Friday, July 31, 2015

Spanish Fiestas

by Robert Bovington

One of the pleasures of travelling around Spain is to visit a village or town and find the flags flying, a band playing and the inhabitants enjoying a party atmosphere because the township is commemorating some saint or other with a fiesta. In fact, as you read this, it is highly probable that some place in Spain is partying. Everywhere, from the tiniest barrio to the biggest city, the people enjoy fiestas - lots of them!

Usually the local Saint provides the reason to celebrate. However, any excuse for a party will do whether it is to commemorate some local hero, to celebrate a good harvest, or to recreate a Moors versus Christians battle! 


Semana Santa

There are the celebrations that occur throughout the country, and elsewhere for that matter, like Semana Santa (Holy Week), when hooded penitents carry religious floats through the streets in an extremely dramatic style. These celebrations take place all over Spain but the Andalucian cities of Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada, Málaga and Almería have the most spectacular celebrations.

a Semana Santa procession in Astorga, Spain - public domain
Navidad

There is Christmas, of course, which is a big event in Spain and which officially starts on December 8th - the public holiday of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Spanish Christmas, or Navidad, stretches all the way to Kings Day on January 6. Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) is very quiet by Spanish standards as families spend the night indoors. They consume great quantities of food, however, and the adults exchange gifts. Children have to wait until Kings Day - or at least they used to. These days, they are spoilt and so they receive gifts on Christmas Eve as well.

Christmas decorations in a Spanish shopping mall © Robert Bovington


On the 6th January, the Spanish commemorate Día de Reyes, Kings Day, which celebrates the day on which the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem bringing gifts for baby Jesus. Every town and city in Spain enjoys parades during the evening of the 5th January.
  
Other important fiestas

Other important fiestas celebrated throughout Spain include Corpus Christi, All Saints Day, the Feast of St John, New Year's Eve, the Day of the Innocents and Carnaval.

Corpus Christi is another religious celebration, and is a solemn affair especially in Toledo where a dramatic procession takes place. However, in Ponteareas in the province of Pontevedra, brightly coloured flower petals carpet the streets where the procession makes its way. In La Orotava in Tenerife, the townsfolk go further by making carpets of flowers and creating works of art from the coloured volcanic sands.

The Spanish commemorate 'Todos los Santos' on October 31. On this 'All Saints' day, the Spanish visit cemeteries and put flowers on the graves of relatives and friends.

On the night of San Juan, 23 June, the people of Spain commemorate the Summer Solstice by lighting bonfires and fireworks. The celebrations are of pagan origin. One of the rituals is to leap over the fires, which allegedly brings good luck for the rest of the year.


Noche Vieja or New Years Eve is celebrated in Spain with the ceremony of the grapes - the New Year is welcomed in by eating one grape on each chime of the clock, which is meant to bring good luck.



Sandwiched between Christmas and New Year is the 'Día de los Inocentes'. On 28 December, the Spanish have the opportunity of playing tricks on people because this particular day is the equivalent to April Fool's Day.

Carnaval



During the week before Lent, carnivals are enjoyed all over Spain. The best places to experience the colourful spectacle of 'Carnaval' are Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Sitges and Cádiz. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the place to see 'queens'! The Carnival Queen is elected from the prettiest of the teenage girls in the city but there is also a procession of 'drag queens'! The Sitges Carnival is another colourful spectacle and the most important in Catalonia. It consists of folk dancing and eating xatonades, the local speciality of salad and omelettes.

Cádiz is probably the best place to experience 'Carnaval'. Everyone wears a costume, which is usually related to some political event. In some places the carnival is celebrated in bizarre ways - in Bielsa, in the province of Huesca, some of the population wear rams' horns on their heads, black their faces and wear teeth made of potatoes! It is meant to represent some pagan fertility rite. Whilst in Madrid and Benidorm a strange ceremony takes place - the funeral of the sardine!

San Fermin

Some of the most famous fiestas are the San Fermin festival, the Fallas of Valencia, the Moors and Christians fiestas and Madrid's San Isidro festival.

In the novel "The Sun Also Rises", Ernest Hemingway described the San Fermin festival. It is one of Spain's most celebrated fiestas. It is also one of the most dangerous. Thousands of either brave or stupid people run with the bulls through the cobbled streets of Pamplona. On the last night of the week long fiesta, those who are not in hospital or in a coffin sing Basque songs in the main square.



