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The snow wells in Spain and their history
It can be the less shocking to speak during these warm months of snow or ice in Spain. Summer months in which, the steppe in which this country is gradually becoming.
Can you imagine how our ancestors were fixed to have ice and snow during the summer? Today I want to talk about the primitive snow wells, how they were made and how they were able to keep the ice in solid state during the hottest months of the year. By the way, these curious constructions are today more fashionable than ever, yes, as a tourist claim.
Brief history of snow wells
The snow well is a dry excavation, covered with stone or brick and provided with drains where the snow was stored and preserved for use in the summer months.
Generally, snow wells are stone structures of various sizes and shapes, although round were usually built. Served to store the snow that fell during the winter months. This was kept and pressed here to use it during the warm summer months. These wells had several uses from the traditional ones to conserve food, to doctors, culinary and playful.
The snow wells consisted of two parts fundamentally. The internal is an excavated hole in the earth, of variable depth, whose ground was totally smooth and dry. This was provided with a frame so that the snow did not directly touch the ground and to facilitate that the melted water escaped through some drains and to eliminate moisture. The walls and soil used to be covered with plant matter that acted as an insulating.
The external part of the structure is a conical stone construction covered by several increasingly small stone rings that when closed create a vaulted structure.
MANUFACTURE AND USE OF ICE
The snow wells were usually located in high levels and in mountainous areas. Also in places where snowfall were frequent and were mainly used for ice manufacturing.
Its process was very laborious and several operators such as “the boleros” or pawns from outside and the “empzadores” or “prisoners” who were responsible for crushing and cakesing the snow to occupy less space inside the well inside the well inside the well.
Inside the "paleros" distributed the snow with blades inside the well and once a certain thickness was reached, they were covered with branches, ferns, pine needles and straws that served as an insulator.
With the arrival of summer, the pressed ice was extracted, cut and the "muleteers" transported it in cars taking advantage of the freshness of the night to the denials where the "Neveros" also called "Aguadores" sold it.
Snow wells in Spain
Although snow wells are located and distributed throughout Spain, there are a lot of them on the Mediterranean coast, Balearic Islands and in large and important cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Seville or Salamanca.
Next, I will talk about some of them:
- Balearics. In Galileu there is the "Cases de Neu", a tank excavated at the end of the 17. From there the day laborers lowered the ice bars to Palma de Mallorca for later use with medicinal, gastronomic uses or simply for food conservation. The capital was the main destination of ice, to the point that an edict was promulgated in 1656 that established penalties for those who commercialized ice abroad while palm was short.
- Castellón. The region of the Alto Palancia (Castellón) is probably the place of greatest concentration of snow wells in Spain. Here they were destined to the supply of nearby Valencia, to which ice cars arrived in the morning after a night route fleeing the extreme heat hours. The friars’ snowdrift is one of the greatest and best preserved in this set. It is dated in an inscription in the rock in 1769 and also, its great dimensions remember the power of its owner, the Cartoixa de Portaceli.
- Salamanca. Salamanca also has an amazing construction in which our ancestors stored and retained the snow they brought about mules from the mountains of France and Béjar to turn it into ice, which then took the opportunity to make ice cream or sorbets, as preservative or for therapeutic purposes. Attached to the old Salamanca wall we find a spectacular well of more than seven meters deep covered by a slate vault. Its good state of conservation and its great dimensions attest to the power of the capital charra centuries ago. Likewise, the City Council organizes guided tours to show this surprising structure.
Snow wells, a refreshing experience
Undoubtedly our ancestors managed more than well to combat high temperatures that hit southern Europe every summer. In Spain we know a lot about heat, so the whole territory is plagued by these structures that are the snow wells that made life more bearable during the most rigorous months of the year.