The flight had landed in Madrid a couple hours earlier. I was now moving across the country on Spain’s impressive 300km per hour train network. I had decided to make Valencia, 360km away on Spain’s east coast, home for the next three months.
For flying such a short distance, the contrast couldn’t have been greater. Leaving Austria, it’s what you could only describe as God’s Garden. Its movie set like graceful landscape of lush green rolling hills back dropped by majestic mountains. But now I was in more familiar territory to home. A landscape browned by the summer heat. The sparse number of trees now only sparingly providing touches of green on the endless flat dry landscape.
If staying in a grand 400 year old home was back in time, I was now entering a city that was going back further to over two thousand years ago. Valencia, now home to around 2 million people, was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC. But I don’t get it. I booked my accommodation using a mobile phone app while hurtling across the country at 300km/hr. I then used Google maps to navigate me to the place I booked. But how did the Romans do it? Assuming they would’ve picked the first available seat on a chariot heading east, how would they’ve worked out where to stay? How would they know how people rated it or how it compared to others? And then to find the place. This place is like a maze. A complex web of all these little alleys and streets darting off in all directions. So much so I’m still yet to find my way home from the other side of the city without resorting to the map!
My new home for the next few months doesn’t exactly have the South Perth Esplanade outlook. There’s no tranquil city lights glistening across the river. No endless view from the balcony. Instead, situated right in the heart of this ancient old town, from a standing room only balcony, typically Spanish style, three floors up, the view extends a whole three metres across the narrow street. But what a buzz.
The clock was just shy of striking twelve as I was making my way home. You could be forgiven for thinking this place doesn’t sleep. The streets are a buzz with festivities. And there’s not even a fiesta on. Tucked in and around the myriad of tiny lanes and streets there’s tables of dining and drinking. Plus the streets tonight, including right below my apartment, are filled with strolling musicians in traditional Spanish dress serenading to a cheering and clapping crowd….. even to family way back in Oz via video link. All this can only explain the culture of the need to take a long siesta for most of the afternoon! But it’s clear you do have to get up no later than 8am. That’s when the church bells start ringing. Eight long and loud bangs of them. From the tranquil setting of gentle chiming cow bells, the contrast could not be greater.