Wednesday, June 18, 2014


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


   History of Gum

   Since prehistoric times, people have chewed gum as evidence shows our ancestors chewed tree resin for enjoyment.  Greek cultures chewed resin from the mastic tree to freshen their breath.  The ancient Mayans chewed chicle sap from the Sapodilla tree that is the forerunner for today's modern chewing gum.
   Spruce tree resin and beeswax were popular to chew by the Native Americans and the early settlers.  In 1848, John Curtis made the State of Maine Spruce Chewing Gum using the resin from the spruce tree.  The gum was sold in lots of two hunks for a penny.  Later, paraffin wax replace spruce as a base for gum. William Semple was granted the first patent for chewing gum in 1850.

   In 1880, Santa Anna sent his friend, an inventor named Thomas Adams, some chicle sap from Mexico.  Adams and Santa Anna were trying to find a way to make money by using the chicle sap.  Adams tried mixing it with rubber to make a better tire; however, he decided the mixture was useless.  When he overheard someone ask for gum whil he was in a drug store, he tried using just the chicle sap to make chewing gum.  He created Black Jack Gum which was licorice flavored and was hugely popular.  This was the first gum to be sold in sticks.  The only problem was that the flavor could not be maintained.

   While experimenting with adding corn syrup and sugar to the chicle gum, William White, an employee of Adams, found the solution to the flavor problem.  He added peppermint flavor and it did stay on the gum.  In 1888, Adams' gum, Tutti-Frutti, became the first gum sold in vending machines found in the New York subway system.

   In the 1900's, William Wrigley promoted chewing gum by advertising on billboards and newspapers.  His sale of spearmint gum surged.  Today, to grow the mint that Wrigley's needs for its mint flavored gums, it would take 53 square mile of farmland.  That equals about 30,550 football fields.  All the spearmint grown for Wrigley's gum is grown in the United States.  If each stick of gum that is produced annually was laid end to end, it would circle the world 19 times.
   During  WWII, chewing gum, believed to reduce tension, promote alertness and improve morale, was used by soldiers and its use spread around the world.  Sugarfree and surgarless gums were added inth 1950's.  Today, sales of surgarless gums outsell regular.

   Bubble Gum 

   The first bubble gum, called Blibbler Blubber was never sold by its inventor Frank Fleer.  However, an employee of the Fleer company, Walter Diemer, perfected bubble gum when he was experimenting with different  gum recipes.  Bubble gum is pink because the manufacture only had that color available.  The color was popular so most bubble gum today remains pink. The Fleer Company mass produced this form of chewing gum under the name of Dubble Bubble.  People were taught by salesmen how to blow bubbles.

   After WWII, The topps Company added Bazooka bubble gum with "Bazooka Joe" comics.  In 1953, the company added baseball cards packaged with the bubble gum.

   How to blow a bigger bubble:

   Chew gum until the sugar is gone as sugar will not stretch.

   How is Chewing Gum Made?

   Every type and brand of chewing gum has a specific recipe.  All gums use a base either a resin from tropical trees, wax or synthetic products.  Sugar, corn syrup, and flavoring are added.  These secrets are carefully guarded by manufacturing companies.  Ingredients are heated until the mixture is thick like maple syrup, Sorbitol, mannitol or other sweeteners are added to make sugarless gum.  The liquid then is cooled and goes through a roller to flatten it for stick gum.  Coated gum has an additional process of being cut and then coated with powdered sugar.  It sits for 48 hours prior to being candy coated.

Bear made from chewing gum


Poveglia Island

 Poveglia Island is a very small island that is located in Italy's Venetian Lagoon.  The island itself is rather "run of the mill".  It is covered with a smattering of foliage, as well as some run down buildings, a water tower and a bell tower that appears to be receding back into the foliage that surrounds it.  Poveglia Island is split in two by a small canal that runs straight through it.  The canal has walkways over it.  On one side, there are the deteriorating parts of the different buildings, on the other, nothing but greenery and grass.  However, there is a more interesting aspect of the island that one wouldn't suspect by looking at it, though some say, you can tell when you are there, and that is the island's supposedly sinister history.

 Poveglia Island was once inhabited by a small community.  However the island was abandoned around 1380, during the War of Chioggia.  Later, as the Bubonic Plague spread through Europe and inevitably into Venice, Poveglia Island was reportedly used as a dump for bodies and as a lazaretto.  Even worse, there are rumors that live victims of the Bubonic Plague were also brought to the island and left there.  Some of the rumors say that the live victims were burned with the dead or left in mass graves full of dead bodies.  There seems to be no official  records of this, though.  If it were true, the best fate for the live victims may very well have been fire.  Bubonic Plague is a horrible bacterial infection that affects the lymph nodes.  Without modern treatment, a painful death is nearly inevitable.  If the victims didn't die, they would surely have starved to death on the island.

Inside the buildings on Poveglia Island

 The next phase of Poveglia Island's history supposedly began in the early 1920's.  At this time, either a menacing insane asylum or a harmless retirement community was built there.  The story behind this supposed asylum makes the retirement community seem to be the more likely of the two.  Lovers of the paranormal claim that evil experiments were conducted on patients of the asylum by a crazed doctor.  The patients were also supposedly haunted by the plague victims who were buried on Poveglia Island.  The doctor himself reportedly fell victim to these haunting's and threw himself out of the island's bell tower.  The legend goes on to say that his suicide was witnessed  by an asylum worker, who said that the doctor survived the fall and was then suffocated by a mysterious mist.  The asylum or retirement community on Poveglia Island was closed sometime in the 1960's.

Poveglia Island buildings

 Whether you believe any of the stories surrounding Poveglia Island or not, there is certainly something mysterious about the place.  Many people have claimed to sense a presence or worse, while they were visiting the island.  Today, it is owned by the government and closed to the public.  It is currently being used for vineyards.  Whether or not the grapes that are grown there are fertilized by the bodies of the more than 150,000 people who have reportedly died there is a matter of speculation.  Nonetheless, you may want to check the label of your next bottle of wine that comes from this Italian region.