Semana Santa

Oftentimes it’s the eccentric few that wander among us who provide the most pleasurable company. You know you’re in good company when you can’t really tell if those around you are sober or have had a few.  It’s Easter week in Spain and I spent a few days down south gathering stories and jokes from a few others currently wandering these parts. I somehow happened across one of those old school hostels in the middle of nowhere, the kind of which you’d hear spoken of for miles around on backpacker trails, where each night people gather around a table and eat and chat into the wee hours. It’s a shame they are so hard to find in western Europe these days, a sign of the changing times I suppose.

Religious festivities in Easter week in Spain aren’t really my scene. In reality however they are impossible to escape, and perhaps even more so in Andalucía where I’ve come for a few days. I’m stuck a kilometre high in the mountains in a village called Cartajima, and outside it’s a scene that resembles Beirut as I write this indoors, taking shelter from the afternoon sun. I’m kept on edge by the constant bangs of fireworks outside from the whiskeyed up locals who have spent the morning cutting down healthy trees to line the streets before they blow up a Judas early tomorrow morning.

Deforestation and dynamite does seem like a harsh way to remember perhaps the most shafted man in history. It’s ironic, when you consider that someone had to do it, and without him, there’d be no plot to the biggest story ever told! Judas gets to a lot people on some level, even Dylan. It reminds me of when in ’66 after he went electric, someone from the crowd howled out “Judas”.  He got riled up, and turned to the band shouting “play it fucking loud!” before launching into the most memorable of versions of “like a rolling stone“.

The Spanish are a peculiar lot when it comes to some of their customs. Some I understand, some I even admire, but the sight of grown southern Spanish men crying at the sight of a jesus or mary being carried through the streets, well, that is something I’ll probably never come to comprehend.

I do however like coming to these parts, blindly picking out a place on a map merely because you like the sound of the name, away from the hoards of tourists in the larger cities. I’m in a small town of 200 habitants and I secretly kind of pride myself in having figured out, for me at least, what travel is really about. And one thing it’s not is the perpetual runaround visiting and photographing well-known landmarks to plaster a Facebook wall with. I’d take hanging out in a rural Andalusian village any day. I don’t really tire of those compact white-washed villages locked in time and sporadically dotted across a mountainous landscape, they give the mind room to wander. Their empty streets with open doors under a beating sun, bed sheets fluttering in the breeze from balconies, the sound of ringing cowbells from freely wandering livestock across the barren rocky peaks, abuelos sitting in the shade in the plaza chatting, their routines probably haven’t varied widely in the intervening decades since they first met. It’s a different world in many respects. It’s an alright place to be.

Below are a few landscape photos of the area including a couple of photos of a village I happened upon while out for a hike one day. It’s called Júzcar, a little smurf village painted blue some years ago by Sony Pictures, it’s a strange little place indeed.

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  • Jack Stafford

    Trust you to find the Smurf town with your photographic 6th sense

    • I’m a bit rusty on that front…hard to miss the smurf village though!