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Three Random Observations about Spain

During our pilgrimage across Spain there were a few observations we made that didn’t make it into a post—and one which wasn’t complete until we had been done for over a week. But they help complete our impression of the country.

Metal Window Shutters

Many homes in Spain sport rolling exterior window shutters. They provide insulation and protection from the sun, as well as security. We saw them in France as well and had them in our home in Germany when we were stationed there. Businesses use them over their doors when they are closed. In Valencia, Spain, businesses would often paint a colorful mural over them.

Sadly, in Tacoma where we live, so many businesses have windows broken by vandals that they replace them with particle board. We’ve nicknamed these boards ”Tacoma windows.” Some establishments give up replacing them and paint murals on the boards. The rolling shutters would be a great security and aesthetic option. Beats boarded up windows.

Work Ethic

The Spanish habit of a siesta at businesses can be frustrating. You arrive in a town in the afternoon and find that restaurants or stores are closed for several hours. You have no choice but to continue to the next town or, if you are at your destination, wait. But one thing we did observe in many places was a great work ethic.

Breakfast, lunch, or just a break is often in a small town Spanish bar—which is really more of a cafe than a bar. We have often observed one person taking orders, serving, cleaning, and taking payments. The same size establishment in the U.S. would probably have three people working there. Labor shortage or saving costs? We don’t know, but we were impressed at their ability to juggle so many customers at one time.

The Mystery Game

When we left Basque country and entered into the region of Cantabria, the pelota (Basque Ball) courts evaporated. But we did notice a different type of game court in some towns. As you can see in the picture below it had a concrete platform in a sandy court. However, we never saw anyone playing it and it remained a mystery. Once we passed from Cantabria into the region of Asturias, these courts vanished.

In San Sebastian we showed this picture to a Basque friend but it baffled both her and her English husband. When we spent some time in the beach town of Castro-Urdiales we showed the picture to one of the staff at the tourist information center. She showed us a page in the local guide about the local game of skittles. It is played with nine wooden pegs and wooden balls.

Yesterday, as we were returning home Laurie heard the clatter of wood knocking on wood nearby. We followed the sound to a local skittles court and watched a game in progress. Each team plays a round from the concrete platform at the end of the court, heaving a ball into the air at the nine pins.

They then retire to the far end of the court to pitch the balls at the skittles from closer range as in this video. Unlike bowling, there is no rolling the ball—it is pitched.

From either end scoring is easy—one point for each skittle knocked down. They reset them after each throw. Three is the most we saw knocked down at a time.

Like the USA. they are attired in team bowling—I guess in this case it would be skittling—shirts. Unlike in America there was not a line of beers arrayed next to each team. Knowing what we know about Spaniards, there were beers later.

Trip Update

We made our return flight arrangements in March before coming on this journey. The return date was based on how long we thought it would take us to complete our hike across Spain and France as well as the maximum limit for us to legally stay on the continent. Fortunately, we finished two-and-a-half weeks before the return flight and have used the time to explore some interesting coastal towns on the Camino del Norte.

In San Sebastian we spent time with friends of a friend—whom we can now call our friends.

In Castro-Urdiales we spent three nights in a lively beach town, with great sights and swimming.

Back in the USA soon.

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