His role as the “Ricola Man“ turned Erich Vock, the Swiss actor, into a celebrated advertising star in the German-speaking world. What with the TV sitcom “Fertig Lustig“, motion pictures like “Das Fähnlein der sieben Aufrechten“ (English title: “The Rebel“) and successful theatre productions including the Swiss musical “Die kleine Niederdorfoper“ and the “Zürcher Märchenbühne“ (Zurich’s fairy tale platform), it is hard to imagine TV, cinema and, above all, the Swiss theatre scene without Erich Vock. A native of the canton of Aargau, Vock shares his professional and private life with fellow actor Hubert Spiess. In 2003, Vock and Spiess were among the first couples to register their same-sex partnership in the canton of Zurich. They met twenty years ago, in the region of Andalusia, and purchased a house there eight years later. Eric Vock tells us about the charm of his part-time home of choice and why Andalusia is always worth a visit:

“What I love most about Andalusia is how open the people are. Whether you are black, white, gay, catholic or whatever else, people are always really nice and very interested. And they are delighted when you attempt to speak a bit of Spanish.

Our house is situated at the northernmost tip of Andalusia, between Cartagena and Almeria, roughly four and half hours’ drive from Seville. The hospitality extended to us by the locals made it easy for Hubert and me to integrate very quickly. We always shop at the same market and frequent the same market stalls. And if I show up without Hubert, I am always asked about his whereabouts. The Andalusians love to celebrate, often well past 2 am in the morning. I am a fairly anxious person by nature, but I feel safe, even in the small hours of the morning. I have rarely witnessed any brawling or aggressive people here, not even in the craziest hustle and bustle.

Photos: Pat Wettstein/ Schweizer Illustrierte, Adrian Bretscher/pictures provided

A public celebration like a gargantuan circus

Anyone who gets the chance should discover Andalusia by car. We have done so on various occasions. And each time, we find ourselves falling more and more in love with the region. Apart from the climate, the incredible diversity and the rich colours make this region truly delightful. Andalusia has it all: vibrant cities, desert landscapes, beaches and the sea. Córdoba, with its stunning mosque, is one of my favourite cities. The mosque is relatively plain from the outside, but its interior is truly mesmerising. Covering an area of 23,000 square metres, the ‘Mezquita de Córdoba’ is one of the largest former mosques in the world. Given its size, one can easily spend an entire day there. In the evenings, the best view of Córdoba and the brightly illuminated ‘Mezquita’ is to be had from the Roman bridge that spans the Guadalquivir river.

Granada and the Alhambra are most definitely worth seeing. The city fortress is one of the most significant buildings of Islamic art. Perched on the highest hill of the city, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to palaces, gardens, fountains, towers and walls, it is set majestically against the phenomenal background of the Sierra Nevada.

Of course Hubert and I also visit Seville now and again. I will never forget our first ‘Feria de Abril’ (Seville April Fair) which is held annually and lasts for a week. Thousands of little marquee tents are set up outside the city centre and become a small city in their own right. This huge public celebration can be likened to a gargantuan circus, with sombrero-swinging caballeros riding their horses through the streets, flamenco groups dancing and music playing. I was completely awestruck by all of this. The ‘Feria’ starts with the ’el alumbrado‘, the lighting of half a million lampions and lightbulbs!

Visitors who get to travel to Andalusia’s southernmost part will end up in the beautiful and no less famous Costa del Sol. Hubert and I do not go there very often, but first-time visitors to Andalusia should not miss a trip to the stunning Mediterranean coast of the Málaga province. Spain’s nicest nature park, the ‘Cabo de Gata’, is located in the Almeria province and boasts a unique vegetation. The jagged coasts, the varied landscape and diverse flora and fauna make this marine and nature park a true gem. By the way, the park offers various accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses, holiday apartments and campsites.

Everything is loud, jolly and colourful

Above all, Andalusia owes its special charm to the Andalusian people and their joie de vivre. Everything is loud, jolly and colourful. I like that. Hubert and I spend a good three months a year in what has become our second home. Although we also work on our theatre pieces, we find it easier to enjoy life here than in Zurich and to take the liberty to consciously do nothing. We are able to pause for a moment, enjoy the view of the sea and admire the region. I do that practically every day. It is also great to be able to spend so much time outdoors. Even when it rains, temperatures are usually warm and pleasant.

We have a nice swimming pool and a lovely garden which is where we spend a lot of our time. We also enjoy cooking and make our own marmalade. I should add that my paella still has room for improvement. As it so happens, I ate my first-ever paella in a small garden restaurant in Seville. And I have loved this rice dish ever since.

Interactive flamenco shows

I guess Hubert and I have become a bit Andalusian ourselves. However, there is one exception: dance! The flamenco performances are amazing and interactive. During a performance, the audience will clap to the rhythm, sing along and stamp their feet – a fantastic spectacle. But, so far, we have spared ourselves the challenge of taking flamenco lessons – and it is likely to stay that way. Our friends and surroundings shouldn’t have to be exposed to that. After all, we intend to spend time in Andalusia for several years to come.”

Erich Vock’s Top Three in Andalusia

1. Must-see in Seville: Standing 76 m tall, the “Giralda” tower is Seville’s landmark and most impressive monument (Av. de la Constitución, s/n, Sevilla).

2. Church and mosque in one: The “Mezquita de Córdoba” was one of the greatest mosques of the Islamic world. The cathedral was built in the sixteenth century. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Calle del Cardenal Herrero, 1, Cordoba).

3. Pure nature: The huge marine and nature park “Cabo de Gata“ offers a string of accommodation options as well as restaurants and activities, including water sports and bicycle tours (Nijar, Almeria).

(Text: Sandra Casalini)