Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Crystal Symphony Entry 11

Cadiz is a port city located in Spain just west of the strait of Gibraltar on the Atlantic ocean. The city sits on a narrow spit of land and protects a large harbor.  It is a vital strategic point for the passage of trade through the strait (second only to nearby Gibraltar) and has been settled continuously for the past several thousand years. The succession of ownership follows a predictable trend -- first, the Phoenicians, then the Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Castillians, and finally modern-day Spain.

The city was walled for much of its history, and the old sections of town sit behind the remnants of those walls. A series of pentagonal batteries protect the various approaches to the city, including one that is located at the end of a very long causeway out in the shallows. Columbus sailed from here twice for the New World, on his second and fourth voyages, and it is likely that these walls were the last he saw of the mainland before heading South to the Canary islands.  Cadiz was also one of the few Spanish cities to hold out against the French conquest during the Napoleonic wars, and has been the birthplace of several popular revolts (one of them to restore the constitution of 1812). 

The old city is a maze of narrow streets, beautiful architecture, and carefully-sculpted parks. The parks are laid out in geometric patterns -- the Moorish influence can be seen in the blue tile and diamond patterning, while the Christian influence can be seen right alongside with the images of the Virgin Mary and widespread use of crosses on just about everything. The huge trees lining these parks are said to have been brought from the New World and planted here -- they are massive, with branches like the limbs of dinosaurs stretching out overhead. Cadiz is one of those social tidewaters, a place where the world's great cultures have each ebbed and flowed, leaving a complicated, layered remnant behind.

It is good to be back in continental Spain once again. I had not realized how much Spain feels like home until I had a warm chocolate Napolitana in my hands (a kind of fluffy pastry with chocolate in the center, not unlike the French pan au chocolat). A long walk along the ocean was just the thing I needed to settle my head today. I'm looking forward to Malaga tomorrow, and then Barcelona most of all.

It is a holy week this week (the build up to Easter), and so the square in front of the cathedral was being prepared for a procession. I saw marching bands warming up and lots of people in strange pointy hats, but due to a rehearsal I had to get back to the ship before they got started. The route was like a parade route, with boxes, television cameras, and barricades everywhere -- to get inside the cathedral was impossible. Many businesses were closed.

The thieves, though, are always working. I learned about a new scam today -- the hard way, of course, as this is how one usually learns about scams -- but it was a cheap enough lesson and provided me with some entertainment as well. On my way back to the ship, a deaf man burst from a side alley and confronted me with a petition to open a center for the deaf. I tried to explain that I wasn't from the area, but as he was deaf he couldn't understand what I was saying . . . I signed the petition and donated a Euro. About ten seconds after he left I realized that the petition had been in English . . . oops. It isn't particularly likely that a petition to open a center for the deaf in Spain is going to be written in English, after all.

The man was still in sight -- I wasn't about to confront him over a single Euro, but I did follow just to see what the deal was. He met again with his partner, who had a big stack of forms, and dropped off the money. I watched them work; it was a fairly professional operation. The second guy kept the money and watched for police, while the front man worked the tourists for cash. A quick whistle and they'd pack up shop; I had to move fast to keep up with them. The real tip off was when I saw the "deaf" man I'd given the donation to talking on his cell phone . . . the half hour of entertainment I got by following and watching them work was definitely worth the Euro I lost. Thieves have got to eat too, after all . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment