February 16, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Spain, Travel, Travels in Spain

As I sat in the bus licking the open half of my oreo cookie, I thought about how I really wanted an hórreo. Yeah, this really happened during my trip to Galicia last week.

So, you’re thinking, “I know what an oreo is, Tortuga Viajera (and I could kind of go for one right now with a glass of milk), but what, pray tell, is an hórreo????” I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, bear with me as we take a trip down memory avenida.

Years ago, when I first visited the Spanish autonomous community of Galicia, I marveled at these odd structures that were perched up on stilts in the gardens of so many homes. They were stony, unfriendly and somewhat peculiar with their reliably placed cross at the head of each roof. Driving through the lush countryside of Northwestern Spain I discovered that these bizarre buildings were truly a staple in the Galician landscape. Like cerveza on a hot Spanish afternoon, they were everywhere.

I searched all corners of my brain – what could these creepy structures be for? Then, I branched out and searched all corners of Jacobo’s brain (which I do about pretty much everything I come across in Spain, much to his irritation). As usual, when he couldn’t give me a solid answer, I crossed my arms, pouted, and then turned to my trusty BlackBerry where I looked it up. Sure enough, a quick search later and I had the answer I needed. They were, you guessed it, hórreos!

Truthfully, in the days (minutes, hours, I don’t remember) that I spent agonizing in curiosity, I genuinely thought they were tombs, raised up to be protected from the tumultuous (nonexistent) flood waters that threaten the rolling hills of Galicia. Not a logical hypothesis, and clearly not the answer.

It turns out that they are like old school Spanish pantries that people used (and perhaps still do) to store goods like flour and other grains. The non-tombs are elevated on stilts to protect from rodents, and have slits on the sides to provide ventilation. Brilliant! And because I know you’re craving some nerdy facts, you should know that they can be found in countries across Europe, and that their existence in Spain traces back to the first century. (Feel free to “wow” your amigos with those impressive facts!)

Obviously, these fancy pantries are exceptionally rad, so I kind of want one. Don’t you? I’m pretty sure I know just what I’d store in mine too. Why, oreos of course!


8 Responses to “Oreos, hórreos and fancy pantries”

  1. Stephanie D Says:

    Great post! I love how you mine Jacobo for information and then pout when you don’t get what you need. I do the same thing with Iñigo!

  2. Erin Says:

    These guys…don’t they know they’re supposed to know everything about Spain? Geesh.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    We were just talking about going to Galicia soon. Now, I want to go even more to see these interesting little houses. Maybe my husband will have to alter the playhouse plans he is building for the kids in our jardin.

  4. Erin Says:

    You must make it out to Galicia! Between the landscape and the food, you just can’t go wrong. And it’s SO different than the rest of Spain!

    An horreo playhouse sounds like a brilliant idea ;). I can just see it now – you and your family driving back to Catalunya from Galicia with an horreo in tow. This way you can fill it with enough empanada and tarta de Santiago to last you for ages!

  5. robin Says:

    I spent some time in Galicia as a child and you’ve really brought back some memories here 🙂

  6. Heather GG Says:

    In Asturias, hórreos are also extremely common, and a little different – they are almost always square with four pillars. If they are rectangular with more than four pillars they are called paneras. Our wedding photos were done with an hórreo in the background and one day I hope to have a little country house with one.

  7. Benson Dana Says:

    We just returned from a 3 week vacation in Galicia. I only speak a little Spanish but the wife is a Spanish teacher. I have decided to try and make a simple Orreo enclosure for our mailbox. It shouldn’t be too difficult, but a good challenge, nevertheless. This website has some nice pictures:


  8. Erin Says:

    I love this idea! When you are finished, you will have to post a picture of the final product (perhaps on the La Tortuga Viajera Facebook page?). I might have to make one of my own whenever I move back to the States!

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