Friday, 28 March 2014

Andalucia Our Way - IN SUMMARY


After having been married for almost 32 years, raised our children into adulthood and worked long hours we one day decided to do what we had seen coming for some time: MOVE INTO THE (for us) UNKNOWN, AWAY FROM THE SECURE DAILY ROUTINES WHILE WE HAVE THE CHANCE. In our case this meant moving abroad into a different society that would enrich us with its culture, history, nature and strange habits. It would also provide a new platform for us to use when entering into our late adulthood and a relationship with a new direction away from any conventional given path. Mrs T suggested Andalucia as our destination and Andalucia it was going to be. We then horrified our relatives and friends with the news; Mrs. T quit her job, we sold our lovely home, placed the belongings in a warehouse and packed the car with anything we thought essential.  WHAT A CRAZY THING TO DO! Or was it?

We had several alternative traveling routes to choose from and they all had their pro's and con's. We had NO EXACT PLANS except that we wanted to be in Andalucia on the 15th June where our landlord was waiting for us. Driving through Europe was a new experience for us so we decided on a touristic route via Moselthal, Schwarzwald and the small town of Tavel near Avignon in southern France. When we reached the Mediterranean we only needed to follow the coastline to Fuengirola. The journey itself was surprisingly easy. The only big excitement was the fact that our small "pretend-to-be-fourwheeldrive-KIA" could pass slower travelers on German autostradas. 

In our above book "Andalucia Our Way" we have pictured in some detail our time in Andalucia traveling the region widely from east to west enjoying the beautiful nature, interesting history and culture and the hospitality of the Andalucians. The road network is excellent, traffic not that bad with some exceptions in congested areas. As driver I had, because of the scenery including "curly roads" and deep ravines, difficulties keeping my eyes on the road. Mrs. T worried about this saying that if I do not keep my eyes on the road then she has to do it. Somehow we managed to share the workload because we never got off the road accidentally nor managed to create any havoc in the traffic. The fact is that Mrs. T proved a seasoned co-pilot that kept us on track whenever the driver or the navigator failed to deliver correct directions which happened every now and then. Deviations due to road constructions in urban areas proved to be a particular challenge but somehow we always managed to find our way in the end. 
Now, below a short description of  "Our Andalucia" with photos in collage format.

Andalucian Landscape and Nature 

The Andalucian landscape and nature is breathtaking. It is a multiform adventure under the sun, with deep blue seas, huge elevations, rich fauna and flora and a recreative opportunity without comparison. It is proudly displayed but without hype for anyone to enjoy. El Torcal with its stone formations is open 24/7 and free to all. Any time you visit Ronda you will spot eagles in the air. If you go to Cabo de Gata you will experience Europe's only dessert like environment and Donana has a rich birdlife. Lessons to learn are to bring along water summer time when it is really hot and it is advisable also to check the weather forecast before you leave. Getting back from the remote areas can take some time if e.g. rainy weather approaches. This happened once to me in the mountains of Málaga when I was PhotoHiking. What rain drenches the sun will dry up.

Andalucian History and Culture

Spanish / Andalucian history is like a melting pot with influences from civilizations like the Celts, Visigoths, Phoenicians, Greek, Roman, Moorish, and Jewish. Even Vikings attacked western parts of Spain and some decided to stay. Spain has seen Columbus sail out to the new world and Spanish settlements being established overseas. Later came the times of Franco only to later enter into a time with democratic transitions and growth into a mature European democracy. How educating it has been to understand the historic basics of Spain / Andalucia better.

Settling in Fuengirola and Andalucia proved very easy for us and we learned that our home is wherever we are. Our hobbies (photography, music and opera, cuisine and handicraft) followed us to Andalucia and local (flamenco) traditions, tapas and music enriched it. The concert by Soto made even my stiff legs move about. Clams was a big favorite of Mrs. T while I enjoyed fresh fish. Talking of fish the fish desk at the big markets is fantastic. We really love fish but in this case some of the offering require special knowledge in preparation so we where stuck with dishes we knew about. I also had the pleasure of tasting a CHURRO. This is a slightly salty bun that you dip in a coco drink. I was told this is a traditional breakfast habit in Andalucia so of course I had to taste it. 

