THE SECOND BARBARIAN INVASION
The Mediterranean scholars depict the Barbarian invasion of Rome as a destruction of an advanced civilisation and the beginning of the Dark Age which set Europe back one thousand years, whilst their Northern counterparts view it as a replacement of a tired, decadent society by a more virile Nordic one.
The clash between the North and the South has defined Europe ever since – the protestant versus the catholic, reason versus emotion, discipline versus indulgence, industry versus agriculture, progress versus tradition.
Today we are witnessing the second invasion by the Northern tribes, this time in the form of mass tourism. The Northern tourist before the World War II was likely to be relatively wealthy and educated, attracted by the romantic notion of the Mediterranean propagated by the likes of Goethe, Byron and Stendhal. Their South was an open-air museum of classical art and architecture, quaint customs and ancient traditions. This kind of tourist may have been somewhat irritating with his superior airs, but he was harmless. It was in the 1950s that a new breed of the tourist emerged, courtesy of a packaged tour phenomenon: the Mediterranean coast of Spain had been overrun by the hordes of English, German, Dutch and Scandinavian holiday makers in search of the sun and cheap booze. Just like in the first Barbarian invasion sixteen hundred years ago, the local culture is treated with contempt – the new tourist is not interested in an authentic experience, he would rather have his home replicated under the Mediterranean sun. The island of Mallorca pathetically illustrates the point: traditional Spanish tabernas have been replaced by German stüben where the delirious sun-seekers devour bratwursts and drink Bavarian beer to the sounds of imported oom-pah-pah bands.
Similarly, the areas of Costa del Sol and Benidorm have become soulless jungles of grey concrete without an identity. The streets are lined with English and Irish pubs, pizzerias, Mexican taco joints, Chinese eateries, fast food of every denomination and cafés of no particular origin; bars that had once pulsated with flamenco music are now filled with loud throngs of beefy blokes watching their favourite football teams, be it Manchester United or Bayern Münich; and the old markets selling fresh local produce have given way to shopping arcades selling tacky souvenirs. The stupidity of man never ceases to baffle me – why do we always kill the very thing we love? We 'discover' pristine places of exquisite beauty only to trample all over them, rob them of their character, and ultimately destroy them.