Wie are in Madrid now. This is our forth city in Spain on my first trip ever to Spain – well, with the exception of two spring training camps on Mallorca twenty years ago.
Spain has been a great surprise, primarily because I had no idea what to expect. The architecture, the history, the people, the language, the food and what appears to be the way of life. And that way of life is exactly what is occupying me currently. On one hand Spain reminds me so much of Califormia, but with real old stuff and history, but on the other hand Spain is in fiscal dire straits. Spain has been one of the big losers of the 2008 financial meltdown. Probably not quite as bad as Greece, but likely worse than Italy. The symptoms are not right in your face but when you look and pay attention you can spot them. Here is a list of things I noticed:
– lots of liquidation sales.
– lots of for sale signs of small and medium sized commercial property, even is good locations.
– department stores offering zero down, zero interest, long term financing on consumer goods (this has been pretty common in the US for decades, but rather new in Europe)
– fewer people flashing expensive Apple products (iPhones, iPads, etc.)
– lots of convenience stores and 1€ Stores, interestingly all run by Chinese proprietors – no Spaniards running these stores. I wonder why, is this a matter of pride, opportunity or is Spain not doing quite as bad as we’re supposed to believe.
– a noticeably large amount of people sitting on the street with signs explaining their bad fortunes and asking for donations.
– quite a few street musicians that should rather practice a bit more – I know this sounds very mean, but the spread between the really good street musicians who make money and the ones not making a lot of money is very big. We have seen three bands in Granada, that we’re excellent all filling their hats. But in Sevilla and here in Madrid in particular that is a very different scene.
– lots of apartments and houses for rent and sale (some at attractive prices)
– lots of cheap, Chinese made clothing stores (obviously that does not help the Spain economy either)
– private education institutions that advertise that they will accept any applicant – what will that do to the quality of education
All indicators that not all is well in the empire. I wonder what the future will hold in store for Spain. Obviously, youth needs to have perspectives and opportunities to work and make a living – a source to develop self esteem, something to be proud of – as youth unemployment is particularly high in Spain. The country has a deep history in good craftsman. The climate is such that Spain should be a hot bed for alternative energy development – maybe that is where Spain looks to California to adjust its economic policies to attract start-ups in those areas.
Regardless, appears to be happening just like in Germany, the US and Italy for example is a big redistribution of wealth, which results in an increasing lower class, a decreasing middle class and an emerging class of super rich.
One observation, that I am not able to fit into context, yet, is that the is a very large number of very expensive motorcycles, such as BMWs, Ducatis, Aprilias, MV Agustas and a few Harleys all properly north of 10000€. Interestingly, not many flashy cars – in Morocco we saw a couple of Bentleys, Rolls Royce, BMW 7 Series and Benz S-class, not so in Spain….at least we didn’t see any.
Either way, I would also rather spend money on a motorbike than on afar, if I lived in Spain or Andalucia specifically.
Hm, so this is it. I’ll take the iPad with me tonight to take a few pictures of Madrid for your viewing pleasure.
Until then, stay sharp and hasta luego muchachos….