Adam Schell

October 16, 2009

Sevilla, Huelva y Granada

The birds of the Guadalquivir river are busy in conversation

Flying and squawking about

All over the world, 8:15 in the morning is a decent hour,

but in Andalucia it is still dark.

What have the Spanish done with the sun?

Some years ago, around college, I once read, on the side of a closed reggae club in North Chicago, ?Knowledge comes from accepting and appreciating other cultures.? Well, if that be the case, than I suppose I?m about to embark on a marginally ignorant and intolerant digression. Of course, for the busy and impatient, of which I am so often one, do not feel obligated to read the beautiful, stirring and hilarious prose to follow. Your inclusion in these emails is merely a testament of my affections and the fact that I never figured out how to include a blog on my website. Hence, feel no obligation to read any further, but rest assured; Tracy, Asher and I are enjoying our time immensely and learning much of Spain, both ancient and modern.

After a near month I of living here I have no choice but to admit that Spain, is a mind-boggling country (I suppose most are), of proportions that make their Latin brethren, the Italians, seem rather rational 환수계약 크립트랙트 다운로드. I find the contradictions of modern Spain ubiquitous and often overwhelming. In every city we have been the Spanish love of children is tangible, yet if a mother and toddler-filled stroller should happen to occupy the same too-narrow stretch of ancient city byway as a speeding Sevillano driver? which in no way was ever meant for the modern automobile? beware mother and child! And when an irate father from the States, nearly pulls said driver from his car in a violent fury, they will look at you with utter bafflement as if their behavior was nothing at all out of the ordinary. Indeed, the drivers of Sevilla, especially, seem to take a perverse joy in seeing how close they can speed by pedestrians and how quickly their human foil can scurry out of the way. All this might in some way be explained if this was at all a country in a hurry, but the drivers of this land, no doubt, are never in any real hurry. No one ever is, and I doubt, short of rushing a pregnant woman to a hospital, the Spanish even comprehend what it means to be in a rush. Just moments ago, our waiter at a little pizza joint, with no sense of urgency, hopped on his scooter, taking the restaurant?s only other employee with him, without even glancing over his shoulder at his only table anxiously waiving at him to bring us the check 구글 플레이 책.

Yet still, this moment of glaring aloofness and professional irresponsibility pails in comparison to my two favorite moments thus far. The first occurring just the other night while staying in a three star lodge in the mountain town of Lanjarron. It was a hot night with precious little breeze and no cross-circulation in the room. Try as I might, I could not crack the European hieroglyphics of the room?s air-conditioning remote control. I went to the front desk and asked the night attendant, a very professional looking 50 year old woman, what I might be doing wrong. To which she replied, without the least bit of irony or apology, that they turn off the air-conditioning and fan come October 1st and that I should? and I kid you not? ?Try sleeping with my shirt off.?

Good one, no? Alas, it gets better. In Sevilla last week while breakfasting at a cafe that offered nothing of possible consumption for a baby short of coffee and croissants, I noticed a good two-dozen ripe bananas in the cafe?s display case, many actually a bit too ripe. Nevertheless, when I asked if it was possible to order a banana for Asher (our one year-old son), our waiter replied that the bananas are only allowed to be served with ice cream 다운로드. Okay, I said, then we?ll have some ice cream and a banana. Not possible, she answered, we don?t serve ice cream in the morning. You can have a beer at 9 am, but not a banana for a hungry baby. Ah, the joys of Spain! No wonder no one tips here.

This country is mad. Just meters from where we?re staying sits an ancient hot spring (never mind that the facility has all the charm of the sanatorium from One Flew Over the CooCoo?s Nest), whose legendary curative waters have been in use since the Romans occupied this land, and one of the reasons why we came here for a little respite. Yet, by the time I managed to navigate the three page health flyer one must first fill out and was then informed of the ?curative programs? available, the shear bureaucracy proved stupefying. Using the best of my translation abilities my conversation with the squat nurse who appeared in desperate need of a curative herself, went something like this.

Me ? Okay, I understand this is the basic curative program.
Her ? Yes, you get 10 minutes in the curative tub, 5 minutes in the curative shower, 15 minute therapeutic message, a walk on the healing cold stones and a glass of the curative water 다운로드.
Me? I see, yes.
Her? 36 Euros (that?s about $50), 1 hour.
Me? Yes, I see, but what if you don?t want that program?
Her? One has to have a curative program.
Me? One must have a curative program?
Her? Yes, one must.
Me? But how much is it just to come in and soak?
Her? Just soaking? This is not possible.

How in heavens name can a country exist of such startling and glaring irony? At once the most nonchalant and laid back of places, where enjoying one?s life is the paramount reason for existence, whilst simultaneously being a land mired with tedious and pointless rules and bureaucracy. A three hour lunch, a six hour work day, a well-coiffed businessman who will gladly waddle away 15 minutes ogling a baby, living hand in hand with banana-stingy waiters, lunatic mad drivers rushing to nowhere, curative waters tarnished by pointless bureaucracy and train conductors all to willing to toss a family of tourists from a near-empty train (us) for the slightest and most understandable of misunderstandings. (Who in the world would ever have thought that when you?re on the return side of a roundtrip ticket you have to still present the first half of the ticket.) I tell you, if you know anything about the Spanish Revolution of the 1930?s (extreme right verse extreme left and seeming no one in the middle) the ironies and dichotomies of the Spanish psyche that drove this land to such a horrendous war, are in some ways as alive as ever 다운로드. (By the way, the other reason why we came to Lanjarron is that October 12th is a country wide Holiday, Spain Day, and while we?d planned on returning to Cordoba, that city?s hotels, like just about every other city of touristic interest, triple their rates for the holiday weekend.)

If you sense that I?m coming across a bit cynical and jaded, no doubt, it?s true. While this is, perhaps, the greatest country in the world for lovers of ham and cigarettes, for those who do not begin and end each day with a smoke and speckle all parts between with pork, it can be quite maddening. Wonderful too, but maddening. This is a land of glorious ingredients and all to often exceptionally lazy cooking. (Yes, I said it, and unless you?re traveling by Mercedes with Mario, Gwenyth, Bittman, and that other annoying Spanish babe, you?ll most likely end up agreeing with me.) A land where heart breakingly good olive oil is drizzled over iceberg lettuce and unripe tomatoes, where artisan cheeses ? a near godlike commingling of man and sheep? is laid over bread so lazily crafted that the word ?pan? leaves your mouth with the spite and vigor of a curse, and it seems like the entire country has come to secret agreement whereby vegetables ?baring the potato and the bless?d olive? are to be uniformly left from the menu or boiled to near oblivion, as in the awesome looking but mushy and near-tasteless white asparagus. Or finally you find that one gem of a restaurant where the bread is crisp and good, the vegetables fresh and a true and deep shade of green so rarely seen in Spain and the cooking heartfelt and inspired, yet the service so mind-bogglingly aloof and inattentive that your order is wrong and your waiter surly for being reminded of his own mistake 유로트럭2 다운로드. And then there are the absences, great swaths of time were your waiter seems to have been sucked into some black hole so that when he reappears and finally sets before you that dessert that looked so delicious when you ordered it 45 minutes ago you have neither the energy or appetite left to eat it.

Forgive me, but I just had to get that out. All this talk of Spain being the new gastronomic center of the world, I just don?t get it. Perhaps in Barcelona or Bilbao, and if you?re up for dropping 300 Euros for dinner, but not here in Andalucia. Now what the hell was I saying? Oh yes, me being a bit jaded toward Spain. (Ya think?) Just the other day, Tracy and I were talking about The Spanish Madness, actually, she was giving me crap for being disgruntled about one thing or another as I?ve often been, and it dawned on me that my cynicism and frustrations with Spain are not entirely the result of my American middle-age-dad-non-smoking-non-pork-eating-bourgeois-ness, though I must admit some of that has definitely crept in. More so, as I realized in my conversation with Tracy, Spain and the Spanish are very much the villains in the book I?ve come here to research and my eye, in turn, is framed on villainy of the highest order. Hence, need I even say, take everything I say with a hefty grain of salt.

That said, as the madness of Spain is glaring, so to are the glories and beauties of this land 다운로드. Since I?ve last written we?ve wandered the magnificent streets of Sevilla: Visited the Cathedral there, a stupendous structure of vaulted ceilings and exalted Christian imagery that frames the electric blue evening sky as magnificently as any building I have ever seen, partaken of the city?s wonderful tapas bars, soaked in it?s ancient Hammam (yes, I went to another bath house), and best of all, attend a top division European futbol match; Sevilla Futbol club verse Real Madrid. Yes, the churches and palazzos are amazing, the tapas bars straight from the Spain of Hemingway with bull?s heads, barrels of sherry and legions of cigarette smoking bull fighting aficionados, but I must admit, our most stirring moment was being among the 85,000 Sevillanos singing the city?s anthem as the home team beat Real Madrid. Nothing in all my years of both playing and attending college and professional American football can compare to the passion, enthusiasm and glory of Spanish soccer, and I must confess, both Tracy and I now bleed Sevilla red!

