hidden europe 2

Along Galician shores

by Nicky Gardner


Spanish Galicia is a land shaped by emigration. The coastal town of Muros neatly combines fish, tourism and some tall tales

There are some places around here which are scarcely Spanish. Muros is one of them. Its eyes look out to sea... to Argentina, to Cuba and all the Americas. Out in the bay at Muros there are the mussel rafts (bateos), little grey-black islands that bob in all the Galician rías. It was fifty years ago that the first bateos were introduced to the Ría de Muros, a little later than they appeared in some of the rías further south. Nowadays, there are over 3300 of those floating nurseries in the long inlets which are so prominent a feature of the Spanish coast south of Cape Finisterre.

The earliest bateos were primitive affairs. Some were no more than an old boat hull or a few planks secured by rope made from esparto grass. Later, wooden crates and pallets were lashed together to create more substantial structures. Nowadays some of the suspended mussel rafts are sophisticated floating islands, and nylon has replaced the esparto grass in the ropes. The structures are held in place by metal cables. Hazards to navigation they may be, but the rafts are a mainstay for the economy of the communities around the larger rías. The blue black mussels are especially prized and bivalve aficionados claim that, even when blindfolded, they can easily distinguish the taste of the creamy orange flesh of the Galician mussel from its lesser rivals.

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