Art Landya Where Bears And Dolls Come To Play

There are bears lurking in the hills of Santa Barbara above Icod de Los Vinos in the north of Tenerife. Don’t be alarmed, these are of the small, friendly, and cheeky variety, and they are so gentle they share their home with the most delicate and ornate porcelain dolls. I was expecting a small gathering of the cream of the toy world but there were 400 on display at the newly opened Art Landya museum and finca.

George and Ingrid Taupe have gradually transferred their collection from a similar museum in Carincia in the south of Austria as they have transformed the ruins of an old farm into a feast of natural colour and design. Ingrid started the doll collection in 1992 fired by her artistic studies. “I love the contemporary dolls that enjoyed a boom in the 1980’s and 1990’s, makers around Europe began to make them with such wonderful stylish designs and costumes. Later teddy bears also enchanted me with their distinctive characters and they fit well with the dolls.”

George looks after the business side of things but as they showed me down from the living area to the converted stables I could see he shares Ingrid’s creative vision, the cascading fruit trees, turtle filled ponds, and trailing plants entwine to make the 11,000 square metre farm seem even bigger. The views were pretty special too with a calima (dust cloud) shrouded Mount Teide towering over one side and a steep drop to Icod and the sea beyond on the other.

The smaller stable door opened into a long display area. Was it my imagination or had the rows of teddys quickly frozen after mischievously scuttling around on their shelves and in their alcoves? One of their stock suppliers had told Ingrid that for a teddy to make you love it, first it had to make you laugh. Maybe it was the tilt of their head or those big button eyes but they all seemed to have a sense of fun whether they were cooking, entertaining a few stray dolls, or relaxing on a window ledge. Two well wrapped up New Zealand bears were trying a spot of skiing, some small chunky wooden bears from Russia pulled apart to house candles with open mouths to release the smoke, and a smiling trio had even embraced the Three Kings tradition.

Out and down one of the family and wheelchair friendly ramps through the gardens, it was time to meet the ladies in the main stable. Dolls of all sizes and varieties awaited, the traditional and more fragile porcelain models were around the walls in glass cabinets. The museum has moulds to make porcelain body parts and a small kiln to fire them in for the curious that want to see how they are made. There are other alternatives, some dolls were made from cloth and two distinctive sisters with ginger ringlets were made from papier mache and coated in wax. The chubby cheeks and freckles were all sweetness and light but their smiles hinted at a less angelic side.

Most of the dolls come from France and Germany but oriental and eastern European groups showed the wide spread interest through all corners of the world. Ingrid always has an eye on new recruits “I’d like more Russian dolls. There is a big gallery in Moscow, their dolls have a more religious feel and fashion. African stone ethnographic dolls are another ambition of mine, we could make a special area for them here.”

I felt quite guilty closing the door on the bears and dolls but they need a constant cool temperature, I still think they all burst into life and play once they are left to their own company. Museums are often seen as coldly serious but in the sun kissed wine region of Icod de Los Vinos, Art Landya is offering warm lively memories of the pleasures of our youth.

FACT FILE

Art Lanya ““ El Finca, Camino Moliero, Santa Barbara, Icod de Los Vinos

Open ““ Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm

Price ““ 10 euros, children 6 to 14 years 4.50 euros, free to under 6 years old

Contact ““ (0034) 922 812615

Location – Around 8 minutes drive from Icod centre, or 358 Titsa bus from Icod

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Holding the Fort in Tenerife

It has always struck me that, for an island which for much of its history has held such a strategically important position on the world trade map, there are precious few castles on Tenerife, save for those that plop out of buckets and have flags stuck in them until the tide comes and washes them away.

You would think that, having fought so hard to take Tenerife from its original inhabitants, the Spanish would have immediately set about shoring up their defences so that no-one else could come along and steal their prize. But it would seem that the blueprint for Tenerife political life was set right back at the end of the fifteenth century when the policy of ‘do nothing’ was first established.

After the discovery of the New World, Tenerife became the gateway to trade between Europe and the Americas bringing her untold wealth and the attentions of every English and French ship sailing the Atlantic under the ensign of a skull and crossbones.

