Las brujas de Zugarramurdi (2013)

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Again, if you’re not asking yourself WTF is this, it’s just not Álex de la Iglesia. Otra vez, si no estás pregutándote “¿Qué coño acabo de ver?”, no es una película de Álex de la Iglesia.

The Basque director returns to his bizarre horror black comedy genre in 2013’s La Brujas de Zugarramurdi (English Title: Witching and Bitching). El director vasco vuelve a su género preferido, la mezcla de terror y humor negro raro, en Las brujas de Zugarramurdi (2013).

The film begins in Puerta del Sol, the centre of Madrid. All of the guys in costumes have  a labryinthine plan to rob one of the infamous shops that buy gold. Jesús Cristo (José, played by Hugo Silva) and a green soldier (Antonio, played by Mario Casas) are in charge of the crime, and José’s young son Sergio (Gabriel Delgado) gets caught up in the madness when the police arrive on the scene. There is a elaborate shoot out with the thieves, who get away in a taxi that already had a passenger who was destined for Badajoz. La película empieza en Puerta del Sol, el centro de Madrid. Todos los disfrazados de Sol tienen un plan para robar una de las tiendas que compran oro. Jesús Cristo (José, interpretado por Hugo Silva) y un soldado verde (Antonio, interpretado por Mario Casas) son los encargos del robo, y el hijo joven de José, Sergio (Gabriel Delgado), se encuentra en la locura cuando la policía llegan. Hay un tiroteo complicado entre los ladrones y la policía, y los ladrones escapan en un taxi que ya tenía pasajero destinado a Badajoz. 

The taxi goes in a different direction, toward France, and Sergio’s mother calls to find out if he had had his snack. She finds out about the robbery and takes off, following him with the “Find my phone” app. The police then follow her. Ahora la taxi va en la dirección contraria, hacía Francia, y la madre de Sergio llama para saber si ya ha meriendado su hijo. Se entera del robo y persigue a Sergio con el app “Find my phone (Buscar móvil). La policía le persigue. 

That’s just the set up. If only this were the actual movie. Este es solo para dar el contexto de la película. Ojalá el resto de la película fuera tan buena. 

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They show up in Zugarramurdi, a village in Navarra on the French border with a history of witches. (It’s Spain’s Salem.) The film assumes that the witches are real and still living and casting spells there. The thieves get caught up in the witches’ plans for Sergio, as their devil needs a young sacrifice. One of the witches, Graciana, is the impeccable Carmen Maura, whose talents are far ahead of the film.  Llegan a Zugarramurdi, un pueblo de Navarra en la frontera de Francia con una historia de brujería. La película imagina que las brujas son reales y siguen viviendo y practicando brujería allí. Los ladrones forman parte de los planes de las brujas por Sergio, como a su diablo le hace falta un sacrificio. Una de las brujas, Graciana, es la impecable Carmen Maura, quien tiene talentos encima de la película puede mostrar. 

The film starts out great but fizzles out and could use some editing as the last hour, once they arrive in Zugarramurdi, drags. It starts out as a satire of Hollywood action blockbuster and turns into a bad horror film, and not even an enjoyable bad horror film. I will say the film was somewhat better than I remembered it. I was really disappointed when I saw it, as I love Carmen Maura and lust for Mario Casas. La película empieza bastante bien pero pierda mucho y empieza demorar mucho cuando los personajes llegan a Zugarramurdi. Necesita más edíción. Empieza como una sátira de una película de acción de Hollywood y después se desintegra a una película mala de terror, y no unas que se puede disfrutar de ser mala. Era algo mejor que recordaba. Me decepcionó mucho como me encanta Carmen Maura y deseo a Mario Casas. 

The ending is pure Alex de la Iglesia symbiotic excess, or this time, just grossing us out for the heck of it. El final es Álex de la Iglesia pura con “symbitioc excess”, o esta vez, ser grosero por ser grosero. 

Rating: C+

How to tell Alex de la Iglesias is from Bilbao: The random Euskera, the Basque history of Zugarramurdi, rain (well, it does take place in Navarra, which is the Basque Country), and all the “hostias”.