Other famous festivals


One of the biggest and most spectacular street festivals takes place in Valencia in March each year - Las Fallas. Huge papier-mâché effigies are burnt to the ground.
 


The Moors and Christians fiestas take place all over Spain. Ceremonies and mock battles are staged to commemorate the Reconquest.



The largest bullfight festival is in Madrid around May 15 each year. The Madrileños celebrate the festival of San Isidro, the patron saint of peasants and of the city. Of course, there are also fireworks and food as well as concerts and cultural pursuits.

On October 12 the Spanish celebrate Día de la Hispanidad, which is sometimes called Columbus Day. It is to commiserate - sorry - commemorate Columbus discovering America.

Feria de Abril de Sevilla

There are many other notable festivals. The Feria de Abril is Sevilla's stylish festival where the townsfolk dress in elegant costumes. If they are not on horseback or in horse-drawn carriages, the citizens and visitors can be found in the hundreds of marquees eating tapas, drinking manzanilla or dancing sevillanas. All the big cities have spectacular fiestas including Barcelona whose biggest festival, the Festes de la Merce, occurs every September. Zaragoza's big day is the Día del Pilar. Ronda hosts the Corrida Goyesca, an annual festival of music, dancing and bullfights.



Pilgrimages

On the last Sunday in April, the people of Andújar, in the province of Jaén, take part in the Romería de Andújar - a mass pilgrimage to the shrine of the Virgen de la Cabeza. An even bigger pilgrimage is the Romería del Rocío, which takes place every May/June. Up to one million people travel on foot or by horse and carriage to the shrine of the Virgin at the village of El Rocío in Huelva province.



The most famous pilgrimage is the Camino de Santiago - the Way of Saint James. This road traverses some of Spain's most spectacular landscapes and ends at Santiago de Compostela in Galicia province. People from all over Europe make the annual pilgrimage. On July 25, St James's Day, is the Fiesta de Santiago and fireworks light the night sky of the holy city on the eve of this festival.

Still on a religious note, The misteri d'Elx, a passion play, is staged on the 14th and 15th August in the World Heritage city of Elche.



Floral crosses decorate the streets of Granada and Córdoba in May. Neighbourhoods compete to create the most colourful crosses. Córdoba continues its floral celebrations with its annual Fiesta de los Patios. The inhabitants of old Córdoba open their patios to the public and display their floral arrangements.

There are many celebrations relevant to sea-faring folk - like Día de la Virgen on July 16. Fishermen at Almuñécar on the Costa Tropical carry a statue of the Virgen de Carmen on their boats.

At Sanlucar de Barrameda in the province of Cádiz, horse races take place on the beach every August to celebrate the Exaltacion al Rio Guadalquivir.

St George's Day

One of the most charming Spanish, or should I say Catalonian, traditions takes place on April 23, St George's Day. On that day, men give women roses and the ladies give their man a book. The custom is to celebrate Catalonia's patron saint and to commemorate 'World Book Day' - on 23 April 1616 both Shakespeare and Cervantes died. April 23 was also Shakespeare's birthday so no wonder the day is important in literary circles!

Strange Festivals

Some of Spain's celebrations can be crazy, macabre or downright messy! In the village of Buñol, in the land of Valenciana, the World's biggest tomato fight takes place. Thousands of revellers hurl ripe tomatoes at each other. At Haro, the capital of the Rioja Alta wine region, a wine battle takes place every 29 June - People dressed in white clothes squirt each other with wine.



Every 23 June, at San Pedro Manrique in Soria province, men walk barefoot over burning embers. They do this whilst carrying people on their backs!

There are always fireworks at Spanish fiesta time but some, like the Valencian Fallas, really set the place alight. Like Los Escobazos held every December in Jarandilla in the province of Cáceres. The villagers light bonfires in the streets and then set fire to brooms, which they use to whack friends and relatives.

Dampening things down a bit, the villagers of Agaete in Gran Canaria beg for rain in a ceremony that takes place on the night of July 4.

At Verges in Gerona province, a Dance of Death takes place on Maundy Thursday. Men dressed as skeletons perform a macabre dance. Another dance occurs in Anguiano in the province of La Rioja - this time on stilts! The extra tall dancers wear yellow skirts and fancy waistcoats and hurtle down the stepped alley from the church to the main square. This is to celebrate the Danza de los Zancos fiesta.

