Tag Archives: history

The Birthplace of the Spanish Language

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Tucked away in the hills of La Rioja are two small monasteries with very important histories.


The first is the Monastery of Suso, which dates to the 6th century CE, and stands on a hill overlooking the valley of San Millan de Cogolla.

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In this humble, pre-Romanesque building, the Glosas Emilianenses, a most important document, was written.

This text is actually a Latin scripture with notes in the margins written by the monks who studied there. These notes, called ‘glosses’ are shown below:

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These glosses are the first written evidences of Archaic Castillian and Archaic Basque.

That is not to say the languages were invented by these monks. Remember a few things about this time period: first is that most people were illiterate, and second is that paper was very, very scarce, so the only place we’re like to find any written evidence is religious institutions or other places with great wealth/access to resources. That being said, the language was already likely spoken in the area, for how long who can rightly tell, and it was the monks’ native language. So, when they were having issues translating the Latin, they write notes to themselves in the margins in their mother tongue.*

*(it is worth noting here that the monk was likely native but could have been from the surrounding area, as some of the place names do not appear to be in Archaic Castillian. Still, it could be those were the only names used at the time, as well, thus no more can be truly discerned).

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For anyone curious you can listen to the full restored pronunciation done by the famous Spanish poet and philologist, Dámaso Alonso here for extra nerding out.

And then further down the hill in the valley we have the Monastery of Yuso (the “lower one” in Archaic Castillian), which houses one of the most important and valuable libraries in Spain.

In its collection you’ll find 17th-century hymn books, thirty gigantic books of between 40 and 60 kilos, made from the hides of two thousand Riojan cows. Holy moley.

Also, the relics of San Emillian were transferred here and are to this day preserved in a renovated burial chamber. And, we have to say the architecture of this place is stunning in and of itself. Check out it out:

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To learn more about Suso and Yuso, you can go to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites webpage.

Want to see Suso and Yuso for yourself? We can help with that. Ask now!

Why the Petroglyphs at Auga dos Cebros are Important

Recently an archaeological expedition in Auga dos Cebros, Galicia, Spain, has uncovered some important petroglyphs that has changed the timeline for when we think Atlantic and Mediterranean cultures of the ancient world first met.

The depiction, which is painted on rock, shows a boat with oars and sails that is of the same general design as bronze age Mediterranean culture from 2,000bce, or, the Bronze Age. As boats in the Atlantic region of that time had a different general form and also lacked sails, it appears that this petroglyph is in fact a depiction of a visiting southern friend.

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The archaeologists working on the art’s identification found many similar depictions of boats on Cretan stamps and artwork from approximately 4,000ya, which is what lead them to date the Auga dos Cebros art to the same period. However, due to lack of detail in the Auga dos Cebros depiction, it’s impossible to match an exact model to the much more intricate depictions found in Crete. Still, there’s a ballpark, and it’s a much different, earlier one then we thought we were playing in.

There’s ample evidence of this kind of cross cultural communication and contact during the Iron Age, nearly 1,000 years later. So the fact that these cultures met a millennia before we thought they had is something big indeed.

But why is it a big find? For anyone studying the trajectory of how a culture developed, it’s important to understand that no culture develops in a vaccuum. Though today people talk about the world being a global society, it was not in the ancient world a series of unconnected and independantly moving parts.  Previously, it was assumed certain cultures developed early on without certain influences, but this tableau has revealed that the reach of the mediterranean trade network was much bigger than we realized. Considering the time period in which this contact was made as well, we may begin to rethink ideas of technology and also what the visiting culture’s limitations and values were, that they sought to explore such a remote territory with the technology they had available.

You can follow more of archaeologist Javier Costas Goberna’s excavation at Dig Ventures . Or watch their intro video!

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Witches, Legend, and Queimada

When the Celts first made their migration from the upper reaches of Europe down to the Iberian Peninsula it was the mid Iron Age. With them they brought to this green and familiar seeming land many traditions and stories, only few of which have survived today. Unlike the common view of Spain as a hot, passionate, flamenco dancing, guitar playing culture, the history of the Galician people is marked by ancient nights full of magic and mystery, of witches circled in the darkness, churning fiery brews to ward off evil spirits, and attract the good.

