Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Casablanca, Morocco, June 2012

Okay, first, Casablanca IS a part of Morocco.  It seems that a shoestring traveller is talking about Morocco and the name Casablanca comes up, they feel the need to qualify it by saying, "You know...Casablanca isn't part of Morocco!"   Like it's on an island that's floating around in the Atlantic!
  It IS part of Morocco.  It happens to have 3,000,000 people who seem to think they are in Morocco, especially since they pay taxes TO Morocco.     Okay... enough of that.

There are really only two reasons to visit Casablanca if you are a tourist... one is the incredible mosque,  and the second is Rick's Cafe, the mythical bar that Humphrey Bogart ran in the movie, Casablanca... which was in Morocco then, too!

    The cafe is actually fairly small, much smaller than the set it was filmed on, which was in Tangiers, yes, that's in Morocco and in Hollywood, no that is not in Morocco.  The cafe is a beautiful creamy white color and reeks of nostalgia.

The second floor is even smaller and overlooks the restaurant below.  It has a bar, "The Blue Parrot" and the continuously show the movie, "Casablanca" 24 hours a day.  I watched it with a couple from California and enjoyed it even more than the 496 times I had seen before.

 It only seemed natural to have a Casablanca beer in Casablanca at Rick's Cafe.  Mom would have shot me if I did not go to the Cafe.

In an American Mexican restaurant, you always get a bowl of chips.  In Morocco, you always get olives.  Never, never, never, ask what happens to the olives that you don't eat.  Never!

The night I was there, Sam wasn't.  Actually, Sam never is.  But they usually have a piano player, though on Sunday nights they have a jazz combo.

    The second reason for going to Casablanca is to see the Hassan II Mosque, which is the  7th largest mosque in the world.  I didn't know what to expect.  I had been to many other mosque, but I think they rank about 450th in world size!  This one is gargantuan.
    What is strange is that in Morocco, non Muslims cannot go into the mosque, but they can in the Hassan II Mosque.  For 120 D (about $14) that is.  Well worth every penny.

 It's built overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and in fact, some of it is built over the ocean.  Kinda daring, don't you think?!!?


The easiest thing to like about the Mosque is that it is very bright and airy inside.  No dark chambers or overly massive columns.   It is made of marble and ornately decorated cedar wood.  It is easy on the eyes.  And did I mention the skylight??

The Mosque took over 6 years to build and had over 6,000 artisans working on it.  The pigeons sure love it!!   It was finished in 1993 so it's only about 20 years old so it will be interesting to see how it will weather time.  I wonder if the government helped build it??

Do not visit on Friday, as there are no tours....just in case you were thinking of flying to Morocco this weekend.  Our tour guide was excellent.  He could speak five languages like his home language.

There are heated floors, which is a great idea since the floors are marble and partially built out over the Atlantic.  Some of the doors are electric as is the roof.  

This is the one of about 14 baptismal fonts that are in the bottom of the Mosque.  This is where the people are required to wash their feet before going to the main Mosque to pray.

Women are required to dress conservative as are the men.  No shorts, and ladies mud cover their shoulders.  No one wears shoes in the building.  Remember, people sit and kneel on the floors  to pray.

I apologize for how poorly this is written.. I'm sitting in a bar because they have Wifi and there are three guys behind be badmouthing the States.  I may end up in jail tonight.  They keep talking about how uncivilized the States is... If I kick their sorry butts... would that make their case???...maybe...but it might be worth it.

A weed is but a flower whose virtues have yet to be discovered.

Day 20 Camino de Santiago July 25 Calzadilla

Day 20 Calzadilla
Nice town Carrion!  Much bigger than I anticipated.  Most towns have a main street and either you live on it...or you live in a different town.  This one had many streets, even three supermarkets...The term supermarket is a a misnomer, but it does have all the essentials.  Candy bars, ice cream...
     Unfortunately, as I was walking out of town...they had a sign saying how far it is to Santiago. 401K.   It’s okay.  I keep Compound Effecting it and I realize that it’s a good lesson in patience. 

 This is a sign on one of the many churches in Carrion.  It s saying that they are spending over 200,000 Euros on refurbishing the church.  There was another on the church in the middle of town that had one on it for over 400,000E.  Many churches have the sign.  Reminds me of the Cultural Revolution in China and how Mao Tse Tung was intent on destroying all of the temples.  His right hand man, Chou en Lai, had enough foresight to see that they were works of art and convinced Mao to not destroy them.  Good move... now they bring in tons of tourist money.  

This picture probably means dooley squat to you but to me, it’s the end of an era... the era of me rolling my cart.  I can roll my cart on pavement, as in a road, however, when it becomes a trail, as in dirt or rocks,  as it does by the yellow arrow behind the stop sign, I have to strap it on.  Oh well...I just think of it as my cross and how much stronger it is making me... Remind me of that when I’m in the hospital for back surgery and knee replacements!!

   Not that I’m hung up on Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns... but remember the scene when he and Tuco are being approached by soldiers on horse and they can’t tell if they are Rebs are Yanks?? (sure ya do!!)  Then as they see they are getting closer, they see that the soldiers are wearing gray, so they put on their Reb hats.  When the soldiers stop, they dust off their uniforms and viola, they’re Yanks.  Such is the case with my shoes.  I look down at them at the end of the day and they are caked in dust.  I can’t tell if they were black or brown.    This was at a rest stop I took on today’s long haul.  It’s the longest haul without a town in between - 17 k.  
  The stretch between Burgos and Leon is the stretch that is described as “either your worst or your best” part of the Camino.  It’s hot, dry, dusty, and pretty much the same scenery.  The positives are that it’s starkly beautiful, the solitude is rare in life, and it builds a better body and mind.  Which doesn’t explain why I was making a video with my iPhone and making horse sounds.  It also helps to explain why I took a picture of only one shoe???

