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Everyone is born in his country as an accident of birth or fate. When one is more mature and travels, one may visit a country and suddenly feel a kinship with that country, which may later turn into love. This does not mean that one loses the love for the country of his native birth, but this new love may be just as profound. Here are several reasons to love Spain:
1. Spanish Food
On a scale of 1 to 10, Spain's cuisine rates a 10. There seems to be an infinite variety of food, with variations in every region. You can eat at very inexpensive places and still have a great meal. The menu of the day option is fantastic because it offers a complete meal for a bargain.
Some of the most typical menu selections are great. Who has not enjoyed gazpacho, paella, the fried fish of Malaga, the cheeses of Manchego, the cochinillo of Madrid and Segovia, the eels of the north coast, and the pulpo a la Gallega?
And what about the pata negra (Iberian ham), that the natives consider the food of the gods? And what about the invention of tapas? These small and delicious plates can be eaten at any time and their variety staggers the imagination.
And what about the new Spanish cuisine that is driving foreign food critics mad?
There are really few places in the world that can compare with Spain on food. Spanish food is characterized by its freshness and healthfulness. The home made food found in many humble restaurants beats the most expensive food served in the most expensive restaurants of the world for taste and originality. A common laborer in Spain can eat like a king!
Worth special mention is the sweets that can be bought in monasteries and cloistered convents. They have preserved food recipes that date from the times of the Romans and the Moors. And the charm of ordering the sweets from the cloistered convents, where you ring a bell at the door, where there is a turntable. You tell the nun, who you cannot see, what sweets you want, and she puts it on the turntable for you and tells you how much it is. You then put your money on the turntable and the whole transaction is based on trust.
Spanish food is really one of the great things of Spain that millions love.
2. Superb Wine
There is an infininte variety of Spanish its wines; the wines from the Rioja region, the wines from Ribera del Duero, the cava from Catalunya, and the sherries from Jerez de la Frontera, and the sweet moscatel from Malaga.
Spain's geography is perfect for raising grape vines, with gently rolling hills, cool mornings and warm days. The wineries have updated their wine making techniques, sending their people to study the new science of wine making in the University of California at Davis and Napa Valley in California. They are planting new vines and are being more sophisticated, with many new wineries making boutique wines.
3. Impressive Monuments
Spain's tumultuous past and history has produced some of the most beautiful monuments in history. The Alhambra Palace in Granada is so beautiful that it has made men cry. How could man create so much beauty? It lifts the spirit and enriches the experience. One cannot just see it once in a lifetime. One is driven to return and re-experience the place. And what about the beauty of the Generalife Gardens? The fountains tinkling, the perfume of the roses, oranges, and jasmine are intoxicating!
The Mezquita of Cordoba is another beautiful monument from the Moorish times. It was good that it was turned into the Catholic Cathedral, because the constant use over the ages preserved it. Other monuments that have not been used have deteriorated and have been demolished. Go and marvel at all the horseshoe shaped arches over that sea of marble columns. This is truly a magnificent place and an artistic masterpiece.
What about the Alcazar Palace in Seville? It is just as beautiful as the Alhambra. The variety of small palaces that make it up is amazing. The stucco work and the Mudejar ceilings are simply beautiful. The tiles on the walls are some of the most beautiful tiles ever made in Spain or anywhere. The huge gardens are marvelous and a joy to discover.
What about the Plaza de España in Seville with its Mudejar architecture? It is one of the most beautiful buildings and plazas in Spain. Every province has its benches, coat of arms, and art in tile that represents it. The design is highly original and the huge fountain is impressive.
4. Magnificent Churches
Many Spanish churches, monasteries, and convents are some of the most beautiful religious buildings in the world. There are the Cathedrals of Santiago de Compostela, Seville, Cordoba, Malaga, Burgos, Leon, Toledo, Barcelona, Zaragoza's La Seo, Salamanca, and Granada. In Granada there is the Monastery of La Cartuja and the Church of San Juan de Dios. The Cathedral of the Almudaina in Madrid is a modern wonder.
The Monastery of Montserrat is atop a very strange mountain that emits a large amount of energy, where people of different religions congregate. Beside the monastery is a large private museum that has some of the most beautiful art that has been donated to the monastery. The Monastery and Palace of El Escorial has a very large collection of art and the austere building impresses, especially with its location on the side of the mountain.
