Regional Rivalry

The Franciscan Monastery in Morella also has an exhibition called “The most Beautiful Villages in Spain”, starting with a large map of Spain with the locations highlighted and then one big display for each of the 36 chosen villages. It was very nicely done and quite useful for the traveller planning their trajectory. However, most striking was the total absence of beautiful villages in Catalunia as well as the Basque Country, according to the map! They just stopped short of redrawing the boundaries of Spain…

Sometimes, silences speak louder than words. Seeing both these exhibitions in one room makes me realise just how little I know about Spain. There is a hard side to Spain that doesn’t reveal itself easily to the passing tourist but it nevertheless subtly permeates everything you see and it creates the cultural base for today’s society. I don’t know why, but somehow I feel a connection between that history and some of the things we have seen along the way: on a large scale there are huge destructive projects such as the ‘Sea of Plastic” or other ones that were started and then abandoned half way through, such as many half- built hotel complexes or housing estates or major road works we have seen along the way – many bridges lead from nowhere into nowhere, standing solitary in the middle of a wild landscape. Frank calls it ‘planner’s blight’. We’ve also seen airplanes ‘ploughing the sky’ above the areas where the climate probably has already been changed due to all the greenhouses. It looks very much like chemtrailing – another large-scale project with no regard for individual health and welfare.



On a smaller, but no less potent scale, the way dogs and other animals are treated here seem to speak about one aspect of the Spanish character. Some weeks ago, we saw a horse lying in a field, watched over by another horse. The lying horse was dying, but the other horses on the field looked not far off dying either – you could count their ribs and there was very little food and no water for them in this hot and arid climate. We went to a nearby hotel to alert someone of the dying horse. The woman in the reception said she knew the owner – it was one of her neighbours. It’s not the first time that a horse dies on the field there. She would not ring the owner for fear of being bullied by him, neither would she let us use the phone to ring him or the police, for fear of the number being traced. She was near tears saying this. A passing delivery-man promised to ring the local police on his mobile.

We wonder what the legal situation is regarding animal rights in Spain.




We move on towards Catalunia along a national route that runs at the top of a long ridge, with stunning views into wide plains, framed by impressive rock formations. We are heading for Siurana, a place that was recommended to us by Christoph, the climber. Since his other recommendations were so superb, we don’t want to miss out on this one…

Once we leave the national road, we’re on tiny and very windy ones, single track up into the hills. Almost instantly, the climate and Fauna changes, the temperature drops significantly and it actually starts to rain properly.

As the light fades, fog rises. It is dark by the time we arrive in the car park above Siurana and we are wrapped in in a dense blanket of fog. The cold gives us a welcome chance to light our stove for the first time in two months! It’s so nice to be in a toasty warm van hearing the patter of rain on the roof! Incredible that only four or five days ago, temperatures were over 44 degrees! We lie in bed speculating about what this place will look like in the morning once the fog lifts.

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