Δευτέρα, 2 Νοεμβρίου 2009

Marseille by day and by Night

No sooner than my nightly arrival at the hotel, somewhere in the proximity of Lycee Perrier, I started my walk around the port city of Marseille. Marseille may not be so famous to common travellers; at least it does not reach the glitter of Paris. But to people who love French culture, Marseille is something like a gospel. Probably because Marseille is more real than Paris, in the sense that it has not adopted a glamorous image, but they way the city presents itself to the tourist is closer to its reality, rather than try to hide its problems under the carpet. Other than that, Marseille is by nature multicultural, and some of France’s most prominent faces in sport and culture (like Zinedine Zidane and Rashid Taha) were born there, or made their name there. Other than that, the city has to show a great old quarter, the Mediterranean coast, the cosy old port, and one of the most famous fests of modern art in Southern Europe.

As the night was beginning to settle down, I went for a ride in the Old Port. The place is full of people taking a walk across the bars and restaurants of the area. In Marseille you can find just about everything edible. After sampling prices, I decided that the local fish soup plates were too expensive and that I would rather sample the more exotic tastes offered to me in town. This meant Tunisian, Moroccan, Vietnamese or Corsican food, maybe even some of the fine products of Provence, like its salami and cheese, and, of course, the wine. In the end these were an economic and tasty solution, especially Briq and the lamb kushkush. I decided that I really loved Tunisian cuisine. Madre de Dios que linda! The night went on with no further incident, just me walking along a taking a peek of the local nightlife. In the end I danced to some lounge dj set near the museum of modern art, drinking beer I had just purchased from the kiosk there, and listening to some French deli owner boast that “French girls are the most beautiful because they have this sweet and very little pussy”. The stereotype of French people not speaking foreign languages has become some sort of a joke. Some do not speak any other language than French, that is true, but here this one was talking to me in almost perfect English. In other areas I heard French people speak Spanish or Italian, and some of them even speak German (let alone Arabic). I will leave behind the sexism behind this comment, because I have heard sexist remarks all around the world, so why should a port city like Marseille be left behind?

The next morning was somewhat late in its arrival. I slept practically until midday, before opening the rooms TV set to get a small glimpse of French TV. And what was the first thing I saw there? It was her. She was talking on a talk show dedicated to France and the French the way foreigners living there saw them. She was sitting next to Charlotte Rampling and Carl Lagerfeld, but she was probably the shining light throughout the show, despite the fact that she was no actress or singer, or either a fashion icon. In fact she is a comic artist that turned her life and times in Iran and Austria after the fall of the Shah and during the Iran-Iraq war. Marjane Satrapi. With just a smile she was sending out waves of good vibes, even though I could not understand a thing she was saying. It was just her bright smile and nothing more. I decided to close the TV and visit a delicatessen, to buy some food. Delis in France look very much like a de-louxe edition of the general stores that one can meet in small villages or neighbourhoods. There you can buy food, but for anything else one has to visit the store next-door. I bought some salami, baguettes, cheese Provenciale and wine, and returned to the hotel to make some sandwiches for my next trip. Then I went back at the museum, to see if there was anything happening there. Actually there were some pieces of performance art going on there. In one, some Japanese artist was moving hanging inside what looked like a huge nylon bag that was practically wrapped around him, while breathing from a tube. After two hours of this performance, a Basque took over, with a show of moving table-like objects across a small pitch with a wooden floor. As the objects were spinning around the Formica-wood pitch some suspicious moves made me look around. A group of guys that seemed out of place in the area. They were wearing wide jackets, and they seemed to wear the colours of some gang. As I observed them move around the small crowd, they seemed to fit into my idea of them being gang members. I kept watching them with one eye while they were getting closer and closer. They stopped at the when they reached a girls standing near me. One of them yelled at her something that I could translate into “Bitch”, ant then he reached out and grabbed her earrings, before disappearing almost into thin air. Crime is raging in the streets of Marseille. Not any kind of crime. Petty crime. This is not really a sign of moral decay or anything that your run-of-the-mill conservative would say. This is a sign of people living in poverty and not seeing any other chance in getting out of it, than getting involved in crime of any sort. Most of these people are the children of migrants living in France. These young men and women probably have no rights under French law, and thus have no chance of getting away from their poverty or becoming full French citizens. And, even if they manage to gain citizenship, whenever they get to deal with anything that has to do with any aspects of the French State, they will be treated as second-class citizens, since this is the way the state sees anyone coming from the banlieu, the French ghettos. This fuels these kids with anger, and despair, a pair of very evil and treacherous advisors. And crime does not really come alone. There are drugs running around in the city, and to the extent of my knowledge, it is not the recreational drugs that make high sales around town, but drugs that cause a serious addiction, like heroin and crack. Drugs that go with poverty too. And people that are under the influence will usually stop at nothing in order to get their dose. Again moral decay has nothing to do with this situation. The aforementioned advisors do. But for people with virtually no way out, and have to cope with the idea of having no job, or money, or decency, drugs and crime seem to provide a solution, or a way out of their problems. Nevertheless, I returned to the hotel, listening to the soundtrack of sirens blazing and while patrol cars were muscling their way through the evening traffic to respond to some urgent call.

The next morning I decided to go to the beach, and maybe visit the “more prestigious” part of Marseille. So I took my towel and my swimming trunks, and went for a walk alongside the coastal avenue, looking for a suitable beach, meaning a public one and not one of those “exclusive club” things. To my surprise, exclusive beaches were a rare sight along the boulevard. On the other hand I saw a lot of public ones, swarming with people of all colours, nationalities, sexes and religions. The second thing that surprised me was the lack of rented umbrellas and armchairs. Back home all these are something of a prerequisite for any “decent” beach, especially when they cover the whole of it. I found the ideal spot and went down. The first thing I did notice was the amount of good-looking guys and girls that where there. The girls from Marseille seem to be the most beautiful girls in the whole of France. Sweet faces and incredible bodies, that turned them into a feast for the eyes. Some Magrebine beauties especially captivated me. The African girls looked gorgeous too.

I got lost in the waters of the Mediterranean, only to resurface after about an hour. And then, I swept into the sweet hug of Morpheus, with the help of the red-hot beams of the Mediterranean sun. I woke up hours later, checked out my wallet and cell phone. Though crime is raging in the city, and even though I was not in an exclusive beach, nobody had even dared to touch them, probably because there were a lot of people around. I left early in the afternoon for the hotel. There I packed my bags for the next day’s trip to Barcelona, slept a bit more, and then left for a night in town.

On my way to the beach, I had stopped at a building that I thought was something like a cultural centre. In it, there was an invitation-only jazz concert, but when I was passing by, the band was outside the building playing for the people that where coming in, and of course the passing onlookers. And at the entrance, one of the promoters told me that it was “part” of the European Music day. And that meant that I had the opportunity to take a peak of the city’s music scene. There was nothing happening at the museum, but all the action seemed to come from the old town. I followed a steady stream of people that was heading up towards the old town. After one point, the whole ride through the narrow streets of the old town, looked like a huge moving street party. Every small bar and deli of the area had a grill, or a big PA system, or both, out in the street, and was adding to the enjoyment of all the punters around. The local communities where taking part in the celebrations to, with benches around the area serving specialities from each community. I sampled some Arab food again, and moved toward the central stage where a group of local drummers was performing. The beat was complex but altogether very solid, and the crowd was responding well to that. If someone was looking from above, I am quite sure that he would see a crowd of people moving spontaneously and harmonically to the beat. Then a Latin band took to the stage. The party became wilder and the dancing became more spontaneous. Marseille has a very vibrant music scene. There are jazz bands playing around town, but you can listen to ethnic music from a lot of regions of the world. But the big deal here is hip-hop, dub, and electro music. Most of the PA systems outside the small venues where manned by selectors and disk jockeys (that’s what MC’s are called in dub music). And there are a lot of dub bands coming from Marseille and Provence in general. But the most amazing thing about these bands is that they have a crossover appeal. Outside any of these places I saw white, black, Arabic and Asian youths dancing to the music. This was one hell of a groovy atmosphere that is hard to find outside the Mediterranean coast.

The next morning I woke up, I was feeling a little sad, because I was leaving the town. But my destination was familiar and way too tempting. I was visiting Barcelona again, trying to chase away the ghosts of my previous trip there, and to see what I had missed on my two last prolonged stays in town. The stay in Marseille had to end at the central station. And it ended with mixed feelings. At first, a feeling of disgust and resentment towards really ugly situations that one could see there. As I was waiting for my train, I witnessed an extremely vulgar sexual attack on a girl sitting close to me. He was definitely touching her in places where she did not want him to, and she at one point, while he was trying to complete his actions with a rape in public, was about to burst in tears. Then there was a feeling of being amazed. While I was making a move to try and make him move away, she managed to get her hands in her bag. When they re-emerged, she was holding a canister of pepper spray. She aimed it directly at her attackers eyes, and sprayed him without any hesitation. I do not have the slightest idea how she found the courage to pull this off, while this guy was trying to humiliate her in public.

But the final feeling was that Marseille still is a party town, with its bright and dark spots. And maybe Marseille has to face all the problems creating those dark spots, in order to keep the good vibes. It was a match-day, and not any match-day, but the day of the final of the French rugby league. And the teams of Clermont Ferand (in blue), and Perpignan (in red). And, although rugby is a violent sport, its’ fans are not violent. In fact most of the people going to rugby matches are just fans who go there to support their teams and have some good clean fun. So any confrontation between groups of rival fans lead only to….taunts and nothing more, while some of the fans of both teams found the chance to renew old friendships, or to share the fun with their “rivals”. As both groups slowly left the station, I could only see some actions of friendship and kinship, like the scene when two groups of fans of both teams joined and shared their wine and sandwiches with each other, exchanging jokes and hugging each other. This was only a part of the contrasting images and feelings I got from the city. Marseille is definitely a long way from being the city of sin and crime, but in contrast to every stark image it gives you, there is scene, or a moment, that turns things around and puts a bright colour in the picture. However a visitor must handle the place with caution, but without any prejudice, if one wants to “survive” there.