In Castillo de Murcia in Burgos, babies, dressed in their Sunday best, are laid on mattresses in the street and a colourfully dressed man jumps over them - apparently to free them from illness!

There are many more quirky fiestas in Spain and seeing their men folk forming human towers, having flour fights or dressing themselves up as soldiers, scarecrows or animals, you would be forgiven for thinking that women might want to add some sanity to proceedings and run things themselves! On St Agatha's Day, 5 February, they do - well, in Zamarramala in Segovia province anyway! The inhabitants celebrate the patron saint of married women by electing two women as mayoresses to run the village for the day. There is also a ceremony where a stuffed figure representing a man is set ablaze.

Food and Wine Celebrations

Great quantities of food are consumed at fiestas and in Valencia, giant pans of paella feed the revellers. Celebration of food and wine are also the reasons for some fiestas. There is the Tapas Fair in Sevilla, sherry tasting at Jerez de la Frontera´s Fiestas de Otoño and a seafood festival at O Grove in the province of Pontevedra. In the Asturias they celebrate the famous stew of the region, fabada Asturiana and another stew party is held at Vendrell on the Costa Dorada. Many towns and villages celebrate the olive harvest and an Olive Feast takes place at Mora in the province of Toledo. Eels are eaten at La Fiesta de la Angula in San Juan de la Arena in the Asturias and in that region, there are beans and cider fairs in the Asturian coastal villages. Even the exotic spice of saffron is celebrated - the Saffron Rose Festival is held in Toledo every October and, on a less delicate note, there are the annual pig slaughters, which take place all over Spain - usually on St Martin´s Day, November 11 - La Matanza signals the start of the wintertime drying of hams and sausages. It is especially celebrated in the mountain villages of Andalucía.

There are popular drink festivals too. At Catalonia's Cava fiesta, visitors can drink the famous sparkling wine. At the Fiestas de Otoño, the autumn festival in Jerez, sherry can be sampled. Revellers can taste cider at Asturian fiestas and quaff the excellent Rioja wine at the Fiesta de San Mateo in Logroño.

Film, music and dance


There are numerous festivals of film, music, dance and theatre. Granada hosts an International Music and Dance Festival. The streets around the Alhambra are filled with musicians and flamenco dancers and the sounds of guitars and the click of castanets fill the air. Other famous festivals include the International Music Festival of Barcelona, the Madrid Autumn Festival and the San Sebastian International Film Festival. That city in the Basque country also hosts the annual San Sebastian Jazz Festival.

Mérida in the province of Badajoz has a rich Roman heritage and what better place to watch plays and operas than in a Roman theatre. The Festival of Classical Theatre is held there every July and August.

Guitar and flamenco aficionados should make their way to Córdoba in July for the Festival de Córdoba, an International guitar festival that takes place in the gardens of the Alcazar, whilst Spain´s best flamenco singers and dancers appear at the Jerez Flamenco Festival. The town is also the venue of the Feria del Caballo, a horse fair held every year in May.

Saints

There are thousands more fiestas in Spain including many religious festivals that celebrate a town's patron saint - not just solemn religious parades but singing, dancing, eating, drinking, bullfights and fireworks!

Everyday of the Spanish Calendar is a Saint Day; there are actually more than 365 Saints! Many Spanish people are named after the day they were born so many people born on March 19 are called José. Some people are named after the patron saint of the town in which they were born so there are lots of women called Pilar in Zaragoza. Every Saint is celebrated at some time during the year somewhere in Spain - even San Blas the patron saint of sore throats!

Spain would be much poorer in every sense if there were no fiestas. They are a symbol of the Spanish people - colourful, vibrant, usually extremely noisy and great fun!

fiesta in Ugíjar, Alpujarras © Robert Bovington
more blogs by Robert Bovington...


"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"


Monday, July 27, 2015

Natural Parks in Spain

by Robert Bovington


My article on National Parks highlighted the fact that Spain has a great variety of landscapes and that it is good at protecting its natural spaces - so much so, that it was one of the first countries to establish national parks.

