Monday, September 26, 2016

Basque Txakolina Wine

The presence of the vine in Bizkaia goes back a thousand years. From the 12th to the 13th centuries onwards, wine growing for self-sufficiency and local consumption began. Etymologically the word comes from “etxakoa” (“home-made”) or “etxeko ain” (enough for home).
During the 14th and 15th centuries, local wines began to be controlled and protected. The first documented evidence appears in a text dated 1616, containing a reference to ‘vino chacolin’ to designate the local wine. But early in the 20th century, the competition from foreign wines and industrialisation together with a phylloxera outbreak destroyed much of the 2,874 hectares which had figured in the census in 1891.
Despite this uncertain outlook, at the end of the 19th century and early in the 20th century txakoli experienced one of its greatest moments of glory with the emergence of “chacolines”, bars for the exclusive sale of txakoli where, in addition to salted cod, squid and elvers were served in a happy, popular atmosphere. 
Halfway through the 1980s a small group of producers drove forward the revival of the vineyards and improvement in txakoli production in Bizkaia. This work received recognition with the granting in 1994 of the “Txakoli de Bizkaia-Bizkaiko Txakolina” Designation of Origin.
Right now, the term Txakoli-Txakolina is a traditional term protected by European regulations.

It is a wine with a marked personality in which white ones predominate over “ojo de gallo” rosés and red ones.
The cellar of Iker Ulibarri (pictured) is made of stone and is actually an extension of his home. In the backyard they have 2 hectares of hondarrabi zuri grapes. The soil contains clay, sand, slate and schist. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged on the lees with more than average of ‘batonnage’. It’s bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2 added, and it’s one of the few wines in this “difficult” coastal area that is both organically grown, and certified too.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


The Mounaques are life-size dolls, made ​​with rags and hay, typical of the village of Campan (Hautes- Pyrénées).
They are dressed in clothes and represent men, women and children in daily life.
Every summer, from July to September, Mounaques are exhibited in the streets, on balconies or in gardens of houses in the village of Campan.
Traditions in Campan are strong and (like wearing berets) the Mounaques are still made in the same way as the forefathers did; it takes some 6 hours per model.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


The Cagots were a persecuted and despised minority found in the west of France and northern Spain: the Navarrese Pyrenees, Basque provinces, Béarn, Aragón, Gascony and Brittany. Their name has differed by province and the local language: Cagots, Gézitains, Gahets, and Gafets in Gascony; Agotes, Agotak, and Gafos in Basque country; Capots in Anjou and Languedoc; and Cacons, Cahets, Caqueux, and Caquins in Brittany. Evidence of the group exists back as far as AD 1000.
Cagots were shunned and hated. While restrictions varied by time and place, they were typically required to live in separate quarters in towns, called cagoteries, which were often on the far outskirts of the villages. Cagots were excluded from all political and social rights. They were not allowed to marry non-Cagots, enter taverns, hold cabarets, use public fountains, sell food or wine, touch food in the market, work with livestock, or enter the mill. They were allowed to enter a church only by a special door, and during the service, a rail separated them from the other worshippers.
They were compelled to wear a distinctive dress, to which, in some places, was attached the foot of a goose or duck. So pestilential was their touch considered that it was a crime for them to walk the common road barefooted or to drink from the same cup as non-Cagots. The Cagots were often restricted to the trades of carpenter, butcher, and rope-maker.

The Cagots were not an ethnic group, nor a religious group. They spoke the same language as the people in an area and generally kept the same religion as well. Their only distinguishing feature was their descent from families identified as Cagots. Few consistent reasons were given as to why they should be hated; accusations varied from Cagots being cretins, lepers, heretics, cannibals, to simply being intrinsically evil. 
The Cagots did have a culture of their own, but very little of it was written down or preserved; as a result, almost everything that is known about them relates to their persecution. Their cruel treatment lasted through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Industrial Revolution, with the prejudice fading only in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Lucky Find: Vintage Beret Labels

A very lucky find on Ebay this morning: a collection of old beret labels I have never seen before.
Beret aficionados know how many beautiful labels there are (or were in times gone) and I must have close to 300 different models in my collection now.
And yes, sometimes I find a whole lot that I have never seen, in real life or published.
Some are true works of art in their own right; often depicting beret wearers with a nice sense of humour, showing rain, turned up umbrellas (to prove impermeability and the superiority of a beret over an umbrella) and always a happy face.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Chechen Berets

When working in Chechnya in 1997, I managed to get hold of two berets of the Chechen fighters ("Boiviks"); a woolen green beret and a beautiful black velvet affair (that is now rapidly disintegrating).
Both carried the original badge of the Chechen wolf, a national symbol of the Chechens.

