Viva Espana!
05 July, 2012

If you have been following the news or European Championships in soccer, lately, you probably already know that Spain has once again become the victor. So, if your travel destinations for the nearest future happens to be Spain, here are a few things I found to be interesting for the wandering tourist…
Although it has been deemed to be an act of cruelty by many people today, Bullfighting has been popular in Spain for thousands of years. Some even believe

it has existed in Spain since the time of Emperor Claudius two thousand years ago, as a substitute for gladiators, during a short-lived ban on gladiatorial combat. Yet, this traditional sport also traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice. However, with the rise of the animal rights movement, an ever increasing number of people have been critical of bullfighting around the world. With this in mind, today even in Spain, you have to know where to look for a real bullfight. If you visit Barcelona with an expectation to see a blood-gushing bull, you will most likely be disappointed. Bullfighting in Barcelona is seen as being ‘Spanish’, and the inhabitants want to be seen as ‘Catalan’, hence the 2010 ban of the tradition by the city council. Madrid and Seville, on the other hand, are the epicenters of bullfighting in Spain where Seville shares the claim to ‘home of bullfighting’ with Ronda and is apparently one of the best places to witness a true Spanish bullfight. So, if you have a choice of where to see the fight, make sure it’s in either Seville or Madrid.
If blood is not on the top of your list of must-sees, try the festivals throughout the country! In Valencia, a five-day event leading up to Saint Joseph’s Day on March 19th, takes place and is known as Las Fallas. Each neighborhood traditionally gets together to build giant puppets which are later set on fire. One legend suggests that this tradition started in the Middle Ages, when artisans disposed of the broken artifacts or pieces of wood they saved during the winter by burning them to celebrate the coming of Spring. Over time, and with the interference of the Church, the burning of these puppets was made to celebrate the festival of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Another popular Spanish tradition involving people and bulls is the very famous San Fermin Festival with the Pamplona Bull Run. This annual festival “runs” for one week and it officially begins at midday on July 6th, with the first bull run at 8am on July 7th and every morning up until the 14th, at 8 am, the city’s brave run ahead of a group of angry bulls. But, if feeling the bull’s breath down your spine isn’t exactly your idea of having fun, try the Tomatina Tomato Fight. This festival takes place annually on the fourth Wednesday in August in the town on Bunol. The Tomatina Tomato Fight is also known as the world’s biggest food fight which is made quit obvious by its name. Thousands of people gather in the streets of the town and fling tomatoes at each other. It’s believed that this was started as an attack towards city councilmen by the disgruntled people during a town celebration. Others believe that it was just a food fight amongst juveniles that grew into an annual celebration. Either way, it’s enjoyed so much so that thousands of people from around the world visit Bunol every year in order to throw tomatoes at each other.  Every town in Spain has its own festival and these are just some of the numerous festivals and traditions that you can take part in every year, making this country one of the most fun places to visit year-round. 
However, one tradition that some tourists seem to have a hard time syncing with is the siesta. Why would everything close in the afternoon? There are two periods for siesta; the siesta for shops and businesses is from 2pm until 5pm while bars and restaurants have a siesta from 4pm until about 8 or 9pm, hence the very late starts for the country’s nightlife. The history of the siesta has much to do with the country’s hot climate, especially in the mid-afternoon. The workers in the fields stopped working in order to shelter themselves from the heat. They would then feel refreshed after their sleep and would work until late in the evenings, longer than they would have been able to without the siesta. Today, one big reason for siesta is to have a long lunch. And after lunch, obviously you need to rest before returning to work. Since the Spanish nightlife is an all-night affair, it would be impossible to stay up late without a midday rest. So, while some stores may still be open during the afternoon, take advantage of that time and rest because you might have a big night ahead of you.
Spain is also the homeland of the very enchanting Flamenco. This is not only a dance; it’s folklore from the southern part of Spain, with toque (guitar), cante (song) and baile (dance). Known for its emotional intensity, proud interpretation, expressive use of the arms and rhythmic stamping of the feet, Flamenco was declared one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010. With its roots in eighteenth century popular theatre, most flamenco performers were professionals. Today, most Flamenco guitarists go through rigorous professional training and the dancers tend to take courses in ballet and contemporary dance.
They say that soccer, or football, is like a religion in Spain since such is the devotion expressed by the Spanish to their beloved sport. Although much can be said about the history of Spanish soccer since the establishment of the national team in 1909, the most recent triumph to be noted is of July 1, 2012 final game of the European Championships where the Spanish national team made football history when they beat Italy 4-0 at the Euro 2012 finals. Spain became the first team to win two consecutive European Championships, and the first international football team to win three consecutive major tournaments (Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012). With all these victories in mind over the past few years, it should be quite obvious why the Spanish are so devoted to this sport.
So, when you decide to travel to Europe, you should plan to go to Spain. If you’re into art and architecture, what more can you ask for? Sagrada Familia di Barcelona is a must-see along with Antoni Gaudi’s four life passions depicted in his architectural works which most importantly depicts his love for Catalonia. Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso also took their first breaths of life in Spain. So whether it’s eating tapas, drinking sangria, admiring the beautiful views, or just walking about town, Spain will definitely make you want to come back for more. After all, there are so many things to see and do that visiting once will indubitably not be enough. Hasta luego!

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