Explore the enchanted and culturally diverse Spain as you tour the architecturally stunning Barcelona, the artistic and royal Madrid and the perfectly medieval Toledo. Then relax on the achingly beautiful Mediterranean beaches of Costa del Sol, give in to the drama of flamenco, the Andalucian white towns, the Moorish architecture of the Alhambra Palace in Granada.
Andalucia is an autonomous community of Spain. It is the most populous and the second largest, in terms of land area, of the seventeen autonomous communities of the Kingdom of Spain. Its capital and largest city is Seville. The region is divided into eight provinces: Huelva, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga, Jaén, Granada and Almería.
The quality of light and the colors of Andalucia are astounding in any season, but in springtime they intensify and take the center stage. The extravagant displays of wildflowers every spring make Andalucia a flower lover's dream. Within the dramatic limestone landscapes of the region, over a thousand species of flowers can be found: from the tiny blue pimpernels, love-in-a-mist, tri-color convolvulus and marigolds in the meadows, through the shy saxifrages and toadflaxes hidden in cracks in the rocks, to the wild magenta peonies as large as saucers and the huge bushes of aromatic white gum cistus. There are also about a dozen of orchid species: the bee orchid, the mirror orchid, the pyramid orchid, the loose-flowered orchid and the naked man (orchid).
Eight hundred years of Moorish rule in Andalucia left a culinary legacy of refined, oriental flavors: an opulent use of spices and herbs; oranges and other fruit in savory dishes; and almonds and cinnamon with meat. Between the 8th and the 15th century when the Moors ruled Al-Andaluz, its cuisine was the most lavish in Europe, liberally using the expensive spices, herbs, almonds, rose water, orange blossoms and other exotic flavors. Today, the Andalucian cuisine is one of the main reasons to visit Southern Spain.
Andalucia, or Al-Andaluz from Arabic "Land of the Light", lies at one of the world's great crossroads: where Europe meets Africa, and the Mediterranean joins the Atlantic. The constant ebb and flow of peoples and cultures across the Straits of Gibraltar since the Ice Age endowed Andalucia with a rich natural diversity and rich cultural heritage.
Once the proud capital of al-Andalus, with its splendid court and cultured caliphs, Córdoba’s opulent Islamic heritage resonates with faded glory. Originally a small Roman settlement on the Guadalquivir River, it was taken over by the Visigoths, then by the Umayyad Caliphate in the eighth century. It became the capital of a Muslim emirate, and then the Caliphate of Córdoba, which included most of the Iberian Peninsula. During this period, Cordoba became a center of education and learning, and by the 10th century, the city had grown to be the largest in Europe. >>
Seville, what is now the capital of Andalucia, was founded as the Roman city of Gilipolis, and after the Muslim conquest in 712, it became known as Ishbiliyya, under the jurisdiction of the Caliphate of Córdoba. Later, it was ruled by the Muslim Almoravids and the Almohads, until it was incorporated into the Christian Kingdom of Castile under Ferdinand III in 1248. Following the 1492 Christopher Columbus expedition to the New World, claiming the West Indies territory and trade for the Crown of Castile profited the city... >>
Costa del Sol
The Costa del Sol ("Sun Coast" or, more literally, "Coast of the Sun") is a region in the south of Spain, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, comprising the coastal towns and communities along the Mediterranean coastline of the Málaga province and the eastern edge of the Cádiz province.
Madrid is an ex-convent schoolgirl, a rebellious teenager who pushed the boundaries of hedonism and then grew up and got sophisticated without ever forgetting how to have fun. That’s why this is a city as at home in the nightclubs and bars that give the streets their soundtrack as it is in the hallowed halls of high culture.
Toledo is known as La Ciudad Imperial (Imperial City) for a reason; this is Iberia’s Rome with a cultural slug of mosques, synagogues, churches and museums, plus the added high of a lofty setting, perched on a rocky ridge above Río Tajo. Like the Middle East grafted onto Catholic Spain, Toledo’s labyrinth of narrow streets, plazas and inner patios is reminiscent of the medinas (towns) of Damascus, Cairo or Morocco’s Fez. Yet from Toledo’s heart rises the Gothic grandeur of the cathedral and the grim composure of the Alcázar. The artistic legacy bequeathed by the city’s former inhabitants of Romans, Jews and Muslims is reflected in this intriguing mosaic of architecture, as well as in its cultural values.
Barcelona is truly a Mediterranean city. Not only because of its location, but also its history, tradition and cultural influences. The city was established as a Roman colony in 200 B.C., but it's the modern Barcelona that enchants visitors. In the 19th century, the city experienced spectacular growth, and the 1888 World's Fair became a symbol of its international outlook. Culture and the arts flourished in Barcelona, and today the splendor of Catalonian modernism, an offshoot of Art Nouveau with works by Antonio Gaudi, is one of Barcelona's most potent displays.
Not Spanish - Catalan
Catalunya and Barcelona, its capital, have a very distinct history, culture and language. The people here are proud and independent, and the Catalan language is irrevocably tied to the history and spirit of the people, quite often at odds with the rest of the country. The Catalan language has its roots in the 9th century "Vulgar Latin" which developed on both sides of the Pyrenees mountains. During Franco's Spain (1939-1975), the Catalan language was supressed, although thousands of books were published in Catalan. Following the restoration of democracy, the use of Catalan increased and is now used in politics, education and the media.
The joyful circle dance of Sardana is an expression of Catalan spirit and local pride. The rise of the sardana's popularity took place in the context of the Renaixença or newborn Catalan nationalism, and the dance symbolizes the Catalan ethos. Music for the sardana is played by a cobla, a band consisting of 10 wind instruments and a tambori, a very small drum. The dance is slow, and the dance circles form spontaneously. When danced in the streets and town squares, small circles of dancers can be seen to form and grow: often passers-by join in, leaving their bags in the center of the circle.