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5 posts from January 2011

01/25/2011

Gazpacho de Fausto

 


Ingredients: 

 
20 ripe tomatoes

2 red peppers

Three cucumbers

1 onion

1 clove of garlic
Salt, extra virgin olive oil, wine or apple vinegar

 

Time to prepare: 30 minutes

Cooking equipment:

Hand mixer (batidora)

Potato masher (pasapurés)

A good, sharp knife

 

Preparation:

1.  Peel and cut up tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, onion and olive. Take the seeds out of the peppers. Mix all of the ingredients.

2. Put the mixed ingredients into a salad bowl (all at once or in small groups), add a little oil, vinegar and salt to begin.

3. Using the mixer, blend ingredients until you have a cream, when everything is emulsified.

 

4. Use the potato masher to get rid of the pepper skin. Since you ground them up with the skin (it’s very difficult to peel them raw without peeling half of the pepper), the skin will float causing an unpleasant flavor. It must be a cream-liquid texture.


5. Put it in the fridge until it reaches the desired temperature and immediately before serving, mix it with a spoon.


6. It can be garnished with diced raw cucumbers, little squares of bread (normal or toasted), pepper cut in small squares and chopped onion. Each condiment should be on its on separate plate so that the guests can help themselves to whatever they like.

 

Storks in Alcalá de Henares

Storks in Alcalá

Alcalá de Henares wouldn’t be the same without its storks. Their elegant presence and their nests have decorated the city monuments forever and they act as a symbol of coexistence between the city’s history and nature. The nests of these birds are all over historical buildings and have become an excellent itinerary for tourists to get to know the city: It’s the “Route of the Storks”.

The white stork (Ciconia ciconia) –the kind that lives in Alcalá— is quite possibly the most popular bird of mankind: first it lived in tres but, once cities rose, they quickly settled in, building their nests in the most important buildings. They found a safe and inaccessable place to build their residence in churces. Alcalá ranks third of the Spanish cities with highest numbers of storks, after Cáceres and Alfaro (in la Rioja), and the largest within the community of Madrid.


These birds moved into the city because there are so many churches with towers to build their nests on, and they could find food in gardens near the Henares river. They started going to the city dump to look for food, since the city’s population was growing and the gardens were being abandoned.

At the end of the 1980’s, it was thought that the storks might disappear from Alcalá, since there were only 11 couples between 1986 and 1987. At the beginning of the 21st century, thanks to the artificial nests that were put up, the population of the storks grew to almost 90 pairs.

In 2007 the number rose yet again, reaching over 100 pairs, thanks to the city agreement to build an artificial feeding trough for the birds.

The migration periods are getting shorter and there is even a large number of storks that travel to very close places and come back every once in a while to Alcalá to keep an eye on their nests, before coming back permanently until the next year.

The so-called “Route of the Storks” starts in the fountain at Cuatro Caños (Plaza Mártires). From there we can see the nest on top of the Law School building and the Santa María Church, which has eight nests and seven pairs of falcon birds (Kestrels). We continue up Libreros street, passing under the Santa María Church, and turn left on Beatas street, toward the San Diego Square, where we can see the entrance of the “Cisnerian” University, the architectural gem of Alcalá. From this plaza we can look back again at Santa María. But, if we look in front of us, we’ll see belfry of the San Ildefonso Chapel, a symbol of the city with its three nests. 

We get to Cervantes Square, the center of the city where we can see a bunch of nests: at San Ildefonso, the Colegio de Santo Tomás, the Oidor Chapel, the Tower of Santa María, Town Hall, The School of Lawyers and Colegio de Málaga building, and of course, the five Augustian nests.

At the end of the plaza we continue on Santa Úrsula street where we can see two artificial nests on the belfry of the Carmen Calzado Convent, a recently restored building, and the two nests on the Convent of the Augustians.

At the end of the street, on the left side, we find the Convent of Caracciolos.

