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Honeymoon in Spain

Spain, a land of contrasts: landscapes, fiestas, flora and fauna, food and wine...

Landscapes

Spain: a country of great and varied landscape and geographical wealth.

Spain is geographically divided into very distinct territories. Its average altitude is high at 660 meters, in other words, two times the European average. Its highest peaks are Teide (3,718 meters), on the island of Tenerife; Mulhacén (3,478 m), in Granada; and Aneto (3,404 m), in the Pyrenees.

The coasts have very diverse outlines, as they belong to different climatic systems and are surrounded by different seas and oceans. The overall structure of the Peninsula could be described as follows. A great central high plateau (the Castilian Meseta) cut into two sub-plateaux (north and south) and divided by the Central and Toledo mountains. This plateau is surrounded by other mountainous structures on its periphery: the Galician massif, the Cantabrian mountain range, the Iberian Mountains and the Sierra Morena.

Three exterior ranges define the mountainous structure of the Peninsula; they are the Pyrenean, Andalusian and Catalan mountains. The Canary Islands is the region with the longest coastlines (1,546 km) and its land rises up over volcanic accumulations. The Balearics, on the other hand, have a varied relief composed of the Tramuntana mountain range in Majorca, the low lands of the island of Minorca -where the land level does not exceed 300 meters, except in El Toro (357 m)- and the gentle relief of Ibiza, where the highest altitudes are Sa Talaiassa (475 m) and the Puig Gros (415 m).

Festivities of San Fermín

Fiestas

Spain has an outstanding multicultural heritage, and this can be seen in all areas of its social life. There is a wide variety of different festive celebrations to be found all over the country.

Spanish popular festivities and traditions often have a clearly religious origin. This can be seen in throughout all the expressions of Spain's folklore, which combine religious fervor with a variety of pagan and festive commemorations. The country's cultural diversity means the festive manifestations of each region vary widely from north to south, and yet at the same time these local customs exist alongside festivities which are celebrated all over the national territory.

The festive year in Spain starts with the traditional strokes of midnight in the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, which attracts throngs of people from the city itself and from all over Spain who welcome in the New Year with a grape swallowed for each chime of the clock. One of the most important traditional celebrations in Spain, however, is Easter week. This takes place at the end of March or in April, and takes place amid vivid and extremely moving popular processions. The greatest number of festive events takes place in the summer months, between June and September, according to the geographic area, as they tend to combine both religious and socio-economic aspects.

Throughout most of Spain's geography there are also a range of different festivities in late summer (late August and early September) owing to the historic tradition of commemorating the harvest (and particularly the grape harvest). What's more, each area in the country has its own specific festivities. Some of the highlights are the Sanfermines bull-running festival in Pamplona, Sant Jordi and La Mercé in Barcelona, the Fallas bonfire festival in Valencia, the festivity of the Reconquest in Granada, the April Fair in Seville and San Isidro and the Verbena de La Paloma in Madrid. But these are just a few examples of the thousands of festive celebrations which are to be found the length and breadth of Spain all year round.

Fashion

The fashion world in Spain involves various sectors and professions, including designers and models with a high profile both inside and outside the country. The textile and footwear industries also play a major role.

Good design is the cornerstone of the Spanish fashion industry, and this aspect has become increasingly important outside Spain in recent years thanks both to the work of creators such as Jesús del Pozo, Adolfo Domínguez, Roberto Verino, Hannibal Laguna, Paco Rabanne and Pedro del Hierro among others, and to the growing presence of Spanish models on the international catwalks. The showcase par excellence for Spanish fashion is the Cibeles Madrid Fashion Week, which brings together the latest avant-garde creations on the Spanish fashion scene. Other key dates for Spanish fashion are Pasarela 080 Barcelona and Valencia Fashion Week. The fashion world is closely linked to two economic sectors of great importance to Spain, namely the textile and footwear sectors. In recent decades both these industries have undergone a major transformation and restructuring process which has led to increased turnover and a greater presence in both national and international markets. As a result, the fashion sector in Spain today enjoys excellent health and recognised prestige all over the world.

Conservation

Spain considers environmental conservation efforts to be a global issue and is therefore involved in various protection programs.

