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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

Sagrada Família close to being finished
25 September 2018

In 1882 work began on Gaudi's masterpiece, The Sagrada Familia. Over 120 years on and the building is still unfinished, fortunately the last stone is not far away.  It is expected it will take until 2026 to finish the works, as long as the donations do not cease. 2026 is the magical date as it would mark the 100 anniversary of Guadi's death and would be a fitting tribute to Spain's greatest architect. In total, it will have 18 towers, or spires, and will stand at 172.5 metres in height, once finished.

The six central spires are currently being built – four for the Evangelists, the Mary Tower, and the final pièce de résistance, the Jesus Christ Tower, which will be the highest of all and will take the final eight years to construct. The first row of bricks will be laid by the end of this year if everything goes to plan, and it will be the final part of the cathedral to be completed.

This is what it should look like when it is finished :

 

 

 



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The Grain Silos of Burjassot
19 September 2018

For hundreds of years, the Spanish town of Burjassot built buried stone silos on a hill overlooking the town and the rounded stone entrances can still be seen in the Patio de los Silos where fortunate visitors can sometimes even enter the ancient stone pits.

Taking an original approach to a grain shortage in the surrounding Kingdom of Valencia during the 16th century, the local government installed three large silos beneath a limestone hill. The idea was that Sicilian grain could be imported and stored in the cool, dry subterranean chambers. The scheme proved a success and the next year, additional silos were added, and as demand continued to grow over the centuries, so did the number of silos. 

During the Spanish Civil War some of the unused silos were even used as hiding places and tunnels were built between them to connect the separate chambers.

In the end, a total of 47 silos were built, although today only 41 remain. A plaza was built above the hill where visitors can amble among the bulbous stone caps of the silos and during the yearly Medieval Market Festival, some of them are opened and people are allowed to go inside. Tours of the silos can also be requested of the local government.   



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Tabarca - the smallest inhabited island in Spain
05 September 2018

 

 

The island of Tabarca is the largest inhabited island in the Valencian Community and the smallest in Spain. Tabarca Island is managed by the City of Alicante and is quite a unique destination attracting the interest of visitors to the area. It lies approximately 10 km south of Alicante close to Santa Pola. Some would debate that even calling it an island as it only measures 1800m in length and 400m wide but Tabarca is much more than a simple rock. Although small, people do live there and as a destination, it offers an ideal refuge for a weekend getaway especially in the offseason, a fantastic opportunity to enjoy its tranquillity and beautiful views.

Its size and uniqueness has made it an important tourist attraction and can receive up to 3000 visitors a day in the peak season, one of the reasons why it is better to go in the offseason, however, this quaint romantic island is a wonderful choice all year round. The climate is very similar to Alicante, having an average yearly temperature of 18º C. One can reach the island from the mainland by ferry from Torrevieja, Alicante or Santa Pola, the closest, from where it only takes 30min to get there. Tabarca is a quiet fishing village offering an old fort, several fresh seafood restaurants, a rocky beach with clear turquoise water, several coves and tidal pools ideal for bathing. Everything you would want within walking distance.

 

Before 1700, the island was known as Illa de Sant Pau ('Saint Paul's Island') or Illa Plana ('Flat Island'). Believed to be the island that St. Paul disembarked on, the island was a refuge for Barbary pirates up to the end of the 18th century.

It was originally a part of the Republic of Genoa A group of Genoese sailors shipwrecked near the coast of Tunisia, mostly coming from the islet off Tunisian Tabarka, were rescued and settled there. The uninhabited islet was renamed Nova Tabarca. It wasn’t until 1741 that it was conquered by the Bey of Tunis and consequently took the Genoese prisoners. In 1760, Charles III of Spain ordered the fortification and repopulation of the Spanish island and paid a fee to Tunisia to release the prisoners.  On the arrival, of the Spanish, the Genoese were first moved to Alicante, where they provisionally lived in the Jesuit School, empty after the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain. Finally, the Genoese were moved back to the island jointly with a Spanish garrison. The military engineer Fernando Méndez Ras planned a fortified town and walls, bulwarks, warehouses and barracks were also built. From 1770, the island was known as Nueva Tabarca ('New Tabarca').

Despite the fact that the Genoese assimilated and shifted their language into Valencian and, later on, Spanish, the Genoese descent of the settlers can still be noticed today in the surnames of Italian origin common on the island. The island is twinned with Carloforte, in the Sardinian San Pietro Island, which was also populated with Genoese from Tunisian Tabarka.

The gateways are still visible and so are the Governor's House (currently a hotel) and the church of St Peter and St Paul, concluded in 1779. In 1850 the governor and the garrison were removed. At the end of the 19th century, the island had a population of around 1,000 people mainly devoted to fishing. Nowadays, the permanent population is around 50, making Tabarca the smallest permanently inhabited Spanish island, although this number is multiplied during the tourist season in Summer.

 

The main activity of the local population is fishing, with the catch brought to Santa Pola's fish market, but tourism becomes the most important resource during the peak season.

Tabarca is also a protected marine reserve called “Reserva marina de la Isla de Tabarca”, declared a Zone of Special Protection for Birds by the EU, with a varied marine fauna (sea bass, grouper, conger eel, gilthead etc.). Very clear and unpolluted waters surround it. Materials of volcanic origin, on top of which limestone and quaternary deposits accumulated over time, form this tiny island.

 

Tabarca was the last Spanish Mediterranean location where the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal successfully bred before it became extinct in the 1960s. This proves the high quality of the waters around the island in terms of marine ecology. The waters around Tabarca were declared a Marine reserve in 1986, the first of its kind in Spain. This status was mainly granted due to its submarine Posidonia prairie, which is the largest in the Spanish Mediterranean and has an extraordinary ecological value in terms of marine fauna and flora.

In order to both enhance the marine biodiversity and protect it from fishing, an artificial reef was laid near the island by the Marine Reserve authorities.

 



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