Castellon -La Coruna

As the night was approaching, the trip to Aragon was turning more and more into something inevitable. Due to my short projected stay there, and the fact that travelling to the village where my friend was staying was extremely difficult and long, my friend suggested that I drop the plan and that we might see each other later on in the trip. So I decided to go on to Barcelona, spend the night there and then move on to La Coruna. I was visiting my friend Paldi there, before his departure for Brazil. So, I rented a room in a place overlooking La Rambla, and spent the night there. In the next morning I left for the Barcelona Sants station. Unfortunately, all trains to Galicia, by some strange misfortune were fully loaded. So I opted for the sleeper to Bilbao, getting which was the closest thing to going to La Coruna that I could do, and try from then on. Sleeper trains in Spain are especially comfortable. Hence, the multi-hour wait for it was worthwhile. In the end, before I could even realise the passing of the time, the train was zipping through the early morning mist, into the Basque country. It was a rather cold morning when I saw the first Basque flags, in the outskirts of Bilbao. Then, I saw the first houses of the city, and, in the distance, the Guggenheim. We went in the station, and I finally bought my ticket for La Coruna. I had to backtrack for about half an hour, and get the train to Miranda Del Evro, and then take the train that goes through the wine country (La Rioja), into Castile and Leon, and then onto Galicia. That summed up to a total of about 24 hours constantly on the move, and if you put into consideration the pit stop at Barcelona, a 30-something hour trip. Whatever, the sights and sounds of La Coruna would make things up for all this. I stood for about half an hour in the cold concourse of the station, and then went into my train. As I zipped back to Miranda del Evro, I was taking a glimpse of what I had missed while asleep, during the first leg of this trip. The magnificence of the nature of the Basque countryside, and the amazing atmosphere of the city and its surroundings. I made a mental note to visit the area again, in the near future. I arrived at Miranda del Evro at around nine in the morning, and spent the next hour or so looking at the wooden complex of the ceiling. Then I started the long last leg of the trip, slowly cruising around the plains of the northern regions of Spain. As I cruised the vineyards of La Rioja, probably when closing to Burgos, the call came in. It was Paldi, asking about when I would arrive, and informing me that our friends Kabale, Kay and Boo where arriving from Salonica within the next two days, and Caro was coming in from France also in two days time. The mechanisms of the universe, or in this case Paldi, where conspiring in a Paolo Coelho kind of way so that we, the crazy gang from the University, would meet up for some days in a crazy town at the other edge of Europe. Unbelievable! After hanging up, I rested on my seat, watching the endless fields and the villages pass by, as I was thinking of the possibilities of the next five days turning into a gran fiesta and wondering if my friends had gone into some serious drug collection for the ensuing binge, or if we had to find our way into that through Paldi’s friends. As I was thinking about all this, the scenery changed once again, since I was well out of the plains and into Castilla y Leon, slowly moving through the old imperial capital of Spain. Now, the city still keeps its imperial grace, though it is nothing more than a town that lives partly out of tourism. A few hours later, as the sun was setting once again, I was travelling through the forests of Galicia, savouring every last bit of light during my trip. After Vigo, I was in the final hour of my trip, and was about to enter La Coruna, and cherish the opportunities of good, dirty, fun waiting for me there

Benicassim-Castellon de La Planna-D’ares (as in rock’n’roll, tourism and scams)

I left Barcelona quite early in the morning, to catch my train to Benicassim, so that I could go to FIB, the famous festival which the crème de la crème of the British scene visits every year since the late nineties. And, as I was travelling there, I had the chance to see what the hell was happening to the Spanish Mediterranean Coast. My mother had visited the south of Spain at the time when Franco’s regime was coming to an end. She walked through picturesque small fishing villages, full of paved walkways with their interior being almost inaccessible by car. And she returned with stories full of them. Two years later, one of her friends went there. And she came back with the impression that my mom had had visited some parallel universe. Actually the picturesque villages had given way to big holiday resorts, and the paved streets to wide streets ready to receive thousands of cars. The tourist craze was sweeping Spain. And what I got to see was a whole set of carcasses or live buildings of tourist complexes effectively distorting the picture and destroying the coastal landscape. But, to the brighter side of all of it, some of them where in the process of being destroyed. It seems that Spain is in the process of completing a leap from mass tourism to more eco-friendly forms of holidaymaking, like agricultural tourism. But on the other hand, even though the style has changed, the mentality of some of the people that are in the tourist business has not changed. This is particular in the rooms-to-let outlets.

Benicassim during the festival was fully booked. Despite my efforts to find accommodation of some sort in the area, everything fell really short, since all outlets were full of British holidaymakers and festival- goers. And not having a tent at my disposal, I was ready to settle for anything, provided I could leave my things someplace. Finally, after searching through the net, I was able to book a room in D’Ares, a medieval village eighty kilometres away. An hours taxi ride and eighty euros later, I discovered not only that the village was in the middle of nowhere, but also that the bus service to the village was very irregular, and, not really helpful for any festival-goers. Fortunately, after some time of searching for some place to stay, the hotel’s Catalan bartender came to my rescue. Or, so I thought. He offered me to let me stay in his house, which was much closer to the site, at a reasonable price.

With all that in mind, I decided to take a peek around the village. The good thing about it is that it has not been touched by modern architecture. It is one of the best-preserved medieval villages in Southern Spain. As I was walking around, I did not fail to notice the Arab-influenced structures, the walls, the gate and of course the towers. The Arabic influence is highly visible around Spain, though the Muslims (like the Jews and the Protestants) where violently persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church after the end of the reign of the Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula. The only evidence of the existence of the Arabs in Spain to survive the purges by the Spanish Inquisition was their architecture. This architecture blends with the natural landscape of the mountains in the northern part of the autonomous community of Valencia.

In the morning, I graciously climbed aboard the Catalan’s Renault 19, to move onto his house. It was actually a small cottage, again in the middle of nowhere, and someplace where a non-local could get easily lost. But, bus services seemed punctual. And it was only about 15 minutes away from the festival site. Nevertheless, it took a lot of explaining to get directions to the area. And, furthermore, the place was dusty and…needed a lot of repairs. Upon leaving the place, the Catalan told me the price. 400 euros for 3 nights! Scam! I was really duped! But I needed the residence, and I agreed. Maybe if I had booked anything in advance, things would be better. So I headed for the festival. The first day was probably a really good introduction in the world of FIB. 5 Stages, and about 80 acts a day. I spent the afternoon and the whole of the night absorbing just about everything, with my satchel pelted with food, and my isothermal bottle full of alcohol. Dyonyssos, who were playing back to back with the local chamber music orchestra, really stole the show. Their singer was something like a young Nick Cave with the energy of Iggy Pop, while the whole stunt sounded like a head on collision between ELO and the Cramps. The Babyshambles were really a shambles, with Pete Daugherty being a real wreck. Even the cameo of FIB regular Shane McGowan in their set did not save the day. Manta Ray did a decent closing set, while Echo and the Bunnymen, and the Pixies where having fun onstage. Perhaps the treat of the day where the Strokes. They played a rocking set, in an art deco styled stage.

So, at around seven in the next morning, I jumped on the bus back to the cottage. But I jumped on the wrong one and ended up wandering the streets of Castellon, in an effort to find the bus back that would take me back to the cottage. Futile effort, since the route plan of the busses seemed incomprehensible. In the end I jumped on one of the local cabs, and after a few calls to the Catalan I managed to find my way to the cottage. There I decided that it was futile coming back and forth, so I decided to spend the next two days in the outdoors and return on the last one to grab my things. So I took out the small bag, packed a pair of trousers, a shirt, a towel, my shampoo, my sleeping bag and a few more useful things, took a wee nap and left for the festival grounds. Benicassim, and Castellon are basically areas depending on tourism. Not any kind of tourism. British tourists coming on travel vouchers from tour operators. That means working class people on full board holidays, who spend a great deal of their time drinking and looking for easy sex. Everybody around the area speaks English, a thing that is a little weird for Spain, but then again it is a change from speaking Spanish almost full-time.

As the beginning of the second day was coming close, I started moving again toward the festival grounds. This time I was better armed and I was ready to spend the next two days outdoors, in order to save myself from the trouble of searching for the cottage again. In day two Franz Ferdinand stormed the stage. They came, they saw, and in the end they conquered. Calla where perhaps the most boring and over hyped indie band ever to appear in a FIB bill, while Mojave 3 did everything they could after the storm called F F. The Kooks had a feel good vibe coming along with them during their set, but being stuck between the sets of Morrissey and FF, they could not withstand any comparison. Moz’s set was a little Spartan. A lot of his older work was out of list. But, on the other hand he had some good material to work with. In the end, Moz was a romantic interval before the rock’n’roll storm. I spent the night talking to some girls from the Basque region that had come for the festival. They were very keen on speaking in English, rather than Spanish. Same goes with a lot of their compatriots who speak English. They prefer speaking in English than in Spanish. Funny thing, same thing happens with Catalan people. But this is Spain, with its divisions. The Catalans feel that they are on the downside of the game, since they feel that even though they are the powerhouse of Spain’s economy, they don’t get the recognition for that, or some more autonomy. The Basques on the other hand are a different story. Basque nationalism rose as an answer to the persecution of the Basque people and their culture from Franco, and the crushing of their hopes for independence or a wide autonomy in the first years of democracy. This lead to a great deal of resentment towards the Spanish state and anything associated with it. The night ended with a bit of short-talk, and I left to find a quiet spot to get some sleep before daybreak.

