As I had a pretty good Siesta the day before, I didn’t need much sleep overnight which is probably the reason why I woke up early feeling quite… well… OK. Wouldn’t say “fantastic” as I’ve been having some sleeping‐related problems recently, which I will address as soon as I go back to Canada.
But, good enough to start the day.
The evening before, Marcos, Julio’s friend, suggested that I get a ride with him from Murcia to Córdoba; however, that happened after I already bought the bus ticket, plus I woke up early anyway so I decided to take the bus instead. Thank you though, Marcos, for your offer—very much appreciated.
(Yes, bus. At least on Sundays, there are no direct train connections from Murcia to Córdoba; there are some connecting train routes available, but arriving to Córdoba way too late)
As the end of the tour nears, I’m more inclined to make things easier and easier for myself. Murcia’s bus terminal is not too far from the hotel but I chose to take a taxi instead and live prima‐donna‐style. Arrived at the bus terminal with ample time to check it out and make sure I’m at the right place. Double‐ and triple‐checking were definitely called for; on Sundays, there’s only one bus leaving Murcia towards Córdoba, and it leaves on 8:00am.
Thinking about it, the ride to Córdoba was the first significant bus ride during this tour; while I took buses inside cities before (for example, to get from my hotel to the venue), this was the first time I had to take a bus to actually reach my destination city. That adds “bus” to the already‐impressive list of methods of transportations used to get from one place to another during this journey—so far, I have done cars (North America), airplanes (North America to Europe, Oslo to Hamburg, and three more to come in Spain), a taxi (Poland; 2 hours ride) and trains (stopped counting already).
Boarded the bus and took what I thought was my seat (I chose my seat while booking online); it happened to be vacant—the best seat in the house, no seats in front of me (right behind the back doors).
I was not looking forward to this bus ride; I genuinely despise buses as they tend to make me nauseous, and being this a 7 hours (!) bus ride, I considered this ride to be one of the toughest one in the trip for me. I just prayed for safe arrival to Córdoba without any messy occurrences along the way, and I’ll spare you from the details.
Surprise, though; the ride went awfully smooth, and I even managed to doze off for some time. The ride itself wasn’t very interesting, and was exactly what I expected it to be: lots of barren hills around, no greenery save for one particular type of bush that appears to only grow in such dry conditions, hardly any water. An “upgraded desert”, if you may.
A movie was playing in the bus; of course, volume was up so everyone could hear it, including those who had absolutely no shade of interest in it.
Moving on… and… wait, am I in Arizona?
The bus stopped for about half an hour in Granada, where I had a despicable sandwich and freshly‐squeezed orange juice. In Granada, lots of people boarded the bus, making it almost full; I then realized that my seat is on the other side of the aisle, as a mature couple used sign language to tell me to fuck off their seats.
Dozed off for pretty much the rest of the ride, waking up a couple of minutes before arriving to Córdoba. I was happy; the trip ended without much hassle. Google Maps claimed the distance to my hotel to be about 2.0km; temperature—about two million degrees. Hopped on a taxi and arrived at my hotel—Hotel Conquistador, in the old city.
Córdoba (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%B3rdoba,_Spain) is located in the region of Andalusia, and is the capital of the Province of Córdoba. In ancient times, it was a Roman city; in the Middle Ages, it was an Islamic city.
Tourism‐wise, Córdoba is most known for its magnificent old‐town area; walking there is almost as close as it gets to time travel, with buildings and monuments of the middle‐ages, reminders for the Islamic reign of the city. Some historians claim that, at around the end of the first millennium, Córdoba was the most populated city in Europe, and perhaps even in the world, with 500,000 people living in it.
My knowledge of Córdoba amounted to nothing before this trip. Well, almost nothing. The only context in which I remember Córdoba was actually an animation series I watched when I was a kid. The series’ name, in English, is “3000 Leagues in Search of Mother” (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3000_Leagues_in_Search_of_Mother); a heart‐wrenching story about a kid looking for his mother all over the world. In some episodes, Marco looked for his mother in Córdoba and it somehow got burnt into my mind.
… OK, you can stop mocking me now.
Anyway, my hotel was located at the very heart of the old town. a 4‐star hotel for the staggering price of €39. How things are so cheap here—I couldn’t understand; there’s so much history in this place and so much beauty, well worth a couple of days of exploration. I was impressed as soon as the taxi arrived at the old‐town area; so, right after checking‐in, I went outside to explore for a bit, and maybe get something to eat.
The walk outside was a very pleasant walk; the old town is beautiful, featuring narrow & winding streets with some very old buildings. This is a popular tourist attraction, and as such, those narrow streets are filled with gift shops and other tourist traps.
My hotel was located right across the road (well, a 3 metres wide road) from the Great Mosque of Córdoba (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mosque_of_C%C3%B3rdoba); I passed next to its walls before going deeper into the myriad of narrow streets…
… I guess Burger King is bloody everywhere.
Finally having time for a proper meal, I had the receptionist’s recommendation for a good restaurant. Went there, saw the menu and decided to keep my house after all rather than selling it to benefit a meal. A nearby terrace offered a simpler menu for about half the price.
Sat down; one million people on the terrace, waiting to be served. Somehow, I caught the waiter’s attention.
– “Sorry, there are many tables before you…”, he said.
– “Oh, that’s OK.”
– “Do you know what you want?”
I realized that if I say “yes”, I can get some service right now!
– “… So tell me.”
It was then when I realized that I had no clue about what I want.
– “… Actually I don’t.”
He laughed. “OK, I will be back soon”.
Being almost a complete stranger to the Spanish cuisine, I went for a soup of weird texture, containing bits of ham in it as well as bits of eggs. I forgot the name of this soup but maybe it’s better this way, it was rather ugly.
A Paella followed shortly after; not as good as the one I had in Barcelona. Yes, another fail.
Time for dessert, so I noticed an item on the menu called “Córdoba Tart”. A dessert. I decided to give it a try. Turned out it’s a tart filled with some sort of a spread that is, I’m telling you, 100% sugar. I had two bites and couldn’t take it anymore.
Paid my bill quite unwillingly, and off to see some more of this beautiful area.
Some ice‐cream, and off to that Mosque. Entry to the garden is free, and I was in no mood to pay anything for a touristic look inside, so I sufficed with the pleasant‐enough garden. Not bad.
Back to my hotel, I faced the same dilemma I did in Murcia: should I go for the markknopfler.com early‐entry advantage and wait 2:30 hours for the concert to start, or should I take it easy and try another meal before heading to the concert, resulting in being in the far back? I decided to go to sleep on it, and woke up too late for the markknopfler.com early‐entry.
The venue was within walking distance—about 15 minutes or so—so I decided to walk it and take some photos along the way.
Finally, about two hours before the concert’s scheduled start time, I arrived at the venue, Nueva Plaza de Toros de Córdoba. From the exterior, this is a nice bullring, but if I could sum up the surroundings of it in one word, it would be:
… As you should see soon.
Picked‐up my ticket, and went to hunt for food. That’s when the evening started to get unbearable for me—an experience I prefer to forget.
The short story is that I only managed to get food about 2 minutes before Border Reiver started playing, which was more than two hours after I was set out on my quest to feed myself. This has pretty much everything to do with the vast difference between the Canadian mentality—to which I got pretty accustomed since I moved there eight years ago—and the southern‐Spanish mentality.
Before you jump off and tell me to go screw myself, I suggest you take a tranquilizing pill and calm yourself down: I am not underestimating the Spanish culture or its people at all. What I’m saying is that the the culture difference between Canada and southern Spain is such that it makes it very hard to get along there while maintaining politeness and sanity. Things here obviously work completely differently than in most places I’ve been to in North America; things get even MUCH trickier when you can’t even communicate with people due to severe language barrier.
First of all, the question was where to eat and what. I wrote before about dinner time being a rather fluid concept in Spain—dinners here start late, sometimes as late as 9:00–9:30pm. Before dinner time, what Spanish people usually do when they’re hungry is go for what they call a “Cafe‐Bar” and feed on Tapas—sort‐of “in‐between meals” food. Of course, beer works beautifully with it.
Attempts to locate actual restaurants around the venue failed miserably; I have seen, though, many of those “Cafe‐Bar”’s, and as my hopes for a decent meal faded away, I decided to try one of those small establishments; much better to eat something small than starving to death.
So we’re past obstacle #1, and we’re going straight on to obstacle #2: the language barrier. I don’t speak Spanish, and people here don’t speak English. You want an English menu? Might as well go howl at the moon; it ain’t going to happen. If you have a dictionary, might as well toss it, too. Quite a few dishes here have names that don’t translate to any meaningful words in English. A culinary dictionary—maybe.
Now lets say that you’re past obstacle #2 somehow; what I did was to just pick something that doesn’t sound like something scary or something I don’t like. Then, comes obstacle #3 which is, after all, the toughest one to break: your expectation to being served.
The bottom line is, that when these places are busy, you are not going to get served unless you pretty much locate the waiter, grab him by his arm and drag him to your table. The reason is simple: if you don’t do that, somebody else would, and waiters here don’t say “no” to aggression because doing so invites more extreme aggression. That’s how things work in these busy “Cafe‐Bar”’s: you must be very aggressive to get served. That means quite a bit of pushing, raising your voice, and even use your hands to get some people’s attention. Personal space? You must be fucking kidding me. People step on each other here.
Now some might consider this “rude behaviour”. Truth be told, I thought so myself. But when you think about it more in‐depth, well, this is part of their culture. It works for them, that’s why they behave this way. Myself, as a tourist, have no right to complain to anybody but myself for not being able to “adjust” to these people and their culture. They behave this way because that’s the way they were educated; that’s the values and norms they were exposed to when growing up; it’s not bad—it’s just different, and there’s a very fine line between “agreement” and “acceptance” here. While I am in no way agreeing that this is “optimal behaviour”, I fully accept it as, hey, I’m a visitor here.
