sebastian is a little paradise…

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I went to San Sebastian with my “Laguna”. A Laguna is a buddy from the University that helps you with everything you would like to know. We took the bus and from Mondragon to San Sebastian. It took us about one hour to get there.  I wasn’t feeling very well because of the wobbling of the bus.

When we arrived in Donostia (San Sebastian in Bask) the weather was really nice.That made me feel better in a second. Cause in Holland the weather already sucks so I was really glad with the 32 degrees and full sun!!

the beachCIMG4156

We had to walk twenty minutes to arrive on the beach. When we got closer I already smelt the salt air that was coming from the sea. I loved it. When we arrived at the beach I was amazed. It was so pretty!! It was a bay with a little island called ´Santa Clara´ in the middle. The beach was surrounded by mountains and the sea was really blue. The first thing I did was take off my flip-flops and walk in the sand with bare feet. We walked the whole coastline with my feet in the water. Oh I was so happy that moment! My nausea disappeared like snow in the sun and the only thing I was hearing was the sound of the ocean.

The beachpark San Sebastian

After the walk we went for a bite to eat. We went to a beach tent. We ate a bocadillo. You really get a big one so it was way too much for me. Well better to much than to little. After lunch we walked to the other side of the beach where we saw a few tourist shops. And afcourse I am a real tourist so I loved the shops.

Late dinners and “Txikiteo”

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My roommate took me shopping in Vitoria. it’s about 35 minutes driving with the car. The shoppingmall was a really big building in the outer ring of Vitoria. They a lot of stores. Also a lot of the same stores we have in Holland, like the H&M and The Zara.

When we got home we ate a sandwich in bar Taupa. It is across my house. The owner of the bar is my roommates boyfriend. I was really hungry because it was allready ten. That is a normal time to eat here. You have lunch around three or four and dinner around nine or ten. I have to get used to that.

A lot of times they eat sandwiches or tortillas in the evening.  The sandwiches are called bocadillo’s, and you get half of a baguette. A lot of times people eat meat on theyre sandwich like pork or chicken. I had a sandwich with chicken and cheese. They also put big sweet peppers on the sandwiches.

After I had a little siesta we went out in Mondragon. Together with my roommates and Wilco we went to different bars. It is very normal here to go to a lot of different bars, have a drink in one and then go another. They call this “Txikiteo” what literally means, from bar to bar.

 The bars are very different than in Holland. A lot of them are not really nice to look at( in my opinion). No nice tables or lights . Just a room with a lot of people drinking and bright light. The music is also different. The play a lot of punk. This is the music where a lot of people listen to around here. Also a lot of people have their own band or play in one. I drunk my first Kalimotxo, this is cheap red wine with coca cola and a lot of ice and a lemon in it. It doesn’t sound that nice, i agree. But it is a really bask drink and i actually like it!!

When we got home we ate a sandwich in bar Taupa. The owner of the bar is Leire’s boyfriend.

 I was really hungry cause we had dinner at ten. That is a normal time to eat here. You have lunch around 3 or 4 and dinner around 9 or 10. I have to get used to that.

 After I had a little siesta we went out in Mondragon. Together with Leire, Oihana and Wilco we went to a view different bars. It is very normal here to go to  view bars. Have a drink in one and then go another. They call this “Txikiteo”. The bars are different than in Holland. A lot of them are not really nice to look at. No nice tables or lights . Just a room with a lot of people drinking and bright light. The music is also different. The play a lot of punk. This is the music were a lot of people listen to around here. Also a lot of people have their own band or play in one. I drank my first Kalimotxo, this is cheap red wine with coca cola and a lot of ice. I like it very much

 

shots

A funny thing is that they all drink utch beer here. In every bar they have Heineken and Amstel. They also are familiar with shots. At least my roommates are:P Tequila, Wodka y lima (witch i like the most) and Wodka Negro. From the last one it is better to drink just one shot because your tong and mouth are turning black….

