|Plaza Doña Elvira, where I wrote this blog|
I'm hardly a champion of technology, or progress, or an uncritical fan of the modern age. My travels and years have taught me that there's plenty of suffering in the world, and it's not at all evenly shared. And I'm by no means immune to nostalgia. But it's important to put things in context, and not miss the small wonders that make this a wonderful time to be alive.
Yesterday I took a day trip to Cordoba. Thanks to the outstanding Spanish rail system, a 100-mile journey takes a mere 40 minutes on the AVE, a futuristic airplane-on-wheels sort of train. It's expensive, and somewhat soulless, but it moves like greased glass at up to 250 kph, hydraulic pumps tilting the cars off their wheels on turns, all but silent thanks to being electric. It features a bar car, or cafetería, with blonde faux-wood kidney-shaped tables, and counters under the windows which are specially modified to be the right height to gaze out of while leaning on the counters or tables. Recessed lights in the ceiling mimic a starry sky. By morning it gets busy serving cappuccino, and by late afternoon it gets rowdy serving cocktails, and, sometimes, actual draft beer. And they take American Express.
|Why the long face, Speedy?|
|Happy hour at 250 kph|
From there an ordinary bus ride turned into an impromptu private tour, as the driver explained to me every neighborhood and monument we were passing, inquiring meanwhile where I was from, and enthusing over the bears and alligators and moose and other amazing elements of the great American landscape he'd seen on TV. I remembered the time in Chile when I'd missed my stop on the local bus and ridden way out to a dusty sub-suburb of Temuco, where the driver amiably informed me that I should get out and climb aboard the waiting adjacent bus to go back into town and find the stop I'd obviously missed. I'd seen more of Temuco, and now Cordoba, than I ever would have without making a mistake. And I'd made a friend--two hours later, as I was circumnavigating the ancient mosque and its throngs of souvenir stores, I heard a persistent honking behind me and finally turned to see bus #3, with the same driver smiling and waving at me.
|Gazpacho de naranja|
|An emblem of religious harmony|
|Small wonder in the small streets of Seville|
I overhear a lot of English-speaking tourists, and they seem to have an unending litany of complaints: it's so hot, the food is too oily, the streets are too narrow, my phone doesn't work here, I'm tired of sangria, all my clothes are dirty, my feet hurt, . . . Who cares? You're in one of the world's most beautiful cities, the weather is perfect, the food is wonderful, it's safe and clean, everyone is polite and helpful, and you're completely free. Free to discover, or free to be told--the choice is yours.
|Even the bottoms of things are beautiful|