Category Archives: Offbeat Travel

pooping in the manger

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!).

Wat Phantao during Yi Peng Image by Takeaway@Wikimedia.org, used under Creative Comms license

Best Autumn Festivals Around the World

We usually think of summer as the party season but across the globe, some of the best and wildest festivals happen in the autumn. The fall is a great time to travel – it’s off-season in many places, meaning cheaper flights and less of a crush at the airport.

Wat Phantao during Yi Peng Image by Takeaway@Wikimedia.org, used under Creative Comms licenseAt these autumn festivals you can hang out with Mexican spirits, swill the finest German beer or sail your own (two-inch) candle-lit boat in Thailand in the coming months. So when you do a holiday comparison for your autumn vacation, remember to check for these fantastic events before you start booking your flights…

Kyoto in Japan

September to November in Japan is a riot of color and beauty that’s particularly cherished in areas like Kyoto, where you’ll see the most stunning reds, oranges, golds and green leaves in Japan’s most traditional and fascinating city. Not much compares to seeing men and women dressed in elaborate kimonos and walking under a canopy of rich and vivid autumn leaves colours. Enjoy the sights at the Maple Festival in November, where you will also see Japanese dancing performed on boats on the river and can partake of the elegant tea ceremony.

Dia de los Muertos in Mexico

The ‘Day of the Dead’ is a colorful and macabre festival of celebration held all over Mexico at the end of November. Locals make garlands of marigolds and buy a special bread that attracts the spirits of departed loved ones, and everyone heads to the graveyards after dark to eat, drink tequila and dance to the Mariachi bands. It’s not so much a party as a thoughtful and sometimes exuberant celebration of life. Tourists will find themselves welcome to join in
and learn about this vibrant culture.

Oktoberfest in Munich

If you like beer, and you like festivals, get yourself to Munich! Also known as the Munich Beer Fest, this celebration takes over the city, with little stalls and massive tents lined up along the riverside, serving beers and ales from Germany’s finest breweries, and a wide selection of traditional German foods. There’s even a funfair and rides to go along with the carnival atmosphere.

Loi Krathong in Thailand

This beautiful river festival is a visual treat. Thousands of little floating ornaments made from bread and bark are lit up with candles and sent out onto the river. The little boats, known as krathongs, signify letting go of negative thoughts and hurts, and giving thanks for your blessings. At the same time, the festival of Yi Peng involves releasing thousands of illuminated paper lanterns into the sky. A lovely and completely unforgettable experience.

Festival de Cornuto in Rocca Canterano, Italy

Not a great choice for a honeymoon trip, this November festival is a celebration of infidelity! The ‘Festival of the Horned One’ with its carnival of floats and street theatre is a perfect choice for spurned lovers, cheated-on spouses and betrayed brides. Console your broken heart with some delicious Italian ice-cream and laugh your troubles away.

Petit Palace Cliper Gran Via

5 Quirky Boutique Hotels in Madrid

Looking for a Madrid hotel? Here are five of the best upscale and boutique places to stay in the Spanish capital…

Osuna Hotel

quirky luxury in SpainFound in the Palomas neighbourhood, close to Juan Carlos I Trade Fair Ground (IFEMA) and Barajas Airport, Osuna Hotel might seem best-suited to business travellers on first appearances – but it also has a lot to offer those in Madrid on leisure. The city centre is ten minutes away by taxi, and the hotel itself has a whole host of fancy facilities. One large, secluded pool lets you take your morning dip, while the poolside restaurant El Mirador serves up Mediterranean fusion cuisine. All rooms have internet access, air conditioning and smart modern décor.

 

 

 

THC Bergantin Hostel

Quirky boutique madridFound just a block from Madrid’s main square the Puerto del Sol, THC Bergantin Hostel is perfect for first-timers to the city as it puts you within walking distance of all the main sites. The beautiful Royal Palace, Real Theatre and Almudena Cathedral are all easily reachable on foot from your front door, as well as party areas like Huertas where you can get plates of tapa alongside every drink. The hotel itself has just 15 tastefully-decorated spacious rooms, so it’s great for a more intimate and romantic break away. Perks include Wi-Fi access, air conditioning and free city tours arranged by helpful staff.

 

 

Petit Palace Cliper Gran Via

Next to Madrid’s famous main shopping-and-sightseeing thoroughfare the Gran Via, Petit Palace Cliper Gran Via puts you in the centre of the action. Other must-see places nearby include the gorgeous Parque del Retiro and Madrid’s ‘golden triangle’ of museums, the Prado, Reina Sophia and Thyssen. The Reina Sophia holds Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica. At the hotel itself, you’re treated to the ultimate in style and comfort for relatively low rates – rooms have plasma TVs, airy balconies and hydro-massage showers in bathrooms. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the building, and a full breakfast is served daily. You can also rent bikes from reception.

 

 

High Tech Madrid Aeropuerto

boutique hotels madridIf you’ve got an early flight to catch, you’re travelling on business or you just like the fuss-free convenience of staying near the airport, High Tech Madrid Aeropuerto has everything you need and style in spades. There is a free shuttle bus to and from the airport, so you don’t have to worry about catching a train or shelling out for a taxi. The hotel owns a large outdoor pool for taking advantage of the city’s famous sunny days. Inside, your room is kitted out with the latest fancy technology, including a flat screen TV, hydro-massage shower and free Wi-Fi access. You can also sweat out your cares in the sauna, or treat yourself to local delicacies like Iberico ham at the restaurant. Popular business and conference areas Fuencarral, Chamartin and the Paseo de la Castellana are on your doorstep.

 

 

THC Latina Hostel

madrid hostels and hotelsFound in the stylish La Latina neighbourhood, about half an hour’s walk south of Madrid’s main square the Puerta del Sol, THC Latina Hostel offers stylish and affordable rooms that feel like a home away from home. With luxuries like LCD TVs, parquet floors, modern décor, pretty balconies and free Wi-Fi, you’re sure to be comfy here. Outside, the neighbourhood is calm and safe, and you’re only a short walk from the bustle of local bars and restaurants that Madrid’s tourists haven’t claimed for their own yet. You can rent bikes from the front desk ,and La Latina Metro station is four minutes’ walk from the hotel – from here you can whiz to the centre of town in ten minutes flat.