Burton Dane Travels

We're traveling through Europe and parts nearby for a year. We'll be posting our pix and adventures here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Living with the Unknown

The previous 24 hours provided some extreme examples of one aspect of this type of travel. There are many enigmas. It’s due to a combination of not understanding the traditions, culture and language and having to fill in the blanks from an incomplete database.
For background, this starts on our second night in a campground 20 minutes south of Valencia. It’s a fully developed campground in a rural area near the beach, some flooded fields and a lagoon. It includes tightly packed cabins, trailers, a market (closed), a restaurant and bar, conference rooms, horse stables and riding fields, 6 tennis courts, a pool, a bull ring and a min- zoo. Here’s what happened:
1) Around 10:00 pm on Friday night we heard a rash of explosions lasting 20 seconds off in the distance. These were echoed a minute later from a different part of town. Not a big deal and we’ll probably never know the reason. Is it a holiday or perhaps a football celebration?
2) Around 2:00 am, “Grease is the Word” started blaring from the campground bar. This was followed by songs equally horrible in other languages. I had to move to the lower bed to avoid the “music”.
3) At sunrise I heard shotgun blasts going off. There were singles, doubles, triples and some that must have been ten blasts in two seconds. There are a lot of flooded fields full of ducks, snowy egrets, great blue herons, plovers and grebes. I went out to look and listened but didn’t see anyone. The blasting went on for at least two hours on a constant basis. I can only imagine machine gun shotguns or guys standing shoulder to shoulder just blasting away. There must be thousands of dead birds around here.
4) Accompanying the shotgun blasts at dawn were birdsong, brays and roars. The zoo icon out front had a lion on it. Surely, there isn’t a lion next door!
5) Any good food market leaves us wondering what some things are, how you would cook them and what they would taste like. These are fun questions that we can answer by eating. Valencia’s Central Market had fish with eel bodies, many dried animal limbs and shrimp with moth like tails. I bet it’s all tasty.
6) When buying a new coffee pot, the shopkeepers (an older man and a younger women) were in what seemed like a heated argument. If this was at home, I’d be witnessing the moments leading up to his violent murder. In this case, she went into the backroom and he seemed to joke about her to the other customers. Or maybe he was joking about me. I won’t ever know.
7) The English Pub with free wifi was closed even though the sign said it would be open a few hours ago. Are we misreading the sign? Is this a holiday we aren’t aware of? Should we try back later? There’s enough draw between the Guiness and Wifi that we will be back.
8) We tour the cathedral and enjoy the stories and explanations on the audioguide. At the end we come into the room holding the Holy Grail. This is believed to be the cup Christ drank from during the last supper. It seems plausible that it’s true. Ben drops a coin into an electric candle bank with thoughts of Nat’s recovery.
9) As we leave the city, the bus departs 10 minutes before it’s scheduled time. We are lucky to be onboard. We don’t fully understand how to use mass transportation.

These open questions challenge my equanimity. Some really need to be answered or you wind up stranded or in a dangerous situation (or hungry). Others are interesting but we’ll just never know. A few days like this though and we crave some more familiar activities.
Eventually, we do get answers to some of these questions. It really is bird hunting season (though I don’t know if machine gun style shotguns are used), they really do have a tiger and a cougar in tiny cages, the bus stop wasn’t the terminal point and the pub just opened late. We’ll just have to keep learning Spanish to know what people are saying and we’ll have to leave it to others to verify the authenticity of the Holy Grail. And the more we eat, the more we find tasty new treats (and some that we haven’t acquired a taste for).

Ben curtailed his outdoor time after seeing the tiger. We left the next day and are now at a heavily used campground near Cartagena. It’s full of retired British, Dutch and German snowbirds and we are developing a whole new set of stories involving WiFi that isn’t, muddy beaches and multi-language Karaoke!


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  • At 7:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Man, however much explosiveness there was while you were in Valencia it can't have been as much as during the Fallas fiesta in February. They're munitions-mad those Valencianos. But the gatling gun shotguns are new to me too. - andrew

  • At 7:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    wow-Mark --did Jules take that picture of you and Ben on top of the building? where was she standing? Great pictures and very interesting story. Love Mom

  • At 10:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Mark, Your writing is getting better and better! Don't flag in your postings, we love your stories. Sylvia et al.

  • At 9:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    hey mark, what's your skype name?
    maybe we can try an audio again or at least chat?

    Meadows finally opens Saturday!



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