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Geography and Landscape
Catalonia (Catalan: Catalunya) is one of the 17 autonomous regions with approximately 6.5 million inhabitants in the northeast of Spain. It is bounded on the south by Valencia, on the west by Aragon and the east by the Mediterranean Sea. In the north, Catalonia borders France and Andorra. The total area of Catalonia is 32,114 km².
Catalonia is the country's most prosperous region. The capital of Catalonia is Barcelona. Catalonia consists of four provinces. The name of the capital is the same as the name of the respective province. Barcelona, Gerona (Catalan: Girona), Lerida (Catalan: Lleida) and Tarragona.
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Catalonia is a very varied region. In addition to mountains (Pyrenees) there are vast fields and river deltas and of course the extensive coastline on the Mediterranean Sea.
Climate and Weather
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There are big climatic differences in Catalonia. The coast has a predominantly Mediterranean climate, with warm and dry summers and cool winters.Most precipitation falls in winter.
More inland there is a transition to a steppe climate with hot summers and cold winters. In the high Pyrenees, snow falls in winter. In summer, the Tramontana sometimes blows, blowing cold air from the Pyrenees to the coast. Spring and early summer are great times to visit Catalonia.
Plants and Animals
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The original vegetation of the lower part of Catalonia consisted of holm oak forests. This natural forest has largely disappeared due to logging and other human intervention. In its place there is the maquis, an almost impenetrable vegetation with shrubs and low trees and wild herbs such as lavender, thyme and rosemary. Oak, spruce and pine grow in the Pyrenees.
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Catalonia is home to otters, rabbits, hares, squirrels, mice, bats and a number of small predators such as foxes, martens and weasels. Brown bears and wolves are almost extinct. Many bird species, including the flamingo, live in the Ebro Delta. In the mountains are birds of prey such as the griffon vulture. Also bearded vultures and eagles.
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In Catalonia there are traces of human existence from 80,000 years before Christ. Bones and tools have been found in caves around Moia and Reus.
Before Christ, the Celts, Phoenicians and Greeks appear successively in Catalonia. The Romans were of great influence and many remains can still be seen in Taragona. After the Romans came the Visigoths and the Moors. In the Middle Ages, Catalonia developed into a major maritime power under the Counts of Barcelona. After the Spanish War of Succession, Catalonia fell into Castilian hands. Philips V banned Catalan as the main language. In the 2nd half of the 19th century, Catalonia became the center of Spanish industrialization.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Catalonia was given more and less autonomy in turn. After the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Franco came to power and difficult times began for the Catalan language and culture. After the death of Franco, Catalonia received the status of an autonomous region and a new heyday for Catalonia began.
In November 2005, the Spanish Parliament approved a new statute that gave greater autonomy to the Catalonia region. In the statute, the region is given the status of 'nation'. In addition, Catalonia will have control over taxation and the regional Supreme Court will become the highest legal body. The autonomy of Catalonia is also at play in the years 2010 to 2014. A referendum is held in November 2014 that the central government tries to block, it continues under the name of citizen participation. The majority of the population votes for independence. During the regional elections in September 2015, the separatists took more than 50% of the seats. In October 2015, the Catalan parliament, led by Puigdemont, decided to call a binding referendum. In September 2017, Rajoy's Spanish government filed an appeal. The Spanish Constitutional Court calls the referendum illegal. In October 2017, the referendum will be held and the Spanish police will intervene hard. The majority of the population supports the Seperatists and the Catalan government declares independence. Puigdemont leaves for Brussels and an arrest warrant is issued against him. In December 2017, the Spanish government is organizing elections in the hope that the majority will now vote for Spain. The pro-Spanish party is becoming the largest, but the majority of the population unexpectedly supports seperatist movements. There is a stalemate. In January 2021, Spain still has an arrest warrant against Puigdemont, who has meanwhile secured a seat in the European Parliament, butcannot enter Spain.
See also the history of Spain on Landenweb.
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Catalonia has 7.6 million inhabitants (2017). Well-known Catalans include Antinio Gaudi, Salvador Dali, Pablo Casals and Miro. Catalans are strongly dependent on their own identity and regularly rebel against the central authority in Madrid.
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Catalan is a Western Romance language derived from Latin. It is the official language of Andorra and a co-official language of three autonomous communities in Spain: Catalonia, the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands. It is also spoken in the French department of Pyrénées-Orientales. The Catalan and / or Valencian speaking areas are often referred to as the Catalan countries. It is estimated that around 10 million people speak Catalan. In writing, Catalan resembles both Castilian and French and Italian. The pronunciation is less staccato and sounds much less sharp than, for example, Spanish.