Here’s the trailer with English subtitles.

Rain, witches and France. Espelette, Zugarramurdi and Saint Jean Pied de Port.

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When I first arrived in Bilbao, capital of the world, I noticed flyers posted around town advertising day trips. I’ve always wanted to sign up for one, but never have for whatever reason. I’m not a tour group person, as I prefer to be able to take my time to explore a place and be on my own timetable. However, there are some places that aren’t accessible by public transport, and sometimes you just need to change things up.  Cuando llegué a Bilbao, la capital del mundo, vi muchos anuncios por la ciudad para excursiones a sitios cercá de Bilbao. Siempre he querido apuntarme a uno, pero nunca lo he hecho. Hasta ahora. No me gustan muchos los grupos de tour porque prefiero poder ir a mi bola y tener mi horario propio. Sin embargo, hay algunos sitios que hace falta transporte privado, y a veces hace falta variar los viajes normales. 

When I saw an excursion including Zugarramurdi, a place in Navarra famous for its burning of witches during the Spanish Inquisition, around the time of the Salem Witch Trials, I took the plunge and signed up. The trip included two French villages in the French part of the Basque Country, Espelette, home of peppers, and Saint Jean Pied de Port, a town that has meaning for me as a peregrino on the Camino de Santiago del Norte (and Camino de la Vida)  as it is where many pilgrims start the Camino Frances. Cuando vi una excursión a Zugarramurdi, un pueblo en Navarra famoso por quemar mujeres sospechas de ser brujas durante la Inquisición antes de lo mismo pasó en Salem, me aproveché y me apunté. La excursión incluyó dos pueblos franceses en el País vasco, Espelettte, sitio conocido por sus pimientos, y San Juan Pie de Puerto, un pueblo especial para mi como peregrino del Camino del Norte (Y el Camino de la vida), donde muchos peregrinos empiezan el Camino Frances. 

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After paying for the trip and learning more about the meeting point, I was excited, despite the rain forecast. The bus left from the San Mamés metro stop, and about 2.5 hours later, we were arriving in Espelette (Ezpeleta in Euskera), a French village of 2000 residents famous for its peppers and pepper festival. Después de apuntarme y pagar y enterarme donde quedamos para salir, me emocionó, aunque daba lluvia para sábado. El autobus salió desde la parada del metro de San Mamés, y unos 2 horas y medio después, estabamos llegando en Espelette (Ezpeleta en Euskera), un pueblo frances de unos 2000 habitantes, un pueblo conocido por sus pimientos y su festivo de pimiento. 

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On a rainy morning like this one, there was little going on. I had a café au lait, 2,30€, a full 1,10€ more expensive than on the other side of the Bidasoa River in Navarra, along with a chocolatin/pain au chocolate. El pueblo estaba vacío esta mañana tan lluviosa. Me pasé el tiempo tomando un café au lait por 2,30€…1,10€ más que el otro lado del Bidasoa en Navarra, y una napolitana de chocolate (pain au chocolate o chocolatin en frances). 

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The pouring rain let up some so I could do some exploring, and I found a beautiful bridge near the church. We had an hour and 20 minutes to explore. Durante una tregua de lluvia, exploré el pueblo, y encontré un puente bonito cerca de la iglesia. Tuvimos una hora y 20 minutos para explorar. 

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The next stop was a few minutes away on the bus, back on the Spanish side of the Bidasoa. Zugarramurdi, population 225, is a village tucked away in the Navarra Pyrenees that is famous for the 17th century witch trials. First stop were the caves, featured in the 2014 farce Las brujas de Zugarramurdi (In April, I will begin a feature on director Álex de la Iglesia, which will include a look at this movie). The caves were home to suspected witchcraft in the 17th century. The summer solstice is still celebrated with bonfires here. La próxima parada estaba a unos kilometros en el otro lado de la Bidasoa. Zugarramurdi, población 225, es un pueblo pirineo conocido por quemar personas acusadas de brujería en el Siglo XVII. Primero fuimos a las cuevas, que se puede ver en la película de 2014 de Álex de la Iglesia, Las brujas de Zugarramurdi. (En abril, voy a escribir más sobre Álex de la Iglesia.) Las cuevas era el sitio donde la brujería tenía lugar en el Siglo XVII.

