Tag Archives: Economic Crisis

The Weekly Don Quixote: A Shopping Spree On The Moon!

Many moons ago, when I was a student, I worked in a pharmacy on Finchley Road near Swiss Cottage in London. My co-worker Gaspar, whose family was from Goa, used to joke that Indians were to be found absolutely everywhere, even on the moon.

Well, it looks like they are in very good company up there! My lovely intercambio Raquel sent me this publicity poster last week, announcing Ciudad Real’s annual La Noche Blanca festival:

It's a publicity poster for an annual festival.  Note that our two heroes are laden with shopping bags... anything to stimulate the lunar economy!

Note that our two heroes are laden with shopping bags… anything to stimulate the lunar economy!

I’ve never been to Ciudad Real, although it’s not all that far from Toledo. By virtue of being situated in the Castilla-La Mancha region, the town maxes its Don Quixote connection at any given opportunity.

Ciudad Real hit the headlines in the past with its infamous Don Quixote International Airport, which cost €1.1 billion to build, filed for bankruptcy within months after opening and finally closed its doors in 2012. It only ever managed to attract the interest of a single low-cost airline. The city, with a population of around 75,000, is way too small to support an airport, and it’s not exactly a tourist destination (everybody I’ve spoken to says it’s ugly).

Don Quixote Airport is frequently paraded as Spain’s number one example of the many misguided investments, which pushed the country over the edge into its ever-deepening economic crisis.

And although the Honourable Knight is utterly blameless when it comes to ill-fated modern-day investment decisions, there’s more than just a hint of irony in him lending his name to a venture, which not only failed so spectacularly, but which was doomed from the very beginning.

[For the other posts in the Weekly Don Quixote series, click here.]

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“La Krisis” In Spain

The first thing I do every morning as soon as I wake up is flick on the radio.   Whatever station I happen to be tuned into, the topic never varies: It’ll be yet another dissection of the economic crisis.

Everybody is affected, either directly or indirectly. The statistics are truly horrifying: Unemployment in Spain stands at 27.5%, and youth unemployment (people aged 25 and under) is a staggering 56.4%. This makes Spain the worst hit country in the Eurozone after Greece. Roughly half the people I know here in Toledo are out of work … it’s a very sad situation indeed.

You don’t have to look very hard to see the signs – dilapidated buildings, an army of beggars and homeless people (who are clearly not alcoholics or drug addicts) lining the streets, daily demonstrations against the government’s punishing spending cuts and mass lay-offs and, of course, an ever-expanding scrawl of graffiti on the walls.

Krisis

KrisisKrisis

The stencil image is of Mariano Rajoy, Spain's current Prime Minister.

The stencil image is of Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s current Prime Minister.

I’ve previously put up two short posts on this topic, click here and here if you want to see them.

How is the global economic crisis affecting the places in your corner of the world?

Buy Property In Toledo! Comes With Plenty Of Character…

I spotted this gem of prime real estate for sale yesterday:

Toledo Houses

Note the “Krisis” graffiti on the little white door to the right

Too fancy for ya? Maybe this one’s more in your price range:

Toledo House…the plumbing might need a bit of work, though.

Here’s more on the ‘rustic Toledo’ theme, in case you missed it…

What Is Toledo Famous For? The Tackiest Tourist Tat You’ve Ever Seen!

Back in January, I went on a shopping expedition around the old town, for the purpose of picking up a few gifts for my friends in Key West. But it proved to be mission impossible. Despite a plethora of ‘gifty’ type souvenir shops, I could not turn up anything that would have made an adequate present for people who matter to me.

It struck me that, even though Key West is as touristy a place as you’ll find anywhere on the planet, with its fair share of vulgar tat,  its shops are also full of beautiful things. Shopping for trinkets in Key West may be a tad expensive,  but, nevertheless, trash and genuinely pretty stuff manage to coexist side-by-side. But not in Toledo.

I’ll show you what I mean. Cling onto your seats. You might want to inch your sunglasses into combat position.

The first couple of pics are just a gentle warm-up:

Toledo Souvenir ShopToledo Souvenir Shop

Get the idea? Still with me….???

Not sure if you’re quite prepared for what’s to come. The next one has been unanimously declared as the pinnacle of bad taste by everyone I know who lives here. Up until a few months ago, this was a shoe shop, but now it’s a grotto dedicated to technicolour ghastliness, guarded by this monstrosity:

Yup. A stuffed bull. People stop and pose for photographs. How can anyone go in there and not barf?!?

Yup. A stuffed bull. People stop and pose for photographs. How can anyone go in there and not barf?!?

Run-of-the-mill junk

Run-of-the-mill junk

€27.50 for a crappy flamenco doll? Just who would spend their money on that?!? Whoooo???

€27.50 for a lurid flamenco doll? Just who would spend their money on that?!? Whoooo???

Ditto those diabolical dresses. Nothing against flamenco dresses per se, they could be really stylish, but these garish plastic contraptions are about as well-made and appealing as refuse sacks

Ditto those bilious dresses. Nothing against flamenco dresses per se, they could be really stylish, especially with 80s ra-ra skirts back in style, but these garish by-products of the petrochemicals industry are about as appealing as refuse sacks

If you're a Red Cross nurse looking to pick up a sprightly young doctor in a combat zone, then this is the shop for you

If you’re a Red Cross nurse looking to pick up a sprightly young doctor in a combat zone, then this is the shop for you

Words fail me

Words fail me

Toledo Ceramics

This shop actually has four windows, but I shall spare you the last one

This shop actually has four windows, but I shall spare you the last one. Maybe we could divert some of those infamous Spanish bull races through here???

God may forgive all sins. But surely, NOT THIS!

God may forgive all sins. But surely, NOT THIS!

As it happens, today I was having breakfast with a couple of local friends, one of whom mentioned that she’d just been into Madrid to buy a couple of birthday presents, because “you can’t get anything nice in Toledo”.

This town, like the much of the rest of Spain, is in the throws of an abysmal economic crisis. I do wonder to what extent the failure to provide simple things, like decent gift articles, is contributing to this sorry state of affairs.

Spain’s Economic Crisis: The Dark Side of Toledo

I usually bombard you with pretty pictures of my current “home town”, but there’s another side to Toledo, which isn’t quite so enchanting.

As you may be aware of, the boom years, which preceded Spain’s ongoing economic crisis, were founded on a building spree and unchecked property speculation. The remnants of this period of madness are all too visible. The outskirts of most Spanish towns are littered with half-finished office buildings and housing estates, destined to remain abandoned indefinitely.

Here are a handful of snaps taken in Toledo’s Poligono area.

The developer's board is a painful reminder of happier times. Today, with almost 60% of youth unemployment, people of the age group portrayed on the placard cannot afford to leave home, never mind buy a flat

The developer’s board is a painful reminder of happier times. Today, with youth unemployment close to 60%, people of the age group portrayed on the placard cannot afford to leave home, never mind buy a flat of their own

This playground doesn't see many children. The grey monoliths behind are not yet totally abandoned, although not totally abandoned, are in a sorry state of disrepair

This playground doesn’t see many children. The sparsely inhabited grey monoliths behind are in a sorry state of disrepair

A couple of derelict warehouses

A couple of derelict warehouses

Those cranes in the background haven't moved in a very long time...

Those cranes in the background haven’t moved in a very long time…

Now… if you’d like to look at some pretty pictures of Toledo, click here.

Or, if you want to see the ugliest thing Toledo has on offer, here it is…urgh.