I ended up with the option of the square outside the festival. It was crowded but, what the hell! After all everyone was asleep, or too tired to make any noise whatsoever. Hence the choice. We all woke up well after the break of dawn. I moved to the beach, just to catch some sleep there, and maybe take a bath later on because I was stinking like a bore. As I walked down the central avenue, I stumbled across the bodies of drunken tourists that had probably passed out on the night before. Ah! The joys of mass tourism and massive quantities of alcohol at a low price. A bad hangover, an empty wallet, and probably lying facedown on some non-descript street or alley. As I moved toward the beach the number of the bodies was becoming smaller and smaller. I lied down on the beach and felt the red-hot beams of the Spanish sun spread across my face. I slipped merrily in the arms of Morpheus. A few hours later I was brutally awakened by the screams of children speeding across the sand. Then I instantly dropped all my clothes, and got into my swimming trunks. It was about time I refreshed myself for a bit. I took a dive, and returned to continue sunbathing. In the afternoon, after an immensely expensive sandwich, I took a bath in the beach, and then moved back to the festival grounds for my last day of rock and roll. The night was really long. The Editors showed that they were probably overrated, while the early time of the day did not help Yann Tiersen in creating the needed atmosphere. In the afternoon Madness took the central stage, and they started the party, which went on until halfway into the Placebo show. Then they started to play their newer material and the crowd cooled down. But when Dave Gahan stepped into the stage, the crowd was on fire again. It was a glorious night for Depeche Mode, with Dave Gahan strolling across the stage with great ease, showing great charisma during the show. Deus where only a shadow of their good old self, and they made even “Suds and Soda” sound powerless. I left early in the morning for the cottage, slept 3-4 hours, and then continued on to the station at Castellon. I needed to board the Tarragona train, so that I would be in Aragon within the day, where I would stay for a couple of days before moving on to Galicia…

Σάββατο, 10 Οκτωβρίου 2009

Landing in alien planets

Seeing the huge queue at the Madrid-Atocha station did not surprise me at all. After all, I was expecting to get a ticket for the Altaria to Barcelona in the middle of traveller’s rush hour in Madrid. Midday. The only thing that I disliked was that the clerks in the ticket stalls seemed to handle all the traffic with the speed of a turtle. But then again, the queue was enormous and growing by the minute. Suddenly, the guy behind me felt the need to go visit the W.C., and asked me politely to look after his stuff. Later, and having a long time to spend before our turn to go for the tickets came, we started some small talk. The guy was actually travelling to Barcelona to meet up with a Mexican friend of his. He was a larger-than-life Arizona guy, who by the age of thirty had travelled through much of the world, and was spending his summer holidays in Spain, in anticipation of his new job somewhere in Silicon Valley, and, by some twisted surprise, a newborn kid. After a while we decided to travel together, and since I had not booked a room everywhere, why not share a room in the hostel where the girls where residing, provided that there existed one.

After buying out tickets we had some time to kill before boarding the train, a thing that meant coffee and tofu being served at the station’s deli. And then we proceeded to board the train. The procedures of boarding the Altaria are very similar to the ones of boarding an airplane. That means a metal detector, and handing out your ticket to some sort of hostess just before you get in and reach your seat. I did not have the SLIGHTEST IDEA if this happened after the Madrid-Atocha bombings, or if it had been standard procedure already before that incident. But even the latter could be logical, since the Altaria can run at up to 350 kilometres per hour. Any threat against it may, anyway, turn into something really nasty. As we sped through the vast fields of Aragon we were chatting happily. Then we passed by the mountains near Lleida, and slightly after dark we had arrived in Barcelona. Instantly, a feeling of arriving at another planet got to us. From the graffiti spread around the rails that lead to the Barcelona Sants station, someone can understand that there is, to a great extent, some craziness around the city. Some creative madness. I could add. We shacked up in the hostel quickly, and then the American disappeared into the Mexican’s room. I took advantage of the situation and went for a wee bite and a stroll around the Rambla. Then, I just returned, and sat with my book and some beer on the balcony, which was overlooking the Rambla. And while I was watching the crowd go by, I exchanged some small talk with other Mexican girl that was occupying the balcony next to ours, an anthropology student from Toluca. Sadly enough she was leaving the following morning, so we parted company with wishes for a pleasant trip.

I woke up the next morning at around eleven in the morning, for breakfast, and a chance to meet Mari Sol and her sister, (my companion’s friends), two unbelievably beautiful girls, that seemed to be a little bit spoiled, but not that bad altogether. Then me and the American (Scott) decided to part ways with the girls and have a look around town. Our first destination was the famous Sagrada Familia. The swansong of Antonio Gaudi, the city’s landmark architect, the church lies, still unfinished (projections estimate the end of the work by 2015). One thing that makes it difficult to complete it is that in the end the final prints where burnt by anarchists during the Spanish civil war. And the only one able to restore them, Gaudi, had died in a tragic accident years before that. A streetcar hit him, while he was on his way to meet some investors to fund the continuation of his work on the new church. Then, the civil war came, and after that Franco’s rule. Works came to a halt, only to recommence in the seventies, after the restoration of democracy in Spain, and Catalonia being granted some autonomy. And now authorities are trying to finish the church, based on older blueprints that came into existence.
But while unfinished, it is still a huge charm to the visitor’s eyes. There Gaudi mixed modernism with huge Gothic structures and innovative techniques, with unbelievable craftsmanship. Gaudi designed anything, from the massive statues in the entrance of the church, to the metal fence around it, a thing that he was probably used to doing while working on his other masterpieces. Probably he was the only one to work so close with everyone else involved in building, from the builders to the craftsmen that made the furniture and the iron craftsmen. The whole building, on the outside, resembles a cave, but in reality there is much more to it than that. Despite the fact that he was a devout Catholic, Gaudi also had a raging imagination, which he let run free while working on his buildings. He was also the first one to think of the concept of recycling, long before ecologic movements adopted the idea. So broken tiles, pieces of iron, and fencing, that normally would be considered as a pile of rubbish, where used as part of the outside decoration, an idea that originated from Gaudi’s first job, the renovation of Casa Battillo. This lead to building mind-blowing works of art. As we progressed in the interior, with me leading the pace, I started hearing clicks behind me. It was Scott, who before visiting the place was talking about the ingenuity of the people who built Ankhor Watt, the greatest building he had ever seen. His hand kept working the camera with almost no intervals, until we left the building. And while in the beginning I thought that he was turning Japanese, or something like that, in the end I came to realize that he was just dumbstruck by the magnificence of what he had seen.
The next stop was the infamous Casa Battillo. Gaudi’s first work of art is an orgy of human imagination. Both the interior and the exterior of the house have no corners whatsoever. In fact the interior is curvy, and, according to the thrill, it was inspired be Jules Verne’s 80,000 miles under the sea”. In fact some rooms resemble the interior of a whale. In fact this was the first bio-climatic house ever built. Air currents circulate around the house through a system of air vents carved through the doors and walls. This system makes the inside temperature at any given room bearable come summer or winter. Also there one can see the birth of one of Gaudi’s major techniques. Recycling. In order to build the façade and the exterior decoration of the building, Gaudi used rubble coming from the original building. A true visionary.
The visit ended with the two of us being exhausted and trying to get some sleep at the hostel. In the evening Scott disappeared with the girls again. I spent the next morning wandering around the Barri Gottic, getting a glimpse of the Gothic side of the city. One of the coolest aspects of downtown Barcelona is that modernist, modern, medieval and 18th century architecture mix and match. All styles mix giving the downtown area an exceptional flavour that is difficult to find in European cities. Adding to that are the millions of street performers giving their shows around the Rambla and the streets of Barceloneta, ranging from musicians doing street concerts, to amazing mimes and capoeira dancers. Barcelona is a city that has immersed itself in art.
For this reason, after a long night’s sleep and a morning dedicated to preparing for the next day’s trip down south, me and Scott decided to venture into the city’s art. And that meant going into one of the most modern buildings in the city. The Museum of Modern art.
The museum then hosted a huge variety of collections. From sculptures to animations and various forms of video art, including a surreal video which showed the statue of one of Napoleon’s soldiers taking a stroll around downtown Paris in the seventies. But the most important item was in the next rooms, where what was hosted was a collection of covers of albums that where painted by famous painters and where part of the pop/art movement or inspired by it. These included the famous banana from “the Velvet Underground and Nico”, Sonic Youth’s “Goo” and others that I can’t remember. The night ended in a tapas bar, just North of Plaza Catalunya. Among philosophy and other things, the prototype idea of some sort of fanzine or something like an e-magazine that had to do with alternative travelling and travel articles came to birth. I put it here because this conversation is what gave birth to the idea behind this blog. It is a shame, though, because during the trip I lost the slips containing both the emails of Mari Sol and Scott, and now probably they have no idea where this conversation led. Anyway at 2AM we returned at the hostel to catch some sleep. In the morning we caught a fast breakfast, and I left to catch my train. I was travelling South West, see another aspect of Spain. One that had more to do with tourism

Τρίτη, 6 Οκτωβρίου 2009

Exit Italy-Enter France

The mist of morning was evaporating from the surface of the earth, as I began to cross Northern Italy on my way to the port city of Marseille. I was crossing the all known plains and vineyards of Veneto, home to the infamous prossecco wine, with two bottles of it in my disposal, along with a small bottle of my beloved Limoncello liquor and some sun-dried tomatoes and slices of mortadella accompanying me on the way. Two hours later, having zipped by a lot of towns, cities and villages the pictures changed. I was seeing, again, an industrial area. I arrived at the central train station of Milan having a lot of time at my disposal, twenty minutes before my connection to Nice. Or so I thought. How wrong was I? The train was departing ten minutes early, and I found myself running across the station trying to make it there. In the end, I managed to climb aboard a non-decript train car, while the train was starting to move toward the exit of the station. It definitely felt a scene from some Hollywood action film, momentarily.
A few minutes later, I was securely seated in my compartment, next to a Chinese refugee. She was travelling to Paris, through Nice too. The background changed again, as our train was charging through the plains of Lombardy, racing towards the Italian side of the Alps. A few hours later the train was climbing the mountains, then, reaching Genoa. I managed to take a peek through the city, which looked like a nice coastal town where the old meets the modern, and tourism co-exists with industrial structures. To whatever extent this co-existence is harmonic, I am not really aware, though.
By the time I was through with those thoughts, we were passing through the borders at Ventimiglia.

At the next station, the French police entered the train for a passport inspection. While checking the Chinese refugee’s papers, they found that they where not issued by the Italian Police or the Ministry of the Interior, but by the Municipality of Milan. This meant, according to them, that they where not in order. So without further explanations they pulled her out of the train, so that they could ship her back to Italy with the next train. Huh! Some welcoming committee. They just did it without any hesitation. I can’t help but imagine what they could do if she was a youngster from any derelict metropolitan area. No wonder why the ghettos erupted the year before! As the next few minutes passed by I got to see parts of Monaco and the Cote’d’Azur, before I arrived at the station of Nice. For the next hour or so all I could do is wait for the next SNCF regional train to continue on to Marseille. To my surprise I entered an old TGV. This meant that although I was travelling on a local train (and thus, with my interrail pass, for free), I was zipping by the French countryside really fast. In this part of the journey I got a glimpse of the famed beaches of St Tropez. Then I saw a bit of Cannes, and then moved a bit further inland in Provence, only to emerge about an hour later in Marseille. The port city of France, which many lovers of French culture cherish, stood before me, ready to be explored

Proxima Parada, Madrid

“And so it begun
the fairytale of one”
Cyanna, Shine.

The first impression I got arriving in Madrid was the one of modernity. And how can somebody avoid such an impression when the first sight he sees is the taco-shaped roof of the newly built terminal 4 of Madrid’s Barajas airport. Throughout the whole trip, this impression of Madrid did not completely vanish, whether I was stuck in the middle of a neighbourhood that is dated from the 18th century, or in the middle of the most derelict aereas, or even in places that seem to be the entrance to some sort of a twilight-zone trip back in time.
Actually the bus station in Avenida America did fit the last scenario. As the bus sunk under the hot tarmac of the street, I had the feeling of entering a time capsule. As if the era of Franco came alive, back from the forgotten realms of the early seventies. Fast food and ice cream parlours mixed with travel agencies and ailing ticket booths, plus the amounts of smog coming in from all the urban busses and the interurban coaches, made the atmosphere even worse than it was at surface level. And adding up to the whole situation, I had to cut across a strong current of commuters. Morning rush hour traffic in Madrid.

The first thing of the day to be accomplished was to find a place to stay for the next two days. And that was NOT easy. For the next two days I had to be cramped in a small apartment with a Brazilian guy, watching a crack in the ceiling looming open over the double bed we were sharing. Too bad. But this was nothing comparing to the misery of the whole neighbourhood. We were somewhere between the Callao and Nuevos Ministerios train stations, not far from downtown Madrid. The apartment complex was actually situated over a titties bar, the street outside was full of junkies, and on some corner there was, at all times, a hooker trying to pick up clients. And, at some point, on the second night there was a face-off between pimps right outside our hostel, which involved broken tyles and knives coming out. That, of course, scared the shit out of both of us. But the Brazilian decided to stay there, since he had booked the room for the next few days and his girlfriend was to join him there. Wow! I wanted to get the hell out of there, and did not really mind giving a bit more money than the 25 euros a night for some safety, let alone not having to take a cab for safety whenever I wanted to return. So I moved out, and let the Brazilian and his unbelievably good looking fourty year old girlfriend enjoy the apartment, while I was being booked at some hostel a few blocks away, in the tourist aerea of La Latina.
In the meantime, during my stay at the ailing hotel, I had discovered a few of the kicks anyone can get when living in Madrid. First of all, comes the green. Enormous areas of green and a lot of trees exist on the sides of huge boulevards. When entering Retiro, I discovered that there are almost no buildings to be seen in a distance of Miles, and the same goes for most of the Metropolitan Parks in the surrounding areas. And, thanks to an extensive and very effective system of mass transport (part of which works 24/7) that includes busses, the metro, tram and the cercanias (suburban railway), and a set of streets that are used only for pedestrians or moderate traffic (that means busses and very few cars, usually the ones belonging to the people that live or work in the area), Madrid is emitting fewer greenhouse gasses than a lot of European cities.
But the most odd thing about Madrid, and maybe Spain, are its contradictions. I came across one of them in one of the vast parks, this time near the houses of Parliament. In the middle of the park, there stood some sort of a monument, bearing the inscription “Built for the enjoyment of the citizens of Madrid and all Spaniards, Arias Navarro”. Clearly a relic of the Franco era. But right in front of the massive monument, there was an anarchist slogan written on the floorboard, declaring that since there exist homeless people and unused houses, the movement of occupations of houses should move on. And in the same park, I watched in delight as a couple of gay men snogged each other without having to mind about any remarks from any passers-by. In reality nobody minded about it! Same thing had happened the night before, when I had witnessed the same act being performed by two enormous lesbos. This definitely meant one thing. That Spain has gone from being an ultra conservative country to an ultra liberal one. The government there seems to be hell-bent to challenge everything that was deemed sacred by the conservatives and the Vatican. But also, while the government charges on to the division between church and state, and has legalized same sex marriages, among other things, in the poor areas of Madrid the theology of liberation is gaining ground among parishes, especially in neighbourhoods that have a leftist background dating back to the days of the Spanish Revolution of 1936. This mix of Marxism and some sort of radical liberal view of religion, with roots in South America is more appealing to a big part of the religious people in areas such as the Vallecas (which is home to Rayo Vallecano and a lot of immigrants from South America) where exist perhaps the first multi purpose temple in Spanish history. A roman catholic church, where everybody can pray to whatever god they like, be it Jesus Christ, Allah or even the Force, if they like.
In the two remaining days I strolled around the Madrid funland called la Latina. The whole of the area has a Latin feel. From the cafés to the bars and karaoke joints, Madrid can be fun and games to just about anyone. Personally I found myself sipping mojitos and tequila in a small Cuban joint. In the last night I also went for a wee pub-crawl, myself, just sampling around bars. I ended up sampling a good part of the Spanish rumba scene, and noticing one thing. There was only two bars/clubs with bouncers/doormen inside. And these perhaps where the two uber trendy/ expensive places to go in an area inhabited by more or less 20-25 bars. This was it! I went back at the hostel, trying to get as much sleep as I could, because in the next day I was travelling back east, to Barcelona town

Πέμπτη, 24 Σεπτεμβρίου 2009

Globaltravellersncensored goes Bucolic

This month one of the blog's entries is hosted at voukwlos.blogspot.com, a fanzine published by the english literature club of the Univercity of Cyprus, in a special travel-associated issue

Παρασκευή, 18 Σεπτεμβρίου 2009

Fear in the Air

It was the morning of my departure from Barcelona when the frenzied call came in. At the other end of the line was my father, who in a worried tone told me to be extra careful, because things went really bad and all hell broke loose. He then went on to telling me something about Muslim terrorists and things going rough. I really did not understand that much but kept a cautious eye around me; on the journey to the Barcelona Sants train station. Nothing suspicious appeared there, and so with a sigh of relief I dived in the seat of the Altaria and then watched the landscape of northern Catalonia and Aragon zip by. Four hours later I was relaxing in my Madrid hotel room watching TV bulletins in anticipation of more information. In the next morning I was reluctantly leaving for Athens after an amazing trip around Spain, leaving behind any plans of visiting Portugal or Morocco. Pretty soon I was fully aware of what had happened. An Al- Qaida terrorist plot of attacking civilian airplanes using liquid explosives had been stopped in Britain, and everyone was catching their breath, as new safety measures against possible threats in the air were being thought of. Meanwhile all flights in and out of the UK (where it originated) and the USA were suspended. Things seemed pretty rough. With the TV screen humming I just sunk in the bed and went to sleep, to be ready for the next day’s departure.

On my arrival the next day nothing seemed like whatever I had seen in any post 9/11 arrival at an airport in Europe. Multiple security checks, and, at the X-RAY machine people being forced to hand over their shoes so that they can be passed, mothers forced to drink part of the milk stored for their infants, and people being forced to prove that they were carrying medicine. All other liquids had to be dumped. And, at the check in line I was looking at the passengers of a lot of flights to the UK, most of them being returning holidaymakers, tired, dirty, some even hungry, waiting patiently for their return flight. Some of them had stayed up all night hoping to catch some early flight, and all of them did not have any idea whatsoever concerning the time and date of their return home. And then the real ordeal started when I was to move on to the departure lounges. I had to go through some checkpoints, that made sure I was not carrying any liquids before entering the duty free lounge (after entering it I was free to carry as many tons of liquids as I liked- capitalism cannot be bothered by some security measures), and requesting me to remove my shoes so that they too can be scanned. Stuff that I could not imagine before this day. Big brother entering Europe’s air travel.

As the airplane was climbing, thoughts charged across my head. The thought of terrorist hits in mid-air, especially Al Qaida-style, caused many more backfires across Europe than the Madrid-Atocha and London hits. It scared the hell out of Europeans and helped European governments implement more anti-democratic legislation on their citizens. Fear, one of the most effective drugs any politician can use, it can cut across all class lines and turn on any sort of conservative reflex. This means that the public might turn the other cheek to any government’s misshaps, as long as the government can “protect” it from any foes that might rise up from any occasion such as this, whether they are real or imaginary. Suddenly Europe woke up in a state of terror, and started to become accustomed to the idea of giving up some of its constitutional rights in return to some ambiguous sort of security.

Finally, au contraire to their American counterparts, European governments will not turn their attention into subdoing some “rogue” developing country, but toward an all interior enemies, whether they are disobedient activists or part of the weakest link in all European Countries, the immigrants and the refugees. This result is visible today, two years later, with Islamofobia, racism, and, even worse, their totalitarian brother, fascism, rearing their ugly heads over the continent, and, at the same time most European democracies are turning into police states of one sort or another. And this, in a time when social struggles may rise, can make things very interesting. A few months after this trip, the ghettos in France erupted. About a year later Athens burned. Both explosions started because of police violence and part of their causes where related to police malpractice. And strike actions, occupations and demonstrations are met with violent reactions by the security forces. All these practices existed even before 9/11, but after 9/11 they became more common, and after these arrests, they have become some sort of standard response. But the more the repression, the more angry the public will become. And this will spark the fuse for more and more intense struggles.

Leaving all this behind though, I was reluctantly travelling back east, trying to get back to some sort of Greek-summer experience.

Τετάρτη, 16 Σεπτεμβρίου 2009

An Italian synopsis

She said, 'There is no reason
and the truth is plain to see.'
Procol Harum, Whiter Shade of Pale

As I zip by the countryside of northern Italy, I get once again the all-familiar feeling that occurred to me during the trip. That Italy, and especially the Italians need a saviour. Under the carpet there is a feeling that everything is in the process of changing. And the said change is not one that will make things better for everyone. In fact I think that il Cavagliere and his cohorts will continue to loot the country in the expense of everybody else that inhabits it. And in the wake of the impending economic crisis, those that will pay the price are going to be the working class, and especially the immigrants. Already the Italian government is implementing stricter and more inhuman immigration policies by every passing month, even by collaborating with dictator like Mounmar Kadafi (who once said that there are no refugees or immigrants, there is only people who travel abroad), on the issue of returning expelled immigrants back to their countries. At some point unemployment will be a problem too, and tensions will reach boiling point. And if you count in the factor of the rise of the far right across Europe, then things will become really interesting.

At these times what is needed is a strong left opposition. But at the moment the Left in Italy is still unable to pick up the pieces of the Prodi debacle. And that makes the Left unable to oppose anything on the coming cyclone of change. But there is a glimmer of hope. The Riffundazione seems to have understood, at least partly, what went wrong in the past years, and at the moment looks as if it has taken a small but significant shift to the left. If this goes on to something bigger, then the left will pose a significant force to resist, at least on the level of a struggle of the streets. Another important point to be taken is that there is also a significant swing in the minds of a lot of young workers, who seem to have taken a liking to organising independent struggles, without waiting for the unions to start anything, from picket lines to strike actions. Depending on the success of these struggles, the conscience of the people might rise or sink. This remains to be seen.

