Venta Micena – Day 30/30

Today is my last day in Venta Micena.

Originally, I thought that, in order to leave, I would need to stand by the road for hours, hoping for a car to pass by and give me a ride. And I am not saying “for hours” because people wouldn’t stop, but because that’s the frequency of cars around here.

But then, I discovered that Venta Micena has its own airport.

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¡Hasta luego!


Actually, I got material for more than 30 days, meaning there will be several articles about Andalusia in the next months. I want to introduce you to some of the towns in the area and tell you about the mountains I climbed. I had also promised you a look inside a cave house. And the cats actually recently had very sweet kittens, which I am sure you want to see, too.

Now, I am curious to read your opinion about the idea to illustrate my life at a new place by publishing a photo and just a few sentences every day.

Belatedly, as is always the case with good ideas, I thought that this approach would have worked very well in Vienna, where I spent two months this summer. There, my life was also much more varied and visually more appealing than desert, mountains and ruins all the time. I probably won’t try it in Calgary, because photographing a pile of snow every day will be boring. And three months really seem too long for such a project.

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Venta Micena – Day 29/30

When the owners of the house travel by plane, on their yacht or with one of their many other cars, the house sitter often gets to use a car, or at least a bicycle. In a remote area like this one, I am particularly thankful about that. Because there are so few cars passing by, that hitchhiking would leave me standing by the side of the road for hours.

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Venta Micena – Day 28/30

You have already met Grace, the cat who is my primary responsibility while house sitting in Venta Micena.

But each morning, her colleagues are waiting outside, looking at me pleadingly and full of hope.

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Of course I cannot resist, and thus there is food for every cat in the village.

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Venta Micena – Day 27/30

“Aren’t you afraid, living in the village all by yourself?”, people ask me.

“No,” I reply, “because there is even a sign declaring it a secure zone.”

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Venta Micena – Day 26/30

Signs of the Civil War are everywhere in Spain.

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“The Pastures of Heaven” by John Steinbeck

As if I had known how beautiful it would be in Venta Micena, Andalusia, I brought a book about a similarly beautiful valley to read during my stay: The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck.

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In this early work, first published in 1932, Steinbeck already displayed many of the skills that led to great works like The Grapes of WrathOf Mice and Men or Tortilla Flat – and to the Nobel Prize in Literature. There are twelve short stories, loosely connected by some recurring characters, but all connected by place: a valley in California, the beauty of which nobody can deny and which is the book’s real main character.

The protagonists are mostly normal people, farmers, store owners, housewives, teachers, likable too, yet memorable. Steinbeck only needs a paragraph or a few sentences about something they do, they say or even what they don’t say to let the characters come to life.

186369As with most books by Steinbeck, not all ends well, but it is far less heart-breaking than some of his later works. And even when a story ended on a sad note (not all don’t), the feeling for me as a reader was one of melancholy more than of sadness, and it was overshadowed by how marvellously the story had been told. As I sat on the porch, I closed the book after each chapter, for I had to reflect on the people whose lives had been presented to me. With each of them, I had the sensation of wanting to meet them, although I am usually not a very social person. Even when a character has a negative trait, like the farmer who constantly brags about his wealth, you feel more sorry for him, rather than rush to judgment.

Maybe individual fates were less important, knowing that the valley was still there, in the book and in real life, and the valley would continue to be good to its people.

My personal favorite of all the people is Junius Maltby.

The people of the valley told many stories about Junius. Sometimes they hated him with the loathing busy people have for lazy ones, and sometimes they envied his laziness; but often they pitied him because he blundered so. No one in the valley ever realized that he was happy.

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Whether you want a short introduction to Steinbeck or whether you have already read his better-known novels, I don’t think you will be disappointed by The Pastures of Heaven. Steinbeck’s books always leave me with the feeling as if I have learned a lot about humanity.

(Many thanks to Jacqueline Danson, a loyal reader of this blog, for sending me this book and several others. If you, too, want to support my blog, here is my wishlist. My North American readers, who have hitherto relented in the face of prohibitive postage fees, will be delighted to read that I shall move to Canada in December. And for that hard winter, I’ll really need some good books.) 

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Venta Micena – Day 25/30

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