Almería - Melilla

I happened to be in Spain, near Valencia. I have a week or so off of the job there and decided to travel south, to see the Spanish exclaves of Melilla and Ceuta, and also to take a short look at Morocco and Gibraltar. Once again this is going to be a comparatively ‘normal’ trip, as I don’t have a bicycle with me and am limited to public transport. Also, I don’t have as much time (a week, probably, or ten days tops) as I would like. Then why public transport, why is the guy not flying, you may ask? Because. Me no likee.

So yesterday I spent almost the entire day on the train from Valencia to Almería. While the first part is a fast(ish) one, the second leg, after a change of trains in the sleepy town of Alcázar de San Juan, takes way longer in comparison. The countryside becomes hilly and the train crawls up and down the curvy track that winds through seemingly endless olive tree plantations. Those, by themselves, are an interesting sight and I had forgotten about their dominance down here in Andalusia. From the west the low-hanging evening sun cast a special light over the hills and villages in the east with heavy black clouds in the background. Soon everything disappeared in rain and darkness.

I didn’t see much of Almería last night, but when looking back at it from the ferry this morning, it made an interesting impression – especially the mountains around it and its fortress.

Today was spent on the ferry to Melilla. It seemed almost empty.

I’m in Melilla now, a Spanish autonomous exclave in Morocco. It is known to some for its part in the refugee crisis in recent years. Being Spanish-controlled, along with Ceuta further west, politically it belongs to Europe and its border to Morocco is basically the external frontier of the EU, and the only land border between Europe and Africa. Hence it is interesting for refugees from sub-Saharan countries, but also for those from Algeria, Syria and Yemen and many other countries. The former cannot easily claim asylum in the EU and many reportedly camp (or camped) outside the border on Moroccan soil. Every now and then groups of a few hundred people try to climb the border fence and overrun the guards. However, since 2005 the EU is pumping billions of Euros into the defence and fortification of the border, both inside Melilla and Ceuta themselves as well as into Moroccan pockets.

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