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Spain: A Sentimental Journey

Very soon after arriving at the Valencia airport I started looking for the reason why the coast is called the white one, Costa Blanca.  The houses passing on the right side; white regular squares hurled on top of each other along the steep green hills, look like clusters of abstract cubist grapes, an architectural detail typical for the whole Mediterranean coast so near to Africa.  As we enter Moraira, my destination, and drive through the abrupt, narrow streets as if rushing through white corridors of concrete, where the luxuriant vegetation is barely seen through the lofty, somehow Hollywood-like walls that are flush with the pavement, I am showing a temperate enchantment thinking to myself that I have seen better places before.

Moraira was like a glove you put on from the wrong side; as soon as I got into it and turned around it started revealing itself in its natural, untainted beauty.   We get into my friend’s house, one of the many the Moorish architecture has left its imprint on; walls and hedges topped with red tiles and decorated with squares of exquisite blue faïence, arched iron-rimmed balconies, winding stairs and minute towers, cool open living-rooms.  And beyond it, within a few yards, the magic unfolding: a slant pathway paved with large irregular stones takes you on a smooth passage from civilization to wilderness, from rigid geometry to sinuous curves, from hot to cool, from white to green and red and purple, from the noise of the street to the silence of the leaves.

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As evening is falling we sit with friends at the generously laid table wrapped in white muslin that waves in the sweet breeze, upon which the orange light of the lanterns throw tremulous patterns, our senses invaded by the heady surges of Galan de Noche, a night blooming Jessamine reminding us that this is a magical balmy Spanish summer night, one of those you remember and talk about for a long time to come.

The next day, I am drinking my tea in the translucent morning while contemplating the huge replicas of the three or four pots of aloe vera I’ve got on my terrace in Heidelberg, looking at the motionless date palms and listening to the electric song of the cicadas orchestrated with such minute precision in the gigantic pines above.  The day progresses in a slow, uneventful fashion, the shadows of the pines move along the wall, and my friend Nicu and I talk leisurely underneath.  Later, when we go to the sea it is the first time that I lay my eyes in awe upon Penon de lfach, a massive cliff solemnly piercing the sea, solid as a mammoth, impressive, ubiquitous.

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We climb the hills, look up at the chalet terraces supported by arched rows of elegant yet absurd white columns jutting from the raw stony mass, and, as we look down at the narrow stripe of sand and the incredibly saturated hues of blue and green, I become aware of the amazing quality of air caressing my skin like the elusive touch of an invisible scarf.

We return to the sea and slip into a grotto where stone columns arched above the stormy rush guard the entrance to the mighty mountain where fresh and salty water mingle covered by a scintillating hue: Cumbre del Sol.

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Alone on the stony beach, in the clear of another morning I lie on a smooth rock brushed at times by the fan of salty sprays.  As I am trying to see the Balearic Islands across the waters, my thoughts follow the rhythm of the waves; the air is light; in the vacillating heat the colors melt into gray.  Later, on a natural terrace drinking coffee under the olive trees, contemplating El Penon de Ifach in the hazy distance, I can’t read a single line from the book in my hand, full of the realization that this is one of those singular moments when you are content with just being.

In the evening we drive to Calpe.  While passing the restaurants lined on the quay, we manage to get pretty full with sangria and hot fried sardines offered as a stimulant by the inviting waiters.  After the typical Spanish dinner with mariscos, paella, and fish we take a stroll along the quay towards Penon de Ifach, the majestical contours of which I kept following with my eyes all through the evening; the moon is rising entangled in veils, orange, glinting like a huge copper plate.  And again, the silky air enveloping me like a smooth, immaterial coat, touching my forehead like a passing thought.  That is the night when, completely mesmerized, I witnessed how a girl called Fabiola metamorphosed from a lively careless child into a well educated young lady I am having a lengthy elegant conversation with, just by putting on a Spanish dress she received as a present two days ago.

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On the last day, Nicu takes me to the mountains.  The huge arid massifs are creased by terraces.  We keep wondering whether they are natural or the remains of some ancient wine culture; birds fly in silent rotations, a kite of yellow and blue is waving somnolently.  At the top of Sierra Ternica we find a garden restaurant.  In the quiet heat of the afternoon while eating the delicious roasted rabbit, the specialty of the house, and drinking sangria, we sit under an olive tree and talk about the past, about the way we have changed along the journey of our lives, and about the wonder of friendship.

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Upon saying farewell to the cook, the matron of the house who is busy peeling vegetables inside, stands up and gives each of us a ripe tomato.  As I bite into mine and then run back to thank her again, she hugs me and gives me another one; a huge, tense, and fruity globe heavy with the sun of the Spanish summer.

On the way back to the valley, passing the sleepy scenery and deserted villages slumbering in the paralysis of the siesta under the torrid sun, looking at Peon de lfach rising from the hazy plains, I finally understand that the name of the coast comes from the unique combination of stone and light.

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