Tuesday, May 31, 2011


   When most people think of bats, they associate them with blood sucking vampires. But, bats are gentle animals and in many cultures considered good luck.
   Although bats are mammals they can fly. There about 1,000 species of bats in the world. Bats eat insects, small fruits, fish, meat and yes, even blood. They eat such a large variety because they need eat lots of food.  Bats often consume halftheir body weight a night. Fruit eating bats can eat up to twice their weight in fruit a night.
   Sanguivory bats are the only type of bats that eat blood. They can be found in the southern United States as well as Mexico and other parts of South America. Bats do not suck blood; they lick blood from an open wound. Human blood is not preferred by bats. They will only lick blood from humans if nothing else is available. Cattle and domestic animals are preferred.

   Bats are crucial to the ecosystem as they pollinate flowers and disperse tropical plant seeds. There are many trees that are in existence due to the dispersion from bats including certain kinds of Cacti and the Baobab tree in Africa. Bats also eat nocturnal insects helping to keep the environment healthy.
   In China bats are considered good fortune. Often five bats will be shown together symbolizing long life, wealth, good health, love of virtue and a natural death.
   In Samoa, flying bats are considered heroes that once saved a princess.
   Many people think because bats often fly at night they are blind. In fact, bats have good vision and can see in both the light and the dark. They fly at night in order to get food while avoiding predators.

   Because bats are not "dingbats" as coined by Archie Bunker as stupid; they can be trained. Bats have been trained to fly through mazes and act on command. Certain bats have learned to understand and trust humans. But, would not be  recommended as a house pet.
   Most bats are clean and healthy creatures. They spend many hours cleaning themselves and less than .05 percent have rabies. The only danger is their droppings. Droppings could contain Histoplasmosis, which can cause flue like symptoms
and even death. Do not enter a cave were there are lots of bats because gases from the droppings can be in the air and could cause illness. If you must enter, wear a face mask.
   Bats can be found in most regions accept those that are extremely hot or cold. They prefer areas with nice weather and where food is always available. Many species are found in the southwest United States.

   Bats can often be found in caves or with trees that have lots of leaves. Those spots are chosen in order to keep them cool and hide from predators. Different species hide in crevices and under rocks.
   Most bats hang upside down while resting. This helps to make them blend into their habitat as well as allow them to watch for any predators. They have specials valves in their veins that prevent blood to rush to their head.
   The average life of a bat is 10 years but some have known to live into their 30s. Most bats, however, usually die at a young age. Owls, hawks and falcons are the main predators of bats. Also snakes, raccoons and even house cats can catch a bat napping on a leaf. People often kill bats in a variety of ways including barbed wire fences. Bats tend to fly into towers and other tall structures during a storm as they become disoriented as well.

   If you find a bat in your attic and are alarmed, wait until it leaves at night. Then, hang bird netting over exit points and let it hang about 2 feet. Bats are able to find their way out, if any are still there, but cannot find their way back in. Since they usually hide in holes, close them up within a few days of the bats departure. Avoid poisonous chemicals as they can be dangerous to humans and repellants do not work in getting rid of bats.
   Bats are disappearing at an alarming rate. Over 40 percent of species are on the endangered list. At least four species are now extinct. There are various clubs and organizations across the United States focused on preserving bats. If you are interested in this, you should easily find one on a web search engine. Some groups include Bat Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fund. There are also local groups in various states.


  Flores de Mayo (English: "Flowers of May") is a Catholic festival held in the Philippines in the month of May. Lasting for a month, it is held in honor of the Virgin Mary. The Santacruzan refers to the pageant on the last day of Flores de Mayo, held in honour of Reyna Elena and Constantine finding the True Cross in Jerusalem.
    EtymologyThe name is derived from Flores, the Spanish word for "flowers". Also known as "Flores de Maria" ("Flowers of Mary") or "Álay" (Filipino for "offering"), the term refers to the festival as a whole. It was believed that "Flores" (short term for Flores de Mayo) originated in 1865 from the town of Malolos, Bulacan, when the young girls would make a floral offering to the Virgin Mary in the parish church.

   In the Bicol region, especially in the locality of Barangay Sabang in Naga City, the Flores de Mayo is held every Wednesday and Saturday of May. It is headed by the Legion of Mary, Praesidium Cause of our Joy, with the last day called as "katapusan". The ritual is started with the rosary, with every decade followed by Spanish Marian songs.
   The traditional "MARIA" with its respective meaning is said after the recitation of the Spanish Salve and the litany. After the ceremony, simple snacks are given to the children who attended the devotion. Alabasyon is the term for the prayers sung in honour of the Holy Cross.