Something we particularly enjoyed where the white washed small mountain villages like Istán, Ojén, Jubrique, Faraján, Treveléz (highest up in Sierra Nevada), Frigiliana and many more. We quickly learned that entering these villages by car is, to say the least, a challenge for both the car and  the driver. Only once, in Treveléz, we got really stuck. We tried four different ways to approach the hotel and it took the driver about 45-50 minutes before the car was parked properly (without scratches). The only bump on the car we got was in Granada where a scooter ran into our rear end because of my unexpected movement with the car. No personal injuries this time and cars are supposed to have bumps so we continued our journey. One more thing to warn about are ONE WAY roads in small and large cities. They are all over and are said to change from time to time so that a navigator may be of little help. Driving around with open eyes and a calm attitude helps here.

Everyday Life in Andalucia

ABOUT PARKING: Spaniards work from morning until 14.00 hours and then have their siesta. Working hours will resume around 16.00 hours and continue until 20.00 hours. During siesta parking seems more or less free because if you put in any coin a minute before 14.00 you will have a parking time for all afternoon. Talking about parking this REALLY is not an issue because, despite parking regulations, there is a great deal of understanding among fellow drivers and traffic wardens during congested hours. If one car is already parked you can temporarily stop behind it but you have to switch on your emergency blinks. Never mind if you block him temporarily or block the entire lane - it will most likely happen to you the next time and this is just daily routine. If no such place for double parking exist then try a roundabout for any rapid business of yours . In the roundabout you normally find space but, again, remember your emergency blinks and do not stay too long. The only really strict exception we know of is the gateway to a building - they normally say "Park here and we will call the GRUA". If you park there anyway it may happen that you then must try to find your car in one of the car pools in the town. Once I took up a parking space that another car left only to discover that this place was not officially for parking as I was close to be fined. Indeed, parking in Spain is an artistic performance that require a great deal of understanding and a relaxed attitude in all circumstances. As a result everyone will find a solution for their requirement. And if not, then there is a 24 hour parking service next to the Fuengirola harbour with excellent service.

ABOUT WORKING: It also happened that Mrs. T managed to get a job in a cafeteria once. She really liked the idea of having something useful to do while I was running about with my camera. This work was hourly paid and only part time allowing for sufficient free time, too. However, this job opportunity lasted only for about 9 hours because at that point of time she realized that it is getting "too expensive" because the salary (plus extras) was spent paying for all the delicious extra buns she brought home with her.

ABOUT  LOCAL DISHES: We all know about the fantastic tapas culture....and Cava sparkling wine. Sometimes tapas was our only dish that day. And again, sometimes we tried some local "delicatessen" from the supermarkets. Once we found a can of "mushrooms". Mrs. T is very fond of mushrooms especially with pasta. The dish was prepared and looked to be.....sort of OK. Mrs. T is a fantastic chef but in this case there was an unusual smell and the texture that came with the dish. First the appetite kept us going but very soon we started to investigate the "mushroomy" consistent in more detail. With the help of a dictionary we came to the conclusion that we were having a stomach of an animal.  

ABOUT ALCOHOL POLICIES: The food departments at large markets offer long shelves of wines and other alcoholic beverages and the prices are inexpensive. Mrs. T likes to try different kind of food products offered for tasting but was surprised when offered one specific alcoholic drink as this is not customary in Finland. Alcohol polices ARE liberal in Spain. Having a drink in a bar is often not measured the way we are used and tends to lead to a heavy alcohol content that one needs to take into consideration. 

ABOUT "DOMESTIC" ANIMALS: Our apartment is situated in the ground floor which means that different kind of small animals sometimes find an entry into our home. Our first "friend" was a lizard that had entered the kitchen. In the beginning we also had to fight off ants and the odd cockroach. The other day another small lizard was chased out and small spiders are everyday visitors. On several occasions we had to assist large grasshoppers over the terrace walls. A few times we have also assisted praying mantis's escape.

ABOUT HIGH TEMPERATURES: Summer time the temperature climb very high and it is easy to understand that a break (siesta) can be needed daytime. The coastal areas can benefit from cool sea breezes but in northern Andalucia, e.g. Cordoba, daily temperatures easily exceeds 40 degrees in July-August. One day we left from Fuengirola with slightly above 30 degrees but when we reached Cordoba street indicators gave values of well above 40 degrees. Whatever we did that day we tried to do it in the shadows. A cooling pool, shower and plenty of drink is then on high demand. We where quite pleased that our black coloured KIA had its place in our garage away from the intense sun.

