A (Very Concise) History of Spain
- The history of Spain dates goes back a long way. The pre-Roman peoples were subjected to colonization by the Greeks. Carthaginians, and Romans. The Romans referred to the entire Peninsula as Hispania, giving us the modern name of Spain.
- Numerous invasions of Germanic tribes followed, during the 4th and 5th centuries.
- Next came the Umayyad conquest, from 711, marking the introduction of Islam to the Iberian Peninsula, which became known as Al-Andalus.
- The Reconquista. in the late Middle Ages, resulted in a number of Christian kingdoms, including Navarre (a Basque kingdom centred on the city of Pamplona), León (in the northwest), Castile (in the centre), and Aragon ( Catalonia and the east). These kingdoms eventually consolidated into two roughly equivalent domains, Castile and Aragon.
- Castile and Aragon were united with the marriage Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469. These Catholic monarchs founded the Hapsburg dynasty and conquered Granada, unifying the whole of the peninsula (except for Portugal). They went on to institute the Inquisition and and support various explorers and conquistadores, leading to the world's first global empire.
- Wars, such as that with with England, and especially France, led to the slow decline,of first the Hapsburgs and then Spain, with the country becoming a puppet state under Napoleon.
- The monarchy returned, but weakened. Military dictatorships in the twentieth century were followed by General Franco, who took over after prolonged Civil War and led a fascist dictatorship for almost four decades.
- Franco's death ushered in a return of a constitutional monarchy in 1978.
Is Spain in the EU?
- The 'Kingdom of Spain' as it’s officially known, is the second largest country in the EU. Spain covers about 85 percent of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal.
- Spain has 17 autonomous regions with diverse geography and cultures. These were derived from a number of separate kingdoms with different languages,which were unified in the 15th century after the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.
- Spain uses the Euro as currency
Facts and Factoids
- Spain is the only European Country to have a physical border with an African country. It has a small outpost next to Morocco, called Ceuta
- Don Quixote, by Spanish author, Cervantes is thought to be the first ever novel
- The Spanish National Anthem Has No Words
- Almost half of the world’s olive oil is produced in Spain
- Siesta still happens - Afternoon naps of about 20 minutes. Many stores and establishments are closed for siesta time.
- There's no tooth fairy in Spain. When Spanish children lose a tooth, they put it under their pillow and a small mouse called Ratoncito Pérez comes to collect it and leaves a small gift or money in its place.
- Spain has numerous names. The Spanish people sometimes refer to their country as La Piel de Toro (The Bull Skin). Apparently, the Greek geographer Strabonis, thought the shape of Spain looked like a bull skin stretched out under the sun. The Spanish were very happy to adopt this reference to their historically favourite sport- bullfighting. – and is also, no doubt, a reference to the country’s longstanding obsession with bull-related activities. The Greeks called it Hesperia, “Land of the Setting Sun", in the west of the Mediterranean. The North Africans named the area Iberia, the “Land of Rivers”, a name that has attached to the whole peninsula. The Carthaginians, version was Ispania, “Land of Rabbits”, later latinised by the Romans to Hispania, and subsequently España. Not quite as impressive as bulls.
Madrid the Capital of Spain
Capital city Madrid is an elegant place: manicured parks, boulevards, the Baroque Royal Palace and Armory, museums and galleries including the renowned Prado Museum (El Bosco, El Greco, Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters) and churches (of course). The old centre, with the Plaza Major at its heart is known as El Madrid de los Austrias, It was built during the reign of the Habsburg Dynasty (1516–1700), the House of Austria. Madrid is situated on an elevated plain, about 190 miles from the closest seaside location and therefore has hot summers and cool winters. Apparently, it's not true that 'the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain'. The wetter areas are on some of the coasts (not all of them - the Almeria area is very dry) and in the north.
One more fact: Madrid has the oldest restaurant in the world. the Casa Botin, opened in 1725,
Last time I was there I whipped round on a bus tour, in the dusk.
What Else is There to See and Do in Spain?
Spain is a tourist paradise - one of the most popular destinations in all of Europe and apparently the second most visited nation on the planet. Beaches, (681 Blue Flag beaches, the most of any country in the Northern Hemisphere), islands (lots of them), historic cities, iconic buildings tranquil mountains, art (El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya, Picasso, Dali, Miro, Gaudi and so on ), great food (tapas means cover - they were originally intended to cover your drink on small plates between sips) and vibrant nightlife. ( Wine of course, and more bars than any other EU Country). And the festivals - the Running of the Bulls, in Pamplona or La Tomatina, the world’s biggest food fight (throwing tomatoes) .
I've travelled a lot of Spain (there's still a great deal left to see). You can read posts on: