5 - Stories from Galicia 1961 :
by Michael Furstner
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Rondje van Opa
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Freddie Warnaars had his
(geology) fieldwork area adjacent and to the South of mine, so we usually got
together every weekend.
When the two girls (Wivica and Antien) arrived we
made up a convenient foursome, riding on our two motorbikes, girls on the back,
everywhere our fancy took us : Caión, La Coruña and of course also
Santiago de Compostela.
My "home base" in Santiago always was Manolo's Bar on the Calle do Franco (??),
in the heart of the old city. (The bar had perhaps another name, but I forgot).
Manolo, the bar owner, was a large, easy going, friendly middle aged man,
with always a gentle smile on his face. I liked him a lot.
The bar stretched
over the entire (around 20 meters) width of the block between two narrow parallel
streets. One end of the bar had an entrance to the Calle do Franco (?), the other
end opened up to the other street.
It was therefore a very convenient
short cut to get from the one street to the other. But of course no one
in his right mind would rush through Manolo's Bar without having at least one
drink there. What else would you do with the time saved by taking that short cut
Manolo's Bar also served tapas and meals. My absolute favourite was a
large oval shaped white dinner plate with Pulpo en su Tinta (octopus
served in its own ink). Manolo's wife, after emptying its ink sac, would
casually throw the octopus on the (not all too clean) tile floor behind the bar,
then tenderise it by repeatedly hitting it with the flat side of a large ax.
When satisfied she would pick it up and take it into the kitchen to (we perhaps
somewhat too optimistically hoped) wash it clean, then cut it into pieces and
prepare it. But whatever happened in the kitchen, when served up to me the
octopus tasted deliciously.
On the floors above the Bar Manolo had several
Budget Hotel style rooms where we always slept, when staying overnight in
From Manolo's bar it was but a short stroll along the Calle do Franco to the
Praza do Obradoiro (central square) with is magnificent Catedral del
Apóstol on one side and the equally famous 500 year old Hostal dos
Reis Católicos on the side at right angles to it. Our Professor Den Tex always
stayed at the Hostal when checking up on our fieldwork each year, but us humble
students could no way afford such luxury.
The four of us (Antien, Wivica, Freddy and I) however went one Sunday
afternoon into this historic hotel to have a drink in its magnificent bar.
don't know why, but at the time I had a thing for Manhattan Cocktails,
and mixed them myself back in Holland at every opportunity. So it was only
natural that we should order 4 Manhattans at this plush bar.
In Spain in those days all cocktails were usually mixed using cheap,
locally produced spirits, but not in this bar ! The whisky was the
authentic stuff, legally imported from the Americas and fully taxed : very
So when the Bar man handed me the tab I almost feinted. Freddie, looking over my
shoulder, also suddenly felt very unwell. However my novia Antien came
immediately to the rescue "rondje van Opa" (Grandpa's shout) she
pronounced with a happy smile on her face.
It was Antien's Grandfather, Opa Jordaan, who had given the two girls this
holiday to Galicia and supplied them with enough cash funds to meet any
"unforeseen eventualities". This, in Antien's view, was clearly such
"eventuality". We all breathed a thigh of relief and happily toasted Opa's
health with our very very expensive Manhattans.
From that day onwards rondje van Opa became a much anticipated
everyday ritual. I am sure no man in history has been wished so much good
health in such a short period of time as our Opa Jordaan. We made sure
however to always select much more modest establishments for this event than
the one on that very first festive occasion.
As a sign of our great appreciation we bought Opa Jordaan a present on
one of the last days of our stay in Galicia : an (what we believed to be)
authentic, ancient, 60 cm (2 ft) high amphora. I carried it with me all
2,200 kms back home, strapped on the back of my motorbike.
accepted our gift with good grace and kept it in his lounge room until, after
his death a few years later, it fell back into Antien's and my hands again. We
brought the amphora with us to Australia and as far as I know it is still in
Antien's possession to this day.
The story of Opa Jordaan.
Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner