Run! That was the declaration of the guy at the ticket counter, as soon as he had given me my ticket to Valencia. As soon as I had it in my hands , I dashed through all checkpoints and within two minutes I was seated inside the Altaria. I was there just at the nick of time. Now that WAS a relief. It was an early morning departure. And a spectacular one , for what it’s worth.
As I was relaxing the train was speeding through a very familiar landscape. The southeastern coast of Spain. I had been there two years before, and the scene remained virtually unchanged. I saw the empty hotel complexes, I saw whatever remained of those that where being demolished in the past, but, more importantly, I saw the redevelopment of the areas between Barcelona and Tarragona, that where slowly turning into some sort of an industrial zone. Spain was changing, again. And, despite that, everything looked, almost the same. I guess tourist zones never really change.
As I reached the central train terminal in Valencia, things where changing. We had drifted from the coast to the mainland, and, now stadiums and high tech exposition venues where all the rage.. Valencia can come close to being an industrial town which has a tourist side. In fact I was staying at it’s “picturesque” zone, a hostel that was situated almost next to the historical centre..
After shacking up, I commenced a small raid on the local supermarket, and bought some food. And since getting a little bit of sleep was of the essence, I went into the dorm and took a nap until mid afternoon.
I woke up at around six. It was about time to take a walk around and see the suroundings of the hostel. I snooped around a bit before I found the local mosque. One of the few left in Spain, it is probably the best preserved Arabic religious monument in the area. But, to my great misfortune, it was being renovated and I could not enter. I was stuck with being able to see only the façade. So I decided to take one more spin. As I walked through the city I watched a married couple riding an old Citroen. Two of the onlookers commented that it was one of Franco’s favourite models. Valencia, was, at some point, the capital of Spain’s democratic government. I do not really know Franco’s ideas had any impact on the population, but it is more likely that Valencia fell because of strategic mistakes. This is what happens when Stalinists are in charge of any movement, be it a resistance movement or a revolutionary one. Franco tormented the townsfolk. The local dialect was outlawed, along with everything else that was deemed inappropriate by the regime.
I spent the night eating pizza with the roommates (two swedes and some australians before going out on the roof to enjoy a few ales under the Valencian sky.
The next day was spent walking in the sidestreets of the city. Meanwhile, the city, like the rest of Spain, was in “Furias Rojas” fever, since Spain was on its bid to the European Championship. And things were going their side. Red and yellow flags were flying everywhere and the city was in a festive mood.
Meanwhile the sidestreets where full of old men searching for sex-for-sale. Lines of street hookers where on display and old men where lining up for them. Gross, gross,gross…… I kept walking away from all this looking for something to catch my eye. Suddenly I saw a painting of Tintin appear in front of me. There was a very wide collection of Tintin related articles, from a poster for a forthcoming golf tournament to the famous demonstration strip from the famous rogue anarchist comic book Adventures of Tintin: Breaking Free.
By then night had come and a small night out was planned. We decided to go to an English-style pub, called the Picadilly. Brit-pop music, faces that where reminiscent of the “baggy” era of Madchester and a table football set, equipped with a local Ian Brown lookalike that would not leave unless someone beat him in a game. Of course, trying that was hopeless, since the guy was the local table football champ. So humiliated as we where, we retreated to a table to finish our booze.
On the final day the Valencian heat was terrible. I stayed in until almost midnight, when it was time to leave and catch the night train to Granada