Aragon

Articles in ‘Aragon’

Monegros guide

June 19th, 2012

Excellent blog in Spanish to the Monegros here by Nacho. Clearly he knows his stuff about one of the most biodiverse corners of the Iberian Peninsula.

Two images of Los Monegros

October 3rd, 2011
Stork settlement on granary, Los Monegros. Aragon
Ghost road layout for urbanisation outside small village in Los Monegros, Aragon, February 2011. A beautiful monument to local greed and corruption.

Trekking in the Aragonese Pyrenees

May 30th, 2010 Nice post on the forum by Paula on trekking in the Aragonese Pyrenees.
The Spanish Pyrenees in Aragon is an ideal summer vacation target for those who appreciate traditional villages and scenic trekking. Above 2,000 meters, the air stays fresh and fly-free even during the hottest spells of July and August. On your walks along the well marked tracks and paths, you encounter gorgeus lagoons and waterfalls accompanied with cool views to the glaciers of the mountain ranges of Posets, Maladeta and Monte Perdido.

George Orwell in the Monegros

May 29th, 2010

secs b4 d'storm by batiskafo.

George Orwell fought during the Spanish Civil War in the Sierra de Alcubierre in the Monegros on the Aragonese Front, during the freezing winter of 1937 (above photo by batiskafo on Flickr). He famously described his experiences in Homage to Catalonia. Unlike the diaries he wrote in the very late 1930s and 40s, which have a truly remarkable number of entries on natural history, he wrote unsurprisingly little on wildlife during his time in Spain. There are, however, a few interesting nature-related passages:

THE days grew hotter and even the nights grew tolerably warm. On a bullet-chipped tree in front of our parapet thick clusters of cherries were forming.  Bathing in the river ceased to be an agony and became almost a pleasure. Wild roses with pink blooms the size of saucers straggled over the shell-holes round Torre Fabian. Behind the line you met peasants wearing wild roses over their ears. In the evenings they used to go out with green nets, hunting quails. You spread the net over the tops of the grasses and then lay down and made a noise like a female quail. Any male quail that was within hearing then came running towards you, and when he was underneath the net you threw a stone to scare him, whereupon he sprang into the air and was entangled in the net. Apparently only male quails were caught, which struck me as unfair.

…and on the geography of the Monegros:

As the road struck into the sierra we branched off to the right and climbed a narrow mule-track that wound round the mountain-side. The hills in that part of Spain are of a queer formation, horseshoe-shaped with flattish tops and very steep sides running down into immense ravines. On the higher slopes nothing grows except stunted shrubs and heath, with the white bones of the limestone sticking out everywhere. The front line here was not a continuous line of trenches, which would have been impossible in such mountainous country; it was simply a chain of fortified posts, always known as ‘positions’, perched on each hill-top. In the distance you could see our ‘position’ at the crown of the horseshoe; a ragged barricade of sand-bags, a red flag fluttering, the smoke of dug-out fires. A little nearer, and you could smell a sickening sweetish stink that lived in my nostrils for weeks afterwards. Into the cleft immediately behind the position all the refuse of months had been tipped–a deep festering bed of breadcrusts, excrement, and rusty tins.

and on the hills and the lack of birds

Often in the mornings the valley was hidden under seas of cloud, out of which the hills rose flat and blue, giving the landscape a strange resemblance to a photographic negative. Beyond Huesca there were more hills of the same formation as our own, streaked with a pattern of snow which altered day by day. In the far distance the monstrous peaks of the Pyrenees, where the snow never melts, seemed to float upon nothing. Even down in the plain everything looked dead and bare. The hills opposite us were grey and wrinkled like the skins of elephants. Almost always the sky was empty of birds. I do not think I have ever seen a country where there were so few birds. The only birds one saw at any time were a kind of magpie, and the coveys of partridges that startled one at night with their sudden whirring, and, very rarely, the flights of eagles that drifted slowly over, generally followed by rifle-shots which they did not deign to notice.

On stripeless tree frogs and snails

Spring was really here at last. The blue in the sky was softer, the air grew suddenly balmy. The frogs were mating noisily in the ditches. Round the drinking-pool that served for the village mules I found exquisite green frogs the size of a penny, so brilliant that the young grass looked dull beside them. Peasant lads went out with buckets hunting for snails, which they roasted alive on sheets of tin.

On the cold, wild crocuses and mountains

The weather was mostly clear and cold; sometimes sunny at midday, but always cold. Here and there in the soil of the hill-sides you found the green beaks of wild crocuses or irises poking through; evidently spring was coming, but coming very slowly. The nights were colder than ever…..

I hate mountains, even from a spectacular point of view. But sometimes the dawn breaking behind the hill-tops in our rear, the first narrow streaks of gold, like swords slitting the darkness, and then the growing light and the seas of carmine cloud stretching away into inconceivable distances, were worth watching even when you had been up all night, when your legs were numb from the knees down, and you were sullenly reflecting that there was no hope of food for another three hours.

Teruel truffles

May 19th, 2010

I thought this documentary by Escarabajo Verde about the booming truffle industry in Sarrión, Teruel was fascinating.