You can’t walk into a country and start calling people “jackasses” because they are too rude to your taste, in much the same way that a country’s leader can’t declare war on another country just because he thinks that democracy is the way to go (oh, well, at least most countries’ leaders).
You may not believe it, but it’s true—I went into four or five of those bars, and just couldn’t get served. Anything. Nothing. Nobody listened to me, nobody paid attention to me, nothing. The people who did get attention are those who were extremely aggressive about it. I couldn’t bring myself to that level of aggressiveness; so I remained hungry.
After just about an hour and a half of failing to feed myself outside, I had two options: either walk 10 minutes to McDonald’s, or just go to the venue and eat something inside. I chose the latter… which turned out to be a miserable mistake.
First of all, the garbage. Look:
And that was everywhere. The very sight of this was enough to make me postpone my appetite. But never mind, lets move on. Entered the venue:
Saw what was going on inside; that already was a hint that things are not going to be more pleasant. I’m pretty sure this concert was oversold; it got much worse later. The bunch of people you see in the picture below is not of people waiting for food; these are people who stood there because there was no space left inside the venue!
I then started to wait “in line” for food at the venue. All I wanted was a cup of water and a Bocadillo—which is basically a small sandwich with various stuff in it, usually ham.
I’m writing “line‐up” in quotes because whatever it was, it was clearly not a “line‐up”. A bunch of sweaty, aggressive people just swarming the stand. Any last thoughts I had for personal space evaporated within seconds. Looking around me, I noticed that I was pretty much the only one who was annoyed. That’s how things work here.
And I waited.
And I waited for 30 minutes.
Yes, 30 minutes, during which people just came and went. People arriving after me got served before me. Suddenly, I saw people starting to leave. I felt very lucky—maybe, with fewer people around, I’ll be able to get some food. MIRACLE! I caught the attention of the worker.
He even knew English; at least, knew English enough to tell me that the counter is now closed and I should try my luck in another counter.
If I am any good of a writer, you should already feel my pain at this point. Nevertheless, I was determined to get something to eat. I waited this long, so I’ll wait a bit more to get fed. Went to another counter.
It took me 40 minutes in line until someone was merciful enough to notice the complete depression on my face. Well, that, plus the fact that people started to leave because the concert was just about to start in two minutes.
Moral of the story: Eat elsewhere before you go to a concert. Pay extra money to eat in a secluded, more peaceful place, such as your hotel.
It took me about 2 minutes to pretty much swallow the sandwich and drink the Sprite I had (they ran out of water), when the band took the stage and the concert started; unfortunately, things did not get better.
You may have difficulties reading this, and it hurts me to write it, but for me, there actually was very little “concert”. The very thought of making my way up somehow and sit somewhere on the tribune drifted into dust as soon as I saw what was going on near the stairs. Impossible, so I had to stand outside.
So, I stood by the soundboard. At this stage of my journey, I hardly have any feet left so it was pretty hard for me to stand still for too long, so I had to make a few walks around every now and then in order to relieve the pain.
But that wasn’t the worst problem. The much worse problem, due to which I can comment on basically nothing of the concert, was the immense noise caused by people who were talking, laughing, chatting on the phone, fooling around, and doing pretty much everything except being quiet and listen to the music.
People here also like filming shows:
Here’s a picture showing you people watching the concert from, basically, outside the venue:
There were a few entries to the venue like the one above—all blocked by piles of people trying to sneak a peak.
The situation was so bad with regards to noise in the venue, that I’ll use this fact to demonstrate: a few nights ago, I believe it was in Nîmes, I was able to recognize a different accompaniment of Prairie Wedding by Richard Bennett, that was different than the original by just about one note. In this concert, though, I didn’t even notice Richard’s switching to a different guitar during the end of Hill Farmer’s Blues (source: his tour blog).
See what I had to cope with:
Very crowded… looking forward and backward. Note: I was basically standing as far as possible from the stage, while within the venue.
Things got very aggravating after a while… I guess my limit has been pushed. Sorry guys but other than telling you that Coyote was back to replace Prairie Wedding, there’s nothing I can tell you about the concert. At some point I had to simply go sit somewhere, by the food stands.
I did return, though, towards the end, to take a few final shots.
Sorry guys, but that’s it. Just know I tried.
For the first time this tour, I was happy, very happy to leave a venue and go back to the hotel.
Córdoba’s old‐town area is simply breathtaking at night. The time was around 1:00am when I made my way to the hotel.
These spectacular views come with some sort of a soothing effect; much of the tension went away as I was walking the empty streets of Córdoba’s old town. Back at the hotel, one shower washed almost everything away.
Signing‐off this post from my hotel room in Lisbon, Portugal. I chose to spend the day off here for the mere reason that I prefer to do travel when I’m in better control of time, and day off’s are ideal for that.