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Archive for spain

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.

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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.

León’s Cube

By Linda Tancs

Its cuboid structure oddly reminiscent of Rubik’s Cube, the Castile-León Museum of Contemporary Art (MUSAC) is an emblem of 21st century Spanish architecture in León, Spain. Designed by Spanish architects Emili Tuñón and Luis Moreno Mansilla, the mosaic of 37 colored glass panes on the exterior façade was taken from the digitalization of an image of “The Falconer” (one of the oldest stained glass windows) from León Cathedral. With a nod to the city’s past as a Roman encampment, the interior floor plan evokes pavements of ancient origin characterized by squares and rhomboids. Amidst the exhibition halls and library is the MUSAC Collection, comprising more than 1,650 works by nearly 400 regional, national and international artists.

Moorish History and More in Albarracín

By Linda Tancs

Albarracín is a pretty little Spanish village west of Teruel, characterized by pastel-hued medieval homes and narrow streets. Its Moorish roots arise from its status as the former capital of a tiny Islamic state ruled by the Berber Banu Razin dynasty from 1012 to 1104. After the Reconquest, most of the forts and towers that remain today were erected by the Christian lords and kings of Aragon. More history abounds at Albarracín Cultural Park, where up to 26 rock-art sites comprise one of the greatest concentrations of post-Paleolithic art in southwest Europe. Top that off with the last vestiges of the Roman era, including the 11 mile-long aqueduct that went from Albarracín to Cella.

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