The country participates in the Ramsar Convention as a measure to protect its wetlands, of which 68 have qualified to be included on the Ramsar list. Agreements have been endorsed within the framework of the European Directive on the protection of wild birds and various marine areas in the Mediterranean have been designated as protected areas under the Plan of Action agreement. Moreover, the protection programs created by UNESCO under the World Heritage Convention have recognized four Spanish National Parks: Doñana, Garajonay (on the island of La Gomera), Teide (Tenerife) and Monte Perdido (in the Pyrenees). Furthermore, the UNESCO program, Man and the Biosphere, includes 34 biosphere reserves on Spanish land. Spain also holds an active attitude in defense of the global environment and has signed numerous agreements and protocols on the global protection of nature, including agreements on atmospheric contamination, the protection of the ozone layer, refuse and dangerous dumps, whale hunting, climatic changes, the protection of species in danger of extinction and the protection of tropical forests.

Flora

The main consequence of the climatic differences in Spain are the two very distinct types of vegetation: the warm Spain and the wet Spain.

The climatic diversity that prevails in Spain marks a clear difference between two very distinct types of vegetation. On one hand, in the Cantabrian area there is the luxurious vegetation with abundant deciduous forests where the most characteristic species is the common oak, followed by lime trees, chestnut trees, elm trees, ash trees, maple trees and hazelnut trees. This area also has plains covered in dense Atlantic thicket, formed by heather, ferns and gorse. Beech also grows in medium mountains and there are fir trees in the cooler areas of the Pyrenees and the Penibetic system. The second largest area of vegetation in Spain has been shaped by a dry, summer climate and presents two groups of vegetation: on the one hand, the vegetation of the plateau and the Iberian depression and on the other, the vegetation of Mediterranean Spain. It is characterised by uncultivated land and few forests in which the dominant species is the evergreen oak, invaded by the introduction of the pine at various different stages. Also, in the plateau we can find evergreen oak and cork oak forests and in drier areas such as the Ebro valley, Extremadura and La Mancha, there are abundant thickets, dotting the landscape with small bushes, each one very different to the next. The Gall Oak, Aleppo Pine and the Stone Pine are other types of trees which are found in abundance in the dry parts of Spain. The steppe is a common feature in the west of Andalusia and Levante.

Fauna

Spain is home to various European, African and Mediterranean animal species.

Spain's climatic diversity can be seen in its fantastic richness, which includes typically European, Mediterranean and African species of animals, as well as alpine fauna in the high mountain massifs. The most emblematic mammals are wolf, fox, wildcat, lynx, deer, Spanish ibex and wild boar, among others. Spain is also an important stopping-off point for flocks of migratory birds on their journey to and from Europe and Africa. Some of the most notable are duck, flamingo, heron, crane and bustard, as well as numerous species of birds of prey including eagles, bearded vultures, hawks, owls and goshawks. It is also home to a wealth of different varieties of fish, and Spain's rivers and lakes boast an abundance of species such as trout, tench and barbel. Spain currently has between 400 and 450 endangered species, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Some of these are the golden eagle, the Houbara bustard, Iberian lynx and the Tenerife speckled lizard.

Cultural Spaces

Museo Guggenheim, Bilbao

Spain has a very extensive network of libraries and museums throughout the Spanish territory where some of the most valuable cultural and world art treasures are held.

The most important library is the National Library in Madrid, inaugurated in 1712.

There are 25 million items in its collection, of which many are unique, singular, ancient and incunabular books. It also holds an extraordinary collection of recordings and manuscripts.

Other libraries of great importance are the library of the Complutense University, the library of the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial and the Archivo de Indias.

The network of public libraries is extensive and admission is generally free, or almost free of charge. They offer numerous facilities to students and researchers who wish to consult books that are not available to the general public.

This also applies to the museums. In Spain there are over 1.400 museums and graphic museum collections. The most famous museum of all is the Museo del Prado, although there are many more that offer immeasurable heritage value.

Admission to many museums in Spain is free and those that charge entrance fees offer discounts for students, old age pensioners and citizens of the European Union.