At present, Spain has 15 national parks but there are many hundreds of natural areas that have been afforded protection. National parks are afforded the highest level of protection followed by natural parks. There are also natural monuments, special protection areas, nature reserves, protected landscapes, biotopes, nature enclaves, wildlife reserves, marine reserves, rural parks, natural landscapes of national interest and sites of scientific interest. 

There are also biosphere reserves. UNESCO award biosphere reserve status to those areas with great biodiversity and which demonstrate a balanced relationship between the ecosystem and the people living and working there. Not all national parks have biosphere status yet some natural parks do. At the time of writing, there are thirty-three biosphere reserves in Spain, yet only five National parks have that status - Picos, Ordesa, Sierra Nevada, Doñana and the Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote.

Natural parks are pretty special but there are too many to list here. Every autonomous community has a number of protected areas with Catalonia, Andalucía and the Canaries being the most prolific with several hundreds between them. 

In Andalucía there are around 150 protected areas including 23 natural parks. Three of my favourites are the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park and the Sierra de las Nieves. All three are biosphere reserves.

The Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park is located a few miles east of Almería. It is an area of unspoilt beaches with secluded coves and is Andalucía's largest protected coastal area.
 

Playa Monsul (Cabo de Gata) © Robert Bovington
 
The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park is a vast area of rugged limestone mountains. It is located in Cádiz province, a few miles west of Ronda. Grazalema is the rainiest place in Spain that, undoubtedly, accounts for the verdant vegetation there. The griffon vulture is one of the species of wildlife that lives in the park. 
 

Grazalema © Robert Bovington
The Sierra de las Nieves is located between Marbella and Ronda. It is a spectacular landscape of limestone mountains where mountain goat, roe deer, wildcat and fox roam and where eagle, vulture and falcon soar. Flora includes pine, chestnut, holm oak, cork oak and the native Spanish fir (pinsapo).
 

Sierra de las Nieves © Robert Bovington
more blogs by Robert Bovington...


"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

National Parks in Spain

by Robert Bovington
 
Spain has a greater range of landscapes than any other country in Europe. It also has an impressive record for protecting its environment - it was one of the first countries in Europe to establish national parks when, in 1918, the Montaña de Covadonga National Park was established.
 
Today, this beautiful area is known as the Picos de Europa, situated in the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain. Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León share it. Back in 1918, only the western part of today's park was included. It had an area of 169.25 km². In 1995, the complete national park was established, with a total area of 646.60 km². It is a spectacular range of jagged limestone mountains that are home to an incredibly diverse range of flora and fauna. It is one of the reasons why the Picos de Europa has achieved UNESCO Biosphere status.
 

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Picos de Europa

Currently, there are 15 national parks in Spain.
 
Another national park, also created in 1918, is the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park. It is another mountainous area and is situated in the Pyrenees of Huesca province in Aragón. This spectacular mountain park is home to Pyrenean chamois, wild boar and great birds like eagles and vultures. The park is included in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Ordesa-Viñamala.
 

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Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park

 
You probably won't remember the name of the other Pyrenean national park! It is located in the province of Lérida in Catalonia. It is the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, a wild mountainous region with peaks rising to over 3000 metres. It has nearly 200 lakes and lots of wildlife - Pyrenean chamois, marmot, ermine, roe deer and golden eagle amongst others.
 

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Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

 
Galicia is privileged. It has three national parks within its borders. The Dunes of "Corrubedo" National Park is located in the province of A Coruña. It comprises sand dunes and unique wild flora and fauna - all situated in the Barbanza Peninsula.
 

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The Dunes of "Corrubedo" National Park

 
The "Fragas" of the River Eume National Park is a unique ecosystem in northwest Galicia situated in the environs of the River Eume - well it would be wouldn't it! The Atlantic islands off the coast of Pontevedra province in Galicia constitute an ecosystem of enormous ecological merit.
 

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The "Fragas" of the River Eume National Park

 
In 2002, the Illas Atlánticas de Galicia National Park was established to protect both the islands' habitat and the marine environment that surrounds them.
 

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Illas Atlánticas de Galicia National Park

 
Two spectacular national parks are down in Andalucía - the Doñana National Park and the Sierra Nevada National Park. Both have been declared Biosphere Reserves. The former is located in the provinces of Huelva and Sevilla. It is also known as the Coto de Doñana and is the largest of Spain's national parks. Thousands of migratory birds shelter here as do wild boar, deer, badgers and the endangered Iberian Lynx.
 