What has Andalucia Offered Us

Mrs T and I have known each other since we where about 10 years old in the 60´s. We studied hard to gain a documented education and worked alongside the studies as so many did. We were married and formed a family like everybody else. The general feeling was to find a job after graduation as soon as possible to make a living.  Like with any family our lives changed at the time when our children was born. The children now became the nucleus of the family. They filled our hearts and enriched our everyday life and still do. We took the opportunity to travel with them extensively with some very exotic destinations, too. The children are now grown up and have their own homes and future plans, but we still stay close to them looking after their interests. Part of our "capacity" has now been released which lead us into a situation whereby we wanted to reflect on our own future. The thoughts circled around the question of "what now". Traditionally the path to follow was to retain a close relation with the children and, come the time, caring also for our grandchildren while nurturing our own hobbies and safeguarding family traditions. We wanted all of this but the question still was would it be possible to make a difference while we have the opportunity. This issue was also brought to the attention of the children. There reaction was entirely positive "Go For It". After very careful consideration we then decided on moving abroad to Andalucia with the aim of bringing new elements, not only to our own lives but also the children's. On a personal level we also wanted to add a new dimension to our relationship that for a long time had been based on raising a family and working (long hours). Moving away from the traditional everyday life into something entirely new more or less automatically brings along new elements to consider and requires our minds to open up for new or alternative solutions to daily issues. This was a good opportunity for us to focus on our own personalities as well as our relationship in order to discover what the future could bring about.  Also old traditions has been questioned and new ideas tried. We felt this particularly strongly during christmas time where we had very fixed traditions since a long time back. Breaking up these was something of a challenge that required an open mind and tolerance for new solutions and new ways. 

In a way we entered a phase whereby we acknowledged that learning is a continuous process and that nothing ever gets completed. New thinking and a readiness for a structured and well considered change should prevail at all times. Joint responsibility for our actions and our family as well as respect and support for our environment are issues that raises up when we want to reflect on our situation at this point of time. It can be a daring process to learn to listen, to challenge and to communicate openly but all this is needed in order to build a stronger platform for future personal growth that includes readiness to rather give than take, to help and support at all times and not to take anything for granted. As described in our book what was the last chapter in that book is the  first one in the rest of our lives. Solving day to day problems, traveling and experiencing things together as a family has brought us closer and made us understand and appreciate each other in a different setting has matured. Our decision to move to Skåne is opening up the second chapter where again an unfamiliar environment will continue to guide us and our hobbies will continue to support our endeavors. To conclude, may I take the opportunity to add that Mrs. T has been a wonderful wife and woman and the perfect mother to our children. She has at all times been ready to support the interests of the whole family and without her our Andalucian mission could not have taken place. 

A Big Hand 

We are very grateful to everyone that has helped us in making this move out from a given structured life and into a new existence filled with balanced days including new opportunities for both personal and familiar interests. It is impossible to name everyone in Finland but may we offer a special thanks to our own families, friends and our former colleagues for staying in contact, to Taina for her valuable practical advice regarding moving to Fuengirola and Andalucia as well as Lions Club Kaarina for their "rain dance" providing for mental strength in view of our undertakings. In Andalucia we feel that have experienced a tremendous hospitality from the people in general. Juan provided for our apartment and Miguel for practical details. Dr. Gogo looked after our oral hygiene, Clinica San Fransisco cared for our general health and Amador for our hairstyle. We visited many places over the months and extend our appreciation to all and especially the Bodegas of Lustau and Tio Pepe. We have had 2400 pageviews for our blog ""  and want to thank all the readers for following us. 

Our Saga Now Move Into Skåne, Southern Sweden

    Picture Skåne Slätten: John Leffmann
    Picture Örebro Bridge: Wikimedia Commons
    Skåne map and garden: Courtesy Fastighetsbyrån, Broby
    Other: Th. Tapio

From Andalucia we now will move to SKÅNE (Southern Sweden) and settle down in our little villa in a small village near Kristianstad. The above collage describe our hobbies from music to photography and gardening to handcrafting. The name of the new Blog has been chosen and it is active but will receive its first posts in April. You are welcome to join us there and experience Seasonal Activities (in a historical and cultural setting) through the blog: 

(active link to the page on the right hand side, see LINKS)

Thank you Andalucia and thank you all Readers. Welcome to Skåne with us!

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