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D + 16: What is the Catalan Word for Lobster?

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

The Sardinian Fisherman coming in at 9 am

As we were standing on the pier in the harbour of Alghero, a fisherman arrived from his daily trip to the sea. He had started early at 4 am, as every morning. With a happy grin on his tanned and wrinkled face, the steely man showed us his catch of the day. There were several young sting-rays lying on the nets, a slippery squid the size of two fists next to them, a few red mullets in a plastic bucket and – his biggest pride today – a small net with three living lobsters. He talked to us in a language that sounded familiar but we did not understand a word. Luckily, one of his friends was on the pier. When I told him that I do not understand the Sardinian dialect, he shook his head and said “Catalan – non Italiano”. Of course!

Showing us his catch of the day - the lobsters are over his right shoulders

Having read that twenty five percent of Alghero’s citizens still speak Catalan and almost 90% understand it is one thing. Hearing it in a day-to-day context is quite another. Alghero is the only town in Italy where both Catalan and Italian are recognized as official languages.

One of the many cannon towers of Alghero - built to the latest 15th century design

The town of Alghero was settled in pre-historic time. The Phoenicians came over in 800 BC and introduced the metal processing business. It then was Roman for almost 800 years but decayed in the 7th and 8th century AD under Byzantine rule. The famous Genovese Doria family woke it up from its doldrums when they set up shop in 1102, the same year they built Castelsardo. We were there just two days ago. The Dorias governed the town until 1354 when Alghero was taken over by the Kingdom of Aragon. It stayed Spanish for the next 350 years. After the war of Spanish Succession it became part of the Kingdom of Piedmont. But in essence, Alghero remained Spanish. You just need to walk through its streets to feel the Spanish vibes.

Where Charles V stayed during his time at Alghero

The wealth of any town can be assessed in three ways: the sophistication of its defensive walls, the number of palaces and the size and wealth of its church. Alghero scores big on all three. The town walls were built to modern 15th century standards with sturdy cannon towers which could withstand any Ottoman siege. There are a good dozen of beautiful Palazzi in town, in one of them Charles V, the German Emperor and Spanish King once stayed. And its Cathedral, built in 1503, with beautiful pillars and a fabulous interior space full of marbles is amazing. Alghero was clearly a very important town in the Spanish Empire.

Our friends came surfing with us again - so amazing - we could watch them for hours

The Spanish town and castle of Basa viewed from the old harbour on the Temo river

A few hours further south lies the town of Basa, another Spanish jewel on Sardinia’s west coast. You need to climb up to its castle and walk through the old town to actually find the beautiful pieces that make up Basa. Then you find its cathedral … Wow! Who would have thought? Basa has one of the most beautiful and rich baroque churches I have seen. How can a sleepy town like Basa afford such a church? No idea. It was definitely a far more important town than it appears today. It was neither a prime commercial town nor the seat of government. But all the beautiful palaces must have had a purpose once. We will have to find out!

View from Basa castle over the town and the Temo river leading towards the sea

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Basa - a most impressive and well decorated baroque church - not seen anything like this for a long time

Santo Nino, the Infant Jesus, as celebrated in the south of Spain, specifically in Seville

Almonds in Basa ready for harvest soon

Two Vermentino wines which we bought in Basa - the one to the right is put into ok and makes a ood dinner wine. The one to the left is lighter and better suited for lunches or aperitifs. The two Vermentinos we bought in Corsica are gone - they were refreshingly good!

Time to say good night - the tower in the middle is a Spanish Artillery Platform which blocked the Temo River from any intruder

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