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Doñana National Park

 
The Sierra Nevada is the highest mountain chain in the Iberian Peninsula. There are many peaks of 3,000 metres including Mulhacen the tallest (3,481m). The city of Granada sits amidst its northern foothills whilst the Alpujarras with its villages of whitewashed houses, lies on its southern slopes. Parts of this mighty range have been included in the Sierra Nevada National Park. There is a diverse range of fauna and flora here, which includes ibex, badger, beech marten, weasel, fox, golden eagle and the Apollo butterfly. There are sixty varieties of flower unique to this park.
 

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Sierra Nevada © Robert Bovington

 
In the Balearics, a whole load of islands has national park status. The Archipiélago de Cabrera National Park comprises an archipelago - Cabrera and many smaller islands!
 

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Archipiélago de Cabrera National Park

 
The Canary Islands has hundreds of protected areas including four national parks. On the island of La Palma is a gigantic crater, 27 kilometres in circumference and a 700-metre depth! It is the Caldera de Taburiente, so it is not surprising that the park is called the Caldera de Taburiente National Park! 
 

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Caldera de Taburiente National Park

 
La Gomera is an unspoiled island and the Garajonay National Park there is a delightful place to walk. It is named after Alto de Garajonay, Gomera's highest peak but what makes the park so spectacular is its subtropical forest made up of laurel-leaved evergreen hardwood trees, reaching up to 40 metres in height. Watch out for lizards and frogs! 
 

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Garajonay National Park

 
Pico del Teide is the highest mountain in Spain. It is actually a volcano and is on the island of Tenerife. In actual fact, the whole island is a volcano so no wonder Tenerife is warm! Seriously though, Teide is currently dormant, having last erupted in 1909. There are a number of small active fumaroles at the summit. They emit hot sulphur dioxide so it gets a bit smelly up there. The volcano and the surrounding area are protected in a national park, the Teide National Park. UNESCO has designated it as a World Heritage Site.
 

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Teide National Park

 
Another volcanic island is Lanzarote - there are over 300 volcanoes there and any trip to the island should include a visit to the Timanfaya National Park. It is a bizarre landscape of lava flows. UNESCO granted the park Biosphere status in 1993.
 

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Timanfaya National Park

 
The other two national parks are in Castile-La Mancha. The Tablas de Daimiel National Park is Spain's smallest national park being less than 20 km². It is a nature reserve and home to many bird species. It is situated on the plain of La Mancha, only 30 kilometres from the city of Ciudad Real.
 

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Tablas de Daimiel National Park

 
The Cabañeros National Park also contains many bird species - some 200 different types including black vulture, black-winged kite, golden eagle, imperial eagle, eagle owl and stork. There are also wild boar, deer and the Iberian lynx. The park is situated between the provinces of Ciudad Real and Toledo.
 

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Cabañeros National Park

Robert Bovington

www.tablondeanuncios.com

more blogs by Robert Bovington...
"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Friday, July 24, 2015

Teruel

by Robert Bovington
 
Once upon a time, in the city of Teruel, there lived a young man and a young woman who were very much in love. Diego de Marcilla and Isabel de Segura had been childhood playmates and both had belonged to wealthy and important families. Around the time that Diego and Isabel were eligible to marry, Diego's family had fallen on hard times. Isabel's father, the richest man in all Teruel, prohibited the union until the youth had found fame and fortune - a time limit of five years was agreed upon. 
 
Five years passed and not a word was heard of Diego de Marcilla. On the fifth anniversary of the agreement, Isabel's father gave her hand in marriage to an older man and, the very next day, the wedding was celebrated. Diego burst onto the scene. 
 
He triumphantly announced his return only to discover that he was too late - there had been a misunderstanding - according to Isabel's father, the five years included the day of the agreement and not the day of departure! Being of a virtuous nature, Isabel would not betray her husband of a few hours and consequently refused the desperate Diego a last kiss. This was too much for the poor lad - for five long years he had yearned for the day that he would marry his childhood sweetheart. Now his dreams were shattered.
 
Heartbroken, Diego collapsed and died on the spot. At his funeral, Isabel was grief stricken and, bending over to kiss Diego's lips, she dropped dead, falling over the body of the man she had loved.
 