Art

Spanish art constitutes one of the most important cultural heritages of the world.

The first artistic samples date back to the Superior Palaeolithic age and feature cave paintings from the Altamira cave and the Mediterranean arch.

The Phoenician and Greek influence is evident in the gold work and sculpturing. Hispanic Roman art reached its zenith in the Imperial era (1st century A.D.). Important vestiges including the walls of Lugo, the theatres of Sagunto and Merida, the aqueduct of Segovia, Italica in Seville and the several displays of this art in Tarragona, amongst others.

Las Meninas, Diego Velázquez

Early Christian art began in the 3rd century and was followed by Visigoth art from the 5th century onward. Important remnants from these periods such as the Constantinian necropolis of Centcelles (Tarragona), the Church of San Juan de Baños (Palencia), the early Christian sarcophagus and the Visigoth goldwork have remained.

The Hispanic-Muslim art period extended from the 8th century through to the 15th in various phases: the Cordoba mosque stems from the Caliphal period; beautifully decorated palaces remain from the period in which small Spanish kingdoms reigned after the disintegration of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031 (Aljafería, Zaragoza); the Giralda de Seville is conserved from the period of Almoravid art; and the impressive Alhambra of Granada remains from the Nazarite period.

In the North of Spain, various artistic examples such as Mozarab art (San Millán de la Cogolla, La Rioja), the Asturian pre-Romanesque (Santa María del Naranco, Oviedo) and Catalan pre-Romanesque art (Churches of Terrassa) were developed during these centuries.

From the 11th century onward, Romanesque art began to dominate in Christian Spain, where it played an important role in the construction of monasteries (Sant Pere de Rodes, San Martín de Frómista).

From the 13th century onward, a new style began to become prominent: Gothic art, extended throughout Europe thanks to the Cistercian Order. There are important examples in Spain, such as the monasteries of Poblet and Santes Creus (Catalonia), and the Cathedrals of Leon, Burgos and Toledo. Painting and sculpture reached a peak during the Gothic age; particularly prominent were the monumental doorways and tempera painted altarpieces.

Parallel to the Romanesque and Gothic period, a peculiar artistic style emerged in Spain: the Mudejar, a combination of Christian and Muslim styles. The best examples thereof can be found in Toledo and Teruel.

At the end of the 15th century, Renaissance art, imported from Italy, began to dominate. The most important examples of architecture are the Charles V Palace (Granada) and the El Escorial monastery (Madrid); the works of Alonso Berruguete and Juan de Juni are fundamental in the area of sculpture; with regard to painting important pieces include the work of Juan de Juanes, Pedro Berruguete and above all, the figure of El Greco.

The Baroque period in Spain extended throughout the 17th century and the first half of the 18th. Ornamental architecture became more pronounced (Cathedral of Murcia, Palace of the Marques de Dos Aguas in Valencia); religious imagery proliferated, in particular the works of Gregorio Fernández and Juan de Mesa; and this was the best period in the history of art painting in Spain, during which time artists such as Ribera, Zurbarán, Murillo and above all the master Velázquez stood out.

In the middle of the 18th century, neoclassicism began to prevail; this is evident in the architecture of the Prado Museum, the return to the classic canons in sculpture, and painting which was strongly dominated by Goya. The arts known as minor arts gained great importance thanks to royal protection, embodied by the Royal Factories such as the Tapestries Factory, founded by Phillip V, and the Buen Retiro Porcelain Factory, founded by Charles III.

Romanticism broke with the Neoclassic style in the 19th century. The National Library and the paintings of Mariano Fortuny and Pérez Villaamil stand out from this period.

Modernism was particularly triumphant in Catalonia; its most important representative being Gaudí, designer of the Sagrada Familia and Casa Milá, amongst others.

The 20th century was influenced by diverse styles: contact with the Parisian ambience at the beginning of the century, international isolation following the civil war and the opening up to new trends from the fifties onward. Twentieth century Spanish painting reached great levels of international recognition, thanks to painters such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí.

In present day art, artists such as Bofill, Moneo and Calatrava (architecture), Chillida (sculpture) and Tàpies and Barceló (painting) are of great importance.

Source: www.spain.info

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