One of the good things about driving in Murcia is the road networks, and the quality of them. Ironically, it was the lack of these connecting arteries that stopped Murcia from being developed in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s unlike the regions of Valencia and Andalucia.
This may sound like a negative thing but in fact, it is the opposite. The development of the southern regions of Spain was connected directly to the proximity of airports. It was these, which bought the first package holiday customers to the “Costas” in the early 1970’s for their two weeks in the sun. Gradually over the years as their affluence grew, the holidaymakers had desires for a more permanent holiday home.
The developers in Spain and their counterparts in the UK, the property agents, wanted a speedy turnover and so the land in the surrounding locations to Alicante, Barcelona and Malaga Airports started the property boom in Spain. This meant that the eager buyers from Europe were quickly landed and located in hotels close to the developments, taken to select their “dream in the sun” wined, dined, contracts signed, monies paid and put back on the plane home.
As the demand grew so did, the facilities to service this growing market and roadlinks, airports and everything connected to a boom time followed suit.
Meanwhile back in Murcia, very little was happening, no airport as such (still very much military airspace). No huge developments and the pace of life carrying on in the aftermath of the Franco regime.
The opening of the E15 N7 Mediterraneo motorway meant that the more adventurous traveller was starting to find his way down and gradually, the jewel that is Murcia was discovered.
Little by little, demand began to grow and eventually San Javier Military Airport was handed over to civil airspace allowing the introduction of domestic flights. Consequently, in the last 10 years Murcia has started to join the rest of the Costas in property development but without the saturation of the other regions.
Until two years ago, driving to Murcia airport was a snakes and ladders affair, navigating a series of five road networks to get there. Then in 2007, they opened the E15 AP7. If it possible to be in love with a road then I am. The auto pista (toll road) has changed my life. I travel regularly to the airport to meet clients and the now stress free drive has actually given me back, the enjoyment of driving. The new road links Murcia from the city of Cartagena to Almeria exiting at Vera onto the E15 N7 motorway. Imagine two dual carriageways separated by a concrete wall, so no worries about oncoming traffic and most of the road to yourself.It is possible to drive along and not see another car or lorry for kilometre after kilometre.
It was on a day such as this recently, as I was driving to the airport. No traffic around, warm sunny day, plenty of time allowed, I was practicing my “drive slower, save fuel experiment” (which by the way works). When I started to notice the landscape that I have travelled past many times. Now with more time and less traffic I realised that the road had cut through areas of land most people would never have navigated before and suddenly noticed groups of ruined fincas in the hills dotted along the route. I wondered who lived here, why did they leave and how different their lives must have been to the now city dwellers of Spain.
I know from a friend that in the days when these properties were occupied, the dwellers were self sufficient with crops on the land and animals for their everyday needs. Now abandoned they sit there locked ,as in a time capsule and further on as you drop down into the flat lands that lead to Mar Menor, derelict windmills that once supplied corn and water to the area, no longer functioning but still cutting into the skyline with the jagged remnants of their sails.
This all stands in contrast to newer properties that have been built. The huge electric pylons that now bring the energy to the region, yet further on, the new sources of solar panels, and wind farms.
It suddenly struck me that driving along this road, it gives you, section by section, contrast of how Spain has changed in the last 70 years and unlike in the UK for instance there is no desire to remove the remnants, and so they sit there as living history.
Very quickly arriving at Murcia airport, I meet my new clients and am immediately thrown back into reality. Later on, I ponder on my thoughts and know that I will not do that drive again with the previous indifference. In my mind I will pay respect to the people who lived there, the hardships they endured and the bounty they missed as Spain developed
For the past seven years Carol Roberts has been living and working in Spain. You are invited to visit Living in Spain and follow her everyday blog along with her observations about living with the Spanish. Also, if you are interested in learning Spanish as a second language, register and get your Free copy of “Learn Spanish in 5 Days”