Triumvirate L’Escala

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It's not every day you queue up behind a centurion for bread, but then this was L’Escala – a fishing village close to the Greco-Roman settlement o f Empuries on the Costa Brava and it was their “Triumvirate”. Every May the village celebrates its Greek, Roman and Iberian history with a ten day festival of activities. Market stalls selling items and foods typical of the Greco Roman times line the streets and costumed villagers sell their wares. Wonderful piles of fresh bread, cheese and olives were side by side with stalls offering local olive oils and wine all served by maidens in togas. Long queues formed for the children’s section and it was delightful to see Nintendo minded youngsters patiently waiting for a ride on a hand made wooden carousel operated by a man pedalling a wooden wheel with one foot. They also enjoyed the games of the time: hoops, spinning tops, roll-a-coin etc. Crafts men demonstrated their work. There was a man making metals implements using hot fires, woodcarvers, and leather workers, plus women making clothing. Restaurants offered ten days of feasting. Each one offered a different menu specialising in foods which would have been available during those ancient times. The three – five course menus varied in price from 22€ – 44€. Dishes on offer included creamed pea soup with squid, shell fish, grilled octopus, baked lamb with herbs, local mushrooms, salted cod, duck with figs, and a range of desserts from baked apples to dried fruits and sweet pastries. Some of the meals included garum – a paste made of fermented fish, and some of it was found when the ruins were first discovered. It was still edible as it had been stored in an amphora, the taste however was not described. Garum was a major export from Empuries during the time of the Greek and Roman Empire and was prized as highly as expensive perfume. Not only did it feature in Roman cookbooks as an essential ingredient, it was also apparently a cure for various ailments and used in cosmetics. Nowadays it is used as a condiment on some of these dishes made to ancient recipes. L’Escala’s famous anchovies also featured on many of the menus. All the meals were accompanied by copious amounts of the excellent Emporda wines which have also been produced since the Romans settled there. The highlight of the festival has to be the many displays of military finesse carried out on the beach of L’Escala. The glittering gold uniforms and helmets shone brightly in the sunshine. Drills are carried out regularly little different to to-days square bashing, although it has to be said some of the centurions appeared to be raw recruits as marching was often out of step. The battles between gladiators were very realistically staged and much enjoyed by youngsters. The atmosphere thoughout the festival is very lively with tourists and locals mingling to enjoy the activities, all of which were free, including entrance to the Museum and ruins of Empuries during the Triumvirate which is highly recommended.

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