Great debate lads.
I have a close friend who was very interested in the Spanish Civil War and all the history around it, and got me into it. He was very much in love with Barcelona and some ideas of Catalunya independence, I went there with him a couple of times and found the city to be incredible, a real eye-opener as to what and how a city can be. He got me to watch the film Land And Freedom, which I thought was great.
We both got a bit into Spanish (basically Catalunyan/international) expressionist and surrealist art from that, and I got him into the major soccer club even though he had no interest in sport. I went back to visit the city more times, and some other parts of the region, and read a book about an English family who went to live a simple life in rural Catalunya. My partner at the time was big into the art & architecture of Barcelona/Catalunya and was the one to get us two into it. By the way, she’s from Cabra(said in Basil Fawlty voice!). By the way I was never really into art before that. Some of the buildings designed by Gaudi blew my mind a bit.
Incidentally my good friend eventually married a Basque, from San Seb, also a wonderful city. I twice went out with Spanish women, one from near Zaragoza(Calatayud) in Aragon(Castile), and the other the Basque that my friend eventually married. I met the Zaragoza woman when we shared an apartment in Frankfurt, she used to always get or bring food packages from home, including weird and wonderful stuff like membrillo. Me and my friend went to visit her home, in the country near Catalayud. They were far from wealthy but they treated us like kings and took us at 5am to see an amazing place out in the desert, a park at a monastery where it’s all waterfalls and green from underground rivers. I found the grim-looking Communist style tower blocks in Zaragoza surprising and interesting. Maybe I hadn’t seen much of Ballymun at that stage!
Before all of that I once took myself off to Sevilla out of fascination with what my eldest brother did (Flamenco guitar playing, to a very good level), and what he told me about the culture, and what I read about the city and region. I travelled around Andalusia and fell in love with it, especially Sevilla and Granada and the landscape. I got lost late in medieval Granada, and saw a gypsy play folk Gitano guitar for a handful of people in a ‘cave’ bar in the mountain beside the Alhambra about 2am, magical.
I went to see Real ‘Betty’s’ play and loved it, never saw passion at football like it. I had always been seduced by the atmosphere I had seen on TV at big international games in the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan (even the name!) stadium (and the Vicente Calderón stadium in Valencia), ever since the 1982 WC Semi final, the best game I’ve ever seen at that level. Not to mention the qualifier games where my own national team were often toyed with and despatched like bulls at a fight.
I took a bus out to the dusty, poor home town of Frédérico Garcia Lorca, with my Panasonic Walkman, and cassette tape of Leonard Cohen songs. I’m not very good with poetry but it was a good story to tell the girls!
I brought my now wife on our first trip to Sevilla, Ronda, and Granada and she too fell in love with it, we eventually settled for several holidays in Cadiz(to suit her love of beach etc). I love sherry, or as they know it, Fino or Manzanilla. One of the best places I have never yet seen is the boat cruise I keep promising I’ll do through the Cóta Doñana national park. I don’t like squid or . I once got anaphallactic shock after eating shellfish in Valencia. I did a walk with two mates in the Picos National Park in Asturias/Cantabria, another area I love, and we walked two days into Santiago, as well as travelling around Galicia a bit. I do love the regional cidre and the way it’s served even though I’m not a cider-lover. And Bulmers is foul swill BTW.
All of this is by way of saying I’m fascinated by España and everything to do with it. Whilst in Sevilla I went to a local bar to watch RMadrid play Barca in La Liga, and much as I loved the atmosphere and banter, and bit of chat that I could manage in my shite Spanish, and wondered at the ubiquitous garish neon lights that dominate so many bars and cafes the country over, I became aware of a strong sense of dislike for Catalunya from quite a few of the Sevillanos. They also explained to me how many poor southerners ended up living and working in B. I guess that alone was an issue for them just like for westerners etc in Ireland with Dublin. It made me think and learn a good bit about how such a large and varied country evolves, how so many people end up emigrating, how well they have managed many long years of high unemployment, in some cases poverty, and severe water shortages. It’s not a surprise to me what the current situation with Catalunya has thrown up.
None, and I mean absolutely none of this has anything whatsoever to do with bloody Chris Dé Burgh.