The ‘Conxuro de Queimada’ is one of these surviving rituals (though there is debate if the rite is actually as old as some claim, or if it was in fact a more recent invention around the 1950’s. Entirely possible that even if it was dreamed up in the 20th century, that there was some evidence tying it to an earlier time). Queimada itself is a spirit distilled from wine and then flavored with herbs, then often sugar, lemon peel, coffee, and cinnamon.

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The ritual of the drink is supposed to be a warding one that frightens off any spirits in the area with malintent. The forests of Galicia are often referred to as the Bosque Animada, or the animated wood, where said ne’er-do-welling sprites lie in wait to do travelers harm. It was originally a witches brew, but is now an all occasions kind of event, whether you’re just meeting up with friends or having a big party, queimada is a great addition to the get together.

But of course the most perfect night to have your conxuro is the Noche de San Juan, or St. John’s night (also called Witches’ Night), which is June 23rd. The conxuro demands a certain level of spooky ambiance, so once night falls, after brewing up the queimada, people gather round, turn off the lights, and recite the ‘spell’ meant to ward off evil.

“ …Hear! Hear the roars

of those that cannot

stop burning in the firewater,

becoming so purified.

And when this beverage

goes down our throats,

we will get free of the evil

of our soul and of any charm…”

(You can read the whole thing here )

Then, the queimada is lit on fire. It burns an incredible bright blue, and as the brandy burns off (and is added back in slowly), the fire makes ‘sigils’ and ‘ letters’ on top of the liquid, supposedly writing in the witches’ language (it is actually just a byproduct of how the brandy burns, but it’s neat nevertheless).

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After the fire burns out, the queimada is ready! Poured out into cups and shared among the gathered, making for a happy party indeed.

Art of the Spanish Golden Age

After the Reconquest Spain entered what is referred to as its Golden Age, a time when the arts and their civilization flourished with the influx of wealth and power brought from colonizing the New World. It was what you might call an almost wild growth, as this Empire which was in its toddler years was suddenly in possession of a large amount of gold and resources. The way that art and literature branched out from other Rennaisannce styles was definitely influenced by this swell of wealth and also the country’s formation of a national identity under Catholic rule.

Much of Spanish art at the time was influenced heavily by Italian masters such as Caravaggio and Titian, due to the close ties that Ferdinand of Aragon kept with Florence. There was a steady flow and exchange of both painters and ideas between Sevilla, Valencia, and Florence at this time, and also, Spain had control of Naples from the early 1500s to the early 1700s.

However, especially in the earlier examples, Spanish art of this period has slight Medieval overtones, and much of the religious art (which was of course a rather prominent theme!) has a mystic bent to it. As a reaction to the Reformation and Spain’s strong alliance with the Catholic Church, and their cultural identity as Catholics as a people, these religious pieces are marked by this sense of the religious mystery.

5 Notable painters are: (and this is by no means an exhaustive list!)

1. Juan van der Hamen: the son of a Flemish aristocrat at the court in Madrid, known for incredibly realistic depicitions of still life.

^”Stillleben mit Süßigkeiten und Keramik“

2. Jusepe de Ribera: a Spanish painter who had settled in Naples, known for religious works full of emotional depictions of the faithful.

^”The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, 1634“

3. Francisco de Zurbarán: a Sevillano painter commissioned by many religious foundations between 1620 and 1635, known for a sober and restrained style.

^”Angus Dei”

4. Bartolomé Murillo: Zurbarán’s successor, known for his animated engaging style with a penchant for narrative.

^”Christ the Good Shepherd”

5. Diego de Velázquez: who was in the service of Phillip IV, and known for his paintingd of the Royal Court.

^”Prince Baltasar Carlos on Horseback”

Trekking Inside Spain’s Prehistoric Caves

It’s a short drive down into Ronda’s ravine, then back up a small mountainside by foot to get to the new entrance of La Pileta Cave. There are roughhewn stairs set into the hill to help travelers find the entrance the site where, 500m into the rock face, our prehistoric ancestors once dwelled. But it wasn’t an easy hike, especially considering I’d already hiked the ravine back in Ronda the day before.

