NASA experts tell us that it’s 25 million miles to get to another planet, but they’re completely wrong. It’s actually just 25 minutes away along the A-45.
Colmenar – pueblo life, the mule clopping through the streets, the knife-sharpener’s penny whistle calling to his customers, the church bells sounding over the rooftops, fresh eggs from the neighbour’s campo chickens, the baker’s cheery greeting, a bag of vegetables hanging on the door-knob, and coffee round a neighbour’s kitchen table.
25 minutes in the car and it’s another planet. Málaga city – lively streets, galleries, music, countless bars and multi-cultural events. The glorious port, the Malagueta beach, a great international city. Poverty and homelessness, inevitably, but also the charities that help. Vibrancy, noise, something going on every week.
Just 25 minutes down the A-45, then a few more minutes searching for parking near the dry river that bisects the city. Across the bridges the historic centre bustles with life, especially now with the crowds who gather each evening to see the stunning Christmas lights along Calle Larios.
The language is easier to understand in Málaga! The pueblo accent can be a little impenetrable at times, especially amongst older neighbours, who simply can’t slow down to help the guiri in their street understand. Speaking slowly and clearly has become a habit for me, when speaking English to students at the Escuela Oficial or to the city-centre group I help once a week. Friends visiting from the UK are co-opted to chat in English to the Spaniards, even friends of friends are dragged along. One, unbeknownst to me, turned out to be a sex therapist, which somewhat changed the direction of the conversation that particular evening! The group went back to their English lessons the next day with an enhanced vocabulary …
With classes two or three times a week at La Escuela Oficial de Idiomas, and a growing love of Málaga, it made sense to have a room so I could stay over. It’s a knockout combination – spending half a week in the city and half in the pueblo, each place equally wonderful, and totally different.
In the pueblo, feet are the mode of transport. To the bakery, to the bank, to the bars. Around the edge to enjoy the views, or up to La Ermita to get the lungs going. In the city I can jump on a bus, or wave a card to release one of the Málaga Bicis, borrowing a bicycle for half an hour at no cost, to get me to Pedregalejo or across the city. But I walk a lot in the city too – far more than I did in the UK. Walking to La Escuela Oficial de Idiomas twice a week, to Los Ángeles Malagueños de la Noche, to Museo Carmen Thyssen, to the central market, the beach, or to one of the many favourite bars and restaurants.
And now it is December. A few nights in Málaga, photographing the Christmas lights and the belenes (nativity scenes, but these Spanish ones show more than just the stable – they can be ten metres long, depicting dozens of Bible stories and the whole village life). There are over 60 to be visited around the city – my two favourites are in the ayuntamiento (Málaga city hall) and the Museo de Vidrio y Cristal (the glass museum, with a nativity scene made of Lladró porcelain statues).
The local bomberos (firefighters) had posed for a calendar in aid of Los Ángeles Malagueños de la Noche so I bought an armload for friends. Jess was leafing through it outside Gourmet Mercado Merced when half a dozen Spanish ladies came over to ogle the well-oiled muscles. In the city it is easy to chat with strangers – some “interests” cross all cultural boundaries! Two groups of women sharing smiles and laughter, and admiring the flesh.
Then a few nights at home in Colmenar, relishing the comfortable companionship of the village. It’s hard to remember that nobody here in Spain has known me for more than three and a half years. In Málaga, people call me by name in my regular haunts, and in Colmenar it is the same. Plus there is always a brasero in the house next door, where I know I can tuck my legs under the long tablecloth and share a coffee and a sugary rosco. Two different planets. Both of them are home.
© Tamara Essex 2015 http://www.twocampos.com