Thursday, July 31, 2008

Poor Suffering Spain

I am in the midst of reading a book about the Spanish Civil War, which as you will recall was a tragedy the befell Spain in the late 1930's. Much suffering was visited upon Spain for selfish reasons by the triumvirate of Hitler, Mussolini and General Franco. (Yikes! Can you say Iraq?) After the destruction of the Spanish Civil War, the nation was bypassed by WWII, and then ignored when the Marshall plan helped so much of the rest of Europe regain its footing. Spain was left to its own devices ruled by the dictator Francisco Franco.

We made a brief journey into Spain and it was somewhat disappointing for me. Now, instead of destruction and ruin, thankfully, Spain is experiencing the joys of a economic boom. Joy, however, is probably not the right word. Everywhere we went there was major construction going on. On the roads, in the villages, almost anyplace we went was the noise of construction. Most of the roads we drove on were experiencing major highways being constructed nearby. I do believe there are some major tax advantages that Spain has compared to France and the result is a construction boom. A few weeks ago in Llivia (the tiny exclave surrounded by France), we noticed the same phenomenon. There are too many new buildings going up and nothing looks settled. Construction cranes dominate every skyline. I suppose buildings were torn down to make way for the new because it seemed as if there was not a building in Spain older that a few years.

We didn't get far into Spain as we didn't have too much time. We had decided to visit Pamplona and the Western end of the Pyrenees. Because we weren't sure if we would even be there before nightfall, we didn't make reservations anywhere. The result was no room at the inn. Pamplona was full. We struggled to find a parking space long enough to get out and find someplace to stay. When Nancy did find someplace to stay, they would not take a dog, or it was too expensive. We ended up staying at an airport hotel that could have been in Oklahoma for all the charm it exhibited. I remember, from a much earlier trip with a college roommate back in the early 70's, that Spain was more rough around the edges than other European countries.

Nonetheless, we found some beautiful places and saw some interesting sights on the way back to France. We stumbled upon a Roman ruin with gutters and/or sewers still intact. I had no idea the Romans had been in this part of Spain, but they had gotten to northern England, so why not here. There was an amazing old hill town that was reminiscent of Italy, but neglected by tourists. It too suffered from the feeling of being a little rougher, more unkempt, dirtier and the climate drier than things over in France. It had a beautiful church, winding streets and amazing doors. We passed from this town on into the area impacted by construction related to the ski areas and recreational opportunities offered by the Pyrenees. Poor suffering Spain, indeed.


Anonymous said...

What are you reading about Spain? I haven't read much about Spain and would be interested to find something good to read. I've read Hemmingway, and years ago I read a great book about bull fighting, not Hemmingway but someone else, strictly about the life of a matador. I wouldn't mind reading that again. Leslie

Anonymous said...

we traveled in Spain in the early 70's...Volkswagen camper, camped our way down to Cadiz with stops in their paradores(wonderful old mansions made into affordable hotels) about every 5-6 days. I remember on Costa del
Sol driving up the coast there were lots of resort hotels being built. The early 70's was also the beginnings of an oil crisis and construction was completely stopped on most of these large hotels. It was a sort of sad atmosphere. We camped (for free) at a couple of these empty hotel construction sites.
The Spaniards were most friendly and especially liked seeing our 3 blonde-headed daughters..a novelty, I guess. We loved the early evening walk-about time before restaurants opened for dinner...families were all out on the square playing and talking. Of course we knew no Spanish other than how to find the public toilet and to order beer. Typical Americans!