    In the Tagalog region, this custom and celebration started after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and after the publication circa 1867 of Mariano Sevilla's translation of the devotional "Flores de Maria"("Flowers of Mary"), also known by its longer title "Mariquit na Bulaclac na sa Pagninilaynilay sa Buong Buan nang Mayo ay Inihahandog nang manga Devoto cay Maria Santisima" ("Beautiful Flowers that in the Meditations in the Whole Month of May are Offered by Devotees to Mary Most Holy").

The Sagala
   A Sagala is a religio-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns, and even in small communities throughout the Philippines during the month of May. One of the most colourful aspects of this festival, the pageant depicts the finding of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. Many movie and television personalities participate in the events and are featured in major sagala.  This festival was introduced by the Spaniards and has since become part of Filipino traditions identified with youth, love, and romance.

   Prior to the Santacruzan, a novena is held in honour of the Holy Cross.
   The procession itself commemorates the search of the Holy Cross by Reyna Elena and her son, the newly-converted emperor Constantine. After the Holy Cross was found in Jerusalem and brought back to Constantinople, there was a joyful celebration for thanksgiving.

Order of the processionThe participants of this colourful pageant would follow this typical arrangement:

1. Matusalém (Methuselah)- bearded and bent with age, he is depicted as riding a cart and looking preoccupied with toasting some grains of sand in a pan over a fire. This is a reminder that everything in this world is passing and will end up like the dust which he is toasting.
2. Reyna Banderáda (Queen with a banner)- a young lady dressed in a long red gown carrying a yellow triangular flag. She represents the arrival of Christianity.
3. Aetas - Represents the animist Filipinos who have settled the islands prior to Christianisation by the Spanish.

4. Reyna Móra (Queen Moor) - Represents the Filipinos who converted to Islam, which arrived in the Philippines two centuries before Christianity.
5. Reyna Fe (Queen Faith) - symbolises Faith, the first of the theological virtues. She carries a cross.
6. Reyna Esperanza (Queen Hope) - symbolises Hope, the second theological virtue. She carries an anchor.
7. Reyna Caridád (Queen Charity)- symbolises Charity, the third theological virtue. She carries a red-coloured heart.
8. Reyna Abogáda (Queen Lawyer) - the defender of the poor and the oppressed, she wears a black graduation cap, gown (toga), and carries a large book. She may also be a representation of Mary, Helper (Advocate) of Christians.

9. Reyna Sentenciada (Queen Sentenced/Convicted) - has her hands bound by a rope, she stands for the Early Christians, especially the virgins, who were martyred for the faith. She is accompanied by two Roman soldiers.
10. Reyna Justicía (Queen Justice) - a personification of Mary as the "Mirror of Justice", one of her titles in the Litany of Loreto. Her attributes are a weighing scale and a sword.
11. Reyna Judít (Queen Judith) - represents the biblical widow Judith of Bethulia who saved her city from the Assyrians by slaying the cruel Holofernes. She carries the head of her victim in one hand and a sword in the other. She is also known as Infanta Judith.

12. Reyna ng Sába (Queen of Sheba) - represents the Queen of Sheba, who visited King Solomon and was overwhelmed by his wisdom, power, and riches. She carries a jewelry box.
13. Reyna Éster - the Jewish queen of Persia who spared her people from death at the hands of Haman through her timely intervention with King Xerxes. She carries a scepter.
14. Samaritána (The Female Samaritan) - The woman with whom Christ spoke to at the well. She carries a jug on her shoulder.
15. Veronica - The woman who wiped the face of Jesus; bears a veil with three imprints of the face of Jesus.
16. Tres Marias (The Three Marys)- each Mary holds an attribute associated with her:
       a. Mary of Magdala - a bottle of perfume;
       b. The Virgin Mary - a handkerchief;
      c. Mary, the mother of James - a bottle of oil.

