The provincial capital of Pontevedra is very special indeed. Apart from boasting one of the most beautifully preserved mediaeval quarters in Galicia, its Carnival traditions are a law unto themselves. While most places end their festivities on the night before Ash Wednesday, with the cremation of a sardine, Pontevedra goes one better and holds its final bash three nights later on the Friday. Not content with mourning the demise of an oily fish, this noble town decided back in 1983 to honour a parrot by the name of Ravachol.
When Carnival was re-established after the dictatorship, a lot of head scratching took place regarding the choice of mascot for such a posh town. It was finally decided to honour one of its beloved former citizens, a garrulous macaw from the turn of the century. Around 1900, the wonderfully named Don Perfecto Feijoo owned a botica, or chemist, very close to the lovely Capilla de la Virgen Peregrina. This place was a daily hive of activity and gossip, attracting the hoi-polloi and intellectuals of the day. Legend has it that Don Perfecto’s parrot was a very special one in the fact that it was trained to weigh up customers and then inform him if it was worth his while climbing down the ladder.
The parrot would also let fly with ribald comments from time to time and not surprisingly, he swiftly became the talk of town. Ravachol’s untimely death was met with great consternation and much public grief. A funeral cortege with full civic honours was laid on and the whole town turned out for it. Over a hundred years later, thousands of pontevedreses, dressed strictly in mourning attire, period or modern, follow the cortege down ancient streets once again, cramming into the main square for the cremation, amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
A special mention needs to be made of traditional Entroido tucker in Galicia. Boiled Cacheira, or cured pig’s head, served with grelos or turnip greens, Cachelos, the excellent Galician potato, and blood red chorizos. This huge mound of meat and veg is usually served with the local gum-staining Pais Tinto red wine, with Gaseosa or soda/lemonade, and poured into small white porcelain bowls called Cuncas. For desert, order Filloas, delicious cinnamon flavoured pancakes, and a shot of the tar-like Licor Café, local coffee based livener made from Augardente or fire water.