Despite repeated attacks on her major ports throughout the sixteenth century, Tenerife remained incredibly and completely bereft of any form of defence and it wasn’t until the invaders came under threat of invasion themselves that the thoughts of Tenerife’s settlers turned to the issue of strengthening island defences.

In 1513, with nerves on edge over the Spanish war with France, a committee was convened in Santa Cruz to agree a defensive strategy. Suggestions for the construction of a fort were dismissed on the grounds that a military presence may disrupt the “˜socio-economic rhythm’ of trade. The committee disbanded having left the defence of the island to the watchtowers and smoke signals that lined the coast scrutinising for foreign sails anchored beyond shipping routes.
No-one apparently thought to point out that, without fire power, the ability to spot an invasion as it happened was tantamount to selling tickets to your own demise and was probably not the sharpest military strategy ever devised.

Money talks
Economics eventually dictated common sense when, at the end of the 16th century, war impoverished Spain woke up to the fact that her treasury was completely dependant on gold and silver imports which came via Tenerife. Finally, moves were made to shore up that income stream.

Work began on fortifying Tenerife’s lucrative ports, beginning in Santa Cruz with the construction of the Castillo de San Cristóbal in 1575.
Sited in the centre of the bay on what is now Plaza de España, the castle became the centrepiece (and for 60 years the only piece) of the city’s defences.
At the same time, Tenerife’s wealthiest port of Garachico constructed the Castillo de San Miguel and a few years later the moated Castillo San Felipe was constructed in the port of La Orotava, now Puerto de la Cruz.

In 1604 as wine exports grew, the port of Santa Cruz was expanded prompting the need for further defences beginning with the construction of Paso Alto which became the mainstay of the port’s protection against the attempted invasion by Admiral Blake in 1657.

In 1641 the outbreak of the Portuguese revolution sparked further fear of invasion and the Castillo de San Juan Bautista, or the Black Castle as it was known, was constructed.

The addition of the Torre de San Andrés in 1706 made Santa Cruz virtually impregnable and by the time Admiral Nelson attacked the port in 1757 it had the firepower of 84 canon and 7 mortars housed in three castles, two forts, a tower and 12 batteries. What Tenerife lacked in numbers of castles, it made up for in defiant spirit when the Santa Cruz defences held against that attack by Nelson and the proudest day of the island’s military history was born.

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Fine Art Worth Seeking out in Santa Cruz

Is it the sign of a good gallery if the security guard’s eyes follow you around the room? In the case of the Museo Municipal De Belles Artes in Santa Cruz it was sadly more down to loneliness, as I was the only visitor for much of my midweek trip.

You don’t know what you’re missing; the grand lilac fronted Museum of Fine Arts looks the part from the moment you find it in Calle Jose Murphy, behind the Plaza del Principe. The busts stare down from their alcoves between the stone columns; they finally settled down here when the building opened in 1933, the collection itself was started in 1900.

Racing up the stone stairs to the first floor, I was stopped in my tracks by a very impressive stained glass window, the sombre tone it suggested was soon dispelled when I entered the contemporary art hall. First up was Celebration, a large bright collection from Santa Cruz artist Cristina Temes. The paintings were impressive. I was predictably drawn to the football piece, but following into a dark room at the back I found some visual art including light projections on thin canvas. Next door was something even more testing on the senses, a dark room featuring three micro short films by Jose L Luzardo. Aberraciones Visuales was a visual tease with an eyeball’s view of night violence, slightly naughty animals and a light and music show from a mobile phone. I like weird, it’s just my cold cup of tea with marmalade and gravy stirred in. You have until 13 June before these contemporary treats change.

Up the stairs to the sprawling and more traditional gallery, a sculpture of a boy busker by Aurelio Carretero greeted me. The detailed quality was confirmed by the name plate stating it was on loan from the Prado gallery in Madrid. A series of open and interlocking rooms drew me through a world of huge portraits and local history. Much of the first section centred on the Marques de Villaseguro; his furniture, his art, and his benevolent projects around Santa Cruz. A room at the end opened out into a small concert hall padded with imposing paintings, I was told the piano was tinkled on fiestas and special events.