17. Marian - each figure in this group alludes to a title of the Virgin Mary or to a figure associated with her.
       a. "A-V-E--M-A-R-I-A" - eight "angels": girls all wearing long white dresses and holding a letter from  the word "AVE MARIA".
        b. Divina Pastora (Divine Shepherdess) - a shepherd's staff.
        c. Reyna de las Estrellas (Queen of the Stars) - a wand with a star.  
        d.  Rosa Mystica (Mystical Rose)- a bouquet of roses.
        e. Reyna dela Paz (Queen of Peace) - a dove.
        f. Reyna de las Profetas (Queen of the Prophets)- an hourglass.
        g. Reyna del Cielo (Queen of Heaven)- a flower; accompanied by two little "angels".
        h. Reyna de las Virgines (Queen of the Virgins) - a rosary (or a lily); also escorted by two little "angels".
        i. Reyna de las Flores (Queen of the Flowers) - a bouquet of flowers.

18. Reyna Eléna (Queen Helena) - the last member of the procession, she represents Helena of Constantinople who found the True Cross; this is alluded to by her attribute, a small cross or crucifix that she carries in her arms. This considerably prestigious role is usually awarded to the most beautiful girl participating in the pageant. In some communities, the identity of the woman who will portray the Reyna Eléna is kept a secret until the day of the procession.
      a. Constantíno - the escort of Reyna Eléna; traditionally a young boy representing the Emperor Constantine.
   The procession is accompanied by the steady beat of the rondalla, playing and singing the Hail Mary ("Dios Te Salve"). The devotees walking with the procession hold lighted candles in their hands and sing the prayer as they go along.

   After the procession, there is a pabítin that serves as a culminating activity for all the children to enjoy. A Pabítin is a square trellis to which goodies (candies, fruits, small trinkets, etc.) are tied with strings. This trellis in turn is tied to a rope and is suspended on a strong branch or pole. Children then gather under the trellis as the it is slowly lowered. They then jump as high as they can to try to pick the goodies while someone jerks it up and down repeatedly until all the goodies are gone.
   It is customary for males attending the Santacruzan wear,  to the traditional Barong Tagalog and that the females wear any Filipiniana-inspired dress.


   What a year 1978 was!  Jimmy Carter was President to 222.6 million Americans whose life expectancy was 73.5 years. The U.S. Senate approved a treaty to turn over the Panama Canal to Panama by the year 2000. The Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XII. Both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I died. Jim Jones followers committed mass suicide in Jonestown. The first SPAMARAMA was held. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Menachim Begin and Anwar el-Sadat following their meetings with President Carter at Camp David. The first spam email was sent. Annie Hall won best picture. Hotel California was Record of the Year.

   You read it correctly, the first SPAMARAMA was held in 1978!  Two bar patrons—David Arnsberger and Dick Terry—and one bar owner— George Majewski—pooled resources, may have consumed some suds and established what has become an annual rite of Spring passage for Austin, Texas. Their thinking? BarBQ cook-offs, too easy. Chile Cook-offs, passé. Show us the brave souls who can present SPAM dishes that the public would consume and that would be a competition worthy of notoriety. And so, it came to pass.

   The event has matured and evolved since 1978. The SPAMALYMPICS Competitions have become a draw for the adoring public. A kid’s area is feeding and nurturing the notion that SPAMARAMA is becoming more of a “family event.”  SPAMARAMA  resembles other public fairs with it’s retail and food alley and the occasional silent auction benefiting a local non-profit agency, Disability Assistance of Central Texas.

Spam sculpture
   Locations have pin balled around south and central Austin from three Soap Creek Saloons to Scholz Garten, Austin Opera House, Green Mesquite, La Zona Rosa, Cedar Door, East 6th Street, Auditorium Shores, Austin Music Hall and Waterloo Park.
   Judges have pin balled their way through the SPAM Cook-0ff tent, caught between the creative delicacies of master chefs in the Professional Division and the only-to-be-avoided entries of the “artistic” entries in the Open Division. The judge’s directory includes a “who’s whom” of Austin open-mindedness: Jim Hightower, Mel & Joyce Pennington, John Kelso, Eddie Wilson, Guich Koock, Max Nofziger, Bryan Beck, Kerry Awn, Linda Wetherby, Gordon Fowler, Molly Ivins, Nick Barbaro, Liz Carpenter, Billy Forrester and Jackie Goodman. Cajun Chef Paul Prudhomme even dropped by one year! Many others have been part of the judging bench, too many to mention.