Mountains everywhere

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We did so much things this weeks that I feel like I am already here for one month instead of one week.  So where do I start? Ah yes, at the beginning…

I arrived in Santander on Saturday morning . Together with Wilco, the other Erasmus student from Windesheim, We took a flight from airport Weeze(Dusseldorf) to Santander. I thought I was going to cry a lot saying goodbye to my mom and boyfriend, but I kept it dry! When we arrived in Santander, we had to take the bus to Bilbao. The bus took about an hour and a half to get there. The view was so beautiful. Mountains everywhere,  with a lot of green and deep valleys. In Holland everything is flat so  I was fascinated by all the pretty nature here. When we arrived in Bilbao my two new roommaes picked us up . They took us by car to Mondragon. At the way over we talked in the car. They are so funny and crazy, I think I am going to like them both very much. My house looks real Spanish with a lot of wooden closets and hooked curtains. My room is nice as well, with a big wooden closet and a desk in it. The view from of my balcony is really pretty.

My balcony view

You can see a couple of real Bask houses and behind that the green mountains. The first thing i did when i arrived was eating pasta and sit on the balkony! The sun was really warm(In Holland it is allready cold) and the view incredible. I think I am going to have a lot of fun here!!

Autumn in Vitoria

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We, Natalja and I, have visited Vitoria. We came there at about 4 pm to walk around and make some pictures. It was very beautiful day: no clouds, a little bit of sunshine and no wind. This autumn weather makes you feel very romantic and comfortable.

From my point of view, Vitoria is very beautiful and pleasant place. In some moment I felt like in Tallinn, that’s why I had and still have a feeling of nostalgia.

In Vitoria there are a lot of narrow streets, ancient buildings, churches and cathedrals. You can also relax in a quite park, sitting on a bench and eating warm croissant.

I think, this is an ideal place for dates =).

There are located few chocolaterías in Vitoria, which make this city much warmer and more sweet. La Peña Dulce is a confeteria in the centre of Vitoria. Is is a good place to buy sweets for a present.

Also, you can visit different museums. For example, there is Artium. There are different exhibitions of a modern art, cinema, theatre, library and some shops.

Moreover, Vitoria is a good place to make shopping. There are a lot of interesting shops in a centre city, which we don’t have in Estonia (don’t know about other countries). More fare away is located a big shopping mall called Boulevard, there you can find the most popular international brands.

At the end of the tour it is very nice to sit in croissanteria, drink some coffee and take a fresh bun.

Jon Warren: on San Sebastian and food

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jon-paginaJon Warren first arrived in Donostia-San Sebastian around 2002 on an ordinary summer’s evening that would eventually prove life-changing.

Stopping off for the night during a road trip down to Portugal, the vibrant atmosphere and sight of copious pintxos on the bar convinced Jon and his friend they had hit fiesta-time: “it was like: wow!”

Such was the draw of the place for Jon that on the way back they decided to spend two nights in the Gipuzkoa capital: “We had such a good time; standing on the Concha (beach) I said to my friend: ‘I’m going to live here one day’.”

True to his word, Jon returned to live in the city, though not after four years working in the City of London.

“Working in London.. I never really felt excited. Everyday on a desk,.. doing something I wasn’t passionate about, you think ‘surely this can’t be it’.”

“I quit my job in November 2007 just knowing I wanted to do something else… Doing this, I absolutely love it because every day’s an adventure, doing my own thing.”

Jon’s “own thing” is San Sebastian Food, his own self-run tour business. The aim of the company is to provide tourists over on a short break to the Basque Country with a culinary insight they may otherwise miss. It is inspired in what Jon calls his “six-month gastronomic adventure” sussing out the bars and discovering the best pintxos.

Jon’s personal interest in food is more broadly centred on the entire experience of eating; something which may be linked to some of his earliest memories: “I’ve got some great food memories, but always linked to the people I’m with. “

Reflecting on what aroused his love for all things culinary, Jon recalls his uncle Paddy, an “adventurer” who lived mostly in Sierra Leone, given to roasting whole pigs and baking bread on visits home to the family. It is an almost tangible memory that evokes warm summer evenings and smells of spit-roast pork wafting over lawns of playing children.

