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To Get to the Other Side

A journey through Europe and its anarchist movements

A Good Day (part 3)

Mercedi, Mercredi, Miercoles, Dimecres, 28 Marzo, Mars, Marzo, Març

Within a minute we were in France. The sun came up over the sea, blood red, as we drove the mountain highway over Monaco, looking down on those rich bastards and their gorgeous beach. The Frenchman drove carelessly, when one hard turn would send us tumbling off a viaduc fifty meters down onto some village. Nonetheless I slept, and when I awoke there was a mountain like carefully folded sand sunburned the color of a light mousse. On the left, mustard-yellow villages. The truckdriver answered my dreams by promising to take me all the way to Spain. He could drop me off an hour from Barcelona. First he just had to take care of some business at home, in Nîmes, so he left me waiting at the toll gates at the entrance of town. I never saw him again. By one of those strange coincidences this trip had been full of, Nîmes was the closest large city to La Vieille Villette, an entire squatted valley of rural anarchists highly recommended to me at Ca Favale. I hadn’t thought I would have time to go, or the opportunity for an easy ride, since the most direct roads to Barcelona hugged the coast, and here I was, so close. But there were some contradictory signs a little less mystical. My legs had only just warmed up from the cold of the previous night, I was tired, dirty, and wanted to get to Spain without further delay. So when I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see my truckdriver again, I put out the cardboard sign for Barcelona and within half an hour I caught a ride with an immaculately dressed, soft-faced young man. First he said he could take me to Montpellier, a couple hundred kilometers away, but in five minutes he was shooing me out of the car with the assurance that I could catch a ride much more easily at this random toll gate in the middle of the highway. I think it was my smell. My clothes hadn’t been washed since, mmm, Bulgaria? and it takes one to wear one.

But ten minutes later a trucker in a Spanish rig pulled over for me, offering a lift to Barcelona. The driver himself had been living in Spain four years, but he was Romanian, and he had the folk music collection to prove it. He also had pickled peppers: this was part of the lunchtime feast he made us at a rest-stop on a propane burner, along with boiled eggs, bread, hotdogs, and garlic. And on we drove, past hills of rocks and blooming brush, viniculture wastelands, French roadworkers in their fluourescent jumpsuits. So it was I came to Spain, across the frontier in a bubble of pop-folk from Craiova. And in one day of hitchhiking I managed to come through five major Romance languages—Italian, French, Spanish, Catalan, and Romanian. The Pyrenees were thick green carpets frozen in a placid moment from violent shaking, and when we crossed they were tangled in rain clouds.

Roads

With some parting gifts of food, my truckdriver left me at a gas station in the morass of highways west of Barcelona. For a while I wandered the directionless industrial suburbs in the rain until I found a train station at Cerdanyola, and I hopped the train to Plaça Catalunya. The folks in Athena had recommended a Barcelona squat where I could stay a while, but they never gave me the address and I was having trouble remembering the name. I found El Lokal easily enough, and when I asked about places to stay the folks at this perennial anarchist bookstore directed me three blocks down to RuinAmalia, which by some miracle happened to be the place named to me in Athena. At RuinAmalia, located on the street Reina Amalia, they said I could stay a few nights. They were having legal troubles at the time—in fact they had just received notice of an eviction process—so they weren’t taking in strangers. But I was welcomed for the time being, only because of those contacts from Greece. I got to take a shower and wash my clothes, sleep in a bed, and think of what to do with a month in Barcelona.

Jueves, Dijous the 28th

My first morning in Barcelona, the sun is shining, clothes are drying in the wind, and up to the balcony of the squat reaches the sound of a neighbor practicing Beethoven piano concertos. It’s going to be a good day.

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