|Written by Administrator|
|Thursday, 09 October 2008 13:11|
History & Culture
Following the Punic Wars the Romans would rule the Peninsula for nearly 6 centuries leaving behind their influence on the most integral aspects of their culture and civilization; language, law, and religion. Following the fall of the western Roman Empire during the 5th century AD, Spain was ruled by various Germanic tribes from central Europe including the Vandals and the Visigoths. The Moorish conquest of the peninsula began in 711 AD when an invasion was launched across the Strait of Gibraltar. The Muslim armies successfully defeated that last Visigoth King, Roderic, and quickly gained occupation of Spain. Their introduction of new scientific and agricultural techniques led the economy of the area, particularly Andalucia, to much success. Moorish presence continued through 1469 when the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were united by the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. The Moors were driven further and further southwards until the last remaining Moorish Reinos de Taifas of Granada was conquered in 1492. The Moors were expelled, as were the Jews, but their legacy lives on as 7 centuries of contributions and influence are not easily forgotten. Remains of Moorish occupation remain in much of the architecture especially in southern Spain. 1492 also marked the discovery of the New World commissioned and credited to the Crown; this expedition was led by Christopher Columbus. The riches returned from Spain's vast overseas Empire would infuse the economy and quickly make Spain one of the most powerful countries during this Golden Age.
Upon Isabella's death in 1504, her daughter Joan succeeded the thrown. Joan's husband was Philip whose father was the Austrian king and German emperor. In 1517 the families united to create the Hapsburg dynasty and one of the largest empires in all of history. Spain prospered under the rule of the Hapsburg family thanks to the wealth created by trade with the American colonies. But wars with France, Britain and the Netherlands drained the country's finances and led to a disastrous defeat for the 'Invincible Armada' in 1588.
Following the last Hapsburg King, Charles II, the empire was split between the Germans, Austrians and Spain. King Louis XIV's nephew, Philip of Bourbon, ascended the thrown thus beginning the Bourbon dynasty. In reaction to the events during and as a result of the French Revolution Spain declared war on the new republic. The Spanish were defeated and under the rule of Napoleon in 1808 war against Spain was declared and eventually Napoleon's brother Joseph claimed the Spanish thrown. A 5-year War of Independence pitted Spaniards against their assumptive leader. Upon Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815 Joseph was expelled and Ferdinand VII succeeded the thrown. Ferdinand ruled with rigid absolutism and ordered the change of the laws of succession in order to establish his daughter as queen. This act infuriated his brother Charles and thus began the War of Seven Years. Economic and political instability were the result, and Spain managed to loose many of its foreign colonies which had even further devastating effects on the economy. During the Revolution of 1868 Queen Isabel II was forced to renounce the thrown and the First Republic was proclaimed. The republic lasted only one year before a coup d'etat restored Isabel's son, Alphonse XII, as king. Shortly after, a rebellion in Cuba in 1895 led to a war with the United States and Spain lost the remainder of its overseas possessions.
19th century Spain was marked with sharp political divides. Conflicts between the Nationalist and Republican parties in Spain led to frequent coups d'etat and changes of government. Elections in 1931 forced King Alfonso XIII to abdicate the thrown, thus sparking the Spanish Civil War that raged from 1936 to 1939. Dictator Franco's neutrality during the second World War left Spain isolated politically and economically. Spain struggled to restore international relations through the mid-20th century and during the 1950's the US opened military bases in Spain, which were a strategic alliance during the Cold War. Soon tourism became the primary source of revenue for the ailing Spanish economy and in 1969 Franco declared Juan Carlos de Bourbon king and successor. A constitutional monarchy was established upon Franco's death in 1975 and the ensuing political reformation was smooth and successful. Today Spain has become a member of the European Union has since hosted the Olympic Games in 1992. The influx of tourists that followed has established Spain as an integral cultural capital in Europe.
American tourists shopping in Spain can claim their value-added tax for a rebate, provided that more than €100 is spent at the same store on the same day. Now, not all shops and stores participate in the rebate program, so you will want to check if you are interested in taking advantage of the program. Participating retailers generally offer a “Tax Free Shopping” sign in their window. If this is the case, ask the vendor for the proper documentation. They will usually complete a form describing the merchandise purchased and stating the amount of tax paid. When you leave the European Union, no later than 60 days after the date of the purchase, present your receipt to Customs where you will likely be asked to show the merchandise for approval, you may expect your refund in the mail. “Tax free” shopping is a popular option, if you leave time to deal with customs before you depart!
Every region in Spain offers its own unique specialty, but in general Spanish food is prepared using a variety of fresh seasonal ingredients including lamb, cod, cured hams, chicken, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, beans, rice, olives, avocado, oranges, lemons, limes, papaya, bananas and fresh herbs and spices . This tradition of fresh, in-season ingredients is illustrated in the ever-changing menus throughout the country. But international influences can be found in Spanish cooking today including those ingredients imported many years ago from the New World which have become infused in authentic Spanish dishes including sweet potato, zucchini, chocolate and vanilla. Middle Eastern influence is particularly evident in the dessert menu with ingredients such as honey and almonds. Perhaps the most savory of Spanish culinary offerings is the world's most expensive spice, saffron. Laboriously extracted stigmas from the crocus flower are used to infuse dishes with a deep, rich flavor as you will find evident in paella. Traveling in Spain offers visitors the ideal opportunity to sample dishes infused with this delicacy. You may even wish to bring some back, as its price in Spain is considerably less than you would pay at home!
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Spanish tradition follows a dietary schedule similar to that, which follows:
8:00 a.m. light Breakfast usually consisting of a roll or pastry with jam and butter and milk-rich coffee. In Catalan you are likely to find a more hearty breakfast fare consisting of eggs, omelets or bread with garlic, tomato, olive oil and ham.
11:00 a.m. a mid-morning snack of pastries and tea. 'Chocolate con churros' is a delicious Spanish treat of rich hot chocolate and a cinnamon and sugar encrusted donut, also a popular breakfast option for those with a sweet tooth.
1:00 p.m. time for mid-day tapas. Sample perhaps a potato tortilla, which unlike Central American tortillas, are similar to an omelet with fresh vegetables and regional cheeses.
2- or 3:00 p.m. is time to indulge in a long, leisurely lunch called 'La Comida', generally consisting of 3 courses and followed by a nap.
5- or 6:00 p.m. 'Merienda' for a light snack with tea.
8:00 p.m. evening tapas can include pate and cheese, fried calamaris or ham croquets.
9- or 10:00 p.m. 'La Cena' or dinner which is another 3 course event.
You can imagine this tradition will certainly not leave you wanting for any of the country's specialty dishes. There are plenty of opportunities to sample the fare, enjoy each and every one of them!
Castille- The central lands are famous for their roast suckling pig and lamb. Delicate traditions are observed when creating regional dishes like La Armuna lentils, Beef and El Barco beans of Avila, and Burgos, Valdeon and Villalon cheeses.
Galicia- The westernmost region of Spain is ideally located on the Atlantic ocean making this an ideal place to sample seafood dishes including scallops. Throughout the region scallops are prepared to perfection. Also, deserving notable mention are the Cebreiro and Tetilla cheeses, Santiago almond tart and the fine herb liquors of Galicia which are a remarkable.
Asturia- The northern shore, nestled between the Bay of Biscay and the Picos de Europa mountains, offers a variety of hearty dishes, most famous of which is 'fabada' or bean stew. The climate lends well to the production of apples making hard cider a most popular beverage. Deserving notable mention are the Oviedo style 'carne gobernada' and the Vidiago and Gamonedo cheeses.
Cantabria- With a rich culture and even richer cuisine a tour of Cantabria would not be complete without Cantabrian cream cheese, hake, anchovies and Pasiega cheesecake.
Basque- Basque Novella cuisine has enticed travelers to Spain and particularly the Basque region for years, and continued to delight and impress with traditional dishes like the famed garlic baby eel 'Bilbaina', squid and codfish. Also particularly delicious are the tomatoes, Alava potatoes, Idiazabal cheese, suckling pig and blue fin tuna.
La Rioja- Recognized for its exquisite wines served nationwide and internationally, culinary treats from La Rioja include Camerano cheese, native artichokes, peaches in red wine and cod Rioja style.
Navarre- Regional specialties of this autonomous state include chorizo from Pamplona, Borage, Navarre Asparagus, Londonsa Piquillo Peppers, Navarre trout, Ronchal cheese and Navarrese Sloe Brandy.
Aragon- The Autonomous Region of Aragon offers the fruit which is admired around the nation. Dishes to try while traveling in this northern area include the famed Teruel cured ham, Calanda peaches, Aragonese pork loin sausage, Lentils Alto Aragon, and be sure to bring home a bottle of the rich olive oil produced in the region.
Catalan- Mediterranean influences abound in the innovative and inspiring cuisine in Catalan. With as many olive oils as miles to cover notable are the Terra Alta, Baix Ebre-Montsia and Siurana oils. A popular condiment 'ali-oli' is a combination of olive oil and garlic and has been found internationally known as aoli. This is also the land of the casseroles, notably zarzuela made with seafood and rice. Do try the La Escala anchovies, Alt Ugell and Cerdanya cheeses and the Catalayud sponge cake with Rues hazelnuts. Lest we forget Cava, the sparkling wine made using the French Champagne method, is called so for the grapes which are produced in the region.
Valencia- The ubiquitous paella is sure to please along with a plethora of rice dishes prepared daily throughout the region. Fresh local fruits, vegetables and fish are also used in the Spanish Mediterranean diet with such treats as Alicante anise, Vinalopo grapes, Albufera rice, and Benicarlo artichokes. Combinations of these fresh local ingredients culminate in casseroles and stews alongside fresh fish, meats and poultry for a most delicious meal!
Murcia- Particularly delicious regional products from Murcia include paprika and Mercian cheese, Jumilla pears and the prawns of Mar Menor. Meat pies, salted fish and rice dishes abound in this Mediterranean coastal region.
Castilla- Basic traditions are observed in Castilla today which would surely please Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha. Be sure to try Calasparra rice, La Manacha saffron, Machego cheese, Las Pedroneras purple garlic and handcrafted Toledo marzipan.
Andalusia- Roman, Arab and Greek influences are readily apparent in the cooking of the Andalusians. The birthplace of the cold tomato soup, gazpacho, is also a land rich with olives and citrus fruits infused in regional dishes. Cured ham from Huelva, Jerez Brandy and of course sherry are the most popular of products exported from this state, and should certainly top your list of treats to try while traveling here.
Extremadura- On the boarder of Portugal you will find both geographical and culinary diversity in the landscape. Pastures, mountains, plains, marshes and meadows produce some of the worlds finest beef, cheese and hams. Be sure to try La Serena and Torta del Casar Cheeses, Extremadura lamb, Alcantara pheasant.
The islands of Spain also represent themselves in the culinary world with the Balearic Isles being the birthplace of mayonnaise and the Canary Islands famous for their fine fruits and vegetables including avocados, bananas and papayas
Beer has only recently become popular in Spain, and is often served in combination with tapas. Spanish breweries have sprung up in an answer to the recent call for the beverage, and have produced the inexpensive beers which are popular today.
Perhaps the most famous of Spanish liquers is brandy, but as with everything in Spain, each region has its own. The northern regions of Spain are known for the 'orujo' or 'aguardiente', a stiff spirit produced there. You will also find flavorful herbed liquors in Galicia and Ibiza, 'cazalla' in Andalusia, absinth in Levantine, anisette in Chinchon and pacharan in Navarre. Each distinct blend of flavors in unique, and you will find that liquor in Spain is available at quite a low cost. Regionally produced beverages of all sorts are popular souvenirs to bring home to remember the occasion.
Keep in mind that, as when traveling in any country, over indulgence and public drunkeness is deemed highly irresponsible and should be avoided while touring Spain.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2008 13:13|
We have been getting a lot of questions and we know there are a lot of experienced backpackers here, so we would compile a list of tips for them.