In Galicia, you can still find the occasional public washhouse in use. I don’t mean launderette, but rather a public facility for hand washing.
By far the most beautiful is this “lavadero gratuito” in Betanzos on the Rio Mendo. Built in 1902 by the Garcia Naveira brothers (local boys who emigrated to Argentina, made a fortune and then came back to build many public services for their community).
It is absolutely beautiful, and till now, I had been told it was only occasionaly used by passing gypsies. However on this visit I met Fina.
At first I did not want to bother her as I thought she was having a big fight with someone but then I realised she was just talking VERY LOUD (actually everyone in this part of Spain talks very loud – it takes only 2 people in my parent’s bar to converse and completely drown out the noise of the television…).
Anyway, Fina was lovely, and happy to chat, she told me she was born and bred in Betanzos and that she had always washed her big items here and that lots of other people still did so also. Only in the summer though, it’s freezing here in the winter. However in a neighbouring room there was also a place to make fires to heat water and boil your whites (though this part is not used anymore).
On the upper floor it’s a symphony of white with space and lines to hang hundreds and hundreds of things…