Poster from 2007

Events at the SPAMARAMA

   The featured event was the SPAM Cook-Off with two divisions: Open and Professional. Both Cook-Off divisions showcase SPAM  recipes from chefs, local restaurants and caterers, as well as self-proclaimed SPAM  gourmets. Celebrity judges awarded points and trophies in the categories of taste and showmanship. In addition to the top three prizes in each Cook-Off Division, most contestants yearned to take home the top prize, the SPAMERICA Cup trophy, a “traveling” trophy with the previous 28 winner’s names emblazoned thereon! At the other extreme, there are always a few entrants going purely for the “Worst of Show” trophy. And we continued a popular new “tradition” for the third year, the “People’s Choice” award!

SPAMALYMPICS   The SPAMALYMPICS  featured time-tested events for the 29th annual competition. One’s imagination is the limit when you compete in events such as the SPAM  Disc Shoot, the SPAM  Call (remotely similar to a hog call), the SPAM  Can Relay and the SPAMBURGER Eating Contest.

SPAM JAM Non-stop Austin-based music, the SPAM JAM, will be on stage for the duration of the event, 12 noon until 6 p.m. Some of the bands that are performing are the Uranium Savages, the SowPremes and the Mother Truckers!

Monday, May 30, 2011


  Do you get squeamish at the thought of cemeteries? If you put cemeteries into a new light, such as one that shines from history or from downright silly trivia, you may not be so intimidated. While cemeteries hold remains of the dead, they also hold some interesting facts such as the ones listed below:

1. The word “cemetery,” which is the traditional place to bury the dead, comes from the German words koimeterion (meaning a sleeping place), and koiman (to put to sleep). The word, “graveyard,” was not recorded until the early 19th century.

2. The The oldest known Jewish cemetery is the Mount of Olives Cemetery located in Jerusalem and also a burial ground for people of Muslim and Christian faiths. This cemetery is first mentioned in connection with David’s flight from Absalom in II Samuel 15:30.

3. The first tombstone recorded in the Bible is in Genesis 35:20, where Jacob set up a pillar (tombstone) on Rachel’s grave on the road to Bethlehem.

4. In March 2002, archaeologists removed what is believed to be the oldest Christian tombstone found in Japan. Discovered near Osaka, Japan, the grave marker relic was dated in the 16th century from the ground in Osaka Japan. Historians believe the tombstone was buried to hide it from authorities who persecuted Christian in its time.

5. Located on Route 80, near Tombstone, Arizona, the Boot Hill Graveyard became the final resting place to over 250 gunslingers, miners, and other fearless wild west pioneers. One of the tombstone epitaphs reads, Here lies Lester Moore 4 slugs from a 44 no less no more.

6. A U.S. flag, the Declaration of Independence and an autographed picture of President Woodrow Wilson are just a few of the many items placed inside of the Arlington National Cemetery’s cornerstone, which was placed in the cemetery in 1915.

7. Although Union soldiers were removed from shallow and inadequate burial sites at Gettysburg battlefield to a new cemetery shortly after that battle, it was seven years before Confederate soldiers were removed from their shallow battlefield graves. From 1870 to 1873, upon the initiative of the Ladies Memorial Associations of Richmond, Raleigh, Savannah and Charleston, 3,320 Confederate remains were dug up and sent to cemeteries in the south.

8. The oldest known pet cemetery was uncovered in Green Country, Illinois by archaeologist, Dr. Stewart Schrever. He believes the pets were interred there around 6500 BC.

9. The oldest operating pet cemetery in the United States is the Hartsdate Pet Cemetery in New York, established in 1896. It also bills itself as “America’s First and Most Prestigious Pet Burial Grounds.”

10. The Vicksburg National Cemetery has the distinction of having the largest number of Civil War interments of any national cemetery in the United States. Of the approximate 17,000 Union veterans, only 5,000 are known. There are no Confederate burials here.

11. Chicago’s Lincoln Park was created in 1864. The original 120 acre cemetery had most of its graves removed and was expanded to more than 1000 acres for recreational use. A small-pox hospital was located on the grounds as well.

12. Saint Joseph’s Cemetery, the only known United States cemetery facing north-south is located in Rayne, Louisiana. It was once listed in Ripley’s Believe it or Not!


   Is it called Memorial Day or Decoration Day? Many people, especially those in the south, ask themselves this question every year. Compounding the confusion is the fact that both celebrations are often held on the same weekend in May. Most of us have participated in Memorial Day celebrations. I've had the experience of participating in several Decoration Day celebrations as well.
   According to History.com Memorial Day was first celebrated as Decoration Day. This day first happened officially a few years after the Civil Warn ended on May 30, 1868.

