Saturday, August 26, 2006

Barcelona, Spain - Teaser

Barcelona is a mosaic of cultures and architecture. It was founded in 230 B.C. by the Carthaginians, and has since been handed over to the Romans, Visigoths, Muslims, and later defended by French troops, who ran off the Cordoban Muslim Califate. By the 10th Century, Barcelona had formed it's still-survivng Catalunyan identity, whose empire included Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, the French regions of Rousillon and Cerdagne and parts of Greece. Subsequent periods of outside rule - The Holy Roman Emperor of Spain (Charles V) in the 16th C., Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Joseph in the early 19th C. and General Francisco Franco's 36-year dictatorship from 1939 to 1975 - saw the suspension of Catalunyan culture and language. The result was a rogue Barcelona with an extreme propensity towards nationalism. Barcelona has also proved itself in the past couple of centuries to be a city of international culture and a gateway for new ideas into the Iberian Peninsula.
It is the home of Antoní Gaudí, a leader in Modernist architecture, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, two World's Fair, the Olympics of 1992, and a booming fashion influence. The city can be seen as a patch-work quilt that spans centuries of proud urban planning, until it was spoilt by the clumsy urban expansion led by the Franco Regime. The city today has recovered from its cultural supression, and ,since 1982, when the Spanish Constutution allowed for Catalunya's semi-independence as a nation, the Catalan language and culture is alive and well. Today, Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain and is, with 1.5 million people in the city proper, one of the most densly poppulated cities in Europe. The entire metro area has around 5 million people, and the city is the seat of the Catalunya national government, who are in the process of signing a new Statute of Autonomy of Catalunya, giving them further autonomy from the federal government in Madrid.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Granada, Spain

(pictures from 2005 trip)

We spent the month of July in Granada getting our TEFL certification. July in Granada is very warm and dry. The temperature was always in the mid- to high-90s. It didn’t rain the entire time we were there.

The city’s main attraction is the Alhambra, a Moorish citadel and palace. The Moors controlled southern Spain from around 711 until 1492; Granada was the last city held by the Moors in Spain. The Moorish architecture is amazing, as you will see. Granada is also known for its Cathedral, where Freninand and Isabella are entombed; and for its prestigious University and language school. If you had one city in Spain to go sightseeing in, this should be it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Nerja, Spain

We took a bus from Granada to Nerja on Sunday, July 9th, after our first week of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) class. Good thing we went, because we didn’t have a free weekend the rest of the month. Nerja is a small beach town along the Sun Coast. It was originally a Roman settlement and then controlled by Arabs. There is still a large Italian presence with numermous Italian restaurants and pizzerias. It's also known for its extensive cave system with primitive cave paintings.

There is a famous overlook in Nerja called the Balcony of Europe; the first picture is taken from there. Conincidentally, the first picture is of the topless beach. Now fellas, before you get too fired up, let me just say that it's not as glamorous as you may think. In fact, some of the older men could have used a bikini top. The one good development is that the speedo has gone out of fashion.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

San Sebastian, Spain

We arrived in San Sebastian on June 28th from Santander. We took an afternoon bus, so we got into San Sebastian that evening. It took a while, but we found a nice pension called Pension Comercio; we recommend it if you ever visit.

San Sebastian is in Basque Country (Pais Vasco) on the northern coast, northeast from Santander and close to the French border and the French city of Biarritz. The Basque people are unique in a lot of ways. In addition to speaking Spanish, the Basque have their own language called Euskara. Its origin cannot be traced to any other language. Also, some Basque have a unique mitochondrial DNA that is shared only with some of the Berbers in North Africa and, I believe, some inhabitants of the Canary Islands. One exotic theory contends that those carrying this unique DNA are descendants from Atlantis. Another is that they are descendants of Neanderthal man.