This month’s Travel Tuesday i’ll be showcasing Spain
Spain is a diverse country sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is the country with the second-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after Italy, and the largest number of World Heritage Cities.
Spain is considered an exotic country in Europe due to its friendly inhabitants, relaxed lifestyle, its cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and world-famous folklore and festivities. Among many places worth visiting are Spain’s thriving capital Madrid, the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona, the famous “Running of the Bulls” at Pamplona, major Andalusian cities with Islamic architecture, like Seville, Granada and Córdoba, the Way of St. James and the idyllic Balearic and Canary Islands.
With great beaches, fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, Spain makes a great destination for any kind of trip. A country of large geographic and cultural diversity, Spain is a surprise to those who only know its reputation for great beach holidays. There is everything from lush meadows and snowy mountains to huge marshes and deserts in the south east. While summer is the peak season because of the beaches, those who wish to avoid the crowds should consider visiting in the winter as attractions such as the Alhambra in Granada and La Gran Mezquita in Cordoba will not be overcrowded.
Spain has hundreds of interesting cities. Here are ten of the most popular:
- Madrid — the vibrant capital, with fantastic museums, interesting architecure, great food and nightlife
- Barcelona — Spain’s second city, full of modernist buildings and a vibrant cultural life, nightclubs, and beaches
- Bilbao — industrial city, home to the Guggenheim Museum
- Cadiz — oldest city in Western Europe with nearly 4,000 years of history, celebrates a famous carnival
- Cordoba — The Grand Mosque (‘Mezquita’) of Cordoba is one of the world’s finest buildings
- Granada — stunning city in the south, surrounded by snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, home of La Alhambra
- Seville — a beautiful, verdant city, and home to the world’s third largest cathedral
- Valencia — paella was invented here, has a very nice beach
- Zaragoza — fifth largest city of Spain that held the World Expo in 2008
- Almeria — best natural beaches and great selection of “tapas”
Unsurprisingly, the official and universal language used in Spain is Spanish (español), but it is more complicated than that. It is part of the Romance family of languages (others include Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Italian, Occitan, French, and Romanian) and is one of the main branches of that family. Many people, especially outside Castille, prefer to call it Castilian (castellano).
Culturally, Spain is a Western country. Almost every aspect of Spanish life is permeated by its Roman heritage, making Spain one of the major Latin countries of Europe. Spanish culture is marked by strong historic ties to Catholicism, which played a pivotal role in the country’s formation and subsequent identity. Spanish art, architecture, cuisine, and music has been shaped by successive waves of foreign invaders, as well as by the country’s Mediterranean climate and geography. The centuries-long colonial era globalized Spanish language and culture, with Spain also absorbing the cultural and commercial products of its diverse empire.
Spain is the third country in the world with the most World Heritage Sites. At the present time it has 44 recognised sites, including the landscape of Monte Perdido in the Pyrenees, which is shared with France, the Prehistoric Rock Art Sites of the Côa Valley and Siega Verde, which is shared with Portugal (the Portuguese part being in the Côa Valley, Guarda), and the Heritage of Mercury, shared with Slovenia. In addition, Spain has also 14 Intangible cultural heritage, or “Human treasures”, Spain ranks first in Europe according to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, tied with Croatia
Burgos Cathedral is a Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral in Burgos, Spain. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is famous for its vast size and unique architecture. Its construction began in 1221 and it was in use as a church nine years later but work continued off and on until 1567. It was primarily built in the French Gothic style, although Renaissance style works were added in the 15th and 16th centuries. The cathedral was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on October 31, 1984. It is the only Spanish cathedral that has this distinction independently, without being joined to the historic center of a city (as in Salamanca, Santiago de Compostela, Ávila, Córdoba, Toledo, Alcalá de Henares or Cuenca) or in union with other buildings, as in Seville. It is similar in design to Brussels Cathedral
The Aqueduct of Segovia (or more precisely, the aqueduct bridge) is a Roman aqueduct and one of the most significant and best-preserved ancient monuments left on the Iberian Peninsula. It is located in Spain and is the foremost symbol of Segovia, as evidenced by its presence on the city’s coat of arms.
Teide National Park is a national park located in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain). It is centered on 3718 m Mount Teide, the highest mountain of Spain and the islands of the Atlantic (it is the third largest volcano in the world from its base on the ocean floor). It was declared a national park on 22 January 1954, making it one of the oldest national parks in Spain. It is also the largest national park in Spain and an important part of the Canary Islands. Another volcano located in the park (next to the Teide) is the Pico Viejo. It is the second largest volcano in the Canary Islands with its 3,135 m peak.
