In 1946, as she neared the end of her life, Gertrude Stein implored Richard Wright to visit Spain. Wright quoted Stein in his travelogue Pagan Spain as saying, “You’ll see the past there. You’ll see what the Western world is made of.” Despite three quarters of a century having passed since Stein’s statement, her words may ring true if you travel on the slow train between Barcelona and Madrid.
Spain’s high-speed train, the AVE, barrels across Catalonia, Aragon, and Castilla-La Mancha in two and a half hours providing a quick link between the country’s two largest cities – but what does the traveler miss in the towns, stories, and landscapes that zip past the windows at top speed?
By contrast, hopping on and off the Regional Exprés, with its more circuitous route that connects Barcelona and Madrid in 42 stops over the course of a nine-hour journey, offers a glimpse into the way that past and present connect across 435 miles of Iberian heartland.
The Slow Train is a work in progress in collaboration with writer Francheska Melendez.