Madrid has the Convent of the Descalzas Reales and the Royal Convent of La Encarnacion that are full of artwork.
All of these religious buildings are part of Spain's history and show that Spain was a Christian stronghold, and when Spain had its empire in the Americas, much of the treasures were poured into building these very beautiful buildings.
5. The Enormous Artistic Heritage
Spain is one of the countries of the world with a huge artistic heritage. It started in prehistory. The native Iberians started producing art, such as in the caves of
Altamira. Was it the land that inspired the natives to start painting the walls of those caves with figures of men, bison, and deer?
Some of the earliest settlers from other countries were the Phoenicians, who inhabited the southern coasts of Spain, such as Cadiz and Malaga. Later the Romans came and colonized all of Spain. The art produced by the Roman descendants was tremendous in quantity and can be seen in the archaeological museums of Madrid, Merida, Seville, and Tarragona. Sagunto and Italica are two of the cities that have significant archaeological remains from the time of the Romans.
Later came the Visigoths, who stayed for about three centuries and also produced their own art forms, mostly after being Christianized. Much of their art that you find in the archaeological museum of Madrid and the Visigothic Museum of Merida is related to Christian churches that they built.
Then came eight centuries of Moorish occupation, which resulted in some of the most magnificent architecture and art forms that man has produced. Among architectural marvels are the Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens of Granada, the Mezquita and remains of the city of Medina Azahara in Cordoba, the Alcazar Palace in Seville, and the Moorish forts of the Alcazaba in Malaga and the Alcazaba in Almeria. The gardens they produced are still an inspiration for modern landscape architects because they touched all of the five senses. The tilework in their palaces are some of the most beautiful ceramics ever produced.
Finally the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand threw the Moors from Spain after many years of warfare. There is a famous story that the last Moorish king of Granada cried when he had to leave Granada and Spain.
Then came the Spanish empire, with gold flowing from the Americas to Spain. Much of this gold was used to build the cathedrals, churches, and palaces of Spain. The king's representatives in Italy and the Low Countries would buy the best art produced in those countries to decorate the many palaces of Spain. Spanish artists of the Spanish school soon started producing large amounts of art. El Greco, Velazquez, Ribera, and Zurbaran were just some of the famous artists who left their artwork. Then Goya came on the art scene and produced his masterworks.
Spanish artists continued painting and sculpting, producing their art for the king or for churches. In more modern times there is Joaquin Sorolla, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, and Salvador Dali for bringing their vision of new worlds. There are other modern masters, all producing large quantities of art.
And today you can go to the big three museums of Madrid (the Prado, the Thyssen Museum, and the Reina Sofia Museums), where you can enjoy much of this art. There are also huge collections in the Bellas Artes museums of Seville, Bilbao, and Valencia. There are also less well known museums such as the Art Deco and Art Nouveau Museum of Salamanca that has especialized in those art periods. The national museums in Madrid have preserved artwork from the Americas and from other time periods. Barcelona and Malaga have their own respective Picasso Museums.
For the art lover, Spain is a place of non-stop art. All of the churches have magnificent artwork that one discovers as one travels. The palaces that one finds in Spain are also full of artwork. Few people will ever see the Palacio de Liria, owned by the Duchess of Alba in Madrid, but the artwork contained in that palace would make it one of the most important museums of Spain. The Duchess has several other famous palaces, such as the one in Seville and the one in Salamanca, also filled with notable artwork.
There are many contemporary artists who are producing great pieces of art and are starting to be known in international circles. Spain continues to be a hotbed of art.
6. Beautiful Beaches
Many of the visitors to Spain head for the beaches during summer. The beaches of Spain are well known to beach lovers and are some of the best in Europe. There are beaches in each of the Canary Islands, as well as beaches in each of the Balearic Islands. If you follow the southern coastline, there are the wide golden beaches of the Costa de la Luz on the Atlantic Ocean - Ayamonte, Chipiona, Cadiz, La Barrosa, Conil, Tarifa; the Bajondillo and La Carihuela beaches of Torremolinos, Malaga, Torre del Mar, Roquetas de Mar in Almeria, Alicante, Benidorm, Valencia, Salou, Tarragona, Barcelona, and Lloret de Mar are all on the warm Mediterranean Sea. The northern Atlantic coasts have the beaches of El Sardinero in Santander and La Concha in San Sebastian, as well as the rocky coves of Galicia. Each one has its own particular type of enchantment. One can soak the sun, eat at the chiringuitos, and enjoy the summer nightlife.
