Posted on by Peter and Ulrike Rettig

European Travels: Off the Beaten Track in Spain (2): Speak Spanish

The courtyard of Fugger warehouse in Almagro, Spain En route by car from Córdoba to Madrid (both “must see” tourist destinations), we turned off the main highway and followed signs to the town of Almagro (“red clay” in Arabic), where we decided to stay the night.

The Fuggers in Almagro?

After a tourist-heavy day in Córdoba - which was especially congested and noisy because it happened to be Mother’s day - we welcomed the more tranquil stay in Almagro.

It’s a small and stately town with an unusual history. We learned, for one, that in 1525 the Fuggers, a German banking family, due to the financial woes of Charles I of Spain, became the beneficiaries of cinnabar mines near Almagro and Almadén. (Cinnabar is a mineral from which mercury is extracted.)

The Fugger warehouse in Almagro has now been restored and tells about the rise and fall of the Fugger empire during the 16th and 17th centuries. (Above, the courtyard of the restored Fugger warehouse.)

When in Spain - Speak Spanish

Looking for a place to have dinner, we were happy to stumble upon a small restaurant that was open. At 8:15 pm, we were on the early side. Only one other table was occupied. Two Swiss German couples were chatting away about the events of their day.

When the restaurant owner approached them with menus, asking “¿Inglés o español?”, one of the men answered in a voice with a distinct Swiss German accent: “Estamos en España. Español, por favor.” This was a welcome answer. The owner went out of her way to explain to them the various local dishes in Spanish and helped them select a suitable wine from the region.

Similarly, most of our own efforts to speak Spanish have been met with open friendliness. This has been particularly true whenever we went off the beaten tourist path.

Most importantly, though, we found it easy and pleasant to interact with locals - in Spanish, of course: Asking for information about the town; asking for directions to the various sights and landmarks; buying gifts to take back home; looking for a restaurant to have dinner (on a Monday night when many restaurants are closed); chatting with the waiter on the magnificent Plaza Mayor (above), where we were having drinks; and with the owner of our delightful restaurant, who took obvious pleasure in explaining the local dishes to us in detail.

(You might also be interested to read about Carmona, our previous post.)