Spain – it is exotic, it is loud, it is definitely vibrant with a palpable energy that the very country seems to exude and yet the one impression that I take away from it is that is like India’s more liberal, modern, wild child sister. (Even they had a Uber controversy, and even they don’t have a Barnes and Noble store :D). It imbibes the good and the bad sides of India, just not in an extreme manner that makes it a problem like it is here, but enough to deserve a second glance. And yet, the passion, the fire that this place breathes is nothing short of magical!
If you’re travelling to Europe, you have to be prepared for history – and a good onslaught of it! There are going to be old gates and fancy names, traditions renewed, and wars won, and simply put, a heavy dose of sensationalism – and Spain ticks off on all these and more.
I started my trip from Barcelona, where I did have just a day but what a day! If you want to see how modern life is exuded by the Spaniards, visit Barcelona. Barcelona is the big town that I got wonderfully lost in. Lost in the streets, roaming around from one site to another, almost like a part of a different world, there I was, relaxed and more than a little stupefied. But if Barcelona left me dazed, Madrid was what truly allowed me to explore!! From small shops that managed to stir up the long dead shopper in me, to the small streets that I got literally lost in more than a few times. From crazy little “tapas” bars that seemed so exotic in the night, to street art that was fanciful enough to lure me and make me stand awestruck. (Read more about these on the upcoming article on Barcelona and Madrid).
And thus was my experience at Spain. Mind you people, all I had were three days to roam around, while the rest of the days I slogged my ass for work in a small industrial town in Coslada. But, in my total 3 weeks in Spain, I did manage to rouse up some facts that are essential to your survival kit out there:
- Food – because how can I start with anything else 😀 Well for vegetarians, life’s a little difficult. I’m a vegetarian myself and I base my experience on my extreme adaptability to many different food styles. But it is true – I base this not just on my experience but the many discussions I had with my colleagues and fellow tourists, Spain is not an easy place for vegetarians. Especially the smaller towns. This means, Barcelona and Madrid are good, but Coslada is hopeless. The good thing though is, when you go to travel, you will be hitting the big and famous cities, so it won’t be that difficult an option. For Non-Vegetarians, make sure to try churros and calamari – they’re supposed to be specialities.
- Communication– Language barrier does exist, but the one thing that sets apart Spaniards is their extreme helpfulness. I think 99% people that I met were extremely understanding, and willing to take time out and help me understand the complex ways, or even try and understand what I wanted ( by the third day I had the “lost in translation – need help” face down to a T). I actually have loads of incidents where people who understood not one word other than thank you, and “no English”, helped me outrageously. So yes, language barrier will be a problem, but be willing to ask for help, and trust me, 9 times out of 10, a smile, a “hola” and bucket-loads of patience is what you will be greeted by! As for mobile networks, there is Vodafone – which is a pretty good network. But I took a ‘Tuenti’ connection (that a very helpful salesperson suggested to me), for 30 Euro which allowed my 50 Minutes of international digital calling, 1 GB of data (so ease of Google maps and Whatsapp Calling) and 23 Euro of domestic calling (which was a good option as the local calling was extremely cheap). Movistar outlets are your best options for mobile connections, but there are many Vodafone stores present too, and they will be present at all the major city centre points and in malls.
- Shopping – Yes, that is important too now isn’t it! Well, Spain is famous for wines and brandy if you are looking for good liquor options – I would suggest Wines. For souvenirs, you of course have the Flamenco dancer fans, the bull-fighting t-shirts. I would also suggest postcard (there are some truly picturesque ones), if you want to give the traditional magnets and key-chains a miss! Also worth a dip in your pockets are scarfs (almost every other Spanish woman adorns one!) and show-pieces (shot glasses, decorative plates – the types!).
And that sums up Spain factually, but I don’t think I could sum it up emotionally, irrespective of the words or languages that I may have at my disposal. Spain was a wonderful exploration, a chance that truly allowed me to see the things I was comfortable with, and the points where I could challenge myself. Because when I explored, I explored because something caught my eye, and not because someone else wanted to go there, or because someone had suggested it! And you know, if there is one thing that travelling alone teaches you, it is self – awareness.
Spain you were an experience I would never forget! And a place I will deeply recommend to anyone and everyone looking to combine the passion with the knowledge, the exotic with the modern, the fun with the learning, in short anyone looking for a complete experience!