Most of the works are loaned from private collections. One of the most valuable is the triple treat Tripitico de Nava Y Grimon by Flemish painter Pieter Coecke. Once I had admired it from several angles I noticed that it is owned by Cepsa, the oil company, better than trusting your money to banks these days.

Culturally uplifted, I left the museum and admiring the statues on the nearby Circulo de Amistad building. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were sculpted by Pedro and Eduardo Tarquis, and Teodomorio Robayna, the driving forces behind the founding of the Museum of Fine Arts.

FACT FILE

Museo Municipal De Belles Artes,

  • Calle Jose Murphy, Santa Cruz
  • Tel (0034) 922244358
  • www.sctfe.es
  • Entry FREE
  • Open Monday to Friday ““ 10am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 3pm.
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Top Ten-erife Museums

When you decide to do a feature on Tenerife’s top ten museums, you have to ask yourself two questions: Firstly, are there actually 10 museums in Tenerife and secondly, who cares?
Well the answer to the first may surprise you. So far, by TMs reckoning there are actually 24 museums on Tenerife and there may be some we’ve missed.
The second question is definitely worthy of consideration when you have offspring intoning “boooooring” at the very notion of a museum, so in choosing our top ten we’ve used the words “˜fun’, “˜quirky’ and/or “˜fascinating’ as our criteria.
1. Museum of Science and the Cosmos ““ La Laguna
This museum epitomises the concept that learning should be fun; play cosmonauts, lift a car with one finger, lose yourself in a hall of mirrors ““ the possibilities are as endless as the cosmos itself.

2. Museum of Anthropology ““ Valle De Guerra
Everybody loves to nosey around someone else’s house and there are oodles of house and grounds to explore and discover in this 18th century version of Through the Keyhole meets Upstairs Downstairs.
3. Museum of Man & Nature ““ Santa Cruz
Three vast floors cover everything from the Canaries’ explosive creation to present day with the top floor ‘mummies’ grabbing the macabre highlight. If you don’t find something of interest here, check your pulse.
4. Military Museum ““ Santa Cruz
Housed in a working barracks and proudly displaying a scale model of the whole sorry Nelson vs Tenerife affair alongside enough military exhibits to fill a battle ground. This is Nirvana for Call of Duty addicts.
5. Wine Museum ““ El Sauzal
Send the kids off to count the hairs on a giant bee’s knees in the adjoining honey museum while you get acquainted with the finer qualities of Tenerife’s viticulture. Bonus points for the excellent restaurant.

6. Masca Museum ““ Masca
Rudimentary tools, utilities and living conditions in a remote rural settlement before the advent of tourism”¦set in a remote rural settlement after the advent of tourism. Fascinating social history in an unrivalled location.
7. El Portillo Visitor Centre ““ Teide National Park
Violent eruptions on film and interactive displays that explain how the whole volcano thing works; all set within a mock volcanic tube. The colony of lizards who live outside the entrance add an extra, lively exhibit.

8. Casa Méndez-Fonseca ““ La Orotava
If you’ve ever wondered what life was like behind those intricately carved balconies, now’s your chance to find out, for the price of a shoestring. Dusty, creaky, unpretentious history in this quirkiest of museums.

9. History Museum ““ Granadilla
Another quirky gem, this time in the back streets of Granadilla. Exhibits include a wonderful, macabre diorama featuring a Guanche mummy in this museum which is not much bigger than a large doll’s house, with the headroom to match.
10. Pyramids of Güímar ““ Güímar
From Columbus to Thor Heyerdahl, the fascination of exploration and discovery is beautifully presented in this museum within a museum. Join the “are they or aren’t they” debate about the origins of the pyramids and learn how to build a reed ship; you never know when that might come in handy.

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La Laguna, Stargate To The Cosmos

What were they thinking of, over 100 complex scientific exhibits and school children were clambering on them, twiddling buttons, playing at astronauts and generally wreaking havoc. Was it the end of the universe as we know it? Well not quite, just another lively hands on, interactive introduction to science at the Museum of Science and the Cosmos in La Laguna.

Getting involved is a key part of the museum’s agenda, it starts outside on the roof terrace where Wi Fi desks encourage on line research. Museums can be a bit bland but there is no chance of missing this one as a whopping great satellite dish, the tip of a radio telescope, hugs the roof and lurking in the background a silver pod is in fact an optical telescope. One Friday a month the museum holds astronomical sleepovers for up to 50 children and accompanying adults, perched on the rise into La Laguna it’s certainly a great vantage point.

If I wasn’t already in a scientific frame of mind, a peek down at the Santa Cruz tram below and at a plane above heading for Los Rodeos airport, certainly did the trick. With a gale blasting across the roof it was time to head inside and join the school party. After using my bono bus ticket to get a half price 1.50 entry I headed down the ramp to the large video wall that backs the open café area. It’s just vending machines for food and drink, I suppose a Mars or Milky Way would be appropriate.

The exhibits are laid out in open plan spread roughly around the circular building and organised into sections concerning the universe, the human body and the wonders of science and technology. One alcove covers observatories around the Canary Islands with a model of the Grantecan in La Palma, it’s the biggest telescope of its type in the world but politicians are currently bidding against other countries to add a new Super Telescope. I found the Teide observatory model interesting, a quick push of a button and details of all its telescopes were displayed in Spanish and English, as most exhibits are.

There are two big stars in this museum, I just missed the allotted time for the planetarium but have seen it before, it’s small and intimate but top quality with reclining seats that make you feel cupped in the hands of the solar system. My favourite is the Cosmic Tour, a chance to travel to other planets as if by magic with the help of 3D glasses and earphones. It’s very cheesey but great fun, maybe aimed at younger people than me but I defy you not to enjoy it. When I emerged from my space flight, the school party had gone and the museum was back to half a dozen of us rattling around, maybe the kids got abducted by aliens?

You can’t fault the museum for effort, they take their remit seriously, they often have special themed exhibitions and film shows followed by discussions with experts about science related matters in the films. Then there are the astronomy nights, guided group visits, birthday parties, touring exhibitions and even a Cosmos Van that does road shows, and a free email or text service will make sure that visitors can keep in touch long after they return to the outside world. It’s not the biggest museum you will find but it has lots going for it and will soak up a good couple of hours of your time.

FACT FILE

  • Museo de la Ciencia y EL Cosmos, Avenida de los Menceyes, La Laguna
  • Tram stop – Museo de la Ciencia Y El Cosmos
  • Tel (0034) 922315265, www.museosdetenerife.org
  • Open, Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 7pm
  • Entry, Adults, 3 euros, Children 1.50, pay with Bono bus ticket for 50% discount
  • Planetarium, One euro extra, book on arrival.
  • Special events, book in advance
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Beating The Floods For A Trickle Of Visitors

You would think that nature would show some respect to a building that celebrates its history in Tenerife, but the half repaired paths, fencing and busy workman show that’s not the case. The Museo de la Naturaleza Y El Hombre (Nature and Man) has just reopened after floods coursed down Barranco Santos through Santa Cruz, leaving a trail of mud and damage. Thankfully after taking a detour to the entrance, I found the former Civil Hospital as grand and welcoming as ever.

The three storey building was opened as a museum in 2002 and immediately impresses with its spacious and airy layout fashioned around two large courtyards. The mini guide, available in English, Spanish and German, mapped out my route through the many exhibition halls starting at ground level. Good use of lighting and huge video walls made sure that the origin and nature of the Canary Islands sprung into life as I worked my way through. Volcanoes were the driving force as the islands emerged and they get plenty of attention in the early rooms. This was dangerous, I could start sounding intelligent if I took all of this in, I made a note of the words Geo-Morphological, must try and slip them in the conversation next time I’m down the pub.

Moving up through the central stairwell it was time for archaeology and natural sciences. The gallery that runs around the courtyards had lots of work stations for school parties, but these were not in use. I only saw four other visitors on my Thursday visit, still nearly twice as many as my Sunday call a year ago ““ and that was a free entrance day! I shall suppress my urge to rant about how ungrateful the public are and tell you about the exhibits.