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We walked around the caves, and if it weren’t raining cats and dogs, the views would’ve been spectacular. I was quite thankful to get to the cave where it was dry. The cave is beautiful. Paseamos por las cuevas, y si no estuviera lloviera tan fuerte, las vistas serían espectaculares. Estaba agradecido llegar a la cueva donde no estaba lloviendo. La cueva es bonito. 

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The next stop was the witch museum, and I was so thankful to be inside. The museum tells the history of the witch trials, including a very “experimental film” about the witches. By experimental, I mean lame. The museum was nice and showed a lot about how life was in Zugarramurdi in the early 1600s, when the witch trials took place. Después, fuimos al Museo de las Brujas, y otra vez, estaba agradecido estar dentro de un edificio. El museo cuenta la historia de las brujas, e incluye una “película experimental” sobre las brujas. Experimental quiere decir muy cutre. El museo estaba bonito y cuenta mucho sobre la vida de Zugarramurdi en el Siglo XVII, donde ocurrieron la quemada de las brujas. 

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Entrance to the caves and museum is both around 4.00€, but we had a group discount so I got in for 6€. However, with the ticket to one, you can save 1€ on the entrance to the other. The caves are worth it, but I’m so not a museum guy! La entrada a las cuevas y museo cuesta unos 4,00€, pero con el descuento del grupo entré por sólo 6€ a los dos. Con la entrada a uno, se puede ahorrar 1€ con la entrada a la otra. Las cuevas merecen la pena, pero no me llaman mucha la atención los museos para ser sincero. 

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The sun made a brief appearance, so I walked around the small village, taking in views, before I had lunch at the hostel restaurant, Graxiana, for 12,50. The lunch wasn’t bad, and the homemade yoghurt was delicious. Salió el sol durante un rato y aproveché para explorar el pueblo, mirando las vistas bonitas, antes de comer en el restaurante del albergue, Graxiana, por 12,50€. La comida estaba buena, y el yogur casero estaba super rico. 

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At 15:30, after exploring the town and getting wet a few times, the bus took off for our final destination, Saint Jean Pied de Port (San Juan Pie de Puerto in Spanish, Donibane Garazi in Euskera, St. John at the foot of the mountain pass in English) is a village of about 2000 habitants, but it feels a bit bigger. It’s located on the River Nive about 5 miles/8 kilometres from the Spanish border (I know for pilgrims it feels much longer!) and is a traditional starting point for the Camino Frances. A las 15.30, salimos por el destino final del día, San Juan Pie de Puerto, Saint Jean Pied de Port en frances, Donibane en Euskera. Es un pueblo de unos 2000 habitantes, pero se siente algo más grande. Está ubicado en el Rio Nive a unos 8 kilometros de la frontera española. (Sé para los peregrinos se siente mucho más largo) y es un punto tradicional del inicio del Camino de Santiago Frances. 

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We arrived about 16:30 and explored the old city walls and the citadel on a hill above the city. I got excited at seeing the albergue for peregrinos on the way. The rain started back up on the way, but it gave us a beautiful rainbow. The Camino provided me with a rainbow to encourage me to retake it this summer in Santander. I mean, it had to be a sign that there was such a beautiful rainbow at the start of the most famous Camino. Llegamos sobre las 16:30 y exploramos las murallas antiguas y la citadel en una colina sobre la ciudad. Me emocioné ver el albergue de peregrinos por el camino. Empezó a llover otra vez, pero nos dio un arco iris bonito. El Camino me regaló un arco iris para animarme a retomarlo este verano desde Santander. Quiero decir que tenía que ser un señal el hecho que había un arco iris tan bonito al inicio del Camino de Santiago más famoso. 

