Costa del sol – development and decay

Costa del sol is the sunny coastline along the Mediterranean in the Spanish south. It embraces the coastal towns and communities of Malaga province. These traditional white fishing villages with their favourable sub-tropic climate were  ‘discovered’ by international tourism is the 1950’s and have never been the same since. According to unofficial sources there might be as many as 1 million Brits living in Spain today, in addition to uncountable Germans, Dutch, Swedes, Romanians, Africans and people from any other nation. Though I believe I am the sole Norwegian resident in Ronda, there are 10.000 Norwegians officially living in Spain, through the embassy in Madrid believes it may be as many as 50,000, mostly lapping the sun and enjoying sangrias on the coast near Benidorm and of course on our Costa del Sol. Somewhat less known, the coast has also been nicknamed the Costa del Crime due to the British and more recently Eastern European gangsters who has escaped from legal trouble to settle here to a life of nouveau rich luxury.

I needed to apply for a new passport at the Norwegian consulate in Fuengirola, so yesterday we went down to the cost. We checked the weather before leaving, which predicted 85% chance of rain and 30% chance of sun. Though the math didn’t add up, we left with rain jackets, umbrella and sunglasses, feeling assured that we had at least 115% chance of weather…

We rarely venture to the coast, so it always comes as a culture shock to us ‘country bumpkins’. While we are used to open fields and traditional Spanish building styles, the closer we come to the coast, the more gated communities, semi-completed developments, golf courses, highways and traffic jams we encounter. On our country walks we meet more sheep than people, so suddenly coming to a town that has Finish and British delis, supermarkets with English translations on the tags and at least two Scandinavian churches seems rather odd. Never mind how much I struggle to find my words when speaking to locals here in Ronda, nobody has ever said a word of English to me. On the coast it is rather the opposite. Coastal businesses advertise themselves as ‘English owned’, as though that is a mark of quality and superiority. It is as it we have left Spain and come to a different country, merely an hour away!

A known tourist destination, Fuengirola usually has more visitors than locals, there to enjoy its heat and sun. Though it surely must have more polished sides in newer suburb developments, the town presented itself as worn and somewhat dilapidated. The beach promenade was a row of tired hotels slapped together in 1960’s to 80’s architecture. The shopping and restaurant district behind was unkempt, with unfashionable and empty stores, abandoned businesses and a general dated feel. Unfortunately, we did not get any feeling that the town was about to pick itself up for a much-needed face-lift any time soon.

Given the general state of the town, the consulate should maybe not have been a surprise. But having visited our consulates all over North America, I was almost embarrassed to find the Royal Norwegian Consulate on one of those depressed streets with a pawn store next door. If it had not been for the reproductions of Norwegian art in the wall, one could think this was a place one would go to get a fake passport, after pawning ones family jewels next door…

The service was excellent though, and I will be able to pick up my new passport at the consulate in a couple of weeks  – that is unless they read this and decide to delay it indefinitely…

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