   General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic is widely credited for the original proclamation. This held great importance even though the Grand Army of the Republic was a group of former soldiers and sailors and not a governmental organization.

Richard Nixon officially declared Memorial Day to be a federal holiday in 1971. It is held on the last Monday in May as a remembrance of those brave men and women who died in war. Traditionally, a wreath is placed in Arlington Cemetery as a way of memorializing those who died.

  Decoration Day had similar beginnings and is in fact the tradition that gave birth to Memorial Day. Even today it is celebrated by many small churches in the south. It began as a way to honor Civil War dead but soon became a time to put flowers or other decorative items on the graves of all the dead.

 Southern churches are famous for having cemeteries on the same land as the church itself. Sometimes, a driveway will separate the two sections but not always. It is very common for the cemetery to be adjacent to the church.
Decoration Day is usually celebrated on the last Sunday in May. Often, this is combined with a church homecoming celebration possibly all day preaching and dinner on the grounds. This is different from a Memorial Day celebration where only the graves of soldiers are decorated.

   Church members will go to great lengths to be sure that all graves are decorated and cleaned. There may not be any living family members for a particular plot but there will be flowers on the grave.
   It is said that "cleanliness is next to Godliness". This is where the church literally shines. Headstones will be scrubbed and cleaned until they shine like new pennies. All debris is removed from the cemetery. The grass will be cut, weeds pulled and all of the cemetery grounds will be trimmed.

   Only then is the cemetery ready for the flowers to be placed. On Decoration day each grave will be decorated to the one hundred flowers stuck in the dirt on any given grave. You may see pots of live flowers, expensive floral arrangements or hand picked bouquets. The graves may also have photos or other mementos placed upon them.
   The commitment to honoring the dead isn't just made in flowers. On Decoration Day, many southern churches will collect monetary donations as people come to tend their plots. These funds go toward cemetery upkeep and play an important role in the continued maintenance of the cemetery.
   Even though the two special occasions occur on the same weekend and share common beginnings the two days are not the same. As more people celebrate Memorial Day fewer are left to celebrate or even understand Decoration Day.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Business of Halloween 2010

   After a very scary 2009, U.S. retailers might breathe a bit easier this year because Halloween spending is set to bounce back to 2008 levels, according to data compiled by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

   About 148 million Americans will celebrate the holiday this year, and the average person will spend $66.28 on costumes, candy, and decorations—up from $56.31 last year. Total expenditures for the holiday should reach some $5.8 billion, a billion dollars more than 2009.

   "We do think that consumers will be looking for creative ways to celebrate Halloween. While not breaking the bank they are investing a little bit of money into their fun this year," said NRF spokesperson Kathy Grannis.

   Costumes consume the biggest part of the United States' Halloween dollars ($23.37 per person), followed closely by candy and decorations.

What an Average American Will Spend on Halloween in 2010

• Halloween Costumes: $23.37

• Halloween Candy: $20.29

• Decorations: $18.66

• Greeting Cards: $3.95

   When it comes to costumes, the NRF survey found that about 40 percent of Americans will be dressing up—a total of almost 120 million kids, adults, and pets.

   "We're expecting to see more people dress up in costume than ever before," said Grannis, noting costume variety has increased dramatically.

   "We're seeing costumes of every type in stores right now and also more types of stores selling costumes," she said.

   Grannis reported that in 2010 both kids and adults are leaning heavily toward traditional costumes such as princess and pirate getups.

   But 2010 will bring trendy costumes as well, even if they don't make the annual top ten costume lists.

   "We still hear from hundreds of thousands of people who have indicated that the nontraditional, Lady Gaga-type costume is something that they will be experimenting with this year. We've heard reports of disgruntled airline-employee costumes, from the incident this summer," Grannis said.

"I think pop culture will again play a very large role in how people decide to dress up."

Ten Most Popular Adults' Halloween 2010 Costumes

1. Witch

2. Vampire

3. Pirate

4. Nurse

5. Wench/Tart/Vixen

6. Cat

7. Zombie

8. Fairy

9. Athlete/Batman (Tie)

10. Dracula

Ten Most Popular Children's Halloween 2010 Costumes

1. Princess

2. Spider-Man

3. Witch

4. Pirate

5. Disney Princess

6. Action/Super Hero

7. Ghost

8. Pumpkin/Vampire (Tie)

9. Batman

10. Star Wars Character

Halloween costumes aren't just for people—a surprising 11.5 percent of U.S. pets get into the act as well. This year the lion's share of costumed U.S. pets will appear as either pumpkins (10.3%) or devils (9.7%).

