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Chapter Thirty-five –Sardana


BUT, Catalonians, I would rather you played your sardana to me, that shrill and forthright musical instrument, the sound of which combines the bleating of a goat with the whistling of a shawm – real Mediterranean music. This is not the straggling yell of the Moors nor the dark passion of the guitars; it is rural, uncouth and cheerful like this region itself.

For here the country now resembles Provence; thus, it is not as rocky as the rest of Spain, but as the Provençal hills, no palms grow there like those in Murcia, but the palms that grow there are like those on the Riviera. As you notice, the distinction is a subtle one, and not easy to put into words; it is in the air you breathe, it is in the people and their dwellings with the green shutters, but, above all, it just simply is.

As regards the inhabitants of this region, they wear on their feet white woven slippers called alpargatas, which remind you of Roman sandals; and here and there you come across red Phrygian caps (they are called barrentinas or something of that sort). And many of them are blue-eyed and brown-haired, thickset and stocky; somehow a touch of the north has got into everything here, the music, the taste of the wine, the people and the natural features. The majority of the trees are deciduous; the first yellow leaf of a plane-tree which I saw was like a greeting from home.

The people do not live in patios as they do yonder, but in the streets; children and dogs and mothers, topers and newspaper-readers, mules and cats, they all live on the doorstep and on the pavement; perhaps that is why in this country it is so easy for a mob to form and street-fights to start.

But I must say what surprised me the most, it was the gendarmes in front of the royal castle; for they wear white Catalan slippers on their feet and a top-hat on their heads. You see, a top-hat, slippers, and a rifle with a fixed bayonet, is a peculiar and unusual combination; but, after all, it graphically represents the character of the Catalan country, a rural and commercial area among the other kingdoms of Spain.