Beginning Over, 22. They Just Don't Learn.
You can see them moving in hordes down the streets of old Santiago de Compostela, hell-bent on reaching the cathedral. Or gathered in flocks at the terrace bars of my home town. The tourists are here.
Last year was the real Jacobean Holy Year, when the feast day of Saint James, whose casket is in the cathedral at Santiago (says the legend), fell on a Sunday. But, the Pope graciously allowed us to milk the tomb for all its worth this year as well, since last year was a washout thanks to the pandemic. So, we're on the second Holy Year in this year of two thousand twenty-two of Our Lord. Lord help us.
We never did learn anything from the pandemic about making our cities gracious servants of its inhabitants rather than of the rapacious tourist industry, so we're back where we were before the virus interrupted the money-making schemes of so many. Trooping down the streets of Santiago in the early morning, pilgrims singing rousing religious songs, getting neighbors out of bed long before life was supposed to do so. Calling for the extermination of sea gulls that have learned the terraces of water-front bars are where the easy pickings lie. Asking for a technology, that we only wish existed, that would wipe away the fog from the millenials-old lighthouse in A Coruña. They're back and we're stuck with them.
Twitter has interesting pages, and Fodechinchos en Galiza is one of them. Be warned, it is in Galician, and is really meant for internal use. Those from outside Galicia, who don't experience what we do, wouldn't understand much of what it complains about at first glance. Many of the posts are gleaned from TripAdvisor reviews. Now, there are complaints and complaints. Some are understandable. Surliness and short changing make you think twice about entering an establishment or visiting a place. Others make you want to ask, "What, did you want it wrapped in cloth of gold?"
One of the common complaints is sea gulls and their wily ways. Fish are becoming scarcer, fishermen are protecting their smaller catch better, the proliferation of waterfront terraces that offer food, and sea gulls aren't dumb. Look a sea gull in the eyes, and you will know that, though their brain may be small, they're using at least 99% of it.
The Cíes Islands, just offshore the coast of Vigo, can only be accessed by ferry, and only a maximum of people each day. It is a sanctuary for, among other flora and fauna, sea gulls. One reviewer wrote, "We knew it was going to rain, but, even so, we went. The truth is, it's a paradise... but governed by sea gulls! This is an island where you should go while on a diet because you can't eat anything unless you're in the tent or inside the bar because the sea gulls will take it away from you. We couldn't enjoy a beach day because we had to pay attention to the gulls, we couldn't get to the lighthouses because there were chicks and the gulls would attack you. The beach stank of excrement....well, all the sand was full of excrements. There were dead gulls that were being eaten [I assume by other gulls, hopefully.]" Were you expecting a domesticated little urban beach, perhaps?
Parking can be tricky, especially in summer in small seaside towns where the entire
population of Vallecas, a city just south of Madrid, tends to gather to pass a month or two. There are those, I am sure, that seeing an entire empty ramp by the port, chortle at their good luck in finding a spot, and position their car on it. Then, perhaps they scoff at those they see still hunting out a spot but bypass that ramp. The thing is, when they come back, they understand why there's a group of locals laughing hysterically. The tide rises, the tide falls. Longfellow knew what he was talking about. That convenient ramp is used for pulling boats up onto dry dock, and the tide waits for no car. Quite a few have been swamped like that. One tourist from Madrid complained last year, pointing out that there were no tides in the Manzanares River, so how was he supposed to know?
There are those national tourists that, if they went to Germany, would complain that people spoke German instead of Spanish. This is Galicia, and we speak one of the official Spanish languages, Galician, or Galego. It looks like a cross between Castilian and Portuguese, and is not that difficult to understand. While we talk with a certain sing-song, our accent is not rounded and deep like Portuguese. It's even easier to read. But there are those that believe that the real Spain is only Castilian, and that everything else has to bow to that. No. "It's amazing that in a SPANISH museum the explanations don't appear in our language and, actually, it is considered a language as foreign as English. Unforgiveable." Then don't bother to travel if you're going to keep your mind more closed than a Venus flytrap on a fly.
Perhaps first prize should go to whoever penned this about the ancient lighthouse in A Coruña, the Torre de Hércules. "A shame of a place. It was a beautiful day all over the city except at the lighthouse where you couldn't see more than 20 meters because of the fog. A complete let-down, I don't know who's in charge of this, but they should remedy it immediately." Thank you for the weather report. Did you happen to know you were on the Cantabrian coast, where fog tends to kiss the shore? By the way, have you heard of the A8 highway as it crosses the hills around Mondoñedo?
In that area there tends to be a lot of fog, and there was a multiple car crash with at least one death there in 2014. (Those who designed the route were told by locals that there is often thick fog there, but, they were just locals, and no one paid any attention. That's another whole other story.) Since then, engineers have been searching for a way to keep the fog away from the tarmac without any success. When it gets very bad, the highway has to be closed, and cars detoured along the old road. I wonder if the complainer knows something we don't know.
Look, if you're going to come, enjoy yourself. Just, please, whether you come here or go elsewhere, understand you are a guest in someone else's home. Accept what there is, even if you don't like it. There may well be a reason for things being so that has nothing to do with you. Remember, the world does not revolve around a tourist.
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