Last weekend, we took a road trip to the “Basque Country” along the Spain/France border to attend the wedding of our good friends’ daughter. The father of the bride, our friend José, grew up near San Sebastian in Spain, located on the north end of Basque Country and where Basque culture and traditions thrive.
I should mention that the wedding itself was beautiful, taking place outdoors under a clear blue sky. It was truly a multicultural ceremony (German groom / Spanish American bride) and I was told that there were 21 nationalities represented among the guests in attendance. I took a couple videos that I think capture the spirit of the wedding and the Basque traditions that were woven into the entire weekend.
On the evening before the wedding, about 60 invited guests attended a dinner at a restaurant up in the hills near San Jean de Luz, France. But this wasn’t any ordinary restaurant. At this restaurant, the same family has been producing their own hard apple cider for four generations. And this isn’t any ordinary apple cider, either. The apple cider they produce here is made with equipment that is decades old, using family recipes and manufacturing processes that have been handed down for generations. (Cider making in the region dates all the way back to Roman times.)
This first video is a good illustration of the way you pour a cider. In this demonstration, we are pouring the cider directly from the 5,000 liter oak barrels, but even if you are pouring from a bottle, the idea is to create a long stream between the source (barrel or bottle) and the glass/cup. If there is a practical reason for this, I’m not sure what it is… I think its just done because its more fun.
Here is an entertaining example of how to pour cider in Basque Country, featuring myself and my new four best German friends who are lifelong buddies of the groom. [Warning: Don’t try this at home!]
I learned that the tradition of cider making also led to the creation of a “musical instrument” called Txalaparta. (Almost all words in the Basque language contain an “x” in there somewhere.) The genesis of this traditional instrument was created when the workers would smash the apples with poles, and someone came up with the idea that the work would be less arduous if the smashing of the apples was done to an improvised rhythm, and thus was born the Txalaparta!
After the wedding ceremony, these two guys performed. They don’t play while smashing apples anymore, instead, they tap poles onto boards of different lengths and hardness to create different tones. Check this out.
Swiss Sojourner travel tip: next Basque wedding you get invited to, be sure to accept the invitation.