Truffles have had a positive effect on the local environment as 3000 hectares of holm oak have been planted in recent years, under which the truffles grow. Government subsidies  have aided the oak reforestation and truffle cultivation in unproductive hilly areas since 1987. There are now some 4,500 ha of truffle orchards in the surrounding county and 530 members in the local truffle association. The truffles, which are harvested using trained dogs, typically fetch local cultivators average prices of 5oo euros/kg, although retail prices of high-quality specimens may reach twice this amount. Sarrión has achieved the mutual goals of biodiversity conservation and improving the rural economy.

I’ve put together this brief guide to Truffles in Spain: Spain produces around 35% of world black truffle (Tuber melanosporum – trufa negra) output. Some 10,000 people are involved as harvesters…

Black poplars of Aragon

February 16th, 2010 [chopo+cabecero.bmp] I came across this attractive powerpoint in English celebrating the importance of black poplar in forming the landscape in the southern Aragon. The valleys are scattered with traditional pollards which look glorious especially in spring. From Ancient Tree Forum. From the book El chopo cabecero en el sur de Aragon, la identitad de un paisaje. Patrimonio olvidado‘ by Chabier de Jaime Loren and Fernando Herrero Loma.

Monegros thoughts

April 29th, 2009

monegros

Simon has this interesting post with photos of Los Monegros. “It’s been over twenty years since I was last here, and lately I just seem to view Los Monegros from the luxury of the High Speed Trains that wizz through the region at over 300 kilometres per hour. What I see is that the term ‘desert’, often used by protagonists on both sides of the debate, is far from the truth; the region is farmland, although the living there is clearly very hard.”
Read on Simonblog

Note: I wrote this on the high-speed view of the Monegros a couple of years back.
Read

Disappearance of glaciers in the Pyrenees

February 24th, 2009

Another study has highlighted the likely disappearance of the glaciers in the Pyrenees in the next 40-50 years.

Since the first study by French geographer Franz Schrader in 1894, the Pyrenean glaciers have lost 88 percent of their 1,779-hectare surface area, according to a report by the Spanish Ministry of the Environment. Low rainfall and the rise in temperatures is leading to their rapid melting, and it is estimated that by the middle of the century, they will have vanished altogether. This has accelerated in recent years with the glaciers losing 72 hectares between 2002 and 2008. One of the most striking examples is that of La Madaleta glacier, one of the largest in the Pyrenees, whose thickness has shrunk by 180 metres since 1991 at an average rate of 11 metes a year. The absence of snowfall in summer in recent years has exacerbated this regression. Lower snowfall is also likely to spell long-ter, disaster for the skiing industry.

See also:

Roman bear mosaic

December 1st, 2008

The symbol of Madrid represented by the bear and the strawberry tree is well known, but here’s a much earlier image showing Iberian bears liking for these arbutus cherries. The bear forms part of a C4th AD mosaic found at Villa Fortunatus in Fraga, Zaragoza, and is part of an agricultural calendar, representing the month of November. It can be seen at the Museo Provincial de Zaragoza. Sadly today, bears in Spain no longer gorge on these fruits in autumn to the extent as they did as they are largely absent from the range of the strawberry tree.

The Wino Dino

October 17th, 2008

Rupert Glasgow has just sent me the latest news on Aragonese dinosaurs from the erudite maños at aragosaurus.com:

Great news for the “Aragosaurus” team of palaeontologists at the University of Zaragoza. This month’s issue of the prestigious Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (no. 18, vol. 3) features the description of a new dinosaur, Tastavinsaurus sanzi, by José Ignacio Canudo, Rafael Royo-Torres and Gloria Cuenca-Bescós. Tastavinsaurus sanzi is an early Cretaceous sauropod dating from the early Aptian, over 110 million years ago. This huge, plant-eating quadruped, characterized by its long neck and tail, is estimated to have measured some 17 metres in length and weighed between 15 and 20 tonnes. It belongs to the clade known as “Titanosauriformes,” which also includes the brachiosaurids and titanosaurians and as such contains some of the most gargantuan dinosaurs ever to have trampled over the planet. Its remains were first discovered by two amateur palaeontologists in the early 1990s at the site of Arsis, Peñarroya de Tastavins, in the Aragonese province of Teruel. The name Tastavinsaurus is derived from the nearby River Tastavins, which means “wine-taster” in Catalan, while the name sanzi is in homage to the Spanish palaeontologist José-Luis Sanz. The exceptionally well-preserved condition of its skeleton made it possible to define a new genus and species from the fossils. It is the most complete sauropod from the Early Cretaceous of Europe, and the most complete sauropod in Spain. It was excavated between December 1996 and January 1997 (in fairly inclement weather conditions), the fossils requiring more than 4,000 hours of preparation over two years in a specially constructed laboratory in Peñarroya. The original fossils, as well as a real-size reconstruction of Tastavinsaurus sanzi in all its splendour, can be seen at a special Dinópolis centre at Peñarroya in Teruel.

For more information: see www.aragosaurus.com (Noticias, 7 October 2008).