This is primarily a retrospective travel blog, covering my thoughts and experiences while backpacking. I try to write it chronologically, getting as detailed as I can, but some times stories, and details are omitted to shorten posts and make things a little cleaner. As I leave one country and enter another, I would like to take an entry to reflect on some of these moments, and give you some insight into things I am currently interested in.
Spain – Bits and Bobs
San Sebastian, Spain
As I explored the grounds around the giant Jesus statue / fortress overlooking San Sebastian, I noticed a few things of note.
Swastikas were carved or drawn all over certain sections of the monument. Wandering around the town, it wasn’t completely out of place to see the symbol of the German Nazi party scrawled on the occasional street sign or side of a building either.
I asked Elizabeth about this, and she explained to me that General Franco, the fascist ruler of Spain from 1939 to 1975 had a non-belligerent agreement with the Axis powers during World War II. That meant that Spain officially sided with the Axis powers and offered supplies and workers to aid in the war effort, but because of the Spanish Civil War draining much of the countries resources, they could not join the conflict as a military power.
Because of this, much of Spain has a more favorable view of Nazism than the rest of the world. Of course, there were groups within Spain who fought on the side of the Allies during the war, and it’s a very complicated issue I am sure. Long story short, the Swastika elicits a less harsh response in Spain then say, the rest of Europe and The Americas and it’s become kind of a pop culture thing to some people.
The park itself was very neat. It featured a war cemetery and some amazing views.
I heard from a local that San Sebastian as a whole was devastated in some type of military bombardment within the past 200 years and most of the town is newly built, but considering the oldest sections of my home town in western Washington State are about a hundred years old, the place still looked ancient to me.
San Sebastian sits in an area known as “Basque Country” in northern Spain and southern France. Basque is an autonomous culture with it’s own language, norms, and values and the Basque people are intensely proud of their heritage. Many of the Basque people would like to secede from Spanish / French rule to the point that terrorist group, the ETA formed in the mid 1900s to expedite the process. The way it was explained to me it is kind of similar to The Troubles that took place between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Bilboa and Guernica
Two areas I would have loved to visit, but I didn’t have the chance.
Bilbao is the location of the Guggenheim Museum. When the Guggenheim was built by architect Frank Gehry it was instantly described as “The most important Structure of it’s time” so I figured it’d be worth a visit.
Guernica is a small town located between San Sebastian and Bilbao. The story goes that it was used as a “target” for practice bombing runs by Germany, Italy, and parts of Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The various generals and commanders in charge of these runs demanded that the bombers “knock over the tree in the center of town.”
After years of effort, and dozens of bombing runs the town was entirely destroyed, but the tree was never hit. Pablo Picasso was so impressed by this story that he immediately traveled to Guernica to paint. His result was one of the most famous paintings of the past hundred years. My goal was to draw a good stick figure drawing of the tree, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Music on the train platform
As I waited on the train platform in San Sebastian, I listened to Blue Scholars Bayani album on my American cell phone. This album is the only piece of music on my cell, and it has done a great job of framing my moments of travel. If I remember correctly, it got a lot of play in my Pension Marmo hostel as well.
Extra picture in front of the Columbus Monument.
The window in my Pension Marmo hostel room.
I can’t get over how lucky I was to experience the hardships I faced in Barcelona. I feel like I became a more spiritual, and appreciative person out of the situation and I can’t thank God enough for protecting me. I covered my many struggles in the Day 8 – Part 2, Day 9 – Part 1, and Day 9 – Part 2 entries and it was definitely a reaffirmation for me on the power of faith.
La Sagrada Familia
Taken in the basement of La Sagrada Familia in front of a model of the cathedral.
La Sagrada Familia was a beautiful building. For an extra price, you can ascend an elevator to the cathedral’s top floor, but I was trying to save money, so I didn’t worry about it. Also, there is an interesting school turned museum of architecture on the grounds.
Parc de la Ciutadella
As I wandered through the park, I found a tent giving away large yellow “smiley face” balloons to little kids. I politely asked one of the attendants for a balloon, and for my efforts I had a travel buddy. It was kind of like a Castaway “Wilson” scenario, but way less intense. The balloon popped about 30 minutes after I got it, so I didn’t have the time to name it, or develop too strong of an emotional attachment.
The Train from Barcelona to Milan, Italy
The experiences on a night train ride are difficult to predict. Sometimes I was left to my own devices in a large coach with temperature control and enough room for a good night’s rest, other times I was lucky to have a seat. You can save a lot of money by sleeping on night train rides between destinations, but you never know what the accommodations are going to be until the train leaves the station.
I was seated next to a musician and fellow backpacker named Benjamin from Perth, Australia for my ride from Barcelona to Milan. He was in his early twenties, and we talked for a few hours about music, education, and the overly patriotic nature of American passports. He gave me a few tips about travel, and a copy of his latest EP before we both dozed off. Travelers relate to other travelers very easily, and these types of pleasant one off exchanges are very welcome occurrences.
Things I am currently interested in
Death and a Cure
The above mentioned Benjamin’s band. Very “thick” musicianship for a solo act, and I would suggest it to anyone interested in singer / songwriters.
Maybe I’ve just been on a singer / songwriter kick lately, but Everett, Washington’s Tamara Shea is seeing regular rotation on my computer. I’m a sucker for optimistic, cute love songs, and “Games” definitely fills that void.
Roger Ebert – The Essential Man
An interesting article on film critic Roger Ebert. He lost his jaw, and the ability to speak to cancer and the article details a lot of his struggles and the lessons he has learned going through it. An uplifting read if there ever was one.
Final Draft is THE script writing software for film and television. I will be spending my next few weeks working on a not yet announced project, and I expected to be chained to this program for a lot of that time.
With rapper Guru’s recent heart attack, I’ve found myself explaining him and the significance of his and DJ Premier’s group to a generation of kids who don’t know what “Steez” really means. Get well soon Guru.
Check the previous entries section for a complete look at my backpacking adventure.