Capturing that more sensuous experience is what underlines a lot of Jon’s tours, which move away from the often sterile sensation of a restaurant, to the shouts and smells of a packed bar or busy farmers’ market; “I love Michelin-starred food but I’m a lot more interested in the social side of things,… pintxos, the cider houses, where it’s all about meeting your friends and chatting”.

Life change

Jon made the move to San Sebastian in January 2008. After an 8-week language course at Lacunza he went “armed with dodgy Spanish, a basic CV but plenty of enthusiasm” to seek work at the Villa Soro hotel in Ategorrieta. He did “a bit of everything.. bellboy, porter, barman…” though it would later prove to be a significant decision.

Aside from becoming for many guests an unofficial guide to the best places to eat, he would also, ironically perhaps, meet his English girlfriend Nicole, who came to stay at the hotel one weekend with a group of friends:

“She moved out here last May and I have her to thank for helping me so much; from brain-storming to proof reading she has helped enormously.”

As far as his success this side of the Atlantic, Jon is unreserved in his praise for the Basque people whom he has encountered over the past three years: “They’ve been so incredibly friendly from when I arrived… such warm, open people, so happy to help..

“Thanks to friends, for example, I’ve been able to make contacts with the cheese farm in Urnieta where we Jon Warren - culinar#7B6835do a tour with the owners,” says Jon.

Jon is modest about his own contribution to his success, a trait that goes down well in this part of the world. He is, by his own admission, sociable and often “gets chatting to people”, a characteristic of a natural networker and one that has helped him to open a lot of doors into the heart of the Basque culinary experience, sometimes literally.

Jon says his “strongest” food memory was in the Rioja with Nicole looking for somewhere to eat. With a predilection for talking to people – “old ladies especially” – they were finally led by one senior citizen to a restaurant that was seemingly locked up:

“She turned the lights on and said ‘right, what are you having?’; she cooked this lunch just for us with a nice bottle of wine…

“It was nothing amazing; the TV was blaring and the food wasn’t fabulous but for me that’s what it’s about: That incredible, unique experience”.

Bilbao 2.0

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After my Erasmus adventure last year, I knew I would someday go back to the Basque Country. The climate, the people, the food, the culture, the cities, the beach, … too many reasons not to come back. A training period at EiTB was the ideal solution to explore Euskal Herria some more.

Koen and I said Gipuzkoa goodbye and moved up north to the inner city of Bilbao (Bizkaia) in the Abando district. An opportunity to live the city life style to the fullest, while we are not restricted by long distances and bus lines (our last stay was in Bergara, approx. 50 km from Bilbao). Bilbao itself has enough to offer, as we knew already.

Tastebuds

Our apartment lies in Indautxu, one of the two neighbourhoods of Abando. It is ideally situated in the heart of the city with everything within walking distance.

Abando by night © Wiki

Abando by night © Wiki

Culturally and gastronomically this is going to be a welcome break from the everyday life back home. My first bite in a pintxo yesterday was a delight for my tastebuds. Don’t get me wrong, Belgium has some great dishes, especially in winter, but the Basques simply take cooking food to another level.

Last time my cultural visits in Bilbao were limited to the unavoidable Guggenheim. This time I’m going look for some alternatives like the Museum of Fine Arts (with a great permanent collection)  or the beautiful Teatro Arriaga. A music concert (Santana 27, Kafé Antzokia) here and there would be nice as well.

The inside of Teatro Arriaga © Astenagusia

The inside of Teatro Arriaga © Astenagusia

¿Que?

My Spanish language skills upgraded from ‘terrible’ to ‘understandable’ which eases social converse and brings with it the opportunity to connect a bit more with locals. But I have still a very long way to go until I can master the language.

Of course the climate is a positive change as well. Although there’s only a small difference of 5°C in comparison to Belgium you notice an immediate shift when you get of the plane. Not exactly Meditarianian but good enough for me.

We’ll see what this city has in store for me…

See you next time!

Agur!

Quest for concert

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Being car-less blows! You’re bound to busconnections and time schedules, which can be very frustrating at times. Sanne was very excited about her Bilbao sleepover weekend last week so she convinced me to do the same. Continue reading