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Roman Catholicism has been the state religion since the year 394, when Spain was still part of the Roman Empire. It was Emperor Theodosius who took care of this. In 589 this status was reaffirmed by the Visigoth king Recaredo. In 711 Spain was conquered by the Moors and Islam was the main religion.
It was not until the early seventeenth century that the Catholic Church regained its powerful position and a close collaboration between church and state emerged. In 1931, at the time of the Second Republic, this undesirable situation came to an end. The church had not become very popular in all those centuries and this led to the death of about 6,000 clergymen in the Spanish Civil War. It was therefore not surprising that the church developed close ties with the Franco regime. Franco declared Roman Catholicism the state religion in 1939.
Thus church life was woven throughout society. It was very remarkable that the church was only allowed to appoint bishops on the recommendation of Franco. This close collaboration with the dictator made the church very unpopular among the population again. Although the Second Vatican Council demanded the separation of state and church, Franco refused to comply.
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Only after Franco's death was the 1978 constitution reintroduced the separation of church and state and freedom of religion guaranteed. All this on the initiative of the newly appointed King Juan Carlos.
The Spanish population is approximately 95% Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church comprises a total of 14 archdioceses and 53 dioceses. Together they form the eleven church provinces. The Archdioceses of Barcelona and Madrid-Alcalá fall directly under the Holy See of Rome. The primate of Spain is the Archbishop of Toledo. Approx. 870,000 people profess a faith other than Roman Catholicism, including Muslims (approx. 500,000), Jews and Protestants (approx. 70,000).
Involvement with the church has declined sharply in recent decades. More than 4 million people say they no longer adhere to any religion. The number of parish clergy, monks and nuns is also declining sharply. Despite this decline, there is still massive participation in the important religious festivals. It is clear that at the moment it is more and more tradition instead of religious belief.
In the countryside there is a lot of participation in so-called "romerías", pilgrims / images to the sanctuary of a certain saint or to much revered images of Mary or Jesus. One of the best known is the Pentecostal romerías of Huelva, La Virgen del Rocío. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims still flock here every year.
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The organization "Opus Dei", also called "La Obra" in Spain, wants a better and more prosperous society, but strongly based on traditional Christian values. This organization was founded in 1928 by the priest Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer whose maxims, the "Camino", published in 1931, serve as a guideline for the supporters of the organization. He noted that the prosperity of the population did increase, but that at the same time religiosity and secularization increased.
Under the Franco regime, the movement had an increasing influence on social life, in 1941 on education and in 1957 even on the economy. The movement currently has about 80,000 members worldwide, of which about 27,000 are in Spain. With the canonization of Escrivá in 1998, Opus Dei has penetrated into the heart of the Roman Catholic Church.
A certain group, the "numerarios", live in communes and donate their incomes to the organization. The organization thus receives a lot of money.
Obviously, these types of organizations receive a lot of criticism, the question of which is true. Opus Dei is also accused of taking people away from their own responsibility and it is not easy for people who disengage or want to disengage. Furthermore, strict confidentiality is required of the members about internal affairs.
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On November 22, 1975, Spain became a parliamentary constitutional monarchy again. The constitution is based on the constitution (Constitución) which was approved on December 6, 1978 after a referendum. The large degree of autonomy of the different peoples and regions was also regulated in this.
The Spanish parliament, the "Cortes Generales", consists of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados), comparable to the Lower House, and the Senate (Senado), comparable to our Upper House. These two chambers are called together by the king and can also be dissolved by him. Only the Congreso can force the government to resign after a vote of no confidence, a "moción de censura".
The 350-member Congress is elected for four years. The provinces form the constituencies, and the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco are each represented in Congress by one delegate. The Spanish electoral system is a combination of a district system and proportional representation. All Spaniards aged eighteen and older are allowed to vote.
The Senate has 255 members, regional deputies with a term of four years, and almost every province can appoint four senators. This makes the vote of the smallest province just as important as the vote of the largest province. This is not considered a good state of affairs and therefore there are plans to change the whole set-up of the Senate. The intention is that the Senado will become the representation in the government of the autonomous regions, and therefore no longer of the provinces. For the time being, however, they are no more than plans.
After a draft government program has been drawn up, Congress elects the Prime Minister (Presidente del Gobierno). On the proposal of the Prime Minister, the King can appoint or dismiss ministers. The Prime Minister is very powerful in Spain and can be compared to the British Prime Minister or the German Chancellor. The Spanish ministers may also be members of parliament.
After Congress has given its consent, the king, on the proposal of the Prime Minister, can call a referendum. These referendums are purely of a consultative nature. For the current political situation see chapter history.
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Spain's hereditary head of state is the king, the "Rey de España", also the symbol of unity. The person of the king is inviolable and takes no responsibility whatsoever. All decisions of the king are therefore countersigned by the Prime Minister. Thus, the ultimate responsibility always rests with the person who signs the decisions.
