Bear with me on this one… Whatever you may think of grates and manholes (or indeed personholes as I suppose we should nowadays refer to them as), they do come in a great (no pun intended) variety of shapes and sizes. Indeed some are very small, others are remarkably large. Many are round or square but some are rectangular or even quite elongated. Most are bare metal but a few are painted. Most are quite dirty but occasionally (and probably temporarily) some are clean. Obviously most look old but some are new. You usually find an inscription on the metal – the name of a utility company or the local authority in the main – but some are more secretive. Indeed some have only initials that may suggest their use but if you don’t frequent the grate / person hole fraternity of appreciation you are none the wiser. Most, I would argue, are in some way beautiful and all are interesting if only for being uninteresting in the first place. Where is all this going? You ask a good question!
Below are thirty grates and manholes (sorry but ‘personholes’ just doesn’t sound right) from the streets of Cadiz, the city in southern Spain where I am currently living for a month trying to improve my Spanish. I took all thirty photographs this morning at around 9am on my route from the apartment where I am staying in northern Cadiz to the main square just outside the town hall. I do find them genuinely interesting and I am surprised that, without veering from the direct route that I took, I was able to find thirty different styles of grates and manholes (unless you can spot any that are identical). There are, without doubt, many more that I have missed. I’m sure that some of you are scratching your own heads thinking that I have started drinking in the morning shortly after waking up and that the alcohol is affecting my thought processes. But no, far from it.
I am a tourist in these parts, despite my protestations that I am here to learn the local language. That’s true, but I’m still, at heart, a tourist. I’m also a keen, and at times very good, photographer. I cannot spend a month taking picture after picture of another sunset or another church or another pretty street view… That would indeed drive me to drink. What I can do, however, is take a closer look at what is surrounding me in Cadiz and find the detail and the beauty in quite ordinary things. I think I’ve managed to do this quite successfully with one of the (at first glance) most mundane things that every street in the Western Europe possesses; the metal covers that prevent us from falling down holes in the road.
I’ll be in Cadiz for another four weeks and during that time I’ll be posting on CyclingEurope.org the occasional post that, like this one, focuses on just one thing. I have a few ideas of my own as to what those things might be (bearing in mind the supposed theme of the website, ‘bicycles of Cadiz’ is sure to appear at some point) but I would love to have some suggestions to throw into the mix. Any ideas? Please feel free to comment below the gallery of the grates of Cadiz. Enjoy!