We go left on Travesía de Avellaneda to see in front of us Santa Clara. On top of this building we can see the nest where the most birds have flown from in the past 20 years. To the right we see the Magistral church, with the highest and most attractive church tower for the Storks in all of Alcalá: it has at least 10 nests.
A few meters ahead, looking back, we can see again the nests of the Augustians. Following to the right on a pedestrian street Avellaneda, at the end we can make out the tower of the Magistral. We go left on Calle Empecinado. We continue on Empecinado and go off to the right towards the “Park of the Lion’s Garden”, which shows us some beautiful views of the Magistral and Santa Lucía. We exit the park on the other end and take Tercia street, until we get to the point where we can see a nice view of the Magistral church. Just a couple meters up, to the left, you can see the nests on the School of Economy and on Santa Lucía.

We get to the Santos Niños Square and come up to San Juan street on the left sidewalk, from where we can see the three San Felipe Neri nests. We cross the sidewalk and, immediately we see, between the trees, the 14 nests of the Archbishop’s Palace. If it’s open, it’s highly recommended to go the the “Patio de Armas”: behind teh fence you’ve got a great view of all of the nests.

Afterwards, we leave and go towards the last stop, in the Palace Square, across from the Bernardas Convent (nine nests). To the right, we can see the six nests of the “Mother of God” (Madre de Dios) Convent.

NOTES

  • The best months to do this route are February, to see the blue skies and the copulas, and May and June, to see the grown chicks loose in their nests.
  • The reproduction period last from February until July, both included.
  • Currently, the time of year when there are no storks in their nests is from September 11th until October 8th, and this time period of their absence continues to decrease.

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

01/20/2011

Stories, legends and traditions in "Complutense"

 

Legends, stories and traditions tell us facts, transmitted from generation to generation, that haven’t been forgotten over the years. Many times there is a mixture of reality and fiction, but they make up for a good part of the what happened.

Alcala de Henares

 

The Martyrdom of the Children saints, Justo y Pastor, Patrons of the City.

At the start of the 4th century, the emperor of Rome, Dioclecian, prohibited Christianity, and his governor in Hispania, Daciano, showed himself willing to carry out this prohibition. In the old Hispano-roman city Complutum, two small children, 7 and 9 years old, Justo and Pastor, sons of a man named Vidal, martyr in Italia, showed that they were willing to tell the governor that they weren’t going to give up Christianity. They went to Daciano’s palace, they told the soldiers on guard at the entrance, to the captains and to the governor himself. They scolded the children, whipped them and incarcerated them. But the children were still so sure that they wanted to continue being Christians that, in the end, the children were taken far away, outside of the city and in the middle of a field their heads were placed against white rocks. Their head were severed off. It was August 6th, 306. The town rioted in protest. But the legend had already been born: The Children Saints, Santos Niños, Justo and Pastor, were buried and no one knew the place where the martyr took place. A century later, a bishop Saint named Arturio received the revelation about the place of the old story. He went to Complutum, searched for the Laudable field, found the rock against which the children were decapitated and, with it, the remains of the children saints. So, he made that place a “cella martyris”, seed of the future Temple of San Justo, and of the current Cathedral in Alcalá. Precisely in the Cathedral, in the nave’s crypt, the rock is conserved and the remains of the martyrs are kept in a silver urn, as a symbol of brave young Hispanic men.

1,700 years have passed since those events happened, during which time the history and the tradition have come together in an insoluble way. The 1,700th anniversary that the city of Alcalá celebrated was made a year that commemorates the martyrdom of Justo and Pastor and the creation of the Complutense Diocese 1600 years ago.

 

Photo: Crypt in the Santos Niños Cathedral honoring Justo and Pastor

The Cave of the Giants


On the hill of Vera Cruz, one of the ones that lies on the west side of Alcalá, the entrance into a deep, dark cave can be seen which is said to go to Gualadalara on one side y on the other goes to Castillo de Santorcaz. The people always said that gigantic beings lived there. The legend expanded when it was said that once, a sow hid inside because she was hurt and stabbed by the Moors that lived inside the cave, and that it moaned so loudly that people outside heard and came to the conclusion that underground den, in addition to giants and Moors, there were demons inside. A group of fantastical beings living in the dark undergrounds of Alcalá.


