Echoes of Spain
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
Created on Monday, October 24, 2016, 9:21
I waited until I returned to Spain to write this story after a three-week stay in that beautiful region of the world. Although I had only been away from the ‘motherland’ for a year, I found some great surprises in very different elements: the incredible situation of a country that is operating without an official government and a political class in total decline, a tottering monarchy that looks ridiculous with the kind of theatrical comedy they display in public, a very low level of productivity with the highest unemployment rate in Europe (20%) and an amazing wave of international tourism which in just six years has risen from an average of 50 million visitors annually to about 75 million.
So there is no doubt that the country has survived the current global economic crisis, thanks to a totally random development. Because there is a lack of job opportunities, the millions of immigrants now invading Europe do not even come close to Spain, while countless tourists from around the world have chosen this country for their annual vacation due to its incredible world-renowned architectural monuments that they can visit with a degree of safety that does not exist in France, Italy, Austria and Germany at the moment; this in addition to the low prices for hotels and transportation.
Not only was the city of Madrid full of tourists in the middle of autumn when tourism is fairly low throughout Europe, but everything has changed in many of the country’s beautiful cities and regions. A prolonged summer has allowed its beaches to continue to operate and tours along its northern routes, such as the famous Camino de Santiago Route coming from France, have continued to operate in a massive way. This has produced significant income for hostels, sanctuaries, and hotels along the route, as well as for food suppliers, the various food establishments and all services provided for tourists.
The most popular tourist areas, such as the famous cities of Granada, Cordoba and Seville in Andalusia, and cities near Madrid, such as Toledo, Segovia, Avila and Badajoz, plus all the tourist regions of Asturias and Catalonia had average hotel occupancy of more than 90%, allowing them to increase their rates and employ more people. Meanwhile, something similar happened in the shopping malls, restaurants and all tourist agencies that could not cope with the unprecedented demand this year, which is viewed as having the highest average temperature since they started tracking these figures in Spain in the 1930s.
This unexpected situation of very high tourist inflows has enabled the survival of a government without head or tail that lacks legality by not having obtained enough votes from the representatives of its political parties to form a constitutional government. However, this serious issue was resolved by circumstances as public institutions dependent on the state have earned extraordinary income that has allowed them to pay the salaries of bureaucrats in charge of the autonomous regions, provide basic services for their municipalities, such as public safety, payment for the energy used in public services and the salaries of the staff to maintain the complicated road and rail networks that allow easy movement of tourists.
In view of this special situation, I decided to cancel the planned tour across the Bay of Biscay through Bilbao, Santander and San Sebastián and ending in France, and went instead with my wife to the beautiful city of Burgos, where I was fortunate enough to live several years ago. The city is more beautiful than ever as the authorities have spent much of their revenue on improving the roads, maintaining and expanding its amazing public parks and the entrances to its spectacular public buildings, including its wonderful churches. Among these are the second best Gothic cathedral in the world, the amazing monasteries of Las Huelgas dating back to the twelfth century, which is still in use, the thirteenth-century Carthusian Monastery of Miraflores, which used to belong to the Mercedarians and is now a hotel that has managed to carefully preserve its majestic fifteenth-century buildings, and many other monasteries and convents with beautiful buildings. Then there is the extraordinary Museum of the city of Burgos with its two sixteenth-century buildings and its amazing Museum of Human Evolution built in 2010, where they keep the remains of humanoids predating ‘homo sapiens’ himself, which were found in Atapuerca and are almost three million years old.
And as if all that was not enough to captivate the most ardent tourist, the city of Burgos is a kind of living testimony of what was once the present human species, where the joy of living in a small community is still preserved, with perfect formal courtesies, a sincere respect for the way of being of others and a deep love for their little city, their country and the religious beliefs of the vast majority. As if that was not enough, the city of Burgos has an excellent cuisine as well as the best Ribera del Duero wines in an atmosphere of cordiality and constant joy.
Addendum: I would not be surprised if this beautiful city, and its current residents, were to be considered a Living Heritage of Humanity at some point.