The collections of fossils on the first floor are pretty stunning. Apparently there are no really valuable minerals in the Canary Islands but more than enough rock stratas to get an expert in a right old state of excitement. The displays of larger-than-life model sea mammals were pretty nifty too, and all the way through the rooms there were shelves of multi lingual guides.

Here I am trying to be educational and the real reason you have clicked this article is to find out about the crumbling skeleton. Hitting the top layer of this historical chocolate box I found the museum’s most famous inhabitants, the Guanche mummies. The aboriginal founders of life in Tenerife date back to between 100 BC and 1000 BC and tucked away in their own alcove six complete bodies bring the past dramatically to life. The bodies were discovered around the island, mainly in La Orotava and reading the notes on this proud warrior race it’s clear they had short and very hard lives. I found the bodies fascinating and not macabre but must admit to a chill of unease at the mummified internal organs, young children and even a foetus. Quite a way to end my two hour stroll through history.

FACT FILE

  • Museum of Nature and Man, Fuente Morales, half way between the bus station and Plaza de España.
  • Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 7pm. Closed Mondays.
  • Entrance, adults 3 Euros, children 1.50 Euros, pay with your Bono bus ticket for half price entry. All Sundays are FREE.
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Santiago Del Teide’s Casa del Patio Opens its Doors

Casa del Patio

18th November 2009 was quite a momentous day in Santiago del Teide.

One hundred years ago to the day, Mount Chinyero erupted high up in the pine forests of the municipality. Nervously driving along interminable rock-strewn tracks designed for feet rather than wheels and waiting for one or more tyres to burst, I accompanied Tenerife’s press and dignitaries to mark the occasion at the historic site .
Looking completely out of place amongst the frozen black lava fields that lie as testament to the island’s last volcanic eruption, the posse of be-suited men and gold-shoed women struggled to negotiate the terrain to watch the unveiling of a plaque at the foot of the volcano. After the release of half a dozen doves we all trooped back to the vehicles to once more taunt tyre-bursting Gods on our descent back to Santiago del Teide.

Safely back at the pristine grounds of Casa Del Patio, I was finally able to explore the tantalisingly lovely building that has been under restoration and off-limits for many years and that yesterday was finally opened to the public. Including a permanent exhibition to Chinyero’s eruption, it was a tardy but timely finish to the project.

Home to the former Lord of the Manor, Fernando del Hoyo y Solórzano, Casa del Patio was built in the 1660s and up until the early 19th century was occupied by the feudal owners of Santiago del Teide. Now immaculately restored by the Council of Tenerife, it includes stables and a horse riding school; a shop selling traditional pottery, local products and wine; a beautiful Tasca with Canarian cheeses, hams, sausages and wines; and an elegant restaurant with a covered outdoor terrace looking out towards the volcano.
There are wine presses and a small bodega and plans are afoot, or should I say ahoof, to open horse riding trails. There’s even rumour of a Canarian theme park.

And as if that isn’t sufficient to entice anyone en-route to Masca to stop and spend a little time in this delightful town, a small rural hotel within the Casa del Patio is due to open its doors within the next few months.
Santiago del Teide is a glorious municipality for hikers, with trails crossing lush valleys and fragrant eucalyptus and pine forests as well as the walk to Chinyero itself which is through stunning surroundings. The downside has always been access to the town which is a lengthy business from just about anywhere on the island. But with a rural hotel in the town, the words cherry and cake will be on many people’s lips.

A word of warning though. When Fernando del Hoyo was declared Lord of the Manor in 1663, his jurisdiction included the right to ‘incarcerate, hang, spike the heads of, garrotte, whip with a cat-o-nine tails, cut off extremities or set free any or all miscreants and lawbreakers”. Three centuries may have passed but in many ways the picture postcard town hasn’t really changed all that much. If I were you, I’d be very nervous of parking on double yellow lines.

Casa del Patio, Santiago del Teide; tel (0034) 922 104 913; email info@senoriodelvalle.com; www.senoriodelvalle.com; wine museum open 8am – 6pm.