Modern medical research is coming up with new discoveries about the healthful benefits of taking some sun everyday. The Vitamin D that the sun gives is very beneficial and helps strengthen the bones, prevents some types of cancer, and prevents heart attacks. Research also shows that it may prevent autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Type 1 diabetes. Definitely taking moderate amounts of sunshine prolongs life. It also makes people feel happier and prevents depression. These are good reasons to visit Spain, which is one of the countries that is blessed with a lot of sunshine.
The Costa del Sol has the best climate in Europe and the winters there are very mild. Many people from Northern Europe spend the winter months there. If you are planning to explore Andalusia, it is best to avoid the summer months (mid June to mid September) because it is often too hot to go out in the daytime! April and May are perfect, the fields are still green and the wild flowers abound.
8. Beautiful Palaces
The Royal palaces of Spain are some of the most beautiful in Europe. There are the Palacio del Oriente in Madrid, the palace in Aranjuez, the palace in La Granja (Segovia), and the palace and monastery at El Escorial. Each of these is very different from each other. In Andalusia, there are the Alhambra Palace in Granada and the Alcazar in Seville. There are private palaces like the Palacio de Liria in Madrid and the Casa de Pilatos in Seville, all filled with beautiful art and history. Their architecture is magnificent and many of these palaces could not be reproduced today, even with modern technology. They are to be savored slowly and appreciated.
9. The White Towns of Andalusia
Most of Andalusia has white towns or "pueblos blancos", where most of the houses and buildings are whitewashed. They preserve the heritage of the Moors and look very much like the towns of northern Africa. The most beautiful white towns are the white towns of Malaga, which are Ronda, Mijas, Nerja, and Frigiliana. Hemingway called Ronda the most romantic town of Spain. Its location above the surrounding countryside above steep cliffs is dramatic. All of these towns are frequented by visitors, yet they remain very Spanish in character. They are prepared for tourism and have beautiful restaurants and stores, and yet they maintain their Andalusian charm. Thousands of people have fallen in love with them. Robert Redford is known to have lived in Mijas for a year with his family. Artists of many countries live permanently in these white towns.
The province of Cádiz has a number of white towns too - Medina Sidonia, Vejer de la Frontera, Alcalá de los Gazules, Arcos de la Frontera, and the Sierra towns of Bornos, Villamartin, Olvera, Algar, Grazalema ... They are just as beautiful as the Malaga towns but there are fewer tourists because they are further from the Costa del Sol where most visitors to Andalusia go.
10. Medieval Towns
Spain had hundreds of medieval towns which have changed little in modern times. These are a joy to visit, although many do not have good access to transportation. One of the most popular is Santillana del Mar, which is not too far from Santander, and which can be reached by bus from Santander. It has very good restaurants and a beautiful parador. The other wonderful town is Besalu, on the Costa Brava. All of the buildings there look medieval and you cannot see any modern influence at all. It looks like the stage set for a medieval movie. All of these medieval towns are made of stone and are dripping with charm.
11. Family Unity
Spain is one of the countries where family unity is very important. Grown children want to live close to their parents and if they cannot see them everyday, they phone their parents every single day. When one goes to restaurants, one can see the whole family together, starting with the grandparents, the grown children, and the grandchildren. They get together, especially on Sundays to eat together. This is a joy to see. Many children take care of their elderly parents and will sacrifice themselves to see that their elderly parents are taken cared of properly. In other advanced countries one cannot see this family unity. Spain is a role model in this respect.
12. The Friendliness of the Spanish People
The majority of the Spanish people are friendly towards visitors and do not resent tourists. They go out of their way to help visitors. Perhaps this is the secret of the tremendous growth of tourism in Spain. Visitors will not go to countries which resent them. They choose countries where they will be treated with respect and friendliness.
