Monday, 29 July 2013

My Second Home

The Amazing Alicante

Alicante (or more specifically a nearby town called Aspe) is basically my second home. I go there usually around three times a year and I love being there with my friends. It gives me the independence to travel on my own, and it is the most beautiful place. In summer, the average temperature is a scorching 30 degrees, and I do enjoy a traditional siesta when the heat gets too much. However, it would be wrong for you to think that the sunshine is all that there is. In the area of Alicante, right on the beach there is a huge castle, called the Castle of Santa Barbara, and the views from the top are unbelievable. It was definitely worth the epic climb to get up there, and you could see for literally miles around. This included the somewhat controversial bullring in Alicante, but it's not actually in full use and (in my experience) most of the local people are staunchly opposed to the killing of the bulls in the ring. Nevertheless, the bullrings are fascinating to see and the enormity of the buildings does make you think about how important bullfighting used to be to Spanish culture.

Okay now this, I adored.

Right in the heart of the 'Barrio Viejo' of Alicante there was a poem called 'The Man With No Name' written on the wall. As soon as I had read it, I wanted to know whether it was a famous poem or not. As far as I know, this poem is original. I have not been able to find a copy of it anywhere online. It's absolute magic. The way that the rhythms and sounds of the lines merge together into one unified whole is breathtaking. I could have sat there for hours reading and re-reading. I love the way that it has been written anonymously and the world has not seen it. That's why I haven't written it out in full and translated it for the world to see. Some things, sometimes should stay private. It's not my place to make it public. However, I can say that it was a beautiful poem that demonstrated the beauty of 'Castellano' and I hope has encouraged people to see the beauty of poetry for themselves.

But my adventure wasn't all about waltzing round Alicante in some sort of poetic daze... Oh no. Within a week of being there I was helping out the family of one of my friends, tying paper bags around the grapes to protect them from the birds. In the heat of the midday sun, this was hard work. Of course I'm glad to help out and experience just a little of what the local community of Aspe do every single year. I don't think I will look at a grape the same way again!

This area of Spain is famous for its grapes, and it is from here that the tradition of eating twelve grapes one at a time just before the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve comes from. What a way to welcome in the New Year! I hope to return 'home' for New Year, and to enjoy the fruits of my labour - payback for the blisters I suffered with!

Fact File: Monastrell is the predominant variety of grape grown in the Alicante region, though Granacha and Merseguera are also present. Due to the heat in summer the vines are planted as low bushes.

Please don't be alarmed by this picture. It's a photo taken of the side of the beautiful local church in Aspe. The plaques bear the names of the soldiers that died for Franco in the Spanish Civil War 1936 - 1969. Since the death of Franco the names have been vandalised by the 'rojos', the government opponents.

Later that day, I was with my friend at her grandparents house, and was telling them about what I had seen at the church. I was then surprised to hear her grandfather's opinions. I learned that he actually felt that Spain was a better place under the rule of General Franco. People were not able to go out at night, but this meant that he used to feel safe leaving the doors unlocked at night. He explained to me that nowadays he feels constantly on-edge having to ensure that the house is always locked. Despite the fact that a group of young adults could not meet together for fear of rebellion, he preferred to live in a 'Safe Spain' and pay the price of freedom for that. Although I can't say that I agree, it was interesting to hear the views of the generation that had lived through Franco's leadership and to find someone with a more unique viewpoint. 

 I can't write this post without saying a huge thank you to my
best friends in Aspe, Alicante without whom my many adventures
in Spain would not have been possible.


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