Monday 2 September 2013

What colour are the elephants in Spain?


And there's a huge one just outside Santiago de Compostela: the Cidade da Cultura, city of culture.

I had noticed this strange construction on my way from the train station to my hotel when I arrived in Santiago. It's hard to miss it as it is on top of a hill, visible for quite a distance around.

Cidade da Cultura,
Santiago de Compostela
The cidade is a complex of buildings dedicated to culture: a museum, an exhibition centre, a library and archive, and a centre for "cultural innovation". And it's not specifically Galician art or culture; the exhibition I saw was about the peoples of the Orinoco.

Four other people saw it with me. That's how many other visitors I counted during the two hours I was there.  Four.  Cuatro.  Quatre.  Vier.  Ceathrar...

The staff must be bored out of their minds!  (I wondered why the receptionist accompanied me to the door of the toilets rather than just pointing the way.)

And what do the locals think of all this?  In the absence of contact with taxi drivers, I turned  to the next best source of local knowledge, a barman.  And boy, did I find one with strong opinions on the subject! "Demolish it!"  But what about the money already spent on construction?  "That’s already wasted! My taxes are now paying to maintain a useless, empty shell!"

And he has a point.  So why is it such a flop?  No one knows about it; and it's difficult to get to if you don't have a car. 

There is a public bus that goes there, Line 9 if you're interested.  The information at the bus stop says it runs every 60 minutes on average, but doesn't tell you when the next one is due.  So you don't know if you’re going to be waiting a minute or an hour!  I waited 15 minutes, then started to walk, constantly looking behind just in case.  I ended up walking the whole way, about 40 minutes.  And it's not a pleasant walk as you have to go through suburban residential/industrial areas and cross several busy roads.

So how could they make it a success?  I have a couple of modest suggestions:
  • give out tons of freebies – everyone arriving by train or bus should get one, every hotel, restaurant and bar should give them out;
  • provide a free shuttle from the town every 15 minutes.
It is a beautiful place and it would be a terrible shame to abandon it

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