From Sevilla we headed down to Huelva, a major site on the Columbus trail, of which the book I?ve come to research has much to do with. The city itself, unattractive by Spanish standards, is a prosperous and lively place with a raucous market that seems to have changed little in 700 years. Fishmongers, covered in blood and squid ink, shouting out the freshness of their catch. Every imaginable sea creature, fish, shellfish, crustacean, mollusk, heaped upon stand after stand 다운로드. It boggles the mind to think the oceans can still put forth such bounty and that the fish market of Huelva is but one ? and a small one ? of the countless fish markets that dot the globe. A stinky, horrendous, glorious, downright medieval affair that I found both ghastly and entirely enthralling.

So too was I taken by the Columbus sites, beginning with the quaint and captivating Monastery of La Rabida, with it?s Moorish foundation and Christian flourishes, where Columbus, lived, prayed and planned his voyages. But a speck when compared to the monster cathedrals that adorn Spain, La Rabida, nonetheless, carried far more humility and spiritual energy than any church I have seen thus far. It also held great irony, as to think that the ?discovery? of the New World and the accompanying genocide of an entire people was planned ?accidentally so? from such a humble little monastery. It?s an irony that in many ways is still alive: for as La Rabida, now a museum, honors Columbus and the brave men who sailed with him, the exhibits and audio tour make only a slight and passing mention of the cruelty dealt the indigenous peoples and no mention at all of the millions who died 마이크로소프트 익스플로러. To say nothing of the glaring irony that I have yet to hear mentioned at all in Spain, that one can not really ?discover? something that was never lost to begin with: a land well-peopled, flourishing and as ancient as any tribe of Iberia. Saying Columbus discovered America is as stupid as saying Phoenicians discovered Spain.

However, what does stand without irony and with great testament to the grit and determination of Columbus and the men who sailed with him, are the near-exact recreations of his three ships in the nearby port of La Rabida. The first thing that struck me, though I had read of this often, is just how small and sparse the vessels were, especially the Nina and the Pinta. Only Columbus?s ship, the Santa Maria, had a private quarter, the still small captain?s quarter where Columbus slept and planned, though it?s reported that he did much more planning than sleeping as the Admiral was a well-known insomniac. The ships are all hard places of wood, iron and rope with little space for a sailor to take cover from the elements. The skill and toughness of these men, often boys, certainly stirs the imagination, as equipped with little more than a small rucksack they sailed off into the deep blue with an intermittently charismatic and aloof captain whose zeal they could little understand or match.

From Huelva we headed our land ship, so to speak, the fine and timely Spanish Train system (I tell you, the fascist Franco would be proud of modern day Spain?s Train system, clean, punctual and often attended by conductors seemingly cut from the General?s same cloth.), toward the magnificent city of Granada 다운로드. My God, what a city that is. One of the great joys of Spain is visiting here not so much for what it offers now, but as an evocation of what it once was. How quickly these ancient sites of twisted, cobbled, tiny streets, or the gleaming white of the Great Alhambra looming over the city below can stir the imagination to a time and place when men sipped tea while bickering in Ladino (an ancient blend of Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish), steam seeped from the city?s Hamman?s and the minaret rang out it?s call to prayer. The Alhambra is, as everything from today?s travelogues to yesteryears Tales of the Alhambra attest, a magnificent place. Most striking to me, however, was not the Alhambra itself, but the view of the Alhambra from the heights of the Albacin, the ancient Moorish-Jewish neighborhood that occupies the hill adjacent to the Alhambra. To sit at the Mirador de San Nicholas as Flamenco Gypsies strum and clap and wail out their guttural song and look the Alhambra in the eye ? majestic, mammoth, framed by the 11,000 foot peaks of the Sierra Nevada, unreasonable in its beauty? is to feel, even for a flickering moment, nothing short of ancient. Alas, this is why I have made this journey, and frustrations and madness aside, I am all the richer for it.

Blessing from Toledo,
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