**This post is a few days old, but due to connection issues I wasn’t able to upload it while traveling. I’ve returned to Boston by now, and I’m looking forward to my next adventure.**
The trains in Spain are preposterously fast. After our bus trip across the Portuguese border to Sevilla, Sophia and I have been blasting across the landscape at 300 kilometers per hour in super sleek carriages. It’s a good reminder that really anywhere you go, when you get outside of the bubble of cities and suburbs the world is composed of farms. From the window you can see rolling groves of orange trees, fields surrounded with electrified wire full of bulls dreaming of a day of reckoning in Pamplona, and tri-bladed windmills waiting for a latter day Don Quixote to strike them down.
We were only in Sevilla for one night, but what a night! Right now is the Feria de Abril, a massive fair that pulls people from all over Andalusia like a magnet. When we first got to the city I saw elaborately belled horses pulling carriages down main avenues and extravagantly dressed belles striding through the street in frilly flamenco dresses, and I honestly thought the whole thing was kind of hokey and begging for a photo op.
I was wrong! EVERYONE in the city is wholeheartedly into Feria, and it’s not for tourists at all. Sevilla’s finest families spend tens of thousands of euros renting horse carts, tailoring traditional clothes, and building casetas on the fairground. The casetas are temporary houses with front terraces, dance floors, fully stocked bars, and generator powered kitchens that families, businesses and political parties pay for and invite their friends to visit. Bouncers at the door of private casetas check the name of supplicants against the master list, and if you don’t know anyone inside you’re turned away, banished to the public casetas with the rest of the riff raff and out-of-towners. The result is a mix between a frat party and the opera Carmen: men in tailored suits lean on trees pulling on skinny cigarillos, women in fantastic dresses dance flamenco in shady tents, and kids in toreador costumes ride cantering horses through the crowds. Bouncers make sure that no one reels into a caseta that they aren’t invited to, and the party goes til dawn.
From Sevilla we went to Madrid, where I met up with my high school friend David to watch eat tapas at a euro a plate and watch the Champions League clash between Real and Atletico Madrid. Real Madrid are funded by the Spanish monarchy, have won the Champions League 10 times, and have the swagger of a multibillion dollar football club. Atletico are a bunch of scrappy underdogs with few notable players, a stadium on a working class stretch of riverbank outside the city, and a serious can-do spirit. Game on!
We watched in a bar that was so loud that I considered asking the bartender to turn on the TV volume, until I walked past the TV and realized it was already turned on full blast. I was rooting for Atletico, a team that spends less on player salaries than Real Madrid spends on hair gel. The game was a scrappy affair. An Atletico player who broke his nose in the last match featured in the starting lineup, while Real Madrid players fell to the ground numerous times to receive medical treatment for sprained eyebrows and hurt feelings. Real scored the winning goal five minutes from full time, and true aficionados of football wept.
Tomorrow is another day, I guess. The next day Sophia and I saw the Guernica painting, a monumental homage to the suffering of the Basque people under the cruel fascist Franco’s regime, which put the soccer situation in perspective a little bit. I’m writing this now from a train that’s streaking towards Barcelona, where I’ll spend the weekend before flying home. I’m looking forward to a few days in Catalonia before returning to Boston.