The Virgin of “El Val”.


The virgin of el Val, patron saint of the city, perpetual mayoress and Doctor by the University of Alcalá. Her origins go back to the fall of 1184, when a farmer that lived near the Henares river fell into the river and felt himself being carried away by the water and thought he was going to die. In a trance, he felt hand, that of the Virgin with her son, pulled him out of the water and saved him. He wanted to know where that lady was but he couldn’t find her. Days later, while plowing his farm, he had trouble walking the oxen and the plow. He tried to find what the problem was, and y found a niche in the ground with the image of the Virgin smiling at him. He took it to his masters’ home, who put it in their bedroom, but the next day it wasn’t there. They looked everywhere and finally, they found it at the top of a tree, looking down at them.  The message was clear: the mother of God, who had appeared in the water, on land and in the air, wanted to be there, next to the river, in the valley of Henares, and thus a small chapel dedicated to the Val. So, centuries and centuries have passed and the Alcalá natives have always had this image as their patron saint and lady. Her chapel situated on the bank of the Henares river is a popular spot for pilgrimages and devotion.  

 

The Prophesy of the Well

 

They say that Saint Vincent Ferrer, tireless preacher, visited Alcalá in 1412. While passing through the city, he said something: 'Complutum puteus iniquitatum', which means: “Alcalá will be thrown into a bottomless pit”, because he wasn’t well received by the people, by the archbishop of Toledo, Pedro de Luna. And much later, in the middle of the 15th century, there was a period of rain in Alcalá that caused the whole city to flood. A monk from the Santá María de Jesús, the future San Diego of Alcalá, who with heavenly inspiration and an iron sward hit the center of the patio, making a big hole and all of the water drained out of the city. This hole was then seen as a miracle and complementary to the prophesy. Since then Alcalá has had many floods and sometimes the water drained out through the hole in the convent and other times was dried up by the sun. 

 

The Rico-Home of Alcalá


There once  was a man, Mr. Tello de Alvardo, who lived in a palace in Alcalá. He was a cruel tyrant to his slaves. One cold, rainy night, King Pedro I of Castilla, while taking a long walk, decided to stay a night in Alcalá, choosing to stay at Tello de Alvardo’s estate. Tello de Alvardo didn’t recognize the King and treated him badly. He gave him an old stool to sit on, he didn’t offer him clean, dry clothes and he barely gave him a piece of bad stinky pork for dinner. The King left the following day, and not too long afterwards, he sent an official order for Tello de Alvardo to go to the Royal Palace, treating him just as bad as he the King had been treated and reproaching him for abusing his slaves.  Some say that he even executed him, by hanging him by the neck from the castle. That is the legend and it serves as a script for Agustín Moreto’s play “The brave avenging and the Rico-Home of Alcalá”, which tells us of the cruelties that happen at night.

 

San Diego and the Miracle of the Flowers


The Franciscan  who  preached in Alcalça after living in other convents in Alcarria, Diego of Alcalá demonstrated himself of being very miraculous. They say that he saved the poor people who came to the doors of the Alcalá convent by giving them food. Tired of always having to prepare meals for the poor, the house administrator and the cook started to spy on Diego, and they found out that one night he took a whole lamb leg that could have fed the whole community. When they were about to pass out the food, the cook asked Diego what he had underneath his habits. “Flowers for the alter”, responded the saint. “Show them to me”, the cook ordered him, knowing that he had the meat. And so Diego opened up his bag and showed him a bunch of beautiful, colorful and wonderfully scented flowers…and with the flowers, the cook went to tell the prior: “Don’t worry, father, what a saint we have, and we’ll never be missing any food!”