Later on, the Chechens abandoned by the West, other badges started appearing with stronger symbolism of Islamic affiliation. Pictured here Isa Munayev who was was killed while leading a Chechen volunteer unit on the Ukrainian side in the War in Donbass in 2015.
Below the famous picture of a boivik by photographer Romano Cagnoni. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Black Panzer Beret (Schutzmütze)

One beret-like hat I often come across while researching historic berets, is the Schutzmütze, the black "Panzer Beret" of the Nazi's German army. I have long resisted, for obvious reasons, but of course, it is still a real part of beret history.
Image result for panzerschutzmütze
With the creation of the new Panzer arm of the German Army in 1934, a special style of uniform was designed and issued for wear by all ranks. Known as Sonderbekleidung der Deutschen Pantertruppen (special uniform for German armoured troops); this new uniform exemplified the elite status of the new arm and was regarded as highly prestigious. 

It had a special protective headdress (Schutzmütze), designed to offer protection against the hazards of head injury inside the armoured vehicle. The headdress consisted of a rubber crash helmet which was covered with a detachable black wool beret. The earliest examples bore the oakleaves badge and cockade attached to the front in white and national colours (red/white/black for the cockade). From May 1936 the Nazi's eagle and swastika badge was applied.

During the invasion of Poland in 1939, the Schutzmütze proved impractical when worn in conjunction with improved tank communications headsets and so by the winter of 1939-40 became increasingly unpopular; it was phased out over the following two years. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Charles Albert Cingria

Charles Albert Cingria (1883 - 1954) was a Swiss writer and musician.
The family of his father Albert was from Ragusa (now Dubrovnik ) and lived in Constantinople; his mother Caroline Stryjenska (1846 - 1913), born in Carouge (Geneva), was a Polish-French painter.
Between 1902 and 1909, Cingria travelled in Switzerland, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Africa and Turkey, before moving to Paris in 1915. The Second World War forced him to return to Switzerland. After a stint in Lausanne and Geneva, he moved to Freiburg where he found a miserable attic room .
Cingria travelled around Switzerland by bicycle. He survived by publishing in journals of the local press and giving lectures. In 1944 , he returned to France. Thereafter, he lived in Paris, Aix-en-Provence and in Switzerland. In 1954, he was repatriated to Geneva, where he died of cirrhosis on August 1, the Swiss national holiday.
Cingria's manuscripts are kept at the Cantonal and University Library of Lausanne.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Doina Ciobanu's Red Beret

Doina Ciobanu was born in Moldova, a country that straddles both European and Russian cultures.
Starting at the age of 17, she’s been recognised by the likes of Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, and GQ UK all the while being tapped as one of the top 19 Young Entrepreneurs of Romania by Forbes and the Fashion Icon under 30 of Harper’s Bazaar’s Fabulous at every age.
Doina has worked with luxury fashion brands as diverse as Agent Provocateur, Fendi and Versace, was the first ever digital influencer to be the face of a Paul Smith campaign, and has worked with beauty brands such as L’Oréal and Bobbi Brown.
Despite being on a plane each second week, photographing by day and attending London’s key social events by night, Doina is also currently completing a bachelor degree in political science and diplomacy.
Last, she does pretty well with a red beret.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Spotkanie ze szpiegiem

Spotkanie ze szpiegiem is a 1964 Polish crime/espionage movie by director Jan Batory.  
A submarine surfaces off Poland's Baltic coast; a man disembarks, then uses a hot-air balloon to fly into Polish territory. He lands in thick woodland and buries the equipment that he will need for his escape when the mission is over.  
As he does this, he's being watched by an obviously harmless and slow-witted forest worker, who, as an unwanted witness, is immediately and unceremoniously killed. Although the spy's submarine has been detected by the Security Services, who have despatched a search party to track him down, he nonetheless manages to make it to the Polish capital, Warsaw. 
The city is a network of go-betweens of both sexes, of traitors to socialism, all just waiting for the chance to make contact with him: in modern parlance, it's a nest of 'sleepers'. Coded radio messages are broadcast, dead letter boxes set up, secret meetings arranged and information is gathered about military installations. 
At times, it's not clear exactly what is being spied on and to what exact end; but what is obvious is that the espionage is directed against the creation of a socialist state in Poland and against its intrinsic values of peaceful co-existence and compassion. And we know from the opening moments of the film, that the spy will ruthlessly murder people without a second thought. After some confusing to-ing and fro-ing, the action culminates in a long car chase, during which several people are killed. However, the villain is finally captured and brought to book, to get the punishment he deserves.

Friday, September 16, 2016

peSeta ad

This charming short spot has been released to promote the new collaboration between peSeta (espadrilles) and Marc Jacobs (designer), although the espadrilles themselves don’t make an appearance until quite late in the day.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Parhelios Visière

Sometimes I come across a real treasure when searching for beret related material: the Parhelios Visière just made my day!
I have never seen one in real life; the ad (above) comes from a 1932 newspaper and judging by the look of the coloured promos pictured, I would think they were made until the 1970's or thereabout. 
The Parhelios Visière is a Basque beret with retractable transparent eyeshield, making it a perfect accessory for (motor)-cyclists and sporters. Supposedly there was a transparent shield version and a darkened yellow version by means of sunglasses.
Would love to find one myself, but fear it may be the proverbial needle in a haystack...