Πέμπτη, 10 Σεπτεμβρίου 2009

Venezia in Cervelo

When arriving in Venice by rail, one cannot help but notice the huge amounts of water lying by the rails, and the vastness of the port area, including the oil refineries. But this can be forgotten really quickly when one reaches the St Lucia train station. Despite appearances there is only one source of revenue.
Tourism. Venice is a tourist destination. But not exactly in the way of an average tourist resort. In fact it has a cross-age appeal. In its streets one can see middle aged couples, pensioners, students and families walking around town. Venice has a bit of everything. Romantic rides for lovers, expensive and cozy cafes for fashion and lifestyle victims, and of course a lot of sights. But there is a sign of the city’s dependency on tourism. The prices on everything from hotel rooms to food and drink, can be high. Good thing I am staying in a student hall. The area around Piazza Santa Fosca, looks like an average neighbourhood housing university students and, of course, student bars.

“Not all who wander are lost”, explains a sticker on the ceiling of one of those bars. “Fair enough”, I think, but that does not have anything to do with Venice. If you don’t have a map, you can spend hours wandering around the streets of Venice, trying to find your way to the area you want to visit. The ambiguous street signs contribute to this too, since they just inform you that there are more than one ways to reach your destination, offering no further explanation, since the distance between them can be huge, leaving lots of uncovered crossroads in the meantime.

Exhausted from the hours of searching for the piazza, I finaly find my way there, and try to enter the famous basilica. First, I find out that there is a huge qeue in the entrance. Discouraging sight number one. Then I see that backpacks or bags are not allowed inside, and I have to go to a baggage guarding service, to leave my bag. That, of course might mean that I will be charged like hell, and this is not really good for the budget of a backpacker like myself. This is the second discouraging point. Wic h makes me decide to ditch the effort and try to explore a bit more. Maybe go to the islands surrounding the town, or make a go for the gardens I had spotted on my arrival, yes the ones next to the Santa Lucia station. I go for the second option, and pass a quiet afternoon there, before I return to the hall.

My roomies are a small picture of the kind of people travelling to Venice. An elderly American professor, a teenager from someplace like Vermont, and a family from England, all of them on vacation travelling around Northern Italy.

Venice does try to resemble the rest of the region. And though the rest of Veneto is being industrialized (especially the areas of Treviso, Marghera and Mestre, Venice does not really fit in the picture. And that because the whole of the area’s heavy industry has a really small economic impact compared to its prime export, tourism. And probably this is the reason why the Camora is trying to dig in the honey-vase called Venice. The mob has probably understood that there is a huge potential on the areas of tourism and constructions in the area, securing a profit for its more legit branches. Mind you crime is very low in Venice, but that does not prevent the financial sector of organised crime to invest there. Some of the most recent construction works have been undertaken by the mob, including the renovation of buildings. And the extent of the busyness probably extends to the handling of municipal waste too.

Another problem the city may face, is the rise of sea level. The city may not be under the threat of constant flooding yet, and it is everything apart a from being a deathtrap, but if the sea levels continue to rise and the water defences of the city are not upgraded, a Katrina-styled catastrophe can be highly inevitable within the next few decades.

There are also some other problems that locals currently face, the main one being the expensiveness of public transport. A one way ticket for the distance between Piazza San Marco and the Station of St Lucia, a very popular route that covers the distance of about 3 kilometres, costs about 3 euros. I can imagine the cost of the same route. using a taxi or a gondola. Much more expensive for sure.

My short stay in Venice is terminated at the dawn of Wednesday, when my long trip to the south of France begins.

Nevertheless, my impression of Venice is that it is a nice little town to visit and stay in, for a weekend. Not for a longer time, I gather. A picturesque town, a tourist magnet, an absurd town of the renaissance.

Σάββατο, 29 Αυγούστου 2009

Americans in Rome

After waving Dane Goodbye, me and Babak returned to the room. Our new roomie, a religious American sporting a backpack with a Canadian flag (one of those Americans pretending to be a Canadian). He is on his way to the filming location of “The Passion of Christ”. Seems to be of the Bush fans, but I cannot be that sure about that. The rest of his gang, when we get a glimpse of them at the bar, seems to be like a bunch of conservative and maybe naïve choirboys and choirgirls moving out in the world. At least this will go on until they set foot on the first bar, or the guys take a walk into the red light district. Until then they will be the sons and daughters of respectable god-fearing American families. We have a whole evening in front of us to get wasted and keep up the party with the girls. Yup we are officially on our way to a pub crawl and a nightly visit to some of the city’s most famous areas. These include the Piazza de Spagna, a token of French diplomacy in the 18th and 19th century, where the French government would build a square in front of the embassies of countries with whom they wanted to make peace, or some sort of amends, Piazza Barberini, built for the Barberini Family under the supervision of Bernini (the Vatican protigee), and the Fontana di Trevi. All the walk is being acompanied by our tour guide, who gave us a more –fun-and-simplified tour. The humourus way of dishing out all this information, turned our guide into a very popular figure in our group.

Though there are a lot of people from around the world in the group the vast majority of the participants, at least in this crawl IS of American origin. And this is a group that is really worth watching.

There is a huge division between Americans, and this is clearly evident in our case. This group is actually split three-ways. There are all those that want the war to end and the troops to get out of Iraq, those that probably are for the war, but are too ashamed to say it, and your usual run-of-the-mill Republicans. Actually the only representatives of the third group are a bunch of American Air Force Pilots, headed by a bomber pilot who (according to himself) gets his kicks by bombarding Baghdad. This, of course, does not go down with anybody else in the group, and this gang actually becomes instantly isolated from the rest. This takes Babak on a trip down memory lane. He remembers the times when he was participating in a demonstration in front of his Univercity, and the demo was being pelted with vegetables coming thrown by their classmates who supported the war. But now none needs a weatherman in order to understand that the wind has changed directions again. A thing that the airmen do not seem to understand.

“Let’s stay away from the babykillers” Babak actually whispers to me when they come within earshot. The girls have a similar reaction when those guys come too close to them, but their prime concern is the one of partying. By the time we have reached the Fontana di Trevi, they are well out of reach and hearing distance, so we can go about our business. Upon arrival at the fountain, I turn around and throw a coin in it, while explaining to the Americans that, there is a custom, according to wich, anyone who has a wish of the “amourous” type, throws a coin in the fountain. A custom that does not seem to be older than the times when Ingrid Bergman was splish-splashing there while shooting “La Dolce Vita”.

So we end up at some Roman tourist pub,that offers us free drinks for the next hour or two. Beers are pouring out from here and there, and there are loads of alcohol being given out and about. I feel that I am stuck in some kind of a Reptile-Zoo scenario. I’m definitely going to need some golf shoes at some point in this crawl, since it’s going to be impossible to be able to walk in the ensuing muck….No footing at all. However it seems that the booze in this part of the crawl is not enough. We have to move to the next bar, where the booze is not free, BUT we get one free drink and all the others at a very good price. By now a great part of our group have turned into some sort of wild beasts that a running full-speed toward the new outlet in search of more alcohol and probably some debauchery. Thank god we are able to maintain the pace even though it seems frenzied. We definitely NEED the BOOZE to keep us GOING until the sun rises again, and I have reasonable doubts if I will be able to withstand the trip to Bologna the following morning.
Leaving the next bar, and against my calculations we have not turned into wild animals yet, probably because there are still some good vibes among the group, a thing wich can be translated into the pilot’s gang being isolated from the rest of the group. They have been going out ofn control and probably a thing wich derives from an alcohol-driven frenzy. But their impact on the ambient atmosphere is minimal. Frenzied or not frenzied, though, we seem to be running full bore toward the final club that awaits us. Upon reaching the club, about half of us get halted at the door by the bouncer, who keeps saying that the club is full (though that does not seem to be the case, from what I get to see through the glass door.) I do not get to see what goes on inside the club aerea, but in the end the California girls emerge, and the redhead seems to be absolutely wasted, and at one point does pass out. I share turns with a Mexican guy in carrying her to their dorm at the Yellow. Then me and Babak move towards our dorm, in order to prepare for the trip to Bologna