FLAG OF SPAIN:
The flag of Spain consists of three horizontal stripes: red, yellow and red, the yellow stripe being twice the size of each red stripe. Traditionally, the middle stripe was defined by the more archaic term of gualda, and hence the popular name red-weld
The origin of the current flag of Spain is the naval ensign of 1785, Pabellón de la Marina de Guerra under Charles III of Spain. It was chosen by Charles III himself among 12 different flags designed by Antonio Valdés y Bazán (all projected flags were presented in a drawing which is in the Naval Museum of Madrid). The flag remained marine for much of the next 50 years, flying over coastal fortresses, marine barracks and other naval property. During the Peninsular War the flag could also be found on marine regiments fighting inland. Not until 1820 was the first Spanish land unit (The La Princesa Regiment) provided with one and it was not until 1843 that Queen Isabella II of Spain would make the flag official.
Throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the color scheme of the flag remained intact, with the exception of the Second Republic period (1931–1939); the only changes centered on the coat of arms
The Spain national football team represents Spain in International association football and is controlled by the Royal Spanish Football Federation, the governing body for football in Spain. The current head coach is Vicente del Bosque. Spain are one of eight national teams to have been crowned 2010 FIFA World Cup champions.They are currently the reigning European champions
While varieties of football had been played in Spain as far back as Roman times, sport in Spain has been dominated by English style association football since the early 20th century. Real Madrid C.F. and FC Barcelona are two of the most successful football clubs in the world. The country’s national football team won the UEFA European Football Championship in 1964, 2008 and 2012 and the FIFA World Cup in 2010, and is the first team to ever win three back-to-back international tournaments.
Basketball, tennis, cycling, handball, futsal, motorcycling and, lately, Formula One are also important due to the presence of Spanish champions in all these disciplines. Today, Spain is a major world sports powerhouse, especially since the 1992 Summer Olympics that were hosted in Barcelona, which stimulated a great deal of interest in sports in the country. The tourism industry has led to an improvement in sports infrastructure, especially for water sports, golf and skiing.
Rafael Nadal is the leading Spanish tennis player and has won several Grand Slam titles including the Wimbledon 2010 men’s singles. In north Spain, the game of pelota is very popular. Alberto Contador is the leading Spanish cyclist and has won several Grand Tour titles including two Tour de France titles
Spanish cuisine consists of a great variety of dishes which stem from differences in geography, culture and climate. It is heavily influenced by seafood available from the waters that surround the country, and reflects the country’s deep Mediterranean roots. Spain’s extensive history with many cultural influences has led to a unique cuisine. In particular, three main divisions are easily identified:
Mediterranean Spain – all such coastal regions, from Catalonia to Andalusia – heavy use of seafood, such as pescaíto frito (fried fish); several cold soups like gazpacho; and many rice-based dishes like paella from Valencia and black rice from Catalonia.
Inner Spain – Castile – hot, thick soups such as the bread and garlic-based Castilian soup, along with substantious stews such as cocido madrileño. Food is traditionally conserved by salting, like Spanish ham, or immersed in olive oil, like Manchego cheese.
Atlantic Spain – the whole Northern coast, including Asturian, Basque, Cantabrian and Galician cuisine – vegetable and fish-based stews like caldo gallego and marmitako. Also, the lightly cured lacón ham. The best known cuisine of the northern countries often rely on ocean seafood, like the Basque-style cod, albacore or anchovy or the Galician octopus-based polbo á feira and shellfish dishes
The King of Spain constitutionally referred to as The Crown and commonly referred to as the Monarchy of Spain or Hispanic Monarchy is a constitutional institution and a historic office of Spain. The monarchy comprises the reigning monarch, his or her family, and the royal household organization which supports and facilitates the monarch in the exercise of his royal duties and prerogatives. The Spanish monarchy is represented by King Felipe VI, his wife Queen Letizia, and their daughters Leonor, Princess of Asturias, and Infanta Sofia. Following his abdication in 2014, Juan Carlos I and his wife Sofia retain courtesy titles of King and Queen of Spain
Felipe VI (born 30 January 1968) is the King of Spain. He succeeded to the throne on 19 June 2014 following the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos I. As heir apparent to the throne, he previously bore the title of Prince of Asturias.
Leonor, Princess of Asturias (born 31 October 2005) is the elder daughter of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain. Leonor is first in the line of succession to the throne. According to the 1978 Constitution, she became heir presumptive upon her father’s accession on 19 June 2014, taking the official title of Princess of Asturias and the historical titles of Princess of Girona, Princess of Viana, Duchess of Montblanc, Countess of Cervera and Lady of Balaguer. If Leonor ascends the throne, she will be Spain’s first queen regnant since Isabella II, who reigned from 1833 to 1868.