Spain has had a very long tradition of hospitality and foreigners are greeted and offered food and drink. An example is the small white town of Frigiliana, near Nerja, which has won the prize of the most beautiful town in Spain several times. On May 3 they celebrate the Cruz de Mayo festival and everyone who visits the town is offered food and the town's wonderful sweet wine for free. Tables are put on every street, where residents offer the food and wine to every single visitor.
It is no wonder that several hundred thousand northern European immigrants have transplanted themselves to the Mediterranean coasts of Spain, such as Alicante and the Costa del Sol, to live their lives in beautiful surroundings amid friendly people.
Every city and town in Spain celebrates its own festival every year. Most of them are very colorful and a joy to visit. This tradition may not be found in other countries. The calendar of festivals in Spain is completely full and one can find a festival for every single month. One of the most beautiful is the festival of the patios during the first two weeks of May in Cordoba. There is a contest as to who has the most beautiful patio, so entrants in the contest fix their patios with flowers, statues, and beautiful tile. The flowers are extremely colorful and unforgettable.
Then there are the religious processions in Holy Week in Seville and Malaga, which get filled with millions of visitors. The processions take place in late afternoon and night and the people taking part in the processions are dressed in costumes that date back from medieval times and times of the Renaissance. The thrones that carry the statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary are marvels done in gold and silver by the best goldsmiths in Spain. The thrones are beautifully decorated with fresh flowers by the thousands.
In Andalusia in May they celebrate the Romeria del Rocio. Thousands of participants set off from their cities on horseback or carriage or on foot and go to a small town in Huelva called Almonte, where there is a church dedicated to the Virgin del Rocio. The participants are dressed in their traditional dresses and during the trip they eat, sing, and dance. New people are baptized in the river as initiates. By the time they arrive in Almonte, there are a million people, and they parade the statue of the Virgin during the night.
All of these festivals are unique and a visitor to Spain can never be bored.
14. Beautiful Women
Spain has some of the most beautiful women in the world. The mixture of races and cultures during Spain's long history has produced a very strong race of survivors, and that is exemplified by the beauty of the women. The women from Andalusia probably have the largest mixture of races and are known for their beauty. All of them have flawless skin, big eyes, and long and large amounts of hair. Besides this, they have a charm and spice that enrapture visitors. Many of the winners of national beauty contests hail from Andalusia, and one can see them on TV as hosts of programs. They have an innate ability to speak and charm people, and together with their beauty are perfect for TV. Many are in show business as singers and dancers.
There are all sorts of Spanish music. The traditional Spanish music is often played with the guitar and consists of flamenco music, the copla, bolero, and the bulerias. There are many forms of singing, depending on the region. There are modern masters of the guitar such as Paco de Lucia, who have produced some of the best music. The Spanish love music and one will hear music everywhere, including in stores, banks, insurance offices, restaurants, cafeterias, and bars.
Every region has its traditional music. In Galicia there is a form of folk music very similar to other Celtic regions in Europe - Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland - and a major Celtic music festival is held at Ortiguera each July.
In 2006 one of the greatest singers of Spain died. She was Rocio Jurado, who was said to have had the greatest female voice of the 20th century. She was much loved in Spain, especially for her warmth and humanity. In the same year there was another great singer who died: Rocio Durcal, who became one of Mexico's greatest singers. Today's queen of the copla is Isabel Pantoja, who gives performances that are memorable.
Spain is now producing a large quantity of talented young pop singers who are conquering the world. Examples are David Bustamante, David Bisbal, Alejandro Sanz, and Monica Naranjo. Many of today's singers come from Andalusia, where music is part of everyday life, where people enjoy singing for their pleasure.
The Spanish seem to have mastered guitar music. The classical guitar was developed in Spain over many years. Observing singers and instrumentalists on TV, one can see that they play the guitar like it was part of themselves, with such delicacy and mastery. If there is any music that brings to one the image of Spain, it is Spanish guitar music.
One can find the soul of a nation in its music and it is certainly true in Spain. Music is one of the great unifiers of the country.