 Halloween Cards

   Americans give about 35 million Halloween greeting cards a year, with the most popular variety being grandparent-to-grandchild.

 The first Halloween cards that can detect in the U.S. were produced in 1908.

Halloween Sugar Rush
   There are some 36 million potential trick-or-treaters (children aged 5 to 13) in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

   In 2009 the average American consumed 24.3 pounds  of candy, much of it during the Halloween season, according to census data.

Great Pumpkins

    Far from the pumpkin's native Central America, chilly Illinois produces most of the United States' pumpkins.

   Illinois produced some 429 million pounds  of pumpkins in 2009, while California and Ohio each produced at least a hundred million pounds according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Together the nation's major pumpkin-producing states grew 931 million pounds  of pumpkins, worth about $103 million.

   Fall 2010 saw a new "world's heaviest pumpkin" crowned, which was harvested earlier this year and confirmed by Guinness World Records. New Richmond, Wisconsin farmer Chris Stevens grew a 1,811-pound  behemoth, which is on display until Halloween at the Bronx Botanical Gardens in New York City. The fruit has a circumference of more than 15 feet.

   About 90 percent of a pumpkin's weight is from water. While growing, a champion pumpkin can add 40 pounds a day and reach roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.


Statue commemorating the wine horse festival

  Caravaca de la Cruz in Murcia,Spain is the fifth most holiest site for Catholics and is surrounded by fascinating legends.
   Caravaca de la Cruz is situated just a short distance from the city of Murcia in the Province of Murcia, Spain and is a fascinating place to visit. It is a site of great importance in the Catholic Church and has a long and varied history. Caravaca de la Cruz is the fifth holiest city in the world for Catholics after Santiago de Compostela, Rome, Jerusalem and Santo Toribio de Liébana. The town celebrates an Annus Sanctus every seven years, the most recent being in 2010, a time of jubilee and when plenary, solemn and universal indulgences are granted to all those who make the pilgrimage.

Legend of the 'Vera Cruz'

   There is a legend of how the town came to get its name. According to the legend, during the time of Muslim occupation of the town around 1232, an imprisoned priest was to hold a Mass in the presence of the Muslim king of the region. The priest said “all that is lacking is a cross” and at his words two angels appeared carrying a cross with two arms. The Muslim king was so impressed by this miracle that he and all his subjects converted to Christianity. The most accredited version of this story was written by Father Gilles de Zamora, historian to King Ferdinand.

   It was later recognised as the "Vera Cruz" by the Catholic Church, an authentic relic of the cross Jesus Christ died on. Today, the cross is still kept in the Vera Cruz Sanctuary. At one time it was guarded by the Order of the Templars and later by the Order of Santiago. Hundreds of pilgrims travel to the town every year to see the cross.
   This Spanish festival begins with a procession in the Iglese early in the morning as a cross is submerged in a silver urn which is filled with wine & surrounded by local Spanish flowers which soak up any overflow

Caravaca's Wine Race

   One of the great fiestas in Caravaca de la Cruz takes place in May. It re-enacts another legend associated with the town. The legend says that during the time of the Templars, the knights were besieged in the castle by the Moors. They had run out of water and a group of knights volunteered to undertake a dangerous mission. In the dead of night, they saddled their horses and loaded them with wine skins; they then crept out of the castle, through enemy lines to a nearby fountain. When they got there, the fountain was running with wine instead of water. The knights filled the wine skins and covered them over with their cloaks. On the way back through enemy lines, they were spotted and had to race back to the castle at top speed on their horses.

   So every year, on the 2nd May during the town’s Holy Festival, this great horse race is run again with around 60 horses taking part. The horses are covered in beautiful cloaks that are embroidered by the women of the town.  They  race from the bottom of the town up to the castle - Castillo.  The men run alongside the horses to encourage them. The first horse to reach the castle is the winner.

   There are many interesting things to see in Caravaca, not least the castle which looms over the town and the Sanctuario de la Vera Cruz. There is a Fiesta Museum which has full details of the wine race, including some of the beautifully embroidered cloaks worn by the horses and outside the town is the Fuentes del Marqués, a natural spring with pleasant walks around it.

   So, why not join the pilgrims and visit Caravaca de la Cruz, a Holy City that is surrounded by legends