2. Spain, in particular Andalusia, is a great place to spend your holidays: fiesta, flamenco, siesta, sangria, tapas, tinto, playa, prado, etc. We will come again. Spain is a difficult place to live: wealth concentration in the hands of a few, abundant cronyism, vast inequalities of access to health care, education and in particular to the labor market. We don’t plan to move to Spain.
3. We were lucky to witness an ecstatic football victory celebration, a Corpus Christi parade in Cordoba, and La Saca de las Yuegas (the take out of the mares) in Huelva without having planned any of it. But such festivals contribute a great deal to an enjoyable and memorable holiday. Therefore we will plan all future holidays around local festivities. Pamplona next July might be a good reason to come again.
4. The Spanish railway network is great, although it is recommended to always choose AVE trains over all other train classes. Only AVE trains are new or kept in good shape. Moreover, book RENFE tickets in advance online, if you don’t want to pay twice as much at the counter.
5. Accommodation appeared to be really affordable and mostly great value. Preciously decorated double-rooms including a hearty breakfast for EUR 60 are not easy to find in other countries we have been traveling to.
6. Spaniards are probably the best-dressed people on Earth. Climate, a beautiful mixture of natural colors wherever you turn your head to and the Islamic-Roman heritages explain this easily. No surprise that many successful fashion brands like Mango, Zara, Massimo Dutti, etc. have their HQ in Spain. In an aesthetic crisis it is recommended to spend some time on the Iberian Peninsula, even more so if the decoration of your new home is on your mind. Students of architecture, design and other creative industries might well spend a semester or two at Sevilla’s university of bellas artes.
7. Whether in Madrid or in Sevilla, it’s quite obvious that all that splendor and grandeur is proof of a nation that once ruled the world as an empire. An empire that has been in decline since some time. Quite on the contrary to the Germanic nations, Spain has turned into an entry economy for Asian manufacturers. Tata and Mahindra, never ever seen on Germanic roads, seem to fulfill on Spanish roads EU exhaust and safety standards. Tata Hispanic produces passenger buses in Spain that are used e.g. by Madrid’s public transport provider. Spain will be most likely also the entry market for Chinese automobiles to Western Europe.
8. I was told before this journey to Spain that almost all of Madrid’s convenience stores are now operated and mostly also owned by Chinese. Even many traditional Spanish restaurants have been taken over by Chinese without the customer taking notice of it. Behold! this does either not speak for the Spanish gourmet or it speaks for the culinary competences of Chinese restaurateurs. After stops in Madrid, Valencia, Cordoba and Sevilla I can now confirm that at least in regard to convenience stores this is true. The amount of Chinese immigrants is considerable and the EU is advised to enact similar regulations on immigration as China does. Whereas China grants residence only to highly skilled foreigners, the most unskilled Chinese are washed upon the shores of Europe.
9. What has started in France with Chinese investors buying up Merlot and Bordeaux and Burgundy wineries, will continue in other parts of Europe. I already see my beloved Rioja being sold out to Asian entrepreneurs only to export the produce to Asia where profits for average grape juice are multiple of those in the Western world. The EU states are advised to enact legislation that thoroughly screens the funds of investors and limits real estate purchase to non EU citizens to JVs, in which the majority of stakes remains with a local owner.
10. Culture and history combined with nature and great food is so much better than lazy beach holidays. The excavations of Italica close to Sevilla confirmed my intention to propagandize the thousand-year-old cultural tradition of Europe. I am so sick of Chinese media and brainwashed individuals telling me of their [non-existent] continuous 5000 year history. What is continuous? What is culture? What is history? Its high time for Europe maybe even for the entire Western world (compare Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations) to develop a unanimous understanding of our common roots. China is great and I love many of its cultural aspects, but lately Confucianist propaganda is just giving me the creeps. And I mean it: Europeans have a grand Greek, Roman and Islamic heritage; the latter by some of our politicians purposely forgotten. Another plan thus: travel to places that tell important history like Rome, Sicily, Athens, Jerusalem, etc.
11. When we bought our tickets to Italica, a top notch archeological site at the same level as Xian’s terracotta army (tickets sell there for EUR 25), we were about to be charged EUR 1.50 for the entry ticket, but since we both have a EU residence permit, we got in for free. There are many other such examples where it just feels like Europe gives away its treasures for free whereas China rips tourists (domestic and international ones) off. The Madrid based world tourism agency reported that Chinese tourists ranked #1 in international tourism spending in 2013. Considering the size of the Chinese population this is rather not surprising. There will be an increase of 7 million Chinese tourists to the EU in 2014 compared to 2013. The EU member states are well advised to cash in on this trend. An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth.
12. But how do ideal holidays – putting aside my ruminations on orient and occident - really look like? There are a few aspects that seem to be key ingredients for a memorable and enjoyable vacation.
a. Share your travel experience: never travel alone unless you need to work out something very personal. Only a shared experience remains a good experience.
b. Chose a destination in which food you are interested. The value of great food is much too underrated. I don’t understand why Germans and Chinese continue to eat their home cuisine when abroad.
c. Chose a regional festival for your travel date. Festivals and holidays are windows in the lives of people where they let themselves go or open up some other insight into their lives. This makes a stay in their world much more interesting than any other time of the year.
d. Travel to fill your intellectual well with something new or forgotten about God’s creation, e.g. how the Roman Empire extended its reaches to the Iberian Peninsula or how the Islamic world influenced Europe for several hundred’s of years.
e. Combine language training with something applied, in particular for your children who suck up language certainly faster than you, but even more so, if they are immersed into some three-dimensional, captivating activity e.g. four weeks horse back riding camp in Huelva or two week sailing course in Valencia.
f. Make a clear plan of how many days to spend where, but then allow for some spontaneity and divine guidance to have a smooth experience. Otherwise you are either completely without any clue [only works if you have infinite time available] or you miss the great moments which even a great planner can not foresee. Listen to Arthur Eisenhower: Every time that I prepared for a battle I have found plans are useless; but planning is indispensable.
Pictures of this journey are posted under TRAVELS.