Flamenco is an art form that reaches its maximum height only in Spain. The stomping of the feet, the movement of the body and the arms, and the music are captivating. Other people may study flamenco, but they cannot duplicate the performances that can be found in Spain, especially by performers with Gypsy blood. They are the best because they start dancing when they can barely walk, and they dance everyday. Their parents encourage them and they see the people around them dancing flamenco too.
Tourists can have an introductory course by going to popular flamenco nightclubs. However the best flamenco is seen only in theaters and one has to be a resident of Spain to see these, because tickets have to be bought one or two months in advance, since they sell out immediately. Performances by people like Cristina Hoyos are unforgettable. She danced in the movie Carmen, directed by Carlos Saura. Today she directs a flamenco ballet group. Those who enjoy flamenco can buy the movie on DVD and see some of the best flamenco ever seen in a movie.
There are new flamenco stars like Sara Barras and Joaquin Cortez, who only appear in theaters, and who give electric performances.
17. The Castles of Spain
During the Reconquest, when the Christians were fighting the Moors town by town, many fortified castles were built by both sides to protect their territory. The border would change very frequently and new castles had to be built. When one travels around Spain, one sees a castle very frequently on the highest point of a town. It is estimated that about 10,000 castles were built during the Middle Ages in Spain. However there are about 2,500 left at this time because many have deteriorated with time. Also politics between the kings and the nobles caused the kings to order the demolition of castles of nobles who were not in favor. Many of the castles were built in Castilla, which means castle.
The best known castle in Spain is the Alcazar in Segovia, which was used by Walt Disney as the model for the Cinderella castles built in Disneylands around the world. Other famous castles in Spain are those of Manzanares el Real, Belmonte, Coca, Medina del Campo, San Esteban de Gormaz, Loarre, and Cardona. All of these castles add an air of enchantment and romance to Spain. No other country has as many castles as Spain.
Many castles have been converted to hotels and paradors. Near Malaga there is a beautiful boutique hotel in the small town of Monda. In Carmona, the castle has been converted into a big and beautiful parador.
18. The Infinite Variety
Last of all, one is amazed at the infinite variety in everything in Spain. There is the infinite variety of food, wine, landscapes, towns, and customs. Every single town is unique. Spain seems to be a country with a thousand different countries in it. Every town has its own unique food, pastries, wine and very interesting history and places to visit.
It is a place where one cannot be bored. On the contrary, Spain is a place where one can enjoy the infinite variety in everything!
19. The Spanish Zest for Life
If you come from another country and see any festival or procession in Spain, you will notice right away that the Spanish put their heart and soul into that activity, with a passion that few other people can copy. And when they talk, they talk with passion. The Spanish are very passionate people in everything they do.
When they go out for some night life, they may start late but they always finish late, with a perseverance and enthusiasm that seems never to finish. They want to have a good time in everything they do, which can be admireable.
20. The Spanish Language
Some thoughts on the Spanish language; English may now be the universal language, but Spanish is also a universal language. English is more direct, but Spanish has more nuances and is more suave. Spanish is a Romance language and is very pleasant on the ear, especially when a good speaker does it right. Spanish is known as the language of love.
When one goes to Latin America and speaks Spanish, one feels right at home in that country and one is accepted immediately as part of the Spanish family. Also there is a great amount of literature in Spanish, written by great writers.
If you learn and love the language of a country, you can understand how the natives feel and how they think. Language after all is a medium of understanding, a way to transmit thoughts and ideas.
21. The Sense of Humor of the Spanish
The majority of Spanish are good natured and have a heightened sense of humor. Whenever friends gather, they will joke each other in a friendly way. They like to tease each other and will give each other nicknames, which sometimes carries through to their old age. They know how to laugh at themselves. At parties they will sit in a circle and every person takes turns in telling jokes. What the Spanish dislike are pompous people, many who are politicians, futbol club owners and managers, or famous actors and actresses. The Spanish will then skewer them with a play of words or rhymes that are very pointed and will try to deflate these self important personalities. They will caricature these people in the newspapers and on TV. Nobody is sacred to the public. When a Spaniard leaves his country, he misses this sense of humor immediately and all foreigners appear to be too serious. The sense of humor of the Spanish is one of their great virtues.
In conclusion, if you read this you will understand now the reasons to love Spain.