We reached Frigiliana in one piece – sort of. The car I rented wouldn’t even be considered a car in the US and would probably be called something like “one of those shoeboxes Europeans drive but American families don’t want”. That wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that we had 85 kg of luggage ourselves and also picked up my friend Annette at the airport with a largish backpack. The four of us basically vanished under piles of luggage, our backs were bent by the weight of the suitcase pushing the backrests of the seats over but we fitted it all in the little Peugeot – something not even the rental agent thought possible.
Arriving in Frigiliana
60 km later we reached Frigiliana: a small little pueblo backing up against the mountains – white and shiny, too cute and clean to be true and filled to the brim with tourists. This is Semana Santa, the holy Easter week and all of Europe seems to be on vacation and as luck would have it they all seem to be in Frigiliana. We found our cute little white house in the old section of Frigiliana. Compared to the places so far it is definitely pocket-sized: bedrooms barely big enough to fit the beds and a closet, kitchen like on a ship, tiny bathroom and all connected by a steep set of stairs. The bonus is a wonderful rooftop terrace complete with deck chairs and off-white panels of cloth to clip onto a trellis to protect yourself against the sun and the curious eyes of the neighbors having breakfast on their rooftop terrace.
Although managing entropy will be a real challenge here I am very fond of our casita. It’s positioned on a little steep street with stairs and therefore no cars and it’s as neat and tidy as you could hope for. The pillows are soft and the blankets fluffy and there is a washing machine and the laundry that comes out is clean and smells fresh, the kitchen in all its tininess is well-equipped and the water that comes out of the faucet is potable. When describing Frigiliana it is hard to avoid clichés – photographing it will be pretty much impossible without falling prey to them. The whole town indeed is white, the doors and window frames are blue, green, red and any possible variation thereof. In front of every window and door there are flower pots, geranium growing everywhere (I have to mention here that growing up a rebel I always thought that geranium pots where one of the hallmarks of being hopelessly, helplessly bourgeois).
The whole town smells intensely sweet because of the orange blooms on the trees, everything is so clean it’s hard to avoid thinking that they secretly power-wash the whole place nightly. Cute little bars and restaurant are at every corner, some featuring big terraces with a nice view of the Mediterranean not far away. Little old ladies and men shuffle up the steeps stairs with grocery bags and cats idly sit in the sun occasionally graceful posing for the eager photographer.
Tourists and Clichees
Before you book the next flight to Malaga and a car to take you here consider the following: you probably won’t hear much Spanish (the little old ladies don’t talk much) but you will hear every conceivable dialect of German and a lot of British English as well. This place is cramped with tourist at least from 11 am to around 6 pm when a lot of the day tourist vanish and make room for a little more local scene (part of which is the English couple owning the wine place and the Germans owning the house across the calle).
It will be hard to feel like locals of sorts here, when we are surrounded by tourists and expats. In Merida we sort of naturally fit in, established a certain routine and never looked back. In Kerala, I remember Uli yelling at a rickshaw driver who asked a ridiculously high amount for taking us to the Main Jetty “I do this trip every day, I know how much it costs, I am not a tourist so don’t try and screw me!” and although hyperbole this was true in a certain sense, we weren’t just another bunch of tourists spending the afternoon – but here we are among all the Germans and Brits who spend the winter and all the tourists who spend their lavishly long Easter vacation here. This will be an interesting challenge: will we start feeling like a part of us belongs here? Will be looking at houses for sale thinking out loud how we could make living here work? Will we feel at home in some sense or will we leave after 4 weeks feeling we were just another bunch of tourist who just took a somewhat more extensive vacation then all the rest? I don’t know but will soon enough.
For the time being I am stuck with the challenge of photographing Frigiliana without hopeless falling prey to the cliché. I certainly don’t want to take another crack at the “Doors of Frigiliana” concept. That was fun and fresh when I was in my early teens, now it’s stale, old, boring – and almost irresistible. Who could look at these colors, the blueness of it against the whiteness without feeling that shutter finger twitch? In the back of my mind in a constant loop there is that voice telling me that there must be a new fresh creative way of looking at it, photographing it and if I just think about it long and hard enough I’ll find it but – honestly – that’s naïve, there are only so many ways to photograph a blue door in a white house and they have all been done before. But there must be something else, a new take on it …
While obsessing over that I will try to use the terrace with the off-white sun sails as a photo studio. It’s as close to darn perfect as you can get without studio light and I have visions of photographs of skin against stark white – I just need Annette to agree to be my model ….