At the beginning of March 2020, before the lockdown, I was in a lonely place in Spain, just close to the Andalusian border, and had spent the past weeks finishing the songs for the next three months and placing them with the new distributor in New York. In the meantime I was meditating on “my lonely mountain” in a nature reserve. In the evening I sat together with friends and we philosophized around the campfire. There was also a grandson of Rudolf Carnap with his friendly family – Blanka, a talented harpist and her almost grown up intellectual son Levis – present. So there were always new interesting impulses and it never got boring, also because of the impressive nature around us.
On the day of the lockdown I came down from the mountain and I did not recognize the world anymore. The playing children in front of the bodegas / cafes of the small village and all the inhabitants had disappeared, although it was a beautiful spring day on a weekend. When I heard what happened and after the whole area was meticulously monitored by the Guardia Civil and the military, I decided to get the van ready to go. I drove off in the hope of crossing the border into France, which was over 1000 kilometers away, and then another 1000 kilometers further back to Germany.
I actually made it to Valencia that day, where I arrived in the evening and dived in a spooky lockdown scene. No cars, just long, endless roads and the only lights were the traffic lights. Every now and then I saw someone with a mask on his face and a garbage bag in his hand sneaking to a garbage container to dispose of it and then quickly disappearing again behind a front door. It was not allowed to go further than 300 meters away from the house. Since my van felt to be the only vehicle in the empty avenidas, I was aware that the van sticks out like a sore thumb, and I always expected the Guardia Civil to appear right next to me.
It took me endlessly to cross the ghostly city of 1.6 million inhabitants (same number as in Hamburg/Germany). I felt sorry for the people who were forced to be locked up in their apartments in such a confined space. Despite the uneasy feeling, I was aware of how privileged I was, and if one can still speak of freedom today, at least I was. Just behind the city limits I found an empty parking lot by the sea …
The next morning I was surrounded by Policia local, the military and the Guardia. Nevertheless I did not miss the opportunity to go to the nearby beach, where I had quietly celebrated a small ritual for world peace and freedom the night before. Only this time in daylight I could see the barriers that declared the beach and the children’s playgrounds there a forbidden zone. It gave me a sting. When I got back to the car, the Guardia was already waiting for me and thanks to my somewhat rudimentary but sufficient knowledge of Spanish, the interview was successful and I was able to drive on.
On the same day I left the highway shortly before Barcelona for groceries before the Spanish-French border, since France is much more expensive. So I left the highway and shortly after the toll station a group of about 30 policemen, guards and military was waiting for me. They asked me in a sharp tone what I was doing here. I was not intimidated and asked quite naively for the grocery store, which according to the navigation system should be nearby. It was clear to me that they did not feel very comfortable in the blazing sun in their black uniforms and masks. I thanked them for the directions and said “take care”, whereupon they seemed a little baffled.
When I came back, the guards were still standing at the toll station. I would have loved to drive past them over the bridge on the left, but they would have followed me for sure, because the eye-catching size and type of my van. They knew that I would have had to take the driveway north towards Barcelona to get further back to Germany. So I had to drive through the middle of the barrier again. But this time I could see a smile behind the masks and they waved me through friendly. Once again it was shown that you can get the farthest with love and without fear, and my “take care” really came from the heart.
The bizarre mountains in the hinterland of Barcelona were impressive; I would have loved to stay, spent a few more days there, parked the car and took the train to Barcelona, but the exits from the highway were all strictly monitored. Also on the signs on the highway, there was a constant reminder that because of Covid-19, no private but only special trips would be allowed, and indeed, on a distance of over 1000 kilometers up to the French border, I saw only three more motor homes. Apart from that, only trucks were on the road to transport the food supplies.
“Yo trabajao y vivo en mi autocaravana” was a very helpful phrase that was used over and over again during the controls and let me get through quite well. It also corresponded to the truth.
In the evening I reached Figueras, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí. There I stayed overnight on Spanish soil for one last time before I was caught in the next blockade behind the last toll booth the next morning. I thought I saw a certain insecurity in the eyes of the uniformed men, such as whether they should stop me now, but I drove slowly, but at high revs and not at all quietly past them … they let me pass. Now only the pass road over the Pyrenees and the nearby border to France was ahead of me …