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But I make it to the top, to an unceremonious iron gate that looks something between a Resistance friendly steam tunnel entrance and a bootlegger’s storehouse. It is actually there to bar people from getting in to the cave without supervision, and is the entrance to the office and the gift shop. Both are inside the cave, which I find a clever economy of space.

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Our guide that day speaks good English and informs us to please watch our step – where we’re going, there’s no natural light. Before we go much further, he lays out some ground rules – everyone must carry a lantern, which he passes out to us. No touching anything, an unsurprising and standard rule inside caves (even touching just the rock face can leave oil and damage the tracks the water takes to form stalactites. These caves are heavy and the open space is vast, he tells us, and one day it won’t be able to support its own weight anymore. We would like to delay that as long as possible).

There will be no photography, either. Not only is it bad for the art, the same reason museums have this policy, but the sensors are bad for the many hundreds of bats who are in residence. So we pocket our phones. After all, we’re in their home, it wouldn’t do to be rude.

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Though it’s mid-September, and in Andalucía that means just this side of roasting hot, as soon as we start into the cave I start feeling clammy. I see why Jose – that is, our guide – told us to watch our step; everything, every surface of the limestone is slick with a slight and slippery alkaline water sheen. We move slowly up the carved stairs, which had been cut into the rock during previous periods of exploration and excavation.

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One of the first caves we come to is called the Gallery of Bats. The ceiling is far too high to see any of them, but we are assured that they are there. As they are asleep at 3pm, as good little nocturnal creatures should be, we don’t even hear them chittering. For some guests that is probably a good thing.

The next room on the open circuit (we pass a few small tunnels that Jose tells us are restricted access due to slipping or rock slide hazards), is the Castle Room. It is named for the incredible rock formations that do honestly look like castle turrets. I wonder who could have lived here before? It’s already growing cold and so dark I feel miles beneath the earth. In reality, we’ve only gone in about a hundred meters.

They call this cave Pileta, meaning pool, and in the third ‘room’ I see why. To my right, over a flimsy rope strung along precariously posted rebar, is a deep cave pool. The water is dark, until I shine my lantern over it, and I see that the water is perfectly clear. But the lantern only penetrates so far, and beyond the weak reach of the light I imagine eyeless fish sliding around unseen. Jose tells us there are no fish in these waters, but with the echoes of water dripping and the occasional groaning of the rock, the darkness and the awareness of vast, empty, cold space around me, I find it easy to perceive some eldritch monstrosity waiting in the caverns. I shiver – but it’s mostly with delight.

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It’s about this time that we start to see cave paintings. Running animals, symbols no one can discern the true meaning of. Like all prehistoric caves, animals, especially in motion, is a continued motif. In the central nave there are several depictions of what appear to be horses. As to what the symbols mean, well, the automatic go to is fertility. It’s always the easiest to assume that, the guide explained, but realistically there is no hard evidence.

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Benaoján. Málaga. Andalucía. España. Cueva de la Pileta.

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The paintings are red and black and caper across the walls haphazardly. The guide informs us that most of these paintings probably date to the Solutrean period, that is, the Upper Paleolithic about 25,000-20,000 years ago. These paintings are the origins of art. One has to wonder, were they for didactic purposes? Showing the youngers how to hunt and forage? Warnings? Or just for the pure fun of drawing them?

From the central nave to the Hall of the Fish, as they call it, we see many more drawings, and other evidences of human occupation. It seems to me, and the guide confirms, that the occupation was aggregate, meaning it was not only one people at one time that used this cave for shelter. There is evidence of bone disposal and rock deposits – the kind you find when early peoples make stone tools and discard the flakes they don’t need. There is also evidence of fires having burned in alcoves, and some smoke residue still on the walls. Somehow the atmosphere of the cave has preserved all of this, and it’s aweing.

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We’re almost 400m back now and it has taken us a while, carefully stepping, sometimes slipping, to navigate our way back here. We would have been in total darkness had it not been for the lanterns. I try to imagine any diurnal creature living in here, indeed, ones that make art and share meals. The space is certainly big enough to house a whole community, but how could anyone bear living in this kind of dank cold? It’s Tolkienian. I expect something slinky to coalesce beside me and ask me riddles in the dark.

Finally we arrive at the last chamber of the cave, well, the last one we’re able to visit. The final chamber, Jose says, is too dangerous to go into, the same as the subterranean caves that run beneath us (at several points during our 45 minute long trek I have had creeping moments of realization that there is only one layer of rock between us and the yawning caverns beneath the ones I’m already in. The weight of the mountain bears down on me in those moments). In this final chamber we see the famous Fish. It’s a pretty good rendering. Even though some of these drawings seem crude, the sense of motion and proportion is not bad, especially considering they’re drawn on uneven limestone. Probably better than I could do!

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The Fish solidifies the idea that these caves are from the Solutrean period, which was around the time fishing as a human practice was beginning to develop. There are other depictions of fish across southern Spain in caves near to this one from the same period. But none as big and as well preserved as this one.

Around the Fish (as you can see) are a lot of hash marks. The other animals have them too, some that seem to correspond with the animal drawing, some that are simply hash marks by themselves. Common postulation is a numerical notation, or a calendar. Seems logical enough.

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There is also an alcove that is wall to wall, floor to ceiling covered in rough depictions of what appear to be female genitalia. ‘Fertility’ the guide says again. Fertility is always the going theory. Someone asks whether or not this could be seen as a form of religion. The guide, nor I, am completely convinced. Begging for luck or associating symbols with a human event (such as drawings of female genitails with healthy childbirth), does not a religion make (despite a ‘venus’ having been found in the Gallery of Bats. It is an hourglass shaped creation that looks more like a bowtie than a venus, so it’s intention is much more debatable than the obvious alcove of genitalia). There isn’t any hard evidence of religious practice, so it might be a stretch to call this, ah, coital corner a belief in a Goddess. Could it have been? Could it have been the precursor to a more complex and fleshed out belief system? Anything’s possible, but no one really knows.

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As the guide is explaining this someone next to me nudges me. Jose’s got a flashlight, not a lantern, and it’s resting on his shoulder, the beam pointed up. It spotlights on the end of a stalactite, where a tiny bat yawns and stretches out one wing. It’s about three feet up from Jose’s head. Turn off the lights, it seems to say, don’t you know what time it is?

It’s time to be heading out, the tour is ending. We carefully make our way back through the caves, two people slipping but thankfully not falling. Sturdy shoes are a must for this adventure. Once we’re back to the gift shop area, there are books about the cave paintings, in Spanish and in English, and postcards with some decent photographs of what we couldn’t take pictures of. None of it is expensive, and the cave needs the money for upkeep. One of these days, Jose says, they want to do more exploration of the lower chambers. But that takes grant money and a lot of equipment.

It is a shame they haven’t excavated the rest, because there seem to be more skeletal deposits and perhaps other paintings in the caves below. Still, there’s time. The cave might eventually collapse in on itself as Jose told us, but something tells me it’s going to be around, at least for a little while longer.

Many thanks to the Bullón family for the tour and the photos.

Interested in the Cuevas de la Pileta? Check out our trips to Ronda or contact us to build your own trip that includes this prehistoric wonder.

Leovigild, the Conquering King

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Liuvigild, also known as Leovigild, was King of Septimania and Hispania from 568 to 586, and also King of Galicia for the latter part of his reign.

So why is this guy important?

For a number of reasons. This man took a dispirate, fractured land of people fighting for their borders and indeed against themselves and united them. He established whole cities at a time when almost no new urban centers were being founded. But I should start at the beginning. First, a little history.

After the (arguably second) sacking of Rome by the Visigoths around 410, things were falling apart for the Roman Empire. They were losing control of their Western territories, and several groups such as the Sueve, Vandals, and Alani had started moving across the Pyrenees and onto the Iberian peninsula. Though they felt the Visigoths to be barbarians, that didn’t really stop Rome from making treaties with them, so they contracted the Visigoths to head over to Hispania and help get things back in line around 416.

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^Visigoths aren’t playing around. When they decide to sack, they really sack.

However, as evidenced by the aforementioned sacking, the Roman’s control over the Visigoths was tenuous at best. Though they recalled the Visigothic troops in 418, Rome had little control over whether or not the Visigoths actually followed the order.

Our Visigothic friends had been having problems with their northern Frankish neighbors, and after a series of brutal defeats by the Frankish King Clovis, and the death of their king, Alaric, they moved south over the mountains and into what would become modern day Spain. This wasn’t an easy task, though.

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As you can see, there were a lot of different groups who had settled across the peninsula. The Visigoths had to fight their way through most of it in order to carve out a place for themselves.

But if there was one thing the Visigoths were good at, it was fighting. So they did manage to settle, despite opposition. Still, between the vestiges of the Hispano-Roman empire, the ever present thorn in their side that was the Vascones (Basques), and border issues with the Sueve, it was not a peaceful time.

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^Batter up, Hispano-Romans.

The thing about Visigothic heirarchy is that it was an elective monarchy, meaning the people chose their King to essentially be their war leader, but also in theory to best represent their interests and their principles. But we know how that plays out in reality; principles clash, power corrupts, or people are just never happy with their ruler. But, when your people solve their problems by whacking people’s heads off with homemade clubs, it’s a health hazard to be their king.

Between 507 and 711ce there were twenty six Visigothic kings, a huge number given the mere 200 years of rule. Of these, five were assassinated, two died under “mysterious circumstances”, and one was overthrown. The rest were plagued by constant rebellion. So how could a culture even hope to quell the problems on all their borders when they couldn’t even sort out their own?

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^Please, no more, we’re so tired of being assassinated.

That is where Leovigild comes in. The first thing he did upon taking the throne was to go on a quest of restoring royal authority to this fractured realm. He got on his horse and set forth across every inch of his known country. And then into some other territories as well, with his army in tow. To quote spainthenandnow.com  : “Parts of a Byzantine enclave in the south east were recovered (570-71), a rebellious Córdoba was reintegrated into the kingdom (572), and the Sueves of the North West conquered (584). In 583, Leovigild ended a five-year armed rebellion led by his older son, Hermenegild, in Baetica.”

By the time he died in 586, Leo had conquered pretty much everything save a few Byzantine outposts and the ever entrenched Basques in the Pyrenees.

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^Knock knock, who’s there, now you belong to Leovigild.

Why was all this conquering important?

Well, aside from being incredible, considering all the religious, political, and principle division within his own force, it allowed Leovigild to take actual legal steps towards unity. Until this point in time, the Visigoths had not truly considered themselves independent of Rome, but more its allies (despite all that sacking). They were still using Roman symbols and coinage. Leovigild, feeling that a national and imperial identity was important, introduced symbols of his own; robes, crowns, coins, thrones, etc, and even founded his own cities, building them from the ground up. Of course, these symbols were still Roman and Byzantine inspired, and nowhere near as good of make as what said counterparts produced.

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^Rather misshapen, but it was a start.

However, the most important (and lasting) was the Codex Revisus, which was a unifying codex that revoked laws against intermarriage with Hispano-Romans as well as promoted the Arian faith as the only faith, via the law code. The laws were much more structured and pulled many different previous codes together.

Though Leo’s code itself did not survive, it was a significant influence on King Reccasunith’s Liber Ludiciorum, a code established 80 years later that would become the basis for the Spanish Christian law codes established in the Middle Ages, and still survive today.

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So, in short, in a time where unity was a precious luxury, Leovigild created stability. Though his efforts may have been insufficient for the empire to last long, it did for 130 years after his passing, and his legacy, both physical in the form of ruins at Reccopolis, and ideological, still stand even now.

Many thanks to Wikipedia Commons and Getty Images, as well as Spain Then and Now for the images.

4 Things in La Rioja You Can’t Miss This Summer

4 Things in La Rioja You Can’t Miss this Summer

Colorfully Spain’s summer programming has everything you need for a perfect vacation. La Rioja is famous for its wine making, but that isn’t all it has to offer. Here are 4 things that you can’t miss in Spain’s wine country this summer.

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  1. The haunted bodega of El Fabulista. You can get wine anywhere in the province, but wine that comes with a story like this one, told by a native storyteller in the spooky cave like cellars of this unique bodega is not something to miss!
  2. A tapas crawl through the Barrio Laurel. Logroño is not an incredibly famous place, but for its tapas, it should be. It is the hotspot of the north, each restaurant in the neighborhood of Laurel specializing in a different tapa, making for an overall incredible gastronomic experience.

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  3. The Monasteries of Suso and Yuso. Built up and down from each other on the side of a small mountain, these two monasteries are now an UNESCO Heritage Site, as the elder one, Suso is believed to be the birthplace of the modern Spanish and Basque written languages 1,000 years ago.

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  4. The town of La Guardia. If you want a peaceful and picturesque vacation, this is the town to go to – there are no cars allowed in town because the entire village is resting on some 300 underground bodegas! You can see some of the eldest cellars through the glass floors of some restaurants, and many have tours available, and are still functional today. So leave your wheels at the city gate, and take in the medieval architecture on foot.

If you are interested in our summer and autumn tours to La Rioja in 2016, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

All About Tapas

Tapas, small appetizer dishes of Spanish origin, are a staple of the country’s incredible gastronomy. Go to any restaurant, elegant or village hole in the wall, and you will find an assortment of traditional and delicious tapas to choose from.

Tapas will vary from region to region but are consistently served with drinks or before larger meals. In some regions, like Granada which is the most famous for its free with drink order tapas, the portions will be so big that you will hardly need a meal to follow up with!

The idea of tapas is that they are communal dishes to share. They are meant to be nosh foods, foods you can pick at while you talk. Once a full meal is served people of whatever culture are often focused on the meal itself, but tapas are casual. Spain has a very strong food culture: mealtimes are long and leisurely, and there are designated snack breaks between meals where people are meant to gather and eat together. As much as meals are about taking care of hunger pangs, they are also absolutely about having social time as well. So it is no wonder that the tapa, a food that is easy, communal, but not too much that it overshadows the meal itself, is a hallmark of the Spanish culture.

In Spain, lunch is often anywhere from 1pm – 4pm, maybe with a mid morning snack or coffee break. But, lunch is not served until around 9pm, which can leave upwards of 6 hours between the times you can actually sit down and eat. Tapas are generally served even when kitchens are closed for siesta, and, if you’re out with your friends for a casual meal, they can be combined to make full meals if you order many over the course of a night. Plus, they are usually pretty cheap! A plate of grilled mushrooms with garlic for example, might run you five or six euros, even in the capital!

Where the name tapa comes from is debatable, but there are a few interesting takes on it, the most famous of which is that during the summer, Spain is hot, and heat and food attract fruit flies. Since when it is hot people tend to eat slower, often times people would put a plate over their principle dish like a lid – or in Spanish, a ‘tapa’ – to keep the flies off. But our favorite postulated theory is that some rather clever tavern owners in Castilla La Mancha figured out that strong smelling cheeses could ‘cover up’ – tapar – the smell and taste of some, let us say, less than quality wines they were serving, so they began to serve the cheese as a tapa.

None of these origin stories have really been proved one way or another. But what is clear is that tapas are fun, culturally integral to the country, and oh, right – delicious!

7 Major Archaeological Sites in Spain

Ready for a viritual tour of our country’s archaeological sites? Let’s rock.

Tarraco

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Tarraco, just outside modern Tarragona, Cataluña, was one of the biggest and more important Roman settlements on the Iberian Peninsula. Though the exact date of its founding is unknown, its first official mention was in 218bce, and so it was likely established, at least as a fully Roman settlement, at some point during the Second Punic War.

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Tarraco served as a winter base and resupply area for soldiers at war with the Celtiberians during the Republic, and later as a base of operations and port under the rule of the High Empire. Eventually it would be taken over by the Visigoths once the Roman Empire fell and their hold on Hispania was broken, but the site very much retains an early Roman flare to this day.

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Numancia

Numancia, located in Soria,was one of the last but most famous Celtiberian settlements in Spain. It was besieged by the Romans in 133bce, who had been in conflict with the settlement for nigh on 20 years by that point.

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Rather than giving in to the Roman army, the Numantinos decided to die free than live as slaves, and burnt their city to the ground.