This story is known as "los amantes de Teruel" - the Lovers of Teruel and it has inspired a number of writers. It also inspired the citizens of Teruel who demanded that the two be buried side by side so that "what was denied them in life could be given to them in death". Later, the mummified bodies of Diego and Isabel were exhumed and placed in the tombs where they now rest - in the cloisters of the Gothic church of San Pedro. They can be seen today, along with the exquisitely sculptured lids featuring the couple, both with an arm outstretched and their hands almost touching but not quite. Religious piety precluded them touching since Isabel was married to another! They are the work of sculptor Juan de Ávalos. 

Mausoleo de los Amantes de Teruel, Iglesia de San Pedro (Teruel)
by  Zarateman (public domain)

 
The "los amantes de Teruel" is just one of many interesting monuments in the city. Teruel is the capital of the province of the same name in the autonomous community of Aragón. Despite the fact that it is one of the least known places in Spain, it really is an attractive and historic city. "Teruel existe" was the slogan used by a campaign group a few years ago. They lobbied for greater recognition and investment in the city and the province. Connections to Teruel have improved but it still remains the only provincial capital in Spain without a direct railway link to Madrid.
 
Teruel certainly does exist and when I visited I enjoyed exploring the old town with its medieval buildings and, in particular, the Mudéjar architecture. 
 
Alfonso II of Aragón captured Teruel from the Moors in 1171 but many Muslims chose to remain in the city. This resulted in the Mudéjar style of architecture that is still visible today. Of special importance are the towers, which are quite splendid and UNESCO think so too - they have included them in the Mudéjar Architecture of Aragón World Heritage site. They include the Belfry-Tower of the Cathedral of Santa María, the towers of the churches of San Pedro, San Salvador and San Martín.

Mudéjar Architecture in Teruel © Robert Bovington
 
The Cathedral is quite splendid. Apart from the World Heritage featured tower, there is a richly decorated Mudéjar ceiling and a Plateresque altarpiece. Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Episcopal Palace, which houses the Diocesan Museum. Nearby is the 16th-century Palacio de la Comunidad. It was the old government building but it now houses the Provincial Museum. The current Town Hall is also located in the Plaza de la Catedral.
 
modernist building in
the Plaza del Torico
© Robert Bovington
A number of tiny streets lead from the Cathedral to the main square - the Plaza del Torico, one of Teruel's best-known monuments, is to be found here. Perched at the top of a tall column is a small sculpture of a bull and a star. It is the statue of El Torico and is the symbol of the city. Unfortunately, on my visit the square was a building site - one of a number that I stumbled into on my walk. The good news is that it was part of a programme of restoration within the city. When I peeked through the partitioning that the builders had erected I could see that the travel guide's description of "fine Modernist buildings lining the square" was accurate. 

 There are a number of other attractive places to visit - most only a short walk from the city centre. They include a number of religious buildings like the Gothic church of St. Francis, the 12th-century church of San Miguel and the Church of La Merced, which also includes a tower in Mudéjar style. 
 
The Paseo del Óvalo is one of the main thoroughfares in the city but it is only a few minutes walk from the Tower of San Salvador. It is worth the detour in order to view the beautiful Escalinata - a staircase that climbs the hill from the railway station to the city centre. It is quite a recent addition to the city's fine architecture but quite splendid for all that - it was designed by José Toran in 1920. It is decorated with ceramic tiles and is in mock Mudéjar style. The Escalinata includes a beautifully carved embossed relief depicting a scene from the legend of the Lovers of Teruel. 

"los amantes de Teruel" embossed relief - part of the
Escalinata in Teruel - photo © Robert Bovington
    
Another important landmark is the viaduct - the Acueducto de los Arcos that was constructed in the 16th century. Modern and Medieval Teruel are separated by a ravine so a bridge was needed to connect the two areas.
 
On my visit to the town, I stayed in the Hotel Reina Cristina, which was comfortable and also very convenient, being located on the Paseo del Óvala and about 50 metres from the Tower of El Salvador. Another option would have been to stay at the Parador de Teruel. It is a small Mudéjar inspired palace but the downside is that it is on the outskirts of the city. 

Teruel panorama
 

This article is an extract from “Spanish Impressions” by Robert Bovington
ISBN 978-1-4452-2543-2 available from:
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/bobdotbovingtonatgmaildotcom

more blogs by Robert Bovington... 
 

