All posts by Vago Damitio

Vago Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. He jumped ship from a sinking dotcom in 2000 and decided to reclaim his most valuable commodity, time. He bought a VW bus for $100, moved into it and set out on a journey to show the world that it was possible to live life on your own terms. That journey took him from waking up under icy blankets in  the Pacific Northwest to waking up under palm tress in Southeast Asia. Three years later, his first book, Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond was published. After diving into the Anthropology of Tourism and Electronic Anthropology at the University of Hawaii (with undeclared minors in film and surf) he hit the road again in 2008. Since that time,he's lived primarily in Morocco and Turkey, married a Moroccan girl he couchsurfed with, and become a proud father. He's been to more than 40 countries, founded a successful online travel magazine (this one!), and still doesn't have a boss. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

Top 5 Last Minute European Christmas City Breaks

Barcelona at Christmas ccimage courtesy of Carquinyol on FlicrTaking a European Christmas city break around this time is an absolute must- do. The plethora of light switch-ons, shows, festivals and events means that you’ll never have the same experience twice. Whether you fancy a warm or wintry city break, the next few weeks are the best time to climb aboard a train, plane or sleigh and take a last minute city break to one of these five destinations over the festive season.

 1: Barcelona, Spain

It’s not the first place you think of when conjuring up the image of a white and wintry Christmas, but the Catalonian capital certainly does it in style. Hop on a plane and spend a long weekend wandering around the 300-plus stalls at the Fira de Santa Lucia Market, which dates back to the 1800s. The indoor market is filled with traditional Catalonian treats , mistletoe and handmade gifts. Temperatures in the city can reach 12 degrees, so you might be able to get away with leaving your raincoat at home.

 2: Ljubljana, Slovenia

As one of Europe’s must up-and-coming destinations, Ljubljana is definitely on the ‘must-see’ city break list before it is overrun with tourists. Christmas is the ideal time to visit, as the province is famed for its outstanding Christmas lights display. Colourful lights adorn the compact city centre, covering trees and buildings alike, and run through the Festive Fair which runs from 3 December -1 January. It’s a great place to visit in the week between Christmas and New Year to keep the festive spirit alive for a few more days.

3: Vienna, Austria

Back on much more traditional festive ground, Vienna and its neighbouring cities are synonymous with Christmas markets. Vienna’s largest Christkindlmarkt is open from 17 November until Christmas eve, so you’ve still got time to book a last minute ticket. It sees the huge Rathausplatz transformed into a traditional outdoor market, with almost 200 stalls on offer. Sip a glass of Gluwein as you wander around the wooden stalls and pick up handmade Christmas gifts to bring back home.

4: Saint Helier, Jersey

A beautiful city at the best of times, Saint Helier truly comes alive at Christmas time. The small capital city is transformed by La Fête dé Noué, which celebrates the Norman-French history of the island over Christmas. The side streets are filled with twinkling white lights, and there’s a winter walk that you can take part in to learn more about the culture of the island. Traditional British and French customs are integrated, making this a truly one-off city break.

5: Rovaniemi, Finland

No Christmas city break countdown would be complete without paying homage to the home of Santa Claus. The Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle is a once in a lifetime experience, and a city break that everyone in the family will enjoy. You can stay in the beautifully lit-up Village, and meet reindeer, take a husky-led sleigh ride and of course, meet Santa himself. It’s pricey and commercialised, but without doubt makes a last minute Christmassy city break that no child will forget in a hurry.

Pooping in the Christmas Manger – A Catalan Tradition

Pooping in the manger. Okay…this is a Christmas tradition I can get behind. I love this. Below is a link to a site that sells every type of pooping person you can think of from the Pope to Obama. Below that is an explanation for this strange Spanish Christmas custom from Wikipedia.

25. Caganer Papa Benet XVI Artesanía Caganer, Terra i Mar

The Story Behind Pooping in the Manger

A Caganer is a little statue unique to Catalonia, and neighbouring areas with Catalan culture such as Andorra.

In Catalonia, as in most of Italy, South France and Spain, the traditional Christmas decoration is a large model of the city of Bethlehem, similar to American Nativity scenes that encompasses the entire city rather than just the typical manger scene. The Catalans have added an extra character that is not found in the manger scenes of any other culture. In addition to Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the Shepherds and company, Catalans have the character known as the Caganer. This extra little character is often tucked away in some corner of the model, typically nowhere near the manger scene, where he is not easily noticed. There is a good reason for his obscure position in the display, for “caganer” translates from Catalan to English as “defecator”, and that is exactly what this little statue is doing — defecating.

The reasons for placing a man who is in the act of excreting solid waste from his posterior in a scene which is widely considered holy are as follows:

  1. Just tradition.
  2. Scatological humor.
  3. Finding the Caganer is a fun game, especially for children.
  4. The Caganer, by creating feces, is fertilizing the Earth. However, this is probably an a posteriori explanation, and nobody would say they put the Caganer on the Nativity scene for this reason.
  5. The Caganer represents the equality of all people e.g. regardless of status, race, gender everyone defecates.

The exact origin of the Caganer is lost, but the tradition has existed since the 18th century. Originally, the Caganer was portrayed as a Catalan peasant wearing a traditional hat called a barretina — a red stocking hat with a black band.

The Catalans have modified this tradition somewhat since the 1940s. In addition to the traditional caganer design, you can easily find other characters assuming the caganer position, such as nuns, devils, Santa Claus, celebrities, athletes, historical figures, politicians, Spanish royalty, and other famous people past and present, including Pope John Paul II, Salvador Dalí, prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Princess Letizia and even Osama bin Laden.

The practice is tolerated by the local Catholic church. Caganers are easiest to find before Christmas in holiday markets, like the one in front of the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, which has tables and tables of caganers. Caganers have even been featured in art exhibits.

The caganer is not the only defecating character in the Catalan Christmas tradition—another is the Tió de Nadal, which also makes extensive use of the image of human waste production. Other mentions of feces and defecation are common in Catalan folklore. One popular Catalan phrase before eating says “menja bé, caga fort!” (Eat well, shit strong!).