Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Highlights of Spain (Part II)

  • Costa Del Sol
    The Costa del Sol ("Coast of the Sun") is a region Andalusia, in the south of Spain, comprising the coastal towns and communities along the Mediterranean coastline of the Málaga province and the eastern edge of the Cádiz province. Formerly made up only of a series of small, quiet fishing settlements, the region has been completely transformed during the latter part of the 20th century into a tourist destination of world renown, with a near-continuous urban agglomeration of high-rise settlements and resorts running along the length of the coastline.

    Torremolinos is a tourism-oriented city, located west of the city of Málaga. A poor fishing village before the growth in tourism beginning in the late 1950s, Torremolinos was the first of the Costa del Sol resorts to develop. It is very popular with British tourists and has a large British expatriate population.

  • Granada

  • The city of Granada is situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, Beiro, Darro and Genil, at an elevation of 738 metres above sea level yet only one hour from the Mediterrean coast, the Costa Tropical.
    The city has been inhabited from the dawn of history. There was an Ibero-Celtic settlement here, which made contact in turn with Phoenicians, Carthagenians and Greeks. By the 5th century BCE, the Greeks had established a colony which they named Elibyrge or Elybirge. Under Roman rule, in the early centuries CE, this name had become "Illiberis". As Illiberis, the city minted its own coins. The Visigoths maintained the importance of the city as a centre of both ecclesiastical and civil administration and also established it as a military stronghold. It was also managed by Byzantines for 60 years.

    The Alhambra (Arabic: الحمراء = Al-Ħamrā; literally "the red one"; the complete name is "Qal'at al-Hambra", which means "The red fortress") is a palace and fortress complex of the Moorish rulers of Granada, occupying a hilly terrace on the southeastern border of the city of Granada.

    The history of the Alhambra is linked with the geographical place where it is located: Granada. On a rocky hill that is difficult to access, on the banks of the River Darro, protected by mountains and surrounded by woods, among the oldest quarters in the city, the Alhambra rises up like an imposing castle with reddish tones in its ramparts that prevent the outside world from seeing the delicate beauty they enclose.

  • Valencia
    The city of Valencia, now has a modern skyline.

  • - Some of it’s more popular attractions are the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (Valencian), or City of Arts and Sciences is an ensemble of five areas in the dry river bed of the now diverted River Turia in Valencia, Spain. Designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava in collaboration with Félix Candela, and started in July 1996, it is an impressive example of contemporary architecture.

    The "city" is made up of the following, usually known by their Valencian names:

      - El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía — Opera house and performing arts centre
      - L'Hemisfèric — Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium
      - L'Umbracle — Walkway / Garden
      - El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe — Science museum
      - L'Oceanogràfic — Open-air oceanographic park

    - Bull-fighting (corrida) in Valencia is still fairly popular. It is not a regular event, however. Spanish corrida is a deeply traditional event and as such it is linked to religious dates and festivals. Valencia has only three fairly short seasons of bull-fighting.

      - The Team of Torreros (Bull Fighters)
      1. The Matador: Dressed in gold, he is the principal bull fighter, normally seasoned and often famous.
      2. The Banderilleros: Named after "banderilla" (the short pike they used against the bull) these are less experienced helpers of the matador. They are 3 of them in a corrida, dressed in silver.
      3. The Picadores: Two men on horseback who briefly fight the bull with lances.

      - The course of Corrida (Bull Fight)
      1. The bull is released into the ring and is skirmished by the matador and his 3 banderilleros. This stage of the corrida lets the team learn the fighting tendencies of the bull.
      2. The matador moves with the bull one-to-one, to further understand the type of bull he is fighting.
      3. The picadores (pikemen) wound the bull with lances to damage his neck muscles and make him loose blood. This weakens the bull for the matador.
      4. The banderilleros stick 6-8 short decorative pikes into the bull's neck to further damage his muscles and nerves and cause more loss of blood.
      5. The main part of the bull fight - the matador performs his play with the cape one-to-one with the wounded bull. It is also the longest stage of the corrida.
      6. The matador goes for the kill - he sinks a sword between the bull's shoulder blades.
      7. The banderilleros come out and all 4 men make the bull move from side to side, causing the sword in his body to sever his internal organs. This finishes off the bull fight.
      8. Once the bull is on the floor, a banderillero severs the spinal cord in his neck with a dagger. This finally incapacitates the bull, although it will still take some minutes for him to die.
      9. The bull is dragged from the arena by a cart. Sometimes he is still conscious.

  • Peniscola
    Peníscola (Peñíscola in Castilian) often called the Gibraltar of Valencia, is a fortified seaport, with a lighthouse, built on a rocky headland about 220 feet (67 m) high, and joined to the mainland by only a narrow strip of land.

    Built originally between 1294 and 1307[1] by the Knights Templar, in the fourteenth century it was garrisoned by the Knights of Montesa, and in 1420 it reverted to the Crown. From 1415 it was the home of the schismatic Avignon pope Benedict XIII (Pedro de Luna), whose name is commemorated in the Bufador de Papa Luna, a curious cavern with a landward entrance through which the seawater escapes in clouds of spray.

