The Spanish Language Blog

"In a place in La Mancha, whose name I do not remember, lived a knight not long ago..." The famous first sentence of the Spanish novel "El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha. Translated into Dutch, it means "The ingenious nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. A book about an old gray-haired man who, by reading many books about knights, thinks he is a knight himself.

  • The author of Don Quixote, Cervantes, started writing the novel when he was in prison for unpaid debts. In addition, he was called el manco de Lepanto (the flawed one of Lepanto) when, in a battle against the Ottomans in the Battle of Lepanto (1571), he so injured his left hand that it remained permanently paralyzed.
  • The brave knight Don Quixote was actually named Alonso Quijano, but the knight didn't think that sounded heroic so he went on an adventure with his new name.

Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in Alcalá de Henares on Sept. 29, 1547, and died in Madrid on April 23, 1616. He was one of the most important novelists/playwrights in Spanish literature. Cervantes did not have an easy life, for although he was Catholic, his partly Jewish ancestry did not make things easy for him in the Spain of the Catholic Reformation. He left for Italy where he published some elegies and fought with the Spanish army against the Ottoman Empire. When he wanted to return to Spain in 1575, he was captured for 5 years by privateers from Algiers. As if one time in captivity was not enough, he was captured again in 1597, but this time for unpaid debts. He decided to write a story during his imprisonment: thus, the book about Don Quixote and the Windmills was written in a prison! He released the first part of the book ("The Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha") in 1605. Although this book was successful, Cervantes died in poverty after he released the second part of the book in 1615.

Alonso Quijano, an old, gray-haired man who loved books and stories about knights immensely. He read so many that one day he felt like being a knight himself. Accompanied by Sancho Panza, a small, fat, illiterate peasant whose main interest was food and lured along by the attractive promise of an island, Alonso, under the name Don Quixote of La Mancha, set out on a wander through rural Spain. His goal? To right all kinds of wrongs and become famous through his good deeds. Don Quixote on his horse Rosinante and Sancho Panza on a donkey too small for this fat peasant. The adventure had begun! Of course, the most famous part of the book is the part where the brave knight battles the giants. While Sancho Panza is still loudly shouting that they are windmills and that fighting them will be futile, Don Quixote heads full of courage and full speed toward the giants. "Do not flee, blode and low creatures! It is a single knight who attacks you." He thrusts his lance into a blade and is immediately swept away. Swinging heavily, the knight rolled into the field. This time he had lost, but next time he will defeat them. And they continued on their way to Puerto Lápice, for there they would encounter many and varied adventures.

2-Euro coins

Nice to know that on July 30, 2005, a coin was issued to commemorate "400 years of Don Quixote". In fact, member countries of the European Union are allowed to issue special 2-euro coins to mark special events. The circulation was 8,000,000 coins, so who knows, you might come across one.

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