"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Granada

by Robert Bovington

Granada is a city in the autonomous region of Andalucía, situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. It is one of the great cities of Spain if not the World.

Alhambra Granada © Robert Bovington

When visiting Granada it is tempting to spend all one's time admiring the Alhambra. From afar one can admire the beauty of its red walled parapets contrasting with the snow capped Sierra Nevada whilst once inside one can absorb oneself in the sheer splendour of its fantastic palaces and its tranquil gardens. However, Granada has much more to offer the visitor. It is a city where both Moorish and Christian history is visible in art and architecture.


Moorish Granada is exemplified by the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Alhambra, the Generalife and the Albaicín district whilst the Capilla Real and the Cathedral represent Christian Granada.

Alhambra and Generalife

The Alhambra is a museum of Islamic memories. It is essentially a number of palaces with extensive gardens surrounded by a fortress. There is much to see there including the Nazarite Royal Palaces that are interconnected via the Courtyards of the Myrtles and the Lions. Arabic-Granada art can be appreciated in many locations in the Alhambra as well as in the museums situated in the Renaissance Palace of Charles V that is also located within this spectacular complex.

Alhambra - Courtyard of the Myrtles

There are numerous water features in the garden of the Generalife. However, this is not a common or garden estate - it is a summer retreat fit for kings - well sultans anyway! It was the summer residence of the sultans of Granada and consists of a palace surrounded by magnificent terraced gardens amidst avenues of cypress trees. Running water plays an important role in the Generalife with fountains and water jets.

Generalife © Robert Bovington
Albaicín

The Albaicín district is an area of winding alleyways and narrow stairways clinging to the side of a hill. It is the ancient Arab quarter but nowadays it is a mix of Moorish and Christian monuments. The churches of San Salvador, San Bartolomé and San José have all been built on top of mosques. A number of small villas are to be found in the Albaicín called 'carmens' - modern versions of a type of Moorish residence comprising a house and its adjoining garden. Other Arab features in this quarter include the underground reservoirs, the Arab baths and the Moroccan shops selling traditional handicrafts. From various locations in the Albaicín there are fantastic views of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada.

The Sacromonte district contains thousands of caves that for more than 600 years have been inhabited by gitanos. It is the area to encounter impromptu flamenco at gypsy fiestas called zambras.

The Capilla Real or Royal Chapel is an impressive Gothic building that was built by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1504 as a mausoleum for themselves - they wanted to live forever in the last of the Arab kingdoms in Spain.

The Cathedral was built in 1523 on the site of the city's main mosque. Like the Capilla Real, its main objective was to unequivocally establish Christian rule in the last city in Spain to be occupied by the Moors.
 
Granada Cathedral © Robert Bovington

There are many other places of note in the city including the Palace of the Córdobas, the church of San Pedro, the Renaissance convent of Santa Catalina de Zafra, the Royal Chancery, the Almanxarra Palace and the House-Museum of Manuel de Falla.

Manuel de Falla and Federico García Lorca



© Robert Bovington
Manuel de Falla, the famous Spanish composer was born in Cádiz but lived for many years in Granada. He was a friend of another Andalucian - Federico García Lorca, the greatest Spanish poet and playwright of the 20th century, who was born just outside of Granada. Lorca died in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War. Fascist soldiers shot him!
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Over seventy years later, his home city of Granada has started to honour him. Granada's airport is called 'Aeropuerto Federico García Lorca'; postcards of the poet and his drawings are displayed alongside those of the Alhambra in the city's shops and kiosks and the tourist industry has jumped on the bandwagon by offering 'Lorca route' itineraries. Visits can be made to a number of sites in the area related to Lorca's life including Víznar near Granada, the site of his murder. Situated only a few miles from Granada is the House Museum of La Huerta de San Vicente, where the young Federico lived with his family.
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There are very many more places to visit in this wonderful city and it would need a whole book to describe them all. In fact, the Alhambra itself has been the subject of a book - Washington Irving's famous 'Tales of the Alhambra' is an excellent account of the jewel in the crown that is Granada.
 


This article is an extract from “Spanish Impressions” by Robert Bovington
ISBN 978-1-4452-2543-2 available from:
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/bobdotbovingtonatgmaildotcom

more blogs by Robert Bovington... 
 

"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"