…….country Swedes have an appealing tradition of leaving a light burning all night in the window to cheer the passing traveler………..
When I switched off the engine, I was against struck by the extraordinary stillness of the Swedish winter. There is no wind, and even if there were, the trees would be too heavy in their thick load of frozen snow to move. There are no birds to sing and the sea is silenced by its sarcophagus of ice. The only sound in the landscape is you.
……. the usual Immaculate turnout of Swedish houses. But as the Swedes themselves so nicely put it: Bättre lite skit i hörnet än ett rent helvete – ‘better a little shit in the corner than a clean hell’
‘I usually do it myself, only I've hurt my back- chainsawing in the woods.’ The old Swedish complaint.
I breathed in deep the inimitable Spanish town smell of coffee, garlic and black tobacco……..
….Orgiva Feria - the town's big festival - was the following week……….. Feria is a time of unbelievable cacophony, when the townsfolk go overboard indulging their passion for noise……….The bars in the plaza …….. have sound systems the size of small houses, which thunder and rattle day and night, making it impossible to hold the faintest trace of conversation. Yet the locals just sit there chatting away as though nothing were happening. It's my belief that the Spanish have better evolved ears than the rest of us.
As if the noise isn't enough, Feria is also the time of year when the wind gets up….. it moans and wails around every corner, thick with grit and gravel which stings your eyes and gets into your nose……..
In Sevilla, which is the most romantic city in the world, the heavy cloud of orange-blossom scent that envelops it in spring and early summer drives people mad with love.
Just beneath the peak of Mulhacen, which at 3450m is the highest peak in the Sierra Nevada, indeed in the whole Iberian peninsula, are the borreguiles. In days gone by, a lamb was not considered fit to be eaten until it had passed a summer grazing on the sweet grasses that cloak these high mountain meadows- hence the name, from borrego, which means a lamb…….. Common to them all is the perfect peace, the almost supernatural clarity of the water and the springiness of the deep green grass……… the time to see the is late May to late July- that's spring in the high Sierra- and somehow, the very fleeting nature of this beauty makes it all the more appealing…….. I was struck dumb by what I saw. The grass was no longer green, it was a sheet of livid blue- a blue so dazzling it seemed to come from outside the normal spectrum of perception. These were the Sierra Nevada gentians. ……..There were two varieties in bloom………the ultramarine………and the delicate, almost luminescent……..
Sheep always do this for some reason; when they see a person, they squat and pee- unless of course they happen to be rams, in which case they just stand around and dribble.