It takes a long time for civilizations to develop into higher life forms. That word, or at least my understanding of it, is the first thing that comes to mind when we land in Spain.
Walking the Camino across Spain through all those small towns and villages we were struck by how little sprawl there is. People like to live on top of one another. They are out in the street, the cafés and bars. They sit in parks and gather on the sidewalks to talk. When people walk into a café they say “Buenos Dias,” to everybody. It is rude not to. In big cities the metro is just as crowded as it is in New York but it is clean and orderly. People are polite. There are far fewer ads screaming at you.
Fresh loaves of bread are in every small grocery and on every table in restaurants. You will often get a free tapa or a plate of olives with a beer. And the tempting tapas and pinchos are always out on display. It’s good for business. It is only sociable. They are often artfully constructed. Cod and potato, atún, anchovies or jamón wrapped around an olive nestled on roasted peppers. You can make a meal out of them if you wish. This is the home of the Mediterranean Diet.
It is surely all older people who buy newspapers but there are enough of them in Spain to keep the regional presses rolling and the three national papers, El País, El Mundo and ABC are everywhere. The cafés still have copies sitting at the end of the bar for you skim over coffee. We watched a Real Madrid match last night that started at 9PM and then read two articles about the match in this morning’s paper!
The government supports the arts. Together with large corporations (Fundaciones) they underwrite museum quality shows that are free to the public. Cities have statues and sculptures in every plaza. The generations spend much more time together. Children are more mature and better behaved as a result. Sidewalks along the water have no guard rails or fences. Many people still pause at midday for a big meal. Shops close for two hours.
The streets are named after poets and saints. They have a national health plan. People live longer. They have a socialist for a Prime Minister. I better stop.