 I have no idea what these black and white signs are all about, but I liked this one.  Just after I had sat too long and stiffened up, I saw something scribbled on the sign and hobbled over to read what it said.  It said....”You are here!”  Now that is so profound!!

  This is pretty much the view for the entire 17K.  I enjoyed it.  I enjoy talking, but on this stretch it’s been very good to just walk.  I must say that my friend the pink rabbit is not very good about being quiet!  I must speak to him tomorrow... just as soon I’m through talking to Wilson.

  Okay another movie scene for you.  Dances With Wolves... I was walking on the road through tall grass that can best be described as the prairie in the USA.  So my mind wanders and I start to see what I am sure is  8 Pawnee warriors hiding behind a single blade of grass.  
     What are they growing here...Rocks??  If so, looks like Mable is getting that new red Sunday-go-to-meeting dress!!
At the end of the 17K I was close to dehydrated, though I had drank quite a bit of water.  I stopped in Calzadilla to have a drink, rest, and move on 6K to the next town.  I wanted to catch up to Kevin, who leaves at 5:30 (I left at 9:00), and the rest of the group that I've been having dinner with.  However...I decided to stay and meet new folks.  
The reason I left at 9:00 this morning is because I found a bakery!!!  I bought some things, went to a bar, got a coffee and yapped with Natalie, a lady from London.  Her husband is a high school teacher in an all girls school in inner city London.   Can you say, "Here's your free pass to hell?!"
Speaking of hell... will someone please tell this guy the rules of wearing a speedo in public...namely, if you don't have a gold medal around your neck, leave the lumpsuit in the closet!  This guy was at the aubergue which had a small but clean and ice cold pool.  I was able to soak from the knees down.  What a welcome retreat!

Day 19 Camino de Santiago July 24 Carrion

Carrion  July 24    Day 19

 I spent the last night in the old but refurbished train station of Fromista,  with two Americans... from Arizona.  The male had contracted Guardia, which is a intestinal infection.  Not pretty.  He thinks he got it from petting a dog.  His girl friend works with a vet and said that he will be okay.  Still, kinda scary.   
    This is the sign of the town, “Fromistra” on the train depot.
      Boss - uh... Fernando, I want to compliment you on hanging not only the sign, but also the light.  However, there is one question I have... Why in the world did you hang the light on top of the sign??

Now here is a sight for sore eyes!  There is no greater love on this Earth.  Dogs are truly God’s greatest creation.  Total love!  I can honestly say that Bucky is the one creature that gave me more love than I gave.  He is amazing.  

     The church in the town of Fromista is not huge but it is so pretty.  Any brick mason would be proud of it.  I like these small churches which they call “Ermitas”.  It usually costs a Euro or two and they record where you are from.  The man running this Ermita had all of 8 customers for the entire day, and yet was using a calculator to figure out the daily take.  Whoa!!
  The trail today, (wait...did I forget a segway there???) was through alfalfa fields and for the most part hot as the dickens.  I don’t know how hot Dickens was, but he must have been a real stud because it was a “bloody” hot.  If I didn't have to cross a ravine to get in the spray, I would have.  As it turned out, I didn't have to because the spray came across the road!  Just like rain!!!

     The trail split and pelegrinos could walk to the left along the road, or they could walk to the right along a river and through countryside.  Same distance so I took the river walk.   A real no brainer!     I reached a teeny, tiny, no account village, which I don’t think they even bothered to name, and there was a man cracking almonds in the "town square".  As I neared him, he gathered his nuts... wait...he gathered THE nuts, and gave them to me. Delicioso!  Then he had me crack them.  Must be some Peregrino ritual.  I like rituals that you can eat!!  


   Then he took my credencia, which is a type of passport that all hotels/auberges stamp when you stay in them, and he wrote a message in it.  I hope God can read Spanish better than me, but I think is says, Have a good walk and may God protect you!  

He saw that I had a cane that was too short for me and that my backpack is heavy and he, Pepe, said, “Momentito!” and hobbled to his car and gave me his cane that had the word, “Pepe” scrawled on it.  When I say that his name was Pepe, I assume his name was Pepe, or I guess it could be that he stole if from some Pelegrino named, Pepe....  but that seems so anti-Camino.    People like Pepe, truly make the Camino special.  It's odd, because at first, I want to just say, "No thanks!" as he's walking toward me with a hammer and saying, "come here", but because soooooo many people have been so giving along the way, I have finally started to trust them.    However, just to be safe, I always have one hand on my can of mace.... 
    The trail rejoined the other trail and followed the road for the next 6 or 7 kilometers.  Just before the rejoining, we went through fields that were completely taken over by either artichoke or thistles.  I don’t know the artichoke plant very well but it seemed strange to have a whole field of thistles???
   In another town that I stopped for lunch I saw a statue, which turned out to be of the old mayor.  Apparently he was such a good guy to the pilgrims that they made a statue of him in front of his bar.  Or... call me skeptical... but this is really the mayor after being Twilight Zoned.  

In one of the churches in Carrion, the organ had some strange painting on it.  Blow up the picture, and if you can, figure out what this is all about, I’ll be amazed.  It's in the bottom right hand corner.  Apparently, some refurbisher went rogue!!
Happiness is like a butterfly.
The more you chase it, the more it eludes you.
But if you turn your attention to other things,
It comes and sits softly on your shoulder.
 - Henry David Thoreau