Country 5: Spain

As I close in on 100 countries visited in a lifetime of roaming and working abroad, I’m retracing my route towards that “100 Club” and sharing impressions collected along the way.

My first visit to Spain was pretty stereotypical: sun, sea and sangria on a package holiday. Alright, not much sangria since I was only 14, but you get my point. The first photo (above) represents “that Spain”.

Next it was a two-month crawl along the Mediterranean coastline in search of a property investment. Eventually, I got cold feet in the face of unfathomable bureaucracy and tales of foreigners losing their lifesavings on illegal developments. But not before I fell in love with it all: the relaxed pace of life, bars serving free tapas to soak up the cañas, a coastline alternating between long sandy beaches and rocky smuggler coves, and so on.

Finally, a posting to Madrid as a diplomat provided a markedly different perspective. My office provided a unique vantage point too: along the city’s main artery to one of its most iconic buildings, the Palacio de Cibeles, an eclectic blend of neo-gothic and modernist architecture. The second photo (below) shows this view, taken during a rare winter when snow settled in the city itself. However, even typical winters were as bitter as the summers were suffocating, icy winds sweeping down from the Guadarrama mountains and blasting up the city’s grand avenues, cutting into any exposed flesh in their path.

A far cry then from the stereotypical Spain of my youth, but surely we all have the capacity to carry myriad versions of any country within us? Another version of Spain – the magnificent architectural legacy of the Moorish caliphates – is represented in the third photo (below).

1st photo by Eduardo Kenji Amorim on Unsplash
2nd photo by me
3rd photo by Dimitry B on Unsplash

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