Πέμπτη, 27 Αυγούστου 2009

Roma Citta Aperta

When moving into Rome by train, there is only one way to go in and that is through the Termini station. From then on you can move along the public transport lines to wherever you want to.. Termini is a typical Italian central train station, full of markets and shops, and it can turn into the backpacker’s delight, since you can buy there whatever you will need for the trip, without having to spend the day searching within city limits for a place to buy whatever you may need. But Rome actually IS a lot more than buying. Rome is one of the most beautiful cities, not only in Southern Europe, but also in the whole world. Rome is actually full of ruins and architectural artefacts that are dated from every era in European history, from the times of the Roman empire to the twentieth century.
But in an effort to understand Rome, and write about it, one has to reminice of the times he had in there, his recollections of the city’s atmosphere, his thoughts while being there and the idea he gets about the others accompanying him in this trip, if there is anybody doing that. Certainly the first thing I remember about arriving in Rome this time around, is the Americans. There are zillions of Americans loitering around the Italy at any given time, and a great deal of them visits Rome, either in order to have a religious experience in the Vatican, or to explore their Italian roots, or to appreciate the art and cuisine, or even to get a glimpse of the Mediteranean lifestyle , as it was portrayed in a series of Hollywood classics. The firs Americans I came across where two quite daft girls from California, at one table in the hostel’s bar. And during my attempt to strike up a conversation with them one of my roomies turns up and rescues the day. His name is Dane and he is actually an actor travelling around Europe. The other one appears a bit later, an Iranian-American with a ponytail going by the name of Babak. Babak is very moderate about religion, despite the fact that he is of Iranian origin. In fact, as he confesses to me, his family’s relation to religion is just spiritual, and it does not have anything to do with politics or society whatsoever. Both the girls are just out of high school, so they are trying to enjoy a coming-of-age vacation in Europe, before returning to go to college. This is the traveller’s tribe. Huge and complex, consisting of people who travel the world for different reasons each other. One beer brings another and suddenly politics comes to the table. The girls are avid Obama fans and they are quite confident that Obama will win in a landslide and that he will bring a real change in America. We, that is Dane, Babak and I, are not that enthusiastic about the prospects of Obama changing anything. Especially in foreign policy, a change of faces in government does not automatically mean a change of policies. The domestic front is a totally different case. There Obama might be able to bring a real change, but that is also highly improbable, at least by European standards. That happens because however left leaning Obama might be by American standards, in reality he is a part of the liberal right by European standards. That means minimum social measures, but no real political revolution, and a great dissapointment for most of his voters in the long run. But things generally tend to be enthusiastic about Obama at this point, and all the Americans I meet have a certain amount of hope for the Obama government.
The next morning turns out to be quite busy. I am visiting the Colosseum, the roman racetrack, the Palazzo Venezzia, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Quite a long walk, but also one that shows the traveller a great deal of the town, and some of its most picturesque aerias. First stop is the Colosseum, a large stadium built for the sole purpose of offering “bread and fun” to it’s audience, something that consisted, mainly, of slaves fighting wild animals and or aech other to the death. Big brother in its most brutal way, and a perfect way to manipulate the masses and turn them away from their day to day grievances. Probably the acts in there helped in keeping the dictatorial powers of the Ceasar intact for ages. What makes the Colosseum a amazing structure, is its capacity. Its capacity was of more than 20,000 spectetors. That means that at any given time a small town was able to watch the “show”. That was something extraordinary for a time when the population of the city was at about 200,000 people. Not far away from the Colosseum and the two gates surrounding it lie the ruins of the race track. The races that were taking place in there were a really brutal spectacle. Actually they were very dangerous horse races, in which four teams where competing around an oval circuit. Safety precautions were non-existant, and accidents where all the rage. Dying on the track was very often, making the races just another form of bloodsport, meant to exist just for the amusement of the public. Nearby are the baths of Octavian, built by the Emperor whose name they bear. On the outside they are not really interesting. But the fact that Romans of a certain social posture used them often made them an interesting place to take a peek in. Actually in these places deals were made, people were discussing politics and forming plans and alliances. This might sound like the Russian mob, but it was actually some form of get together of political friends and lobbying, in the times of the Senate. Actually Roman senators were very avid lobbyists themselves. There was a very specific example of one particular senator who was so hell- bent for the destruction of Carthagena, who actually ended his speeches on every subject discussed by the senate with the frase: and thus, my friends Carthagena must be destroyed.
Right below this aeria, lies the capitolium, where the senate used to convene during the times of the roman democracy. There decisions where made, and alla of the political play came to the forfront. But a further more interresting building, is the Palazzo Venezia, wich lies on the top of Piazza Venezia.This massive white building, that was made of marble, was one of the most Notorious struvtures in Italian history. Benito Mussolini had given some of his most noted speeches there. And it was in front of the palazzo where Rome’s first ever far right mayor since WWII was sworn in. Italy has taken a swing to the far right with Il Cavaliere in office, especially since the opposition is quite powerless in parliament, and he can pass whatever bills he likes. All this makes Berlusconi’s dream of becoming a new version of Mousolini, and reviving his “glorious” times. This means more vulgar displays of power from neo-fascist gangs, and of course Italy slowly turning into a police state. And of course, everybody is expecting all this “politics of tension” situation makes everybody expect a violent eruption coming from the left or the right any time. This is more than obvious on the said day, since Dubya is paying Rome a visit, and the police is really on its feet. So I am not surprised when I see a column of vans in Carabinieri liveries parked in front of the palazzo, with carabinieri waiting inside.
“No we do not expect anything to happen”, their leader tells me when I ask him if there is a demo scheduled over there. Then their cb crackles something, he jumps in one of the vans, and suddenly they all scramble towards the Piazza del Popolo, trying to muscle their way into the narrow Via del Corso, and leaving me almost thunderstruck. Damn they are fidgeting. But somewhere near the Italian high court, between Via del Corso and the Piazza Navona, there stands a figure that is not fidgeting. In fact, every day, he stands in front of the building patiently, in an effort to find justice. He is a Romanian prize fighter who did some fights in Italy but got nothing out of them, because the Italian boxing federation stripped him off his license. He says it happened because foreign fighters are not allowed to compete in matches in the Italian championships if they don’t meet some strict standards, while this does not apply for Italians. At least that is what I understood after talking to him. Racism? Definately.
The Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful places in Rome. Full of fountains that were created in the renaissance by the famous Vatican protigee sculptor Bernini, it is a very famous hangout for romans and tourists alike. Unfortunately this time around it is being remodelled and some of the fountains are covered. This means I can’t see a big part of the piazza. But nevertheless, my aim for the day is the Pantheon. It is one of the most amazing churches in Rome, the only one that sports an opal on its roof, or a boca del diavolo as it was called then. In fact up until some ages ago it was used as an observatory. Words can not describe the beauty of the building, it is the kind of building that makes you feel small. Moreover, another thing that strikes you while in there, is probably the micture of architectural styles in it’s interior. Combining delicate greek and roman styled columns with massive and rigid structures of the kind that the modernists planned during the early decades of the twentieth century, this building looks more like the work of a visionary architect than a temple.
When the night comes the whole motley crew gets together once more at the bar. Drinks come out and we have a jolly good time talking with the girls, when a group of typical American college jocks actually joins us. My oh my. They actually aren’t that good conversationalists, but, they get the girls to follow them with one sole argument. “We have vodka”. That is the main thing about them that strikes me. The other is that two out of them (a Mexican American and a Moldavian Jew) that are immigrant’s kids have been almost totally Americanized. Especially for the Mexican guy this comes out as some form of reverse racism. The guy looks as if he is ashamed of his origins. The Moldovan guy on the other hand is more relaxed about his nationality. He left the place during the war, as a kid, and probably that makes him a little more relaxed about his nationality, though there is a lot of bitterness when he talks about the political situation in Moldova nowadays. But, contrasting Babak he does not seem to be really interested in changing things.
Anyway, angry at the way the vodka argument worked for the girls, and obviously drunk from the beer and tequila, we decided to retreat to our room, and see what the hell our new roomie was. But this happened in a totally twisted and perverted way. While going into the room we were hurling at each other threatening movie quotes like “I’m gonna go medieval on you boy”. Despite the fact that our new roomie seemed to be of female form, and covered from head to toe in her sheets, we continued to the same tune inside the room. My last memory of the night consists of Babak turning towards his lower bunk (where the girl was sleeping) and screaming toward her in a Tony Montana mode something that sounded like “SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!”!. When we woke up in the next morning she had packed her things and left us. Damn, we terrorized her… Mind you the night before the whole Tony Montana incident Babak had earned his nickname, Mr Chop-Chop, after mumbling something about chopping to peaces the maitre of a pizza restaurant near the Yellow, who was actually being intolerably late, even by Greek standards, in serving us our food. We spend the morning contemplating on our next plans. Dane is going to be travelling to Atlanta within the month in order to work on some project with a director friend of his, while Babak is on his way to New York in two days time. Dane is flying to Athens this evening and me and Babak are thinking of going to a pub crawl, with the daft California girls. So, with just a few hours at our disposal, we decide, to go drink some coffee and fool around at the Piazza del Popolo, and maybe later go get some food and tourist artefacts at the Campo dei Fiori (also called Campo Americano).

We spend zillions of hours hanging around the café and lazing around. In fact we spend most of the morning commenting on people walking past us in the street (it’s Thursday morning). Most of our comments, are, centered around Italian women. The common idea about them, is that they might not be exactly pretty, bu they really do know how to take care of their looks. They are all neatly dressed, and they seem to have a talent when it comes to makeup. They actually don’t apply to much of it, but none of them moves without it. Generally there is some moderate use of it, nothing really much.
Th Campo dei Fiori is another story. It is a posh area, mind you, full of American tourists and fancy cars. Everything exept sandwiches and ice-cream served by delis and carts is really expensive, and everybody moving in the surrounding area seems to be able to spend small fortunes at an y given time. Actually the aerea is swarming with American tourists trying to follow the steps of Robert Langdon, or trying to get their own little wiff of a 00’s Roman Holiday, being totally oblivious to things going underneath the surface.

In reality the city is full of Forza Nuova and Casa Pound stickers, while newly elected mayor Gianni Alemano was being greeted with fascist salutes by his fine during his inaugurational speech, and Berlusconi and his Liga Nord cohorts keep on their racist speeches in the Parliament and the Senata, and even worse, have started passing racist and anti-imigration laws without the smallest hint of a reaction from the parliamentary side of the opposition, and with the only left force capable of reacting, the PRI in souch a political shambles that it cannot even find its way to either its political resurrection, or at least some leftist programme that can counter the Romano Prodi debacle.

These things can be felt when in Rome, and can lead to discussions. Of course there is a lot of discussion between the three of us, wich leads to the conclusion that things need a radical change in Italy, with no clear idea on what change might be.

Putting aside politics and all, we return to the Yellow in time for a small drink and Dane to catch his flight to Greece.

Τετάρτη, 19 Αυγούστου 2009

Bologna, η κόκκινη πόλη.

“Μπολόνια; Τι εκεί εφηύραν το Bouloni;”
“Ναι μάλιστα στον κεντρικό σταθμό της πόλης σε περιμένουν κορίτσια που σου περνούν στο σβέρκο lei φτιαγμένα από το εν λόγω αλαντικό”. Η σουρεαλιστική συζήτηση με τις ολίγον τι χαζές αμερικάνες στο Yellow μόλις τους ανακοίνωσα ότι αναχωρούσα με το πρώτο τραίνο για Μπολόνια. Όμως παρά τις προσδοκίες τους, αυτό που με υποδέχτηκε στον σταθμό, μετά από 6 ώρες ταξιδιού με το τραίνο, ήταν μια επιτύμβια στήλη για τα θύματα της βομβιστικής επίθεσης που είχε γίνει στον σταθμό το 1980. Ναι, η καστροπολιτεία της Emiglia Romana έχει δώσει ένα μεγάλο αγώνα ενάντια στον φασισμό, και τον έχει πληρώσει με αίμα.Στην Piazza Maggiore, απέναντι από τη Βασιλική του San Petronio, άλλη μια επιτύμβια πλάκα. Για τους νεκρούς της αντίστασης ενάντια στον φασισμό αυτή τη φορά, τους νεκρούς της δεκαετίας του 30 και του 40. Μια πόλη οποία είναι συνιφασμένη με τις λέξεις ελευθερία, αντίσταση και αριστερά. Οι gay κυκλοφορούν ελεύθερα και ανοιχτά μέσα στην πόλη, πράγμα σπάνιο για την Ιταλία. Υπάρχει μια αρκετά μέγάλη ομάδα ατόμων που οργανώνουν ποδηλατοπορίες, κυρίως αναρχικοί. Επίσης σταθερά έχει κομμουνιστή δήμαρχο, και οι δυνάμεις της αριστεράς εκεί είναι μεγάλες. Και εκεί βρίσκεται ένα από τα αρχαιότερα πανεπιστήμια της Ευρώπης. Μην πούμε ότι εκεί μένουν κάποιες από τις πιο σημαντικές προσωπικότητες του Ιταλικού πολιτισμού , όπως επί παραδείγματι ο Lucio Dala. Εξ αιτίας όλων των προαναφερθέντων, οι Ιταλοί αποκαλούν την Bologna Καλιφόρνια της Ιταλίας.