 

King Solomon’s Table

And I’ll make it known that I am a knight on my horse Pegaso, or on a zebra  or charger horse that that famous Moor Muzarque rode on, that still lies enchanted on the great Zulema hill, not far from the great Compluto.

Miguel de Cervantes. El Quijote.

In this quote from the first part of Don Quijote, our universal author shares one of the most beautiful legends of Alcalá.  According  to the reports, one of the reasons why the Arabs conquered the Iberian Peninsula was to look for and find the famous table that the wise and fair King Solomon had built for the temple in Jerusalem. That table was said to have 365 gold legs and precious stones, some say emeralds and so they called it the green table and it was invaluable. The table left Palestine and was taken to Rome by Tito as a loot of war after the capture of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Centuries later, the Visigoth King Alarico conquered Rome, falling in love with that table that was taken to Hispania during the reign of his successor, Ataulfo, ending up permanently in Toledo once the city became the capital of the Visigoth Kingdom.

At the start of the 8th Century the Arabs invaded the peninsula, the authorities in Toledo, aware of the imminent arrival of the invasion, decide to hide their treasure, which ends up being hidden in the outskirts of Alcalá, in a place that has since then been called Monte Zulema, clearly alluding to Solomon. The coincidences of his name don’t end hear, since the mountain, which today is known as San Juan del Viso, is clearly in the shape of a table, and also Zulema can also be translated as “table”.
But our story doesn’t end here because the two Muslim generals, Tarik y Muza, who commanded the troops in Hispania were competing to find the table. One of them, Muza, finally found it in the outskirts of Alcalá, but his greed made him hide his discovery. Once the campaign was over, Tarik and Muza had to turn in the treasures that they had found to their King, but the table was not included. The King first asked Muza if he had found it, and he said no, that he didn’t know where it was. Tarik, who found out what Muza said, said in front of the King, “¡You are lying!”, and as proof, he showed the gold leg that he took from the table. Muza was executed and since then lies enchanted on the hill of Zulema, where the table might still be, close to the Great Complutum.

 

 

01/19/2011

ALCALÁ DE HENARES: PATRIMONIO DE LA HUMANIDAD.

   DSCN0546 (2) 

The city of Alcalá de Henares, where Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on December 2, 1998. This recognition by UNESCO not only refers to the historical and artistic heritage which is treasured by the Complutense city, but also refers to Alcalá’s significant contribution to the universal culture, especially in the 16th and 17th Centuries. UNESCO declared in the conference in Kioto that “University and Historical Exhibition site of Alcalá de Henares” deserved to be included in the list of World Heritage, basing this inscription on three criteria:

  • Criterion I. Alcalá de Henares is the first city designed and constructed especially as the headquarters of a university, and this design would serve as a model for other teaching institutions in Europe and America.
  • Criterion II. The concept of the ideal city, the City of God (Civitas Dei), was materialized for the first time in Alcalá de Henares, from which it spread through the entire world.
  • Criterion III. Alcalá de Henares’s contribution to the intellectual development of humanity is shown in the materialization of the Civitas Dei, in the linguistic advances that took place in the city, especially in relation to the Spanish Language, and through the work of Alcalá’s most promising son, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, and his masterpiece Don Quijote.

Complutum 

The historical collection of Alcalá is considered World Patrimony, developing since the Middle Ages, and during the time in which the Jews, Muslims and Christians all lived together n tolerance. The University, founded by Cisneros in 1499, which started a huge artistic and cultural explosion in the 16th and 17th Centuries, is also considered World Patrimony. During these years, Alcalá turned into the city of knowledge, the great people that made the connection between them and the so-called “Spanish Golden Age” possible – be them students, professors, of the city and at the complutense academy. Names like Elio Antonio de Nebrija, Francisco de Quevedo, Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Tirso de Molina, Mateo Alemán, Antonio Pérez, Benito Arias Montano, Santo Tomás de Villanueva, San Francisco Caracciolo, San Ignacio de Loyola or San Juan de la Cruz, etc. tell us about the intellectual greatness in Alcalá in those golden times. But of all of them stands out, shining with his own light, Miguel de Cervantes, born in Alcalá in 1547, whose memory fills the cultural beat of Alcalá de Henares.

