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Archive for spain

Spain’s Geological Hotspot

By Linda Tancs

Some of Europe’s most original geological features are located in Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in Spain’s Almería region. Nearly 94,000 acres strong, the reserve is Andalucía’s largest coastal protected area and a mecca for geologists. Formed during the Tertiary Period, it’s an extensive volcanic region dominated by lava domes. Other points of interest are the ancient volcanic chimneys at the iconic Mermaids Reef, fossilized tongues of lava at Mónsul Beach (the reserve’s most famous beach) and mountains formed entirely by volcanic material like El Cerro Negro in the village of Las Negras. To learn more about the volcanic origin of this area you can visit the exhibitions in the House of the Volcanoes in Rodalquilar or the Las Amoladeras Interpretation Center.

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Giant-Sized Fun in Barcelona

By Linda Tancs

In Spain, Barcelona’s biggest street party of the year is La Mercè Festival. Held near the end of September each year in honor of La Mare de Déu de la Mercè (Our Lady of Mercy, the patron saint of Barcelona), the event heralds the advent of autumn. A major highlight is the giants parade, where oversized effigies of kings, queens and nobles march through the streets to the delight of children. You also won’t want to miss the fire run, the human towers (like a cheerleading squad on steroids), the cathedral illumination and the projection of images on buildings at Plaça Sant Jaume. This year’s festival runs from September 21 through September 24.

Spain’s Mighty Wine Fight

By Linda Tancs

What Tuscany is to Italy, so La Rioja is to Spain. Below the Cantabrian Mountains, vineyards occupy the Ebro valley and surround the old town of Haro. The town residents are so proud of their wine-producing heritage that they host a Wine Fight each June 29 during a multi-day celebration of St. Peter. As you might suspect, the weapon of choice in this battle is wine—red, red wine. Combatants don white shirts and red scarfs, making their way to the highest hilltop in town where a blizzard of wine is aimed at each other from buckets, wineskin, sprayers and other useful tools. Drinking the spoils of war is highly encouraged. After the battle subsides, the warriors head back downtown for a feast and a bull run.

Bonfires of St. John

By Linda Tancs

The Night of St. John is a fireworks festival of pagan origin that celebrates the summer solstice. Held every year on June 23 in Spain, the event is characterized by a massive beach party accompanied by bonfires and fireworks. According to tradition, if you jump over a bonfire three times on that night, then you will be cleansed and purified and your problems burned away. Another ritual is to throw a note in the fire for good luck.

Dynastic Splendor in Spain

By Linda Tancs

In Granada, Spain, a Moorish structure known worldwide is Alhambra. Alhambra means “red” in Arabic, defining the color of the outer bricks comprising this symbol of Granada that served as a palace and a fortress for its Muslim occupants. Resting atop a hilly terrace, the views from there are commanding, and there are plenty of sights within the complex that are worth visiting. Don’t miss the Court of the Lions and its 124 thin, white marble columns or the vaulted ceiling of the Hall of Ambassadors in Nasrid Palace, the one area of Alhambra requiring a timed ticket entry. After your visit to the palace grounds, spend some time relaxing in the Generalife (often translated as “Garden of the Architect”), one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens in the world.

Europe’s Renowned Pilgrimage

By Linda Tancs

For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have trekked over the Pyrenees from France into Spain via a network of trails that make up the Way of St. James—El Camino de Santiago—converging at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Originating as a spiritual pilgrimage in honor of St. James, the 500-mile trek offers intrepid travelers a cultural immersion as well with cathedrals, bridges, Roman roads, monasteries, palaces, stately homes and traditional regional architecture placed amidst varying landscapes like plateaus and mountains, meadows and coastline. Be prepared for a 30-day hike if you commit to the entire route from France to Spain. Shorter routes could take less than a week to complete.

Bells and Minarets

By Linda Tancs

Situated in the heart of Seville, Spain, the Gothic Santa María Cathedral is the largest cathedral in Spain. There you’ll find the city’s emblematic Giralda, a bell tower converted from a minaret, one of many signs of the city’s rich Moorish heritage. A walk up the tower will reward you with outstanding views of the city and the Guadalquivir River. Often imitated but never rivaled, the tower has formed the basis for designs in Miami, Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri.

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