It’s only been a week, but Murcia is already beginning to feel like home.
The transition from Adelaide to Murcia (one South to another) has been made all the easier by ridiculously good weather, ridiculously good food and, of course, Bonica (who is ridiculously good). Because of her, I am lucky enough to already have friends and even family in this dry, sweet, sleepy little part of the world.
I already wrote a bit about Murcia, Murcia, España, as a city and my first impressions of it on my last trip in 2016. I think past James did a pretty good job of describing it. Good job, past James. But after being here for a whole week, soaking up the sun, sugar and Catholicism, I feel I’ve gotten past “first impressions”. I feel like I’m learning to be a bit more Murciano.
And so I wanted to share with you a few little things I’ve learned about Murcia (and maybe the “South of Spain” in general).
- Uno: You will never stop eating and drinking, and you will never want to.
Your average cookbook will never be able to contain the hundreds of years of tradition, unique cultural relevance and regional quirks that go into making Spanish food what it is. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much or as widely in such little time as I have in this past week. I haven’t even scratched the surface myself, but already I’ve chomped my way through Roscón de reyes, turrón, churros, palmeritas, cuerno de merengue, tortilla de patatas, paella de verduras, marinera, bizcocho, empanadillas, ensaladilla rusa, tocino de cielo (bacon of the sky), café bombón, café asiático, various tostas, patatas bravas y patatas con alioli, tomates con boquerones, calamar, pulpo, arroz con leche… Dios mío. I mean, it’s not like I’m bragging or anything.
- Uno punto cinco: everything is citrus. All citrus, all the time.
Most of the food mentioned above is eating with a healthy sprinkling of fresh lemon, straight from la Huerta. Orange trees line the street. Even as I writing this, a neighbour arrived at the door to deliver a whole bag of oranges for free. He has so many orange trees that he is giving them away. No joke. I dream of oranges.
- Dos: Swearing is an art form.
You have to quickly learn the difference between “tu puta madre” and “de puta madre”.
- Tres: You can’t rush.
Sobremesa is something holy. It’s the art of talking, maybe slowly sipping coffees or wines, after a big meal. Tables are not cleared of their inhabitants until hours have passed and the leftover crumbs have gone grave cold. Here, people take their time to sit and enjoy. Don’t feel guilty for spending an hour just sitting at a cafe under the cathedral. It’s a very mindful way to live.
- Cuatro: Spain still exists as Spain.
In Murcia, the traditions of pre-globalisation Spain still exist. The streets turn dead quiet and stores close at siesta time, old men sing typical songs on park benches and processions of heavily-robed Catholics march through the streets on holy days. The south of Spain proudly combines past and present.
- Cinco: Expect a bit of grime, but never where it matters.
There’s no sense hiding the fact that the streets can get a little mucky sometimes. You’re sure to come across a healthy population of plastic bags near the rivers and on the sides of roads. Graffiti is practiced with gusto. However, Spanish homes are clean as whistles and decorated meticulously. The home is the temple, after all.
- Seis: There is no basic Spanish.
Coming from a country with maybe two or three major regional variations in dialect and accent, coming to Spain can be a bit of a shock for the early learner of the language. There are countless regional variations, completely different languages (Catalan, Valenciano, etc.) existing side by side. Murcianos, for example, don’t come from España, they come from E’paña. And if you’re used to Latin American Spanish… ooh boy…
- Siete: Religion is a big, beautiful deal.
Catholic Spain is beautifully decorated. Ornate statues, gold-plated portraits, flower-draped Virgins and baby Jesuses can be found almost everywhere. The greatest sight in Murcia, the Cathedral, is this fact made huge. It’s one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe. Along with this comes a whole host of interesting traditions and even more interesting names for people and places. For example, Murcia’s famous “old bridge” is called “The Bridge of the Dangers” (Puente de los Peligros) and the final day of the Spring Fiestas features the “Burial of the Sardine” (Entierro de la Sardina).
As you can probably guess, Murcia, like any city, is a lot more complicated than what you see on the surface. Even though I feel more connected to this place than ever before, I know there is still a whole lot more to learn and experience. I haven’t even eaten all of the traditional sweets yet!
So I have no qualms about taking it all in slowly, surely. The more I learn about and live in Murcia, the more I love it.
And the more I grow addicted to lemon 🍋