DSCN0556 (2) 

The ancient Roman Complutum changed its name and location when the Islamic culture prevailed in the peninsula, calling itself Al'Qual'at en Nah’ar, a name that would mold its current name. After the Reconquista in 1118, the city turned into the estate and habitual residence of the Archbishops of Madrid, prelates of high order that took very good care of and made Alcalá even more beautiful during the centuries.

800px-Muralla_de_Alcalá 

The fingerprint that the Golden era left can be seen today in the old university schools like El Mayor de San Ildefonso, Jesuitas, Dominicos, Trinitarios, Caracciolos, Basilios or the Colegio del Rey, which are just a few of the more than fifty university buildings that were build in the city throughout the centuries. Walking around Alcalá we can see 2,000 years of history, the roman house of Hippolytus, the Islam fort of the Old Alcalá, the medieval wall, the Magistral Catedral church, the Archbishop Palace, the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso, the house where Cervantes was born, the Monastery of San Bernardo, the old theater Corral de Comedias, the Puerta de Madrid or the Palace of Laredo, which is just a small sample of the rich historical and artistic patrimony that the Alcalá natives as well as the visitors can enjoy.

Puertamadrid 

Today, Alcalá de Henares is a widely-renowned tourist city in Spain.

 

ORÍGENES DE ALCALÁ

        Iplacea, Complutum, Al'Qual'at en Nah’ar, El Burgo de Santiuste, Alcalá de Henares, names for a city that has a rich legend since over 2,000 years ago. “Carpetanos”, those from the old reign in Toledo, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, over 20 centuries in Alcalá de Henares, have left their stamp and prints in magnificent to modest constructions, beautiful hidden corners, streets and plazas that we can enjoy today.

  Alcalá 3 culturas plano

         We treasure the outstanding archaeological sites, an excellent urban medieval framework that allowed the coexistence of three cultures and three religions and above all, the perfect City of Knowledge and City of God, which, designed by the wise hand of the Cardinal Cisneros, let us enjoy today a unique blend of magnificent buildings from Renaissance to Barroque. This exceptional richness casts Alcalá de Henares in the 21st century, converted in a great tourist and cultural reference.

 DSCN0543

 

     The hard work done by Alcalá’s City Hall in the past 20 years has made the ancient “Complutum” into possibly the cultural capital of the Community of Madrid. This effort, which was especially intense during 2005 when the 4th Centennial of the publication of El Quijote was celebrated, has be ratified by the presence of more than 1,800,000 visitors in the city, a historical figure that ranks Alcalá as one of the large historical and monumental cities in Spain.

 N24903732_31191796_3444
 

      The current aim of Alcalá’s City Hall is centered on recovering and maintaining the rich legacy given, that the future generations can not only enjoy the patrimony that we have inherited from our ancestors, but also so that this patrimony continues to grow and improve. The archaeological interventions and the creation of the “Center of Interpretation of the Roman City of Complutum”, the rehabilitation of the Walled-city Group and the development of the Center of Interpretation of the Medieval City, the restoration of the Old Medieval Hospital of Santa María la Rica, exposition room and Headquarters of the Municipal Promotional Business of Alcalá, la restoration of historical buildings such as the House of the Lizana or the Convent of San Juan of the Penance, are just a sample of how the Consistory Complutense, firmly committed to the culture and the patrimony, works to increase and improve our cultural legacy. Through these acts we will enable the citizens and visitors to enjoy the fullest the 2,000 years of history which deserved, in the conference celebrated in Kioto, Japan, the declaration of World Heritage city, by UNESCO on December 2, 1998.