Construction (of hotels? apartment buildings? vacation homes?) at the base of the crumbling old staircase up to El Castillo de Santa Bárbara.

Today my intercambio and I had an interesting adventure. During our weekly bilingual paseo through Alicante, we passed through the neighborhood behind the cathedral, where we noticed some construction (see above) near what looked like the remains of some ancient stone walls, with what appeared to be tunnels going deep beneath Alicante’s iconic castle. We wondered what the remains were. A bit further on, we went into a ceramic shop that I noticed months ago in the barrio antiguo, which was finally open. Instead of the typical glossy mosaics that I’ve found in other more centrally located shops, it was a workshop crowded with faithful replicas of ancient artifacts, similar to those discovered in Roman ruins in this region, which now reside in Alicante’s fantastic archeological museum. It turns out that the shop is run by the retired restoration director from the museum – an animated old man who described his work at the museum, the tragic popularity of the touristy garbage available in other ceramic shops, and how the city prefers to pay off archeologists and covertly re-bury archeological discoveries, rather than be delayed by the hassles of preserving them.

(Currently several construction projects on main roads in Alicante have ground to a halt due to the discovery of archeological remains. In a town as old as this you can’t break ground for a water main without encountering what I affectionately call “old shit.”)

After lots of stories and approximately 4 cigarettes, our new acquaintance pulled out a photo album from among the dust, tools, and clay busts of the workshop. To our surprise, it was full of a careful documentation of the destruction of an ancient tower right at the spot we were examining earlier in the day, which appeared in old postcards and photos and gradually fell into disrepair, until today when the few remaining walls are crumbling into the hillside and apparently about to be built over by new construction.

After hearing these stories, we left the shop and strolled past the construction projects on the Rambla, which suspiciously enough was still going strong at almost 9pm on a Friday evening. (The Spanish work ethic is far too healthy for that nonsense.) We tried to peer through the barriers to catch a glimpse of something (old artifacts? ancient walls? a unscrupulous archeologist being paid off by shady city officials?) but whatever may have been beneath was already drowned in concrete.

I have mixed feelings about the delicate balance between preserving history and allowing life to flow on… regardless, it was fascinating, and I would love to stroll around town with this guy and hear other stories.

Also, some of you may be receiving very credible yet affordable replicas of foot-shaped pitchers and clay lamps depicting orgy scenes. Just to warn you.

*Note: For anyone nerdy enough to care, I am aware that there are two spellings of arch(a)eology, but I am trying to reign in unnecessary abundances of vowels whenever possible.

One Response to 69/365

  1. Mama says:

    I’ll put it by the pooping guy you sent for Christmas 🙂

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