Ένα άλλο πράγμα που προσέχει κανείς όσο περπατάει στη Bologna είναι ο μεγάλος αριθμός από καμάρες και πύλες που υπάρχουν στα πέριξ του κέντρου. Και αυτό όμως έχει την εξήγηση του. Πριν τον ερχομό της βιομηχανικής επανάστασης η Bologna ήταν μια καστροπολιτεία, αλλά με την έλευση της βιομηχανικής εποχής και την επέκταση της πόλης, τα τείχη κατεδαφίστηκαν και παρέμειναν οι αψίδες και οι καμάρες να θυμίζουν το παρελθόν της μεγάλης πόλης του Ιταλικού βορά. Στις τρεις ημέρες που διήρκεσε η στάση μου στην πόλη, κατάφερα βέβαια να αποκτίσω μια πιο εκτενή άποψη όσον αφορά την ζωή στην Πόλη, κυρίως χάρη στην ξεναγό μου, την Christel. Στην Μπολόνια υπάρχουν άπειρα και ιδίως μέσα στην παλιά πόλη υπάρχουν πολλά μικρά εστιατόρια και μπαρ στα οποία συχνάζουν φοιτητές, είτε για ένα γρήγορο γεύμα, είτε για να κατεβάσουν κάνα κρασάκι σε λογική τιμή. Στην παλιά πόλη επίσης κυκλοφορούν μυριάδες φοιτητές που ακολουθούν το πρόγραμμα Erasmus, γι’αυτό και δεν είναι σπάνιο φαινόμενο το να ακούσει κανείς Ισπανικά, Γαλλικά ή και Ολλανδικά, ιδίως εάν περιφέρεται κάτω από τα μεσαιωνικά κτίρια κτίρια του πανεπιστημίου. Επίσης υπάρχουν και τα σινεμά, σε ένα εκ των οποίων είδα σε πρώτη προβολή το “Gommora” του Matteo Garone, ενώ συχνά πυκνά γίνονται αφιερώματα σε διάφορα είδη κινηματογράφου.

Επίσης οι πορείες, φοιτητικές και μη είναι συχνό φαινόμενο στην πόλη, όπως και σ’ολη την Ιταλία. Αυτό δεν πρέπει να αποτελεί έκπληξη για τους γνωρίζοντες τα της Ιταλίας, μιας και το τόσο το φοιτητικό κίνημα όσο και ο συνδικαλισμός έχουν γερές παραδόσεις στην Ιταλία, που χρονολογούνται από την δεκαετία του ’60 και από την μετά-Γκαριμπάλντι εποχή. Και η Bologna βρισκόταν στο επίκεντρο και των δύο εποχών.
Είναι παράξενο το πως θα επιζήσουν οι Bolognesi της περιρέουσας ατμόσφαιρας που επικρατεί αυτό τον καιρό στην Ιταλία. Πέρυσι το καλοκαίρι που είχα επισκευτεί την πόλη ο Cavaliere είχε μόλις αρχίσει να μετατρέπει την Ιταλία σε ένα ιδιότυπο αστυνομικό κράτος, με νόμους που έδιναν αστυνομικά καθήκοντα και στον στρατό, και την εισαγωγή των πρώτων ρατσιστικών νόμων κατά της μετανάστευσης. Δεν είναι καθόλου σίγουρο το πως θα αντιδράσουν οι Bolognesi σε όλη αυτή την κατάσταση. Ιδίως όταν υποτίθεται ότι όλα αυτά είναι μέτρα κατά της εγκληματικ΄ότητας. Την στιγμή που στην Ιταλία η μάστιγα είναι τα οικονομικά εγκλήματα, τα οποία διαπράττει και ο Berlusconi. Και μάλιστα την στιγμή που δένει τα χέρια της Αρχής Καταπολέμισης Οικονομικού Εγκλήματος δυσκολεύοντας την εύρεση στοιχείων για τέτοιους εγκληματιές.
Εκτός όμως από τις πλούσιες πολιτικές παραδόσεις , η Bologna έχει διατηρήσει μια γραφική αίγλη, που οφείλεται κυρίως στο γεγονός ότι είναι φοιτητούπολη. Οι ντόπιοι κυκλοφορούν κατά δεκάδες στα στενά του κέντρου, όπου κάνουν τα ψώνια της εβδομάδας, συνήθως προτιμούν τα ποδήλατα και τα (αποτελεσματικά θα έλεγα) αστικά λεωφορεία για τις εντος των πυλών μετακινήσεις τους. Και βεβαίως κάθε πρωί καταναλώνουν τόνους espresso και τα μεσημέρια ή τα απογεύματα περνούν για ένα γρήγορο καφέ από τα τοπικά μπαρ. Η σχέση του Ιταλού με τον καφέ μοιάζει πάρα πολύ με αυτή που έχουν οι Κύπριοι. Ένα είδος καφέ κυκλοφορεί σε 150 διαφορετικές παραλλαγες. Με γάλα, χωρίς, Μισός μισός, μέτριοσ δυνατόν με λίγο γάλα και πάει λέγοντας.
Δεν έχεις ζήσει από Bologna εάν δεν έχεις φάει Spaghetti al Ragu,δεν έχεις πιεί μια Nastro Azzuro από τοπικό μπαρ, δεν έχεις χαθεί στα στενά γύρω από το πανεπιστήμιο, δεν έχεις κάτσει στα σκαλάκια της Piazza Magiore, αντίκρυ στον San Petronio (τη μεγαλύτερη βασιλική στον κόσμο, παρεπιμπτώντως) να ακούσεις τους περιπλανόμενους μουσικούς, δεν έχεις μάθει τίποτα για την κινηματική ιστορία της πόλης.
Είναι μια πόλη την οποία μπορείς να χαζεύεις για ώρες , και να μην την χορταίνεις, η Bologna. Μια όμορφη πόλη με όμορφους ανθρώπους, κόκκινους από άποψη και όχι κάποιο γενετικο ελλάτωμα.

Σάββατο, 18 Ιουλίου 2009

Interrail,ένας μίνι οδηγός

Ας πούμε ότι μέσα σε μία μέρα πρέπει να πας Πειραιά, Νίκαια, Μοσχάτο, Κηφησιά, Γκάζι και Πέραμα. Επειδή όμως δεν θέλεις να πάρεις του κόσμου τα εισητήρια και να πληρώσεις παραπάνω λεφτά, πας στον ΟΑΣΑ και βγάζεις μια κάρτα πολλαπλών διαδρομών. Φανταστείτε τώρα ένα ανάλογο σενάριο να συμβαίνει στην Ευρώπη, σε διάστημα ένός μήνα. Πας μέχρι τα γραφεία του ΟΣΕ (Σταθμός Λαρίσης, ή στην Ομήρου στο κέντρο), και αγοράζεις ένα εισητήριο interrail.
Ένα global pass για το interrail διάρκειας 30 ημερών κοστίζει 399 εάν είσαι κάτων των 26 ετών και 599 ευρώ εάν είσαι άνω των 26 ετών. Από κει και πέρα υπάρχουν φθηνότερα εισητήρια για πακέτα μικρότερης διάρκειας που είναι για όλα τα γούστα.
Με αυτό το εισητήριο μπορείς να κάνεις σχεδόν τα πάντα. Να πας στο φεστιβάλ του Glastonbury, να κάνεις μπανάκια στις Πορτογάλλικες ακτές του Ατλαντικού, να δεις τον κολητό ή την κολητή που κάνει Erasmus στη Γρανάδα, να πιείς αμπσέντι στην Πράγα, να δεις τον Ήλιο του Μεσονυκτίου στην Λαπωνία, και να γευτείς τις “παράνομες” χαρές του Άμστερνταμ.
Μόνο μια πληροφορία. Τα δωρεάν εισητήρια δεν ισχύουν για τη χώρα διαμονής, αλλά μπορεί καν είς να πάρει μειωμένα εισητήρια μέχρι τα σύνορα. Και δεύτερον όταν πρέπει να πάρει κανείς πλοίο για να πάει από τη μία πόλη στην άλλη, μπορεί με ορισμένες εταιρίες να πάρει πάλι μειωμένο εισητήριο.. Κατα τα άλλα μπορείς να πας όπου θέλεις στην Ευρώπη, και να μείνεις όσο θέλεις για ένα διάστημα μέχρι 30 ημερών. Διαμονή σε hostel, η οποία μπορεί να σας κοστίσει από 10-12 ευρώ το άτομο το βράδυ, μέχρι και 30-35, ανάλογα με το πότε θα γίνει η κράτηση. Στα επιπλέον ν θετικά είναι ότι θα γνωρίσεις και άλλους ταξιδιώτες που κάνουν ένα αντίστοιχο ταξίδι, και θα δημιουργήσεις φιλίες μαζί τους. Και αυτό ακόμη και εάν ταξιδεύεις μόνος.
Τι να πάρεις στο ταξίδι. Διαβατήριο. Κάρτα αναλήψεων. Τσαντάκι που να φοριέται κατάσαρκα, για να βάλεις διαβατήριο εισητήριο και κάρτες, για να αποφύγεις δυσάρεστες καταστάσεις που μπορεί να προκύψουν από κάποια κλοπή. Ένα σακίδιο τύπου tetra-pack, μιας και είναι βολικά γιαα τέτοιου τύπου ταξίδια. Ρούχα, κάλτσες, ένα τσαντάκι με φάρμακα και ήδη πρώτης ανάγκης. Φρυγανιές. Παγούρι. Απορυπαντικά για να μην χρειάζεται να πάρετε πολλές αλλαξιές ρούχα. Ένα sleeping bag, σε περίπτωση που χρειαστεί να κάνετε ολονύχτιο ταξίδι. Ipod. Και πολλή καλή διάθεση.
Εάν θέλεις να ζήσεις μια περιπέτεια, ένα interrail είναι ο καλύτερος τρόπος!

