Ilivetolearn's Blog

January 30, 2006

signs, signs, signs

Filed under: on the road,sewing/knitting,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 6:19 pm

In the US you have to be in marginal areas to find bilingual road signs. I remember driving up to get Evan at a camp in far northern NY and thinking “I must be close to Canada” when the signs were English/French. Here in Spain you don’t have to venture far from center for that experience. On the way south (Seville, Granada, Algeciras) the signs are Spanish/Arabic…in the north central section (Bilbao, San Sebastian) Spanish/Basque (and some in French too)…in the northeast corner (Barcelona) Spanish/Catalan, and we’ve heard but not seen that in the northwest corner signs are Spanish/Gallician. Folks in the Asturias region speak a language they call (I’m not making this up) Bable, but I don’t know if they put it on the road signs. The language variations are so pronounced that it’s a wonder the country holds together. When Jose Luis learned that Bill and I grew up on opposite coasts, 3000 miles apart, he asked, “How can you understand each other?”

We’ve just come back from three days in the Canary Islands, where signs are German/English/Spanish. Huge numbers of northern Europeans escape there in the winter, since it’s in the 70’s and sunny year-round–with daylight from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM–and the Germans in particular have decided it’s the ideal place to retire. We happened to be staying in a German-owned hotel, in a beach area full of Italian and Chinese restaurants, so we really felt we had left the country. Dinner service ended at 9:30 instead of beginning then. Businesses didn’t close in the middle of the day. I only caught one glimpse of jamon on a salad. And people actually expressed interest in my knitting, whereas in Madrid knitting in the metro gets about the same response as eating would—people look slightly disapproving. I think any kind of handwork is something one’s grandmother did because she had to, and now it’s a sign of being modern and prosperous to buy everything you need.

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