Trans-Iberian

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Almagro, tradition with a twist

Por: | 28 de julio de 2011

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At first glance, Almagro (Castile-La Mancha) exudes a decidedly traditional feel. This preciously maintained town is made up of impeccably whitewashed houses and cobblestone streets arrayed around a 16th century, porticoed Plaza Mayor. Its cultural heritage is also reflected in the annual Classical Theater Festival that attracts spectators from all over the world. At the same time, the town’s rich gastronomic heritage is often represented by the pickled berenjenas (eggplants) de Almagro that are everywhere and were first introduced by the Moors in the 10th century. Therefore, expecting to become immersed in this air of classicism, I took the train to Almagro last weekend for the festival’s final days and was pleasantly surprised to find that from the theater to the table, Almagro does tradition, with a twist.

The Almagro Classical Theater Festival takes place in July in some of the town’s most historic hermitages, patios, museums and other monuments. However, many people make it a priority to see a play in the Corral de Comedias, a 16th century, open-air theater on the Plaza Mayor that is oft considered the cradle of Spain’s theatrical golden age. I was fortunate enough to catch the Shakespearean classic, The Tempest, performed here by the fantastic Portuguese company, Chapitô. Under a starry sky, three young actors with nothing but a book and a black sheet made this classic come to life before a delighted crowd. The next night, an Argentinean company directed by Carlos Almeida performed La Vida es Sueño by Calderón de la Barca, enrapturing people with its ethereal, mask-like puppets. This was followed by the visually stunning and enthusiastic interpretation of Don Quijote de La Mancha by the Chinese National Theater Company, (in Chinese with Spanish subtitles). While this was all I could see in three days, the program was packed with plays by Spanish and foreign companies that promised to be equally incredible and unexpected. The person responsible for giving the festival this wonderfully remarkable twist is its current director, Natalia Menendez. In her second year at the festival’s helm, her efforts have focused on the inclusion of these and other unique performances in its program.

Before a 10:45 evening play, the best place for tapas is, of course, the Plaza Mayor. In Manchegan summer tradition, the businesses lining the plaza are subject to mercy of the path of the sun: breakfast on one side, followed by aperitivo on the other, before the entire thing (and the rest of the town) empties out from around 2-7pm while the sun beats down its hardest. In the evening however, both sides of the plaza are packed with people drinking icy cold beers in frosted glasses or local wines, while feasting on regional dishes like lomo de orza (spiced pork preserve), migas de pastor (savory bread crumbs), Manchego cheese or duelos y quebrantos (eggs with chorizo and other meats), to name a few. In addition to this traditional fare, other gastronomic experiences are easily found in Almagro. El Corregidor restaurant is well known throughout Spain for its menu based on wild game and other classic local products such as pickled partridge. At the same time, its cuisine is contemporary and innovative, providing classic dishes with creative solutions like the venison loin with pumpkin puree and grilled pineapple (lomo de ciervo con puré de calabaza y piña braseada) or the duck with eggplant confit (magret de pato con berenjenas confitadas). Another option is Restaurante Valdeolivo, which boasts an incredibly varied menu of local delicacies molded into enticing combinations and complemented by a huge selection of gluten-free options.

Whether it’s theater or gastronomy (or hopefully both), for a weekend of classical culture interwoven with contemporary surprises, Almagro is definitely the place.

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

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