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Go away

In the Third Century BC Hannibal used the silver mined from the area around what is now La Unión to pay for his elephants. In fits and starts tin, iron and lead have been mined from the same hills right up to 1990.

La Unión looks like a pit village, not exactly the prettiest town in Spain, but top marks to the locals for setting up a park based on the archaeological history of the area. Bottom marks for letting people into it.

We tried to get into the park when we went to the Mining Museum one Wednesday afternoon but we were turned away as it was nearly closing time. We had another go last Saturday and they attempted to turn us away again.

"There's only one train per session and it's gone and you need to reserve a ticket"
"So can we reserve a ticket for tomorrow?"
"No it's full"
"Can we walk into the park then?, the leaflet says you can"
"No we only have guided visits"

Bit of a flutter now between the two people on the desk, a bit of computer tapping and then,

"OK, we can book you in for tomorrow - but the visit is only in Spanish, are you sure you want to go"
"Yes"

On Sunday morning we turned up at the appointed hour. We paid our 10€ apiece. The train is one of those roadgoing diesel tractor units pulling a couple of carriages and, only ten minutes late or twenty five minutes after the time we were told to be there, the train pulled away.

The train took us into the park, each carriage load of people was appointed a guide and then we went into one of the old mines. They even gave us safety hats. Not a bad tour, reasonable explanation of the processes and perils of mining. The guide then took us to a spot where we could see the place where the material dug out was washed to separate the minerals from the valueless rock and that was it.

After that we could walk the site as we wished. We had a look at a couple of other mine entrances, the zig-zagging chimney, the dynamite and gunpowder store and the "wash-house."

Whilst we were strolling the train passed us three times. So what was all this about only one train per day?

Just for once I asked because I was cross. After all we could have done most of what we saw the twice we'd been there before and why hadn't they simply booked us onto the next available train when we'd asked instead of turning it into some big deal? It turns out that there is only one train per session during the week but at weekends they run as many trains as they can fill but they insist that you reserve beforehand by phone. Yes, of course we could walk into the park whenever we wanted but then we would miss out on the guided tour so why would we want to do that?

Sometimes I do despair of how Spaniards arrange things. Tourists, "go away!"

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