The king has so many, albeit formal powers, that he has a great influence on a number of important matters.
Some of its powers are:
- Enacting laws.
- Enacting laws.
- He organizes referendums and elections.
- He appoints and dismisses ministers on the recommendation of the prime minister.
- He is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
- He can pardon.
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Spain had a highly centralized form of government under the regime of dictator Franco. In 1978, the form of government changed into a decentralized structure with seventeen autonomous regions (comunidades autónomas), each with its own president, parliament, executive and supreme court. At a lower level, Spain consists of 52 provinces, including the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco, which in 1995 were declared "Ciudad Autónoma", autonomous cities with limited powers. These provinces are governed by provincial councils (Diputaciones Provincial). The members of the provincial council are elected from their ranks by the councilors in the province following municipal elections. The executive committee of the provinces is the "Comisión de Gobierno".
The municipalities (municipios) are governed by mayors and councilors (Ayuntamiento). The mayors are elected by the councilors and the councilors are elected by the residents of the municipalities. In 1998 there were 8 097 municipalities in Spain. Spain has many very small municipalities, sometimes with less than 100 inhabitants. Approx. 86% of all municipalities have less than 500 inhabitants. Some small municipalities have a so-called "Asamblea Vecinal" in which all residents form a kind of neighborhood council that takes the decisions.
On December 18, 1979, Catalonia and the Basque provinces were the first to have a form of self-government. The Basque population elects a Basque National Council that has many powers in matters such as trade, agriculture, education and health. This National Council elects a prime minister who then forms a government. There is even a fiscal autonomy that allows people to levy taxes themselves.
A parliament is elected in Catalonia. This parliament itself elects the prime minister and the government.
The parliament, the president and the government together bear the historical name "Generalitat" (Generality). The competences lie in the fields of education, tourism, energy supply, media and financial institutions. The Generality can levy taxes itself and, just like in the Basque provinces, Catalonia has its own police force.
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Education in Spain has long lagged behind the rest of modern Europe. Especially the countryside, where the distances are great and the connections were poor, had a large number of illiterate people. The money spent on education also contrasted sharply with other countries in Europe. The change started from 1962 under the Franco regime. In barely fifteen years, the budget for education has increased by 100%. Illiteracy, especially among the elderly, was tackled by the Servicio de Educación Permanente de Adultos. This organization provides lower education courses for the elderly. Moreover, control over education is in the hands of the autonomous governments. Distance education, the Educación de Distancia ", also ensures that more and more people can make use of the education system, and that applies to primary to university education. In 1999 more than 130,000 people followed university education in this way through the Universidad Nacional de Educación de Distancia, which even has branches abroad.
One-third of the pupils attend private schools owned by private or religious people. Most of these schools are 100% funded by the government. They are then obliged to have a school board and in principle to admit any student. Education at the state schools is free.
According to the new education law of 1990, the Ley Orgánica de Ordenación General del Sistema Educativo (LOGSE), there are the following school types in Spain:
First of all, the Educación Infantil, pre-school and kindergarten. This non-compulsory education consists of a three-year or six-year cycle.
This is followed by Educación Primaria, the primary education that is provided from six to twelve years of age and is compulsory. There are three cycles of two years each with a number of compulsory and a number of optional subjects. The introduction of a foreign language is already started in group three.
Compulsory secondary education is the Educación Secundaria Obligatoria (ESO), from 12 to 16 years old, after which compulsory education ends. The ESO has two two-year cycles. The second cycle contains most of the courses taught in the first cycle, supplemented with a number of electives that increase to 30%.
After the ESO, the pupils receive a certificate that gives access to the "Bachillerato". One can also study in vocational training.
The Bachillerato gives access to the university. One gets compulsory core subjects and subjects of the direction one chooses: engineering, art, natural sciences or social sciences. In addition, there are again a number of electives.
Secondary vocational education, the Formación Profesional Grado Medio, is not very popular in Spain. It takes an average of about two years and the students, in addition to general subjects, mainly receive vocational subjects.
Higher professional education or Formación Profesional Grado Superior can be followed with a Bachillerato diploma.
University education is divided into three cycles:
After the first three years one is "Diplomado" and with that obtained diploma the second cycle can be followed, which lasts two years. One is then a "Licenciado", roughly comparable to "master's degree". After this one can continue studying for the title of "Doctor".
Spain currently has 62 universities, 19 of which are private. The University of Salamanca is the oldest in Spain and dates back to 1218. The Universidad Complutense ofMadrid/ Alcalá is one of the largest in the world with more than 100,000 students. Other major universities are those ofBarcelona,Valencia, Seville, Granada and País Vasco. The number of university students has doubled in ten years to more than 1.5 million in 1999..
