An emotional tribute service was held in Torremolinos last week to honour Eduard Vandoorne, one of Malaga's most knowledgeable tour guides and ecologists, who recently died from cancer.
Members of his family and close friends gathered in the Molina de Inca botanical gardens in Torremolinos, a place that was very close to Eduard's heart, in order to receive a porcelain 'biznaga' in recognition of his work within the tourist industry in Malaga.
The award was the idea of one of his fellow tour guides, Jürgen Nolle, who, on realising the seriousness of his friend's condition, suggested that the provincial tourism authority recognise the tireless work that Eduard had done.
Eduard was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer just a few weeks ago, and although the department of tourism organised the event with haste, the popular expat died just a few days before the award was due to be presented.
His daughter, Luna, who had flown in from her home in Mexico to be with her father, told the small gathering that Eduard knew, and was very pleased, about the award. Her regret, she explained, was that her father could not be there to accept it.
“My father was very pleased when we told him about the award, but he was very sick by that time. One of the things that delayed the presentation was his health, as he could not travel very far, but I'm sure he is here with us today,” Luna said. “He loved these gardens and wanted to promote them because he believed that they are relatively unknown to tourists.”
Eduard had been living in Torremolinos for 20 years and had worked as a private guide for the Malaga tourism department, taking politicians, celebrities and TV crews on private tours to discover rural Malaga and the Costa del Sol.
He was well known within the Andalusian tourism sector, but in Torremolinos he is probably most remembered for his love of the trilby hat, which he was rarely seen without.
Born in Belgium in 1956, Eduard spoke Spanish, English, French, German, Dutch and Norwegian. He came to Spain during the late 1970s and settled in Motril, where his two children, Luna and Eduard junior, were born and raised.
In 1985, Eduard became involved in a collective campaign - along with politicians, ecologists and members of the agricultural sector - to stop the proposed transfer of water from the Gualdalfeo river in Granada to the dam in Benínar. The idea of the project was to supply water to the Almeria region of Campo de Dalías, but Eduard, who believed that this would have caused serious economic and ecological damage to the Alpujarra and the Granada coastline, campaigned to have the project halted.
Eduard was a self-taught expert on water management in dry climates and he enjoyed a lifelong passion for plants and gardens. He believed in the potential of the Costa del Sol's green spaces and worked hard to promote them. He had been preparing a walking guide to some of the most interesting parks and botanical gardens in Malaga province, but this was a project he never managed to complete.
Jürgen Nolle, who had worked with Eduard for five years, said that he was one of the best tour guides in the area because he possessed “such an extensive knowledge of Andalucía”.
“Eduard was very passionate about his work and he had many projects planned, but he was not able to finish them because he became ill very quick. He will be greatly missed by all who came into contact with him,” Jürgen said.
Following a stroll through the botanical gardens, Eduard's family held a special memorial gathering in Playamar to celebrate his life and work.