Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

The memory of Julián Gayarre, the accomplished nineteenth-century tenor, is perpetuated in his home village in the Pyrenees by a larynx preserved in formaldehyde. Karlos Zurutuza, who is a regular contributor to hidden europe, took the bus to Erronkari to unpick the tale of a local lad whose voice was revered in Europe's great opera houses.

article summary —

It is not often that one travels to view a larynx. “Call ahead and speak with Marta Zazu. She’ll open the door for you,” were the instructions. And thus everything was in place for a journey to Erronkari, a community of just two hundred souls in a mountain valley east of Pamplona. This is a part of the Basque region where the hills become ever steeper as one moves north towards the border with France.

Erronkari turned out to be such a slip of a place that calling in advance was hardly necessary.

Everyone in Erronkari knows Marta. When she is not busy in the Zaltua restaurant that her family runs on the southern edge of town, Marta can always be tracked down by having a word with anyone you chance to meet in the maze of cobbled alleys that make Erronkari.

Marta is always in town. Well, almost always. Every two years she makes an excursion to Pamplona, a regular foray undertaken only so that experts can inspect the larynx and check it is still in good condition. “Tuning,” says Marta, adopting a turn of phrase that seems peculiarly appropriate for a larynx.

This is just an excerpt. If you are a subscriber to hidden europe magazine, you can log in to read the full text online. Of course you can also read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 31.


Not content with the conventional maps of Europe and the Middle East, Karlos decided to hit the road and produce his own! He maps the contours of cultural life: Aromanians from Albania, Yezidies in northern Iraq, Armenian villages in Abkhazia and the Georgians in South Ossetia. These and a myriad of other isolated communities are the ‘pixels’ that Karlos plots on his ‘hi-res’ maps. Were it not for the magnetic effect that the mountains of Kurdistan have on him, he would gladly spend his entire life circumnavigating the Black Sea. He travels light, yet there is always space in his small backpack for two favourite books: Neil Ascherson’s The Black Sea and Jules Verne’s Keraban the Terrible. Karlos writes in Basque, Spanish and English. His work has been published in several newspapers and magazines. He can be contacted at kzurutuza@gmail.com.

This article was published in hidden europe 31.