Day 9: Cordoba

I hate Spain. Unless you love to party and are the type to go out to Ibiza, this country just doesn’t seem interesting for traveling, everything closes at messed up hours, the train company I swear hates its own customers. I was planning for 3 days in Spain, but now I’m going to cut it short and get out of this damn country after less than 2.

Today I planned to go to Granada to see the Alhambra, leaving my hostel before 8am. I get to the Chamartin station early enough, then get in line to get my ticket. There are no schedule’s posted in the train station, and asking the information desk for either a schedule or a map (even in Spanish) gets you a we don’t have one. Luckily I have a schedule that came with my Eurail pass which outlines some of the most common routes. It says that the trains to Granada leave twice daily, one at 7:30 am, and the next at 7 pm.. I figure that it must be leaving some out, or that I could catch a local train from Cordoba. As it turns out it is right so I buy a ticket to Cordoba, but it leaves from Atoche station on the other side of town. I run into the 3 some I met back in Lisboa who were coming to Madrid the day after me. They’re apparently going to Cadiz for the beach instead of Barca. Again in hindsight I should have seen if they could use the company. Instead I went on my marry way. Ok so now for a brief description of the ticket buying process for the Spanish rail. In Chamartin I wait in line for 30 minutes, only to be told I need to go to Adoche because thats where it leaves from. I then ask the information desk which lines takes me to Adoche, and he says 2 and 3. I believe sincerely he understood my question but just told me the first two numbers to come into his head to get me to leave. Heading down there I find those are actually going completely opposite directions, and I needed line 1. I arrive on the platform in time to catch the train, and 20 minutes later I’m at Adoche. Once again I try to get in line to buy a ticket, but this time its a DMV style pick your number and wait for the VERY slow people working there to stop chit chatting with coworkers and serve someone. Eventually my number comes up, but too late to get on the 10am train to Sevilla/Cordoba with the people I had met earlier. Instead I have to wait 55 minutes for the 11am to Cordoba.

The AVE high speed trains are comfortable, more cramped than the Shinkansen, but just as fast, they have a movie playing for the trip. Outside of Madrid the scenery is dry, with crops here and there, but you can see the effects of the drought that I was hearing about in Lisbon. With all of the fountains running in the capital, I can’t help but wonder if they shouldn’t be spending that water on their farmers, not these grand fountains. Anyways, the scenery slowly changes from dry fields, to desert brush like you would find in the hills of California. We arrive in Cordoba, and its a hot 97 degrees outside according to my conversion from Celsius. I go to get my ticket to Granada, and wait in a line for 15 minutes to be told by the information desk that the only way to get to Granada is either the direct train at 9pm, or to go to Sevilla(the next station down on the train I just got off! Fuck Renfe’s ticket officers!), then wait 4 hours to get on the next train, which would see me arriving after dark in a town where most housing fills up during the summer months. This just isn’t working… How can such a a big tourist draw be so hard to get to?! At this point I’m thoroughly fed up with everything Spanish transportation, and decide to have a look around Cordoba then head to Spain, I’ve worn out any interest I had left in the country. I then sit in line for over an hour DMV style to buy a friggen ticket. The officer serving me seemed like he was being trained, and didn’t know how to use the computer system, he has to call over 2 different bosses (who just walk around doing nothing) to get it to give me a ticket I want. I then go to the tourist office, only to find its closed at 2, when it was supposed to close at 2:30. I mean isn’t it enough you’re day goes from 9:30 to 2:30, do you have to knock off 30 minutes early? -_- my frustration rises further. I go across to the bus terminal, and find another unhelpful information services person, and figure out with the help of a Japanese backpacker how to get to the Mosque and castle that are the two main attractions to this dusty city. The bus is reasonably priced, so I head out.

On the bus I meet my second helpful Spaniard, just some random man who asks me where I’m going and even leads me to the first turn. I find the places fairly easily, but the Mosque-now-Cathedral is 6 euros to enter, and I’ve seen many in Portugal, so I take a pass. I move on to the castle Alcazar, only to find it closes at 2:30 as well. What the hell is with Spanish work ethic? I head back to the station grabbing lunch on th way. When I get to the station I head to the lounge(which is free in most countries but requires a first class ticket in Spain) with my Eurail pass which is supposed to gain me access, the woman working the desk however disagrees, and even calls her manager, and argues on the phone with him, then decides I still can’t enter, I wish I knew what he said. All I want is to plug in my laptop and relax in the AC, not disturb any of the other customers. I figure its because of my backpack that I’m not welcome. My belief that Renfe hates its customers is reaffirmed. Hopefully France tomorrow will be more accommodating.

Final Thoughts: The Spanish people as a whole are more concerned with appearances than the Portuguese, they dress better, they care that their cities are nice and green, and they keep graffiti away. However I have to wonder if the worker’s right’s movement hasn’t taken away too much. The 5 weeks vacation, the hours per day, the laws regarding the employer’s ability to fire employees, I think the balance has tipped too far to the left(and I know that I’ll get a good ration of shit from my dad for taking such a view) but it seems to me that its gone to such an extent that its become detrimental to the country not only in terms of convenience but also in terms of its ability to be competitive on the international market places. America in contrast has longer hours and fewer vacations, Japan less still, and the developing nations often have no limit. Its no wonder to me that the EU needs to exist. Spain also is very modern, though that’s definitely a good thing for the populace, it feels like its lost cultural identity. In Madrid in the blocks I walked, I ran into 5 or 6 Burger Kings. That’s like on the order of Starbucks here in California how its grown like weeds. I also want to make sure that it doesn’t seem like I’m leaving Spain because of 1 day’s travel. I’m leaving a day early because I’ve found its almost impossible for me to get around the way I need to in order to see what I want. It would have been possible if I was really motivated to get myself to Granada by bus, but at 3 hours ride leaving every hour and a half, costing 15 euros, and needing to leave for the train station the next morning at 5:30 am to catch the 6:30 am back to Madrid just didn’t seem worth my effort, time and money. That’s not to say I’m not frustrated, its just I’m not leaving because I got hot under the collar at Spanish travel.

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