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In Spain, a lot of money is traditionally spent by the government on healthcare. A number of autonomous regions regulate healthcare themselves. The Compulsory Health Insurance, set up in 1942, was very inadequate, and it was only after the Seguridad Social was set up in 1966 that much changed for the better. In 1971, 75% of the population was already covered by this scheme and by 1982 that percentage had already risen to 86%. In 1986 the Ley General de Sanidad was adopted, making it possible to house the entire population in the Sistema Nacional de Salud, the National Health System. From 1991, 99% of the Spanish population is covered by this system. There are plans to privatize this scheme.
Spain also has a large number of private clinics. Approx. 25% of medical care is provided in private clinics and other private institutions.
Due to the much improved medical care, it is currently among the best in the world. The life expectancy of the population is therefore very high and the infant mortality is very low. The number of doctors per 1000 inhabitants and the number of organ transplants per million inhabitants are also among the highest in the world.
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Bullfighting dates back to ancient times, the bull is therefore the national animal of Spain, and this "sport" was also practiced in the Middle Ages and the time of the Habsburgs. At first only by the nobility but later more and more "matadores" emerged from the common people.
There are currently about 700 bull farms where fighting bulls or "toros bravos" are bred. The most expensive bulls cost around 15,000 euros and a matador, the torero that kills the bull, earns up to 50,000 euros per "corrida", per bullfight. Six bulls are killed per corrida. More than 13,000 corridas are held annually with 50 million visitors and about 30,000 bulls.
Corridas only take place in the summer and usually start in the afternoon. The performance begins with a parade of three matadores with their helpers, the "cuadrilla". Accompanied by typical Spanish music, they parade through the arena, the "plaza de toros". Then the fight begins and the cuadrillas test and challenge the bull.
Next, the "picador" sitting on a horse comes into play, injuring the bull in the withers, making the bull weakened by the blood loss. After the picador come the "banderillos", who stick their sharp "banderillas" in the shoulder of the bull. Finally comes the matador who puts an end to the often unequal battle with a sword thrust. Although all bulls eventually die, there are also regular deaths and injuries among the matadors.
Despite many protests from around the world, this Spanish popular entertainment (fiesta nacional) still continues with ever-increasing numbers of visitors. Moreover, it is a real industry that earns many millions of euros and in which 170,000 employees are directly involved. Corridas in this form are prohibited in the Canary Islands, as well as in some mainland municipalities.
The national Spanish public broadcaster, RTVE, stopped broadcasting bullfighting in January 2011. The channel finds it too violent for possibly watching children. In Spain, a debate has been raging about the bloody tradition for a long time. Catalonia in the meantime banned bullfighting, the second region after the Canary Islands, where bullfights have not been held since 1991.
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Catalonia is an important economic region in Spain. Catalonia accounts for 1/5 of the Spanish Gross National Product. It is the part of Spain that is industrialized first. The automotive industry is especially important (SEAT). The construction sector also provides many jobs, partly due to the enormous rise of tourism in this area.
Holidays and Sightseeing
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Catalonia is a very famous tourist area, because of many seaside resorts. These are especially popular among young people, because there are many discotheques, bars and other entertainment options. The most famous seaside resorts on the Catalan coast are: Lloret de Mar, Salou, Calella, Malgrat de Mar and Blanes.
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Barcelona is a tourist attraction and millions of foreign tourists visit this city. Mainly because of the architecture and culture. The sophisticated and stylish city of Barcelona is one of Spain's most popular cities, second in size to Madrid. Barcelona has something for everyone and although the city is very large, it is surprisingly easy to get around. Barcelona has a huge number of attractions that make the city worth a visit.
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Tourist attractions in Barcelona include the Parc Güell - with some beautiful creations of the world famous Antoni Gaudi, the Ramblas - Spain's most famous street, lined with trees and popular with tourists and locals alike, the Parc de la Ciutadella - the perfect place to relax in the sun, La Sagrada Familia - Gaudí's soaring cathedral which has become a symbol of Barcelona, the Casa Mila - a special building designed by Gaudi, and the Eixample - a 19th century urban expansion with stately avenues and mansions.
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There are also many important museums and galleries in Barcelona, the most popular of which is the Picasso Museum with a large collection of paintings and ceramics created by the famous artist. There is also a wealth of information about Picasso's life. The Museum of the History of the City, which describes the entire history of the city. The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya with a collection of Romanesque art, including murals of the Romanesque churches. The Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona includes foreign works. The Fundació Joan Miro museum showing the works of Miro The Fundació Antoni Tàpies has a collection of Tàpie's works and the work of architect Antoni Gaudí.
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