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After that, I went into a Basque gift shop and spoke a little Basque instead of French. I think I know more Basque than French, and I know maybe 30 words in Euskera! The clerk was delighted at my horrible attempt to speak Freuskera (Ni…Bilbon…vive?) . Después, fui a una tienda de regalos vasca y hablé un poco de euskera en lugar de frances. Creo que sé más euskera que frances, y quizás sepa unos 30 palabras de euskera. La dependiente se alegró con mi intento horrible hablar Freuskera (Ni…Bilbon…vive?) 

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I had a crepe before boarding the bus back to Bilbao at 18:15. It was a great day, a great trip and I crossed another place off my Basque Bucket List while seeing two more beautiful Basque villages. Gora Euskal Herria! Me tomé un crepe antes de volver al autobus para volver a Bilbao a las 18.15. Fue un día genial, un viaje genial, y taché otro sitio de mi Basque Bucket List y encima vi dos bonitos pueblos vascos más. Gora Euskal Herria! 

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Bruges (Brugge), which has no witches, and Ghent.

Belgium 303On Wednesday morning, my friend and I woke up all too early and caught an 8:04 train from the Most Beautiful Train Station in the World, Antwerp Centraal, to a city in West Flanders that many Spanish believe has witches due to the name being “Brujas” in Spanish, which means witches. I had my Starbucks, which is a full 1,50€ more than Spanish Starbucks, which I try to avoid as the bar cutre across the street has better café con leche. However, I always make a point to go to Starbucks in every new country I visit, except Italia, who as of 2012 still did not allow Starbucks. Things may have changed by now.

Yeah, I have to admit, Einstein Coffee was a bit better and a lot cheaper. But Starbucks is tradition.

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(Starbucks in the Bruges Train Station)

The train took about an hour and a half from Antwerp, and the landscape continued to remind me of northern Ohio, even more with the frost. After a 1 km or so walk from the train station, we arrived in the city centre. Bruges doesn’t allow buses in the city centre, which helps its UNESCO World Heritage Status. Bruges has a population of about 117,000 habitants yet receives around a million of tourists every year (more after being 2002’s European Cultural Capital). The city was once an important trade centre and later was important in making lace. Today it’s just a beautiful medieval city.

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As it was Wednesday, it was Market Day, so in their Grote Markt (Plaza Mayor), they were having a market selling vegetables and fruits and waffles (It is Belgium). I never really was a fan of waffles until I tried authentic Belgian waffles. Now I love them. We had our waffle and had a relaxing koffie (which comes with milk) in a café that seemed right out of a Swiss The Sound of Music.

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I found my souvenirs in a shop near the Markt, and after exploring a few of the buildings that make up this Markt (which is SO much better than the Grand Place/Grote Markt in Brussels, but more later) we explored the city and its canals. It really is the Venice of the North, but for me, it was better than Venice as I wasn’t having to duck into cafés to have yet another cappuccino to keep warm.

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My fave thing in the city was this lazy dog lying in the window, watching the canal go by.

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Also for the Spanish, this might possibly be a bruja. You know witches and black cats…

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Luckily, we had beat the tourists, who started arriving in masses about noon. We grabbed a quick lunch on the go about 13:00 and caught the train to Ghent, a half hour or so away.

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Ghent is a student city with about 250,000 people. The train station is located a good walk away through some not-so-beautiful places. The city was once important in the wool area as the river area is good for raising sheep. Spanish King Carlos V (Charles V) was born here, who was also Holy Roman Emperor. It is the third largest port in Belgium.

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My first impression was “meh”. When I saw the Cathedral and the “casco viejo” (old part of town, Spanish influences my English and I think “Casco Viejo” is English most days), I fell in love with the city. The Graslei,  Gravensteen and Leie River were my fave parts. The centre was incredibly beautiful, and I could easily imagine the summer here, having a relaxing koffie on a nice terrace. We also managed to see Belgian-Puerto Rican celebrity Gabriel Ríos out for an afternoon stroll. We rested a bit with that relaxing koffie before heading back to Antwerp.

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To be continued…

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