Casa Del Patio's elegant restaurant

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A Tenerife Mystery ““ The Güímar Pyramids: Ancient Wonders or Farmers” Rubble?

Before anyone gets excited and pictures themselves decked out like Lawrence of Arabia on a grumpy camel at the foot of some Giza like golden pointy structures, Tenerife’s pyramids aren’t quite like their Egyptian cousins.
In looks terms, the Egyptian pyramids are George Clooney, whereas Güímar’s are Woody Allen ““ not particularly stunning to look at but fascinating nonetheless.

Güímar’s are step pyramids, similar to those in Peru and Mexico, a fact that Norwegian adventurer, Thor Heyerdahl used to support his theories relating to the migration patterns of ancient civilisations.
Heyerdahl attracted controversy throughout his life, often because he wasn’t part of the established scientific community ““ something in his favour. It’s the people who challenge the established order who change the world, not those who kowtow to it.

His claims that Güímar’s pyramids were built by the Guanche have ignited heated debate on Tenerife for decades and have been treated with as much scepticism as his assertions that an ancient race could travel across the Atlantic on a reed boat. Wait a moment; wasn’t he right about that?

So why the fuss, are the pyramids real or are they an elaborate hoax?

The Pyramids are the Real Deal – Thor Heyerdahl and Supporters

  1. Güímar was a Guanche stronghold (this is recorded in Victorian explorer’s diaries). Even by the early 19th century, if outsiders visited a sacred Guanche site without permission the chances are they’d end up in a stew pot. If there were going to be pyramids on Tenerife they’d be somewhere like Güímar.
  2. There’s undisputed evidence of a Guanche settlement on the actual site.
  3. The Guanche were sun worshippers and the pyramids are laid out so that they are perfectly aligned with the summer solstice sunset.
  4. The rocks used for the pyramids have been carefully laid with a flat side facing out and have been trimmed so they fit together perfectly.
  5. Step pyramids are hardly unusual in ancient civilisations.

They’re a Work of Fiction ““ The Sceptics and the Farmers

  1. They’re a hoax constructed to fool tourists and part them from their holiday spends. Hands up how many people have actually been to Güímar? If that was the reason, it’s not been very successful.
  2. The stones used only date from the 19th century. This one comes from a couple of Canarian astrophysicists who also suggested that they were built by Freemasons. Historians are still laughing at that one. Maybe it was a mistranslation and they actually meant stonemasons.
  3. They are nothing more than discarded farmer’s rubble. This is my favourite of all.

Have you seen discarded farmer’s rubble on Tenerife like the piles of agricultural stones in Güímar’s Malpaís, or on Montaña Guaza? It would take an incredible feat of organisation and planning by local farmers to lay their rubble in such a way that it could be mistaken for step pyramids. And there lies one of the strongest arguments of all.

Co-ordinated organisation and planning ““ how likely is that?

It’s obvious where my vote goes. I like a bit of magic in the world. The question that bugs me is this.
On an island which is so proud of its Guanche heritage why are there so many people who feel so strongly about the subject that they cast doubt over their most sacred Guanche legacy?
Local farmers I can understand. When Thor Heyerdahl first championed the Güímar pyramids the area was about to be developed for housing. It must be a right bugger if you own land primed for property development which then turns out to have archaeological importance.

The Pirámides de Gűímar are open every day from 9.30am-6pm; entrance is €10.40 for adults, €5.20 for children.


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Fisherman’s Museum ““ Puerto Santiago

Three resin based fibre glass figures perch on a roof unloading half of a real fishing boat embedded in the wall. Fish heads and tails enter and emerge from a seascape looking down on the local west coast beach. Not just a homage to local fishermen, but also a head-turning work of art from Roanne-born and Paris-trained French sculptor, Bernard Romain.
Completing the piece in 2002, Bernard hung daily from the roof on a small swing, stopping occasionally to discuss his ideas with passers by. No newcomer to “˜big art’ Bernard’s giant flag mural draped over the Normandy cliffs achieved Guiness book of Records status.

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