Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics – A motorhome (RV) tour around Nova Scotia & Cape Breton.
There is some doubt who coined the phrase ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’, but for the purposes of this account let’s say it was Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. I plumped for Disraeli only because, according to my research, there are parallels between Disraeli’s imperial ideas and that of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A Macdonald. I was also struggling to find a suitable title for this blog that would gain your attention long enough for me to convey some of the facts about this wonderful part of the world.
First I will talk about the statistics and then, if you are still reading, ‘the lies’ and maybe some damned lies!
First the statistics.
If Dante’s Inferno exists then surely one place must have been Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. Whether we dawdle or speed through the Somme and Normandy in our motorhomes we are reminded that these were places of conflict. Most of the time, the rules of war and engagement applied. However, driving through Spain we are oblivious to the battles let alone the genocide. It is thought that there were 500,000 deaths from all causes with an estimated 200,000 deliberately executed and a further 20,000 Republicans executed after the war, all without trial.
After touring southern Portugal we re-entered Spain via Badajoz, known as the city of horrors. Following a similar pattern of atrocities, that took place in other towns, executions were commonplace. Under the orders of General Juan Yauge, later known as the "Butcher of Badajoz", an estimated 4,000 of the town's inhabitants, both men and women, were taken to the bull ring where they were indiscriminately machine gunned.
We didn’t stop at Badajoz but there is an aire listed on Club Motorhome.
14th April 2016 Ciudad Real to Córdoba
In 1605 Miguel de Cervantes published his acclaimed novel, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. The story follows an upper middle class gentleman, Don Quixote, and his lower class neighbour, Sancho Panza, who set out with a horse and a mule (guess who’s got the mule!) to undertake, through Chivalric acts, good deeds for their fellow mankind. The backdrop for this great adventure was the plains and mountains of La Mancha, an area south of Madrid encompassing the province of Ciudad Real. Three hundred and thirty years later, La Mancha was the setting for the final offensive of the Spanish Civil War. By March 1939 Nationalist troops had captured the main cities of this region, including Ciudad Real, and Republican troops were in disarray surrendering or fleeing as refugees to the harbours of Valencia, Alicante, Cartagena and Gandia.
I first visited Spain as an eight year old in 1961 when Franco still had an iron grip on the country. This was 16 years after the Second World War which was preceded by three years of Civil War. Away from the metropolis the country was poor, old women dressed in black still carried bundles of washing on their heads to the communal wash house. Bare foot street urchins banged on the car window begging for Pesetas while their full breasted mothers in red dresses danced the flamenco and their menfolk strummed the Guitarra and smoked cigarillos. The place was dark, very dark, it was if the Moors had only left the country yesterday. Ok, I might have overdone that a bit but I just wanted to paint a picture of how much has changed in fifty years or so. However, scratch the surface of this country and the pain, suffering and scars are just under the skin and in some cases still visible today.
Spanish Civil war propaganda posters
8th April 2016 - Guernica Basque Country
While we stayed at Camping Luminoso we did a couple of bike rides. The first was all uphill away from the coast and took us 1/3 of the time to return compared to the outgoing trip. While we were there we spotted a proper sized poinsettia which looked good, albeit past is best
The next day we went to Marina Di Ragusa along the coast, fairly even on ups and downs in both directions. We followed a marked cycle touring route which kept us close to the coast
The motorhome had GB registration - only the second we have come across on our travels, but we didn’t meet up with its owner this time.
While up in the centre of Sicily we went to the town of Enna, the highest provincial capital in Sicily, situated over 3000 feet above sea level. It was a very long climb up to the town (for Sally, not for us!), but the views when we arrived were truly spectacular.
As we travelled around we noticed that while they have Christmas trees here, they are not as we know them – the fir trees here are not the classic Christmas tree shape, and I guess it’s a long way to bring them from Northern Europe where they are more prolific. So they improvise in a way we don’t see at home.
We visited Selinunte, another Greek city, wonderfully sited by the coast. It must have been a drag having to build a temple to each separate god – perhaps that was one driver towards the idea of believing in only one god. (It’s a shame then that we don’t all hear the same messages from the one god).
Sicily blog No 2
It’s been a while since sending our last blog, what with Christmas and New Year and some frustration with photo software which seems not to want to co-operate with Windows 10. We have also had difficulties with wifi - our usual McDonalds fall-back needs a mobile to enrol, to which a password is sent, except that apparently GB phone numbers are not recognised, and our long-range wifi aerial is not performing either. So from now on it will be cafes and restaurants as and when we visit them on which we will have to rely.
We spent a couple of days in Palermo, which was something of a disappointment. The guide book reads well, but the city is not inspiring, lacking the spacious piazzas and public spaces usually found in major cities here in Italy. Yes, it is full of history and building by its numerous occupiers, often with many styles included in the same building as it has evolved over the centuries. Keen students of architecture will no doubt be able to recognise the various inputs to Palermo cathedral
As can be seen from the next photo, sadly the cathedral doesn’t enjoy a great setting, and the buildings around it can perhaps best described as ‘shabby’, a description which would quite suitable for the whole city.