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As many Celtiberian settlements were, Numancia was built on a high hill. This meant no shelter from the rather harsh winters in Soria, but it also meant a highly defensible high ground that managed to repel the Roman army for several decades.

Itálica

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Situated just outside of Seville, Itálica is a fabulously preserved Roman city. It was founded around 206bce and was originally settled to treat Roman soldiers wounded in the nearby battle of Ilipa, where they defeated the Carthaginians during the Second Punic War.

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Aside from being almost fully excavated and very well cared for, the archaeology isn´t the only reason that Itálica is one of the most frequently visited sites in Spain; it is also host to the Cross Internacional de Itálica, which is an international cross country running competition.

Dolmen de Viera

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The fabled Dolmen de Viera is a single chamber monolithic tomb outside of Antequera, Málaga. It dates to the copper age, being somewhere between 4,500 and 5,800 years old. Though it is presumed to be a burial chamber, as are most dolmen, not much was found inside except a few grave goods and bone tools.

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Also, like most Iberian tombs of its kind, it faces just slightly south of due east, so that daybreak illuminates the burial chamber.

Atapuerca

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The archaeological site of Atapuerca is one of the most important in Europe, because it has traces of hominid life in the area from at least 400,000 years ago. The site lies in the small municipality of Atapuerca, about 20 kilometres north east of Burgos.

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This site represents some of the greatest evidence available for many different generations and evolutions of early man, evidence of their habits including tools, food sharing and cultural activities, and some of the most intact skeletons ever retrieved from the Middle Pleistocene era.

Reccopolis

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Because I can´t very well do an archaeology of Spain summary without mentioning them, Reccopolis, near Guadalajara, is one of the better preserved settlements of the Visigoths. It is one of only four cities in Europe to be newly founded and settled between the fifth and eighth centuries.

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As they coincided with the Moorish rule, the Visigoths were more than willing to let their Muslim counterparts come oversee the settlement in the end of the eighth century. Thus, the site has Moorish influence as well, though the Moors did not keep a hold of it for long, abandoning it at the end of the tenth century.

Medinat Azahara

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An archaeological tour of Spain would not be complete without a visit to the Moors. The Medinat Azahara is from the 10th century, during the Umayyad Caliphate, and was originally built as a small city apart for the Caliph to receive guests.

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Spanning approximately 112 hectares (of which only 11 have been fully excavated), it boasted several living quarters, for the Caliph, as well as the aristocracy and serving staff, a mosque, several gardens, and an administrative district among other things.  Though it is currently still under excavation, you can tour the area.

A Brief History of Zarzuela

Zarzuela is a Spanish style of Opera that can be divided into two general categories – Baroque or Early Zarzuela, and Romantic or Late Zarzuela.

In the mid 17th century, writer Pedro Calderón del Barco and composer Juan Hidalgo de Polanco gave birth to a new style of theatrical performance: the Zarzuela, a perfomance partly spoken, often in poetic verse, partly sung in operatic style.

Zarzuelas could be anything from serious stories, retelling of folk tales, or comedic slapstick productions, and enjoyed great popularity in Spain throughout the 17th and into part of the 18th century.

However, in the 18th century Italian artists began influencing most art forms across the Mediterranean. A tastes trended towards the more Italian standard operatic style, the age of Zarzuela’s popularity seemed at an end. Zarzuela performances ebbed for nearly a century.

Then, in the 19th century, after what was deemed the Glorious Revolution of 1868, the country fell on hard times. This of course was reflected in the theater. As the public could not afford high priced entertainment, short one act plays with low budgets became popular quickly, and the Zarzuela adapted immediately to the cultural shift.

This is how Zarzuela grew back into prominence. There were two types of Zarzuela’s in this ‘Romantic Age’ of the tradition, the chico – which were generally one act, often salubrious or farcial productions, but cheap – and the grande – which were longer more traditional operatic productions.

The Zarzuela tradition grew back and remained into the 20th century and even began to take on an Operetta like quality to some of them, such as one of the most popular Zarzuelas, El Barberillo de Lavapiés, both light in humor and action, but bold in its social criticism.