From siesta to fiesta

From siesta to fiesta

The first thing that makes you raise your eyebrows in surprise when you first arrive in Spain is the never-fading smiles on the faces of people walking around. The Spaniards do not walk the streets, but rather stroll, as if there are not 24, but at least 48 hours in a day. And they smile all the time. Not like the Americans, who turned their Hollywood “smile” into a forced grin necessary for establishing business contacts, but naturally and at ease. Why should they be sad and frown? The sun always shines in Spain, what problems or thoughts might there be about global issues? It’s us, accustomed to the fact that for nine months of the year wet snow falls on top of our heads, and for the remaining three months it rains, we have a permanently gloomy expression on our faces and are always dissatisfied with the way we live.

No, don’t think that the Spaniards don’t know how to complain and demand a better life for themselves. They are quite capable of criticizing their own government with the slogans “more money, less work,” but they are also very peculiar. We had the good fortune to be in Spain just at the time when the country staged a one-day general strike. There were «Basta!» posters everywhere. with a call not to go to work that day and to join the “rebels.” Local residents warned us to purchase all food and essentials in advance, because a true Spaniard — be it a secretary or a shop owner — would never miss an opportunity to skip work.

Frightened by the prospect of finding ourselves for one day in a completely extinct city (just like in a horror movie), we took the advice. However, they did not take into account that our town is a resort town and those who work there receive their main income not from the state at all, but from countless tourists. So on the day of the global strike, in contrast to large Spanish cities, only three shops and five cafes were closed. In the morning, a group of noisy Spaniards, surrounded by several sleepy policemen, exploded firecrackers, sang several songs and waved their banners in front of the imaginary government. But very soon everyone got tired of standing under the hot sun, and people went home and to beer bars for a siesta, which lasted until an indefinite time. It must be said that this strike was prudently scheduled for Friday, so the Spaniards gave themselves a mini-vacation instead of a weekend.

On Monday morning, six Spanish workers were digging a hole in the street — probably to replace pipes. Well, thank God, we got to work! Not so. Walking along the same street at four o’clock in the afternoon, it was easy to notice that the dimensions of the dug hole were no different from those in the morning: two meters long, a meter wide and about twenty centimeters deep. The hole in the asphalt was not even suitable for a funeral. Nevertheless, the tired workers had not been seen for a long time: either they had gone for a siesta, or had completely completed their hard work. By the way, we still haven’t developed a clear concept about the time frame of siesta: it seems that it begins when the desire to work ceases, and ends when the desire to work arises again.

While the Spaniards do not have much reverence for work, these southern people know how to relax and have fun excellently. The fiesta, which in Estonia is known as St. John's Day, is called «Night of St. John» in Spain. Firecrackers are exploding everywhere, making more noise than light; people drink champagne (always champagne, not wine!) and eat special sweet rolls with fruit. And, of course, everyone plays guitars and dances. By the way, the Spaniards “sell” the notorious flamenco dance to tourists as a souvenir. So vague doubts arise: do they dance with the clicking of their heels when foreigners do not see them?

There is an old joke. In one of the resort towns, a tourist stops a man and asks: “Can you tell me where the beach is?” “I don’t know, I’m local,” is the answer. This joke does not apply to Spain. It is generally very difficult to distinguish local people here from foreign tourists. On the street you can meet pale Spaniards and even blonde Spaniards. The Spaniards know very well where the resort beaches are and enjoy their delights with great pleasure along with visiting vacationers. Spaniards go to the same shops, cafes and discos as tourists. Here it is, integration!

If you are not a teetotaler or an ulcer, then try not to overdo it with Spanish wines. The temptation will be great: wine here costs as much as mineral water, and sometimes even cheaper. But there is tension with Spanish cuisine. In traditional tourist towns you will find every cuisine from the world — from Chinese to Dutch. It won't be just Spanish. So, when you return from vacation, don’t forget to check out some Estonian restaurant specializing in Spanish cuisine. Then you will be able to get a more complete impression of this wonderful country.

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