Τετάρτη, 24 Ιουνίου 2009

Κάθε πεθαμένου παρέλαση- MADRID-BARCELONA-GRANADA

Ε τι φταίω, είναι από τους αγαπημένους. Pessoa και Whitman. Όχι για κάθε στίχο μα για κάθε ετερώνυμο και κάθε πολυπληθή δήλωση. Καλά, δεν είναι και τυχαία η ένδειξη ενδιαφέροντος. Ο Pessoa χτύπησε περίπου 360 ετερώνυμα σ’όλη του τη ζωή κι αυτό είναι πράμα που μπορεί να εκτιμηθεί δεόντως από ένα παιδί που μεγάλωσε στη στενάχωρη Λευκωσία. Το χιούμορ και μόνο, του να δηλώνει κανείς ότι είναι πολυπληθής και σε καμιά γαμημένη περίπτωση σχιζοφρενής, ε στα δεκάξι μου μου φαινόταν απλώς, ό,τι καλύτερο για την υπόθεσή μου. Αποφάσισα λοιπόν, στις μακρινές μου αναχωρήσεις αν βρεθώ ποτέ κάπου κοντά σε κανα τάφο τους, να δω ό,τι απέμεινε και να χασκογελάσω που εξακολουθούν να’ ναι ακόμα, παρά τις ενστάσεις του χρόνου ζωντανοί κι έτσι, για το κουλό της όλης υπόθεσης να χαράξω εκεί κοντά κάποιες απ’τις στιχάρες τους που πάντα με συντροφεύαν-είμαι άλλωστε από τις γκόμενες που σταθερός τους σύντροφος υπήρξε πάντα η σχιζοφρένεια ενός βιβλίου κι όχι το πέος ενός σχιζοφρενούς. Βέβαια, Philadelfia μεριές, που’ ναι κι ο τάφος του Γουίτ, απ’ όπου και το κορυφαίο: I laugh at what you call dissolution; And I know the amplitude of time" στο προσεχές μέλλον δεν θα το βλεπε η τύχη μου, η Ισπανία όμως, ήτανε κομπλε κι επομένως, ήταν αυτονόητο ότι με προσωρινή βάση Λακορούνια θα πέρναμε λεωφορειάκι για Πόρτο και θα χτυπούσαμε εφεξής μια Λισσαβόνα για την θέαση του τάφου του Πορτογάλλου που μου’ χε χαρίσει μπόλικες συντροφίες στη κωλομοναξιά της κωλοεφηβείας.
Η πορεία λοιπόν, ξεκίνησε όπως ξεκινάνε τα τρένα: ρυθμισμένα και κανονικά με μπίρες και ρυθμούς του Watson στο Wooden arms-χεράκι και κέρατο στον Waits ένα περίπου. Αεροδρόμια και διανυκτερεύσεις και κάθε πεθαμένου παρέλαση από Λόρκα μέχρι Λουίς Βελέθ και Vallejo δίπλα σε κινέζους με μάσκες τρομοκρατημένες από την γρίπη των μέσων μαζικής. Πρώτη στάση με τους καμπούρηδες, ο Villalta στην Μαδρίτη, πίνακες πω ρε φίλε στο Reina Sofia, ασύστολα ειρωνικοί, καλά με δόσεις αυτοαναφοράς μπόλικες για την περίοδο εκείνη της ζωγραφικής στην Ισπανία, γύρω στο 1970 - μεταμοντέρνο τον λένε κάποιοι τον Villalta, χέσε λέω εγώ, ίσως το καλύτερο που άξιζε από την διαμονή στη Μαδρίτη πέρα απ’τα πάρκα με υπόκρουση ριμέικς της ροκ σε μπαχιανά ρέκβιεμ και κάτι καταλήψεις αραιά και πού, τα μουσεία. Κλασικά τα λόγια του Μολερο στα ΄87 για την επανάσταση ενάντια στην δικτατορία: nuestra forma de lucha consistia en ignorar que existia una dictadura-para nosotros estaba muerta y como tal nos comportabamos - ο τρόπος των καλλιτεχνών.
Μετά τα μουσεία - καλά και πριν τα μουσεία - προγευματάκι το χουνε οι Ισπανοί το τίντο- έρχεται το ντιν νταγκ ντογκ, κρασάκι με λεμοναδίτσα και κουβέντα με τους ντόπιους παρα πρακτικάρ λα λέγκουα- άθλια νύχτα η Δευτέρα στη Μαδρίτη, ανοιχτές μόνο ντίσκο με τραγούδια να ξερνάς απάνω στο ποδοσφαιράκι κάτω από την αστραφτερή μπάλα που γυρνάει και την γκόμενα με το λαμέ στην αφίσα –ή στο μπαρ απέναντι ξέρω γω- να ξεφτιλίζει την αισθητική μυρωδιά του πρωινού μουσείου ή να αποθεώνει το λογοτεχνικό φέρετρο του Μπουκόφσκι-αναλόγως διαθέσεως. Η ατμόσφαιρα τραβάει για ουίσκι μιας και ματώνουν τα σαντάλια απ’το περπάτημα με τις ώρες, αν δεν την περπατήσεις την πολη δεν έχει γούστο, λέει κι ο καμπούρης, να πάρεις και καμιά αφίσα απ’τους θαλάμους τηλεφώνου ή τις πόρτες της πλατείας-έρχεται κι ο Cohen Granada τον Σεπτέμβρη- να κάνεις και καμιά παράδα στα παγκάκια λέω γω, να σου φανεί κι η Μαδρίτη τακτοποιημένη, με την οικονομική της κρίση αλλά στη μούφα.
Αεροδρόμια ξανά, Barcelona το επόμενο βαγόνι, ταξιδιωτικός οδηγός στον κάλαθο, παλιά πόλη αποθέωση, θάλασσα - αγορά του Αλχαλίλι σκυλιά γατιά πλανώδιοι και αυτόνομη Καταλονία. Αφίσες στους δρόμους για διαδηλώσεις υπέρ του αιτήματος και σεβασμό στους νεκρούς της ιδεολογικής και πολιτικής μάχης- η οικονομία της περιοχής είναι γερή, το λένε απλά -ταϊζουμε την υπόλοιπη Ισπανία. Γι’ άλλους το αίτημα έχει χαρακτήρα ουτοπικό στις σημερινές μέρες των ‘μειονοτήτων’ που θέλουν να αποσπαστούν από τον ‘εθνικό’ κορμό, για τους ενοποιητικούς και τους ειρηνιστές είναι περίπου στενάχωρο. Ο σερβιτόρος μιλά καταλανικά στον Ισπανό, στον τουρίστα ό,τι να’ναι-είναι κουλτούρα τόπακα που πάει όπου την βγάλει. Μουσεία μικρότερα της Μαδρίτης, λέει ο αμερικάνος, έχει γεμίσει ο τόπος αμερικλανιές φωνάζουν οι καμπούρηδες, Juan Miro, γελάει ο ένας -διαβάζω βιογραφία: τον Μιρο τον διώξανε από την σχολή καλών τεχνών για έλλειψη δεξιοτεχνίας-τώρα εχει αναδειχθεί σε έναν από τους καλύτερους ζωγράφους του 20ου. Picasso μουσείο, καπέλο ψάθινο, ύπνος απ’έξω, φωνάζει μια γριά εβδομήντα που κοιμάμαι στο πάτωμα – μουσείο σοκολάτας προηγουμένως overdose, μπροστά στην ηδονή της σοκολάτας γαμήσαμε την ηδονή της τέχνης και μας έχει μείνει ακόμα μια ηδονή με παράταση επ’αόριστον. Κοκτέιλς στην παλιά πόλη, φτηνή η Βαρκελόνη άμα την ψάξεις, τουρίστες βαβούρα τον Ιούνιο μα πετυχαίνεις και ντόπια στέκια άμα μπεις πιο μέσα. Θάλασσα, λιμάνι και παλιά πόλη, βόλτα στο κέντρο με θέα τα αρχιτεκτονικά του Gaudi, λίγος Νταλί, πόλη που ζει με τα φαντάσματα των δημιουργών της και τις μπαρούφες των τουρίστων.
Μαδρίτη τετράγωνη, Βαρκελώνη ανοίγματα του κύκλου.
Τελειώνουν οι μέρες σιγά σιγά και στην προβλήτα της Βαρκελώνης, το hostel μπατάρισε από αμερικάνους, τραβάμε για Granada αφιχθέντες ξημερώματα, φωνάζουν οι υπάλληλοι για τα εργοστάσια που καίγονται από ‘μόνα’ τους, απολύσεις σωρό -ίσως η μόνη πόλη που έχει τα πιο εμφανή σημάδια της οικονομικής κρίσης. Γράφουν οι εφημερίδες διάφορα, ανάμεσα σ΄όλα αυτά ο Σαρκοζύ καταδικάζει την μπούρκα στο Παρλιαμέντο στο Παρίσι, μάλλον εν απουσία κάποιου σχεδίου αντιμετώπισης του οικονομικού φαλιρίσματος κι ο πλανώδιος μουσουλμάνος που βρίσκουμε λίγο πιο κάτω απ’την Αλάμπρα μας εξιστορεί την ιστορία του προφήτη Σολομόντα εξηγώντας μας μέσα σε ΜΟΝΟ δύο ώρες πως όλοι θα πεθάνουμε μια μέρα, το άγχος διακατέχει μόνο τους Σκανδιναβούς και το φάρμακο για την κατάθλιψη είναι ο ήλιος και το σεξ. Οι φοιτητές βέβαια, κάθονται αραχτοί, μυρωδιές πάνε κι έρχονται, η Granada αρέσει γιατί είναι φλου λένε κι εκσυγχρονισμένη, με εξελίξεις γραφικής ταχύτητας. Μπίρες μπίρες μπίρες και κάπου εκεί στις μπίρες, λίγο με τον Λόρκα λίγο με την Αλάμπρα, λίγο με τα μπιρόνια, τα ράστα και τα ανεβοκατεβάσματα, ξεμείναμε χωρίς Πορτογαλία, με μια πτήση για Πράγα και τα Memoria του Pessoa στη τσάντα για την αναμονή της επιστροφής. No pasa nada λέει κι ο καμπούρης.
Κάποια άλλη φορά θα τον πετύχω τον Pessoa και από κοντά, όσο κουλό κι αν ακούγεται.