Tag Archives: travel writing

Boots of Spanish leather

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We landed on Spanish soil and I was home. The generous splashes of color on every building façade, balcony and alcove; the garlands of artificial flowers, decorating every nook and cranny; the cobble-stoned pathways; it was like a rainbow had exploded over everything. There was unrestrained emotion everywhere, whether it was the troubadours laying their heart on the line or the artiste selling his soul on paper. One sketch magician proposed to me right there and I was dumbstruck. “I would want someone as colorful as you in my life” were his words.

We Pakistanis, as a nation, have passive aggressiveness down to an art form, any open displays of love and individuality are frowned upon, so it’s fair to say I felt these Spaniards were my people. Open, free, happy, colorful.

There was the Flamenco dance we attended at this local restaurant. I had a vague concept of what Flamenco was; a lot of stomping of leather shoes and musical clappers, but I was slightly taken aback by the sheer display of aggression and nonchalance. The feminist in me rejoiced to see this beautiful woman with her game face on, letting her man know he will rue the day he walked out on her. Though he is breaking her heart he will never break her spirit!

There was the Cathedral of Cordoba; formerly the mosque of Cordoba, so many eons ago, when Muslims ruled over Spain, torn down and rebuilt as a church; part of the mosque was saved for posterity. This Cathedral is now a testament to the grandeur and decadence of both styles of architecture. The stark difference between the two styles hits you quite violently, where one is all about gilded opulence and gorgeous sculptures, the other uses organic curves, spherical shapes and scripture as an art form.

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What struck me most was how the same situation can affect people in such different ways; we were a group of about 40 people, roughly divided down the middle in to two generations, the old and the new, people in their late 20’s and 30’s and our parents. Faced with the Cathedral, the oldies spent most of their time bawling over the lost glory of the Muslims while the younger generation saw hope of coexistence, peace and love. If we respect each other’s differences we CAN all get along.  As I wiped a tear from my eye it was a proud moment for me. There is hope for this generation yet.

There was the visit to La Cartuja, a monastery on a river island near Seville, where DNA verified remains of Christopher Columbus were buried. There are parts of Columbus buried at four different locations in four different countries, each guarding its precious bit with its life. Even though most of us now know Columbus was kind of an asshole and a bumbling idiot. He discovered the wrong place, died thinking he’d discovered some place totally different. Raped and plundered the land he landed on. Brought back Syphilis to his country and thousands of people died of it as a result. History is indeed written by the victors, or severely uninformed friends of the victors.

Also, the “Earth is flat” theory had been debunked by Pythagoras 2,000 years before Spain even came into existence, so it’s safe to say this was not the reason he had a hard time procuring funds for his expedition. It was more because he knew shit all about navigation and had severely under estimated the distance he had to travel to get to Asia, which is why he ended up in America.

Once he got back his own crew testified against him for the atrocities he inflicted on them, but money talks, or in this case, spices do, as the justice system failed us once again and he was sentenced to 6 weeks in jail. Because 6 weeks is the prescribed time period for curing tyranny.

To my utter horror, people in my group wanted to take in a little bit of light animal cruelty in the form of Bull fighting. How is tormenting any poor creature ‘entertainment’?? They actually kill the bull in the end as a form of ‘mercy’ because the wounds would probably do it in anyway. The bloody scene from Hemingway’s “for whom the bell tolls’ immediately sprung to mind and I put my foot down. This was some serious bull shit, but at the rate they’re going there won’t be for long, when they kill all the bulls!

I left Spain with a heavy heart and a very light pocket. The ten odd days spent there are some of the favorite days in my life. I hope I visit again some day

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