This is an alternative travel story -supported by photos- about the Canary Island of La Palma, its people, the landscape, and tourists.
When my flight with the local company Binter landed on the island I was amased by the exceptional landscape and astonished by the quality of the airport and its facilities, considered by some locals too big for the 83.000 souls of the place but a necessity for servicing two million tourists per year.
First positive impression was the efficiency of the local air carriers. During December and January, I used three times the two airlines operating on the Canary Islands. Their punctuality reminds me Swiss trains. Prices for non-residents are rather high, but frequency and efficiency are at the top. They even fly to El Hiero, the smallest of the Canary Islands.
As soon as the taxi drove me to my hotel on the motorway, I observed the quality of the infrastructures which perfectly fit into the exceptional landscape. The billboard “funded in cooperation with EU structural funds” evoked the situation of similar works with same percentage of funding by the EU (objective one in Union’s jargon) in my home country. The comparison saddened my thoughts and I wondered “why them and not us”. “How many infrastructures could have been better in Greece, if the EU funding was properly used?”
The people of La Palma are generally friendly and cool. The like to party outdoors thanks to clement weather of course.
Driving with a friend to the top of the crater of the oldest volcano of the island through a tiny road, the car in front us stops and the driver salutes a friend whose car was coming from the opposite direction. Our car and couple others behind us are forced to stop and wait. As the chat between the two pals takes longer that one may think, an angry driver just behind us starts honking. My friend gets out of car and quite calmly says: “why the hell are honking, don’t you see that they are talking. When they will finish, we’ll move” and turning to me adds: “bloody Madrileño”.
Another lovely episode that caught my attention was the New Year’s Eve celebrations in the capital Santa Cruz de La Palma. It was 3pm when I arrived for some shopping. The main streets in the old town were closed and thousands of people were already partying. That day I wrote the following comment on my FB page accompanied with photos:
Palmeros start the new year celebration just before1 pm GMT, the time Australia welcome the new year and end up at 5 am GMT when USA east coast does the same.
Plenty of young people, full of joy, music of all kinds, laughter and alcohol in the streets of Santa Cruz.
As a good tourist I decided to jump on a bus for a tour to the volcano Tajogaite which two years ago ravaged a large area in the west coast of the island. On this tour I met several people and listened to their stories.
I wrote on this blog the following story:
While wandering around the still-fuming volcano of Tajogaite (island of La Palma, in the Canaries) -which two years ago and for three months destroyed and buried under the lava approximately 4000 properties of all type.
I met several people and groups of people representative of all kind and styles of tourists.
Out of the mass one couple intrigued me. They were the most calm and distinguished persons in the group, as well as respectful to others. There were Angelika and Bruno from a town in East Germany.
I took the time to discuss and talk to them and I suddenly realised that the traumas of the communist period are still haunting them, 34 years after the fall of the Berlin wall. They talked about their sufferings, the fear of defending their beliefs and ideas and at that time, even in their wildest dreams, they couldn't imagine spending holidays in the Canaries or elsewhere more attractive than the Soviet Union and coast of North Sea in Poland. They praised the achievements of the German unification and the immense contribution of the European Union in their wellbeing.
- Look around what it is going in the world to understand how lucky we are to live in Europe, they said.
That day while I was checking the news in the morning, I read that three migrants found dead, while fifteen others rescued on a boat south of the island o El Hiero, hundreds of miles from the African coast.
Desperate people looking for a brighter future undertake the most perilous voyage, as less than half of those trying it succeed to reach the Canaries alive.
In other news of the same day from Reuters: "intensive Russian bombing in Ukraine", we almost have forgotten this war.
And from the London Times, children's lives threaten by starvation in Gaza .
Of course, Europe cannot accommodate all the misery of the world, but we should never forget that somehow in the long history of mankind we all were migrants, and that European Union was founded on the bases of humanitarian principles, which its opponents foolishly try to destroy.
That is probably the case of the local tours guide who used the most stupid argument of the Brexiteers idiots, Farage and Johnson, to explain to unaware tourists that the EU does not want bananas from the Canary islands because they don't have the right form.
This is a dam lie, because the Canaries refuse to abide by the EU production quotas and demand prices higher than the producers from other EU overseas territories and Latin America countries. And one should not forget that the Canary Islands are the most privileged region of the EU, because of the preferential VAT rate (the lowest in EU) and taxation.
Later, while walking in Calle Real in the city of Santa Cruz de la Palma I am attracted by the sound of a harp played by a basking street artist. I ask permission to film, and he tells me that he comes from Venezuela on a six-month tourist visa seeking for a permanent job in music.
He says that this harp is called llanera Venezuelana and it's a popular instrument in his country.
Another encounter was on a boat trip at the west coast of La Palma where I could observe the massive destruction which the volcano explosion of 2021 has caused and where the village of Puerto Naos is still banned due the CO2 and other toxic gases emanating from the fuming volcano.
On this trip I met a lovely couple, Juliana and Florin, with their kind six-year-old boy Benjamin, who are immigrants in Germany from Brazil and Romania respectively.
But these friends - I can call them friends, because we shared the New Year’s Eve dinner table - are the fortunate ones as they manage to have high university level jobs. However, they constitute the "brain drain" of their respective countries. Brain drain is a real plague for many countries of the Balkans and Southern Europe.