Oh, Spain, what am I going to do with you?
I have been looking forward to Spain for a long time. Truth be told, I am not even sure why.
When I try to dissect this attraction, I cannot find many whole organs in there, mostly parts and spills that have somehow managed to work together and hypnotize me – “oooh, you like Spain..ooooh…aaaah, you really like Spain”. Digging deeper, I position the various fragments on the metal table next to me and they look like – daring Flamenco, soaked with danger and grace matadors, world explorers, sun, beaches, rich history, culture that created the perfect food for sharing and company – delicious tapas, or paella cooked in big pans over the fire and enjoyed by many at once; fields of oranges…the really small pieces are on the tips of my fingers, like the exotic looking actors with Spanish accent in movies or the really tiny strands that make a connection between Latin America and Spain adding even more excitement to the image of the country as a whole.
Our actual experience of Spain started promising. Driving along the coast from France was hilly and green with villages dotted here and there. Bilbao is a delightful city with nice old parts, plenty of tapa joints and of course the Guggenheim on the river. Zaragoza was in the midst of its biggest festival and alive all night, food carts right across the river from us smoking constantly and people all over as to be expected. Then we drove to what looked like outback Australia, plenty of red earth, giant rocks and not much greenery. Empty looking villages whizzed by and the ugliness of high rise apartment buildings was the only thing to break the view from time to time.
The closer to the coast we got, the more those disasters of modern building started to get in our view, until we saw the pinnacle, the crème de la crème of off high altitude living – Benidorm – aka the city with the most high rise buildings per capital in the whole World. I would use it as a perfect example for students of how tourism can ruin anything, even charming old villages on the sunny white coast, which is what Benidorm was before it turned into a 70,000 people town that looks like New York (sadly without any of the appealing skyscrapers). Look it up, if you don’t believe me.
It is in the proximity of this, monstrosity, that I realized, I am not actually loving Spain. It is not exciting, it is not buzzing from the hard to contain mix of flamenco, raging bull power, unstoppable curiosity of explorers and passion. Passion I was badly craving after Scandinavia and Germany.
The fact is that I am not seeing it. I am not seeing the Spain I expected. I am going to assume that the recession has smothered it, because to think that it does not exist is too hard.
Now we are in a village with two thousand people or so, visiting a friend. There is the option to stay here for the winter. The funny thing is that I had dreams of “wintering in Spain” in the beginning of this journey. It went something along the lines of being cuddled up in a charming village somewhere, soaking up the passion and life around, learning Spanish. Mr.Blab is pushing for us to stay, I am looking for the exit. I want to be done with this leg. I want to rush back to Bulgaria, spend Christmas and New Years with friends and family and then fly to Central America, where I have a hope of learning Spanish with buzz around. Where my kids can learn it on the streets with children and stop for a bite of street food in between.
The village has a charm.
We are picking pomegranates from trees around.
Or you can buy them by knocking on this door:
One thing is for sure, Spaniards are warm and welcoming folk, so we felt comfortable at Sunday lunch with mama’s baked rice. It was delicious by the way, especially with the excellent company.
We even get to savor the beginnings of Coca-Cola in a liquor that comes from here (I bet you did not know that. I did not).
The surroundings are beautiful and promise a good walk or two.
Down the bridge a river flows, inviting spot for afternoon play and yet another fruit tasting.
The city nearby has enough charm amongst the by now familiar modern build up.
Still, so far the most exciting thing has been the Wednesday market, where it did seem as though there are more than 10 people living around.
The rest of the time it is a ghost town. A ghost town of which we live in the outskirts in a rather modern townhouse.
And I am quickly realizing how much I really need people. I knew it before, but this is pounding the point even deeper.
I am missing people. I am missing passion.
I am missing my imaginary Spain.
P.S. Looking at these pictures, I wonder if I am not just a whiny bum after all. That will be such an easier concept to accept. Maybe I am just tired or something, grumpy…
P.P.S I will keep you updated with developments.