    Benedict XIII, born Pedro Martínez de Luna, (1328 - May 23, 1423), known as el Papa Luna in Aragonese and Spanish, was an Aragonese, and is officially considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be an Antipope. Benedict should not be confused with the Roman Pope Benedict XIII, who reigned from 27 May 1724 to 21 February 1730.

  • Barcelona
  • Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain. It is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea, 160 km south of the Pyrenees and the Catalonian border with France.

    One of the highlights in Barcelona are the renowned architectural works of Antoni Gaudí. Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet (25 June 1852–10 June 1926) aka Antonio Gaudí – was a Catalan architect who belonged to the Modernist style (Art Nouveau) movement and was famous for his unique and highly individualistic designs.

    Casa Batlló - Much of the façade is decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles (trencadís) that starts in shades of golden orange moving into greenish blues. The roof is arched and was likened to the back of a dragon or dinosaur. A common theory about the building is that the rounded feature to the left of centre, terminating at the top in a turret and cross, represents the sword of Saint George (patron saint of Catalonia), which has been plunged into the back of the dragon. http://www.casabatllo.cat/

    Park Güell - was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site, the idea of Count Eusebi Güell, whom the park was named after. The focal point of the park is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. The curves of the serpent bench form a number of enclaves, creating a more social atmosphere.

    The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, often simply called the Sagrada Família, is a massive Roman Catholic church under construction in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Construction began in 1882 and continues to this day. Originally designed by Antoni Gaudí (1852 – 1926), who worked on the project for over 40 years, devoting the last 15 years of his life entirely to the endeavor, the project is scheduled to be completed in 2026.

  • Zaragoza
  • Zaragoza is linked by legend to the beginnings of Christianity in Spain. According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared miraculously to Saint James the Great in the 1st century, standing on a pillar. This legend is commemorated by a famous Catholic basilica called Nuestra Señora del Pilar ("Our Lady of the Pillar").

    According to ancient local tradition, soon after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, St. James was preaching the Gospel in Spain, but was disheartened because of the failure of his mission. Tradition holds that on January 2, A.D. 40, while he was deep in prayer by the banks of the Ebro, the Mother of God appeared to him and gave him a small wooden statue of herself and a column of jasper and instructed him to build a church in her honor.

    “This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build.”

    The event, called "Las Fiestas del Pilar", is celebrated on October 12, which is a major festival day in Zaragoza.

  • Madrid
  • Madrid is the capital of Spain, and is Spain’s largest city. Madrid is located a little north east from the geographical center of the Iberian Peninsula, in the middle of the Spanish central Castillian plateau. It is by far the liveliest of cities, whose citizens refer to themselves as Madrileños or the more traditional and currently seldom used term "gatos" (cats), live by a daily routine that is heavily influenced by the climate.

  • Segovia
  • Segovia is an old city, located in the north of Madrid, situated along atop a long, narrow promontory. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it contains a wealth of monuments, including the cathedral, a famous ancient Roman aqueduct, the Alcázar, and various churches built in the Romanesque style including San Esteban, San Martin, and San Millan. The city is surrounded by walls built in the 8th century AD, probably on a Roman base, and rebuilt extensively during the 15th century.

    The Aqueduct of Segovia, typically the most recognized and famous symbol of Segovia, terminates at the entrance of the historic section. It was built at the end of 1st to early 2nd century BC by the Romans during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula to bring water from the Río Frío (Cold River)(about 18 km away) to the city, requiring an elevated section in its last 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) from the Sierra de Guadarrama to the walls of the old town. This elevated section, largely dominating the nearby scene, is supported by an engineering marvel of 166 arches and 120 pillars in two levels. It is made of 20,400 large, rough-hewn granite blocks, joined without mortar or clamps. Its maximum height of 28.1 m (100.53 ft) is found at the plaza of Azoguejo. A raised section of stonework in the center once had an inscription. Today only the holes for the bronze letters survive.

    The Cathedral of Segovia stands in the city's central plaza. Constructed by architect Juan Gil de Hontanon in the late Gothic style between 1522 and 1577, it is widely considered Europe's last great Gothic cathedral. The kind of Gothic is called Isabelino.

    The Alcázar, or castle-palace is perched at the tip of the promontory and towers over the countryside below. The history of the Alcázar begins at the end of the 11th century, when king Alfonso VI reconquered lands to the south of the river Duero down to Toledo and beyond. The city of Segovia was repopulated. It is thought that the construction of the castle began in those times. During the Middle Ages, the Alcazar of Segovia was the favorite residence of kings of Castile, and almost each king added new parts to the building, transforming the original fortress into a courtier residence and prolonging the construction of the castle till 16th century, when King Philip II added the conical spires and the slate roofs. A fire in 1862 destroyed part of the roofs, but they were restored in the very same style they were built more than 300 years ago.

    The church of Vera Cruz, beyond the Alcazar and the city walls was founded by the Knights Templar. It is built in the circular style, a common design of the Templars, in recognition of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is currently owned and maintained by the Knights of Malta.

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