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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...

A 'Must' When Visiting Valencia
28 June 2019

 

La Albufera, was declared Nature Reserve in 1986, and since 1989 it is recognised as “Wetland of International Importance”.

It is the largest lake in Spain and one of the most important wetlands in the Iberian Peninsula. It’s a place of great ecological interest in which unique species of aquatic birds hibernate. Its rich waters have traditionally served as a support for fishermen and rice farmers, giving rise to a rich gastronomic culture.

Most of La Albufera is occupied with ‘la marjal’. To mention the ‘la marjal’ is to speak of rice fields; 14,100 hectares of La Albufera Nature Reserve are used for this crop. Farmlands, paths, channels and ditches cover 70% of the total protected surface area. The changing landscape of La Albufera throughout the year is due mainly to the variations in the rice fields: green in the summer, blue in the winter and brown in the periods in which the soil is uncovered.

The majority of rice fields are lands gained from La Albufera throughout the years. These lots are called ‘Tancat’. The field soil rises adding more dry muddy earth from somewhere shallow in the lake until levelling it with the neighbouring fields. A small dike was built previously around the lot. All this hard work was done with boats, hoes, esparto baskets and a lot of sweat and effort.

Once the ‘Tancat’ was isolated, it was then possible to control the water level inside it by using mechanical pumps which were initially activated by vapour engines. A proof of this past, are the brick chimneys still kept in some old engines. The majority of engines are currently electric, and the water control is automated.

 

 

Together with the ‘Tancats’ which are watered with water from La Albufera are the rice fields of the highlands (la marjal alta) which are irrigated with water from the rivers Turia and Júcar. All of these rice fields are irrigated collectively depending on the rice’s needs.

For generations the best rice has been cultivated in these privileged fields for the already famous paella and other Valencian rice dishes.

All of this agricultural culture has been protected and zealously transmitted from fathers to sons up until today, even improving the care for the environment and the preservation of the natural surroundings.

 

 

Since La Albufera was declared Nature Park a set of measures are applied aimed at minimising as much as possible the negative impact that the agricultural activity may cause. These measures establish the need of combining the traditional economic activities with the preservation of the natural ecosystems and their ecological and cultural values.

La Albufera is undoubtedly a privileged landscape to cultivate rice. A large freshwater lake next to the Mediterranean Sea, with a mild and warm climate. Apart from its natural value, it is the symbol of the agricultural and gastronomic culture, tradition and respect for the environment. It is home to quite possibly the finest rice in the world.

If you fanciy visiting the Albufera here you can find all the necessary help such as boat trips around the lake, bike rental and routes etc.

http://www.visitalbufera.com

 

 

 



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The Dame of Elche
18 June 2019

In the silent galleries of the National Archeology Museum in Madrid, you can witness the eerily penetrating gaze of this ancient sculpture, which seems to radiate authority and radiates a uniquely commanding presence. Discovered by accident in Valencia in 1897, the bewitching and inscrutable Dame of Elche has puzzled archaeologists and been the subject of fierce debate for over a century. 

 

 

There have been many theories over the years as to what this mysterious limestone bust represents. She’s been called a Moorish queen, a witch, and stranger still, an “extraterrestrial visitor from another planet.” But archaeologists believe the bust is actually a uniquely Iberian portrayal of the Carthaginian mother goddess, Tanit, used as a funerary urn in antiquity.

There have always been rumours of forgery surrounding the discovery and debate about the authenticity of the Dame of Elche. But in 2011 research carried out using electron microscopy and x-ray technology found that the piece is an original, and confirmed its use as an ancient urn. Traces of ashes containing fragments of human bone were detected in the study and carbon-dated to be more than 2,500 years old, making it contemporaneous with the ancient Iberian period. Today you can visit the artefact in Madrid’s excellent National Archaeological Museum. 

 



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The largest Art Nouveau complex in the world
10 June 2019

The largest Art Nouveau complex in the world is a Barcelona hospital with a 600-year-long history. 

Painting, mosaics, stained glass windows, arches and grand hallways illuminated by immense windows that offer floods of natural light to buildings surrounded by picture-perfect landscaping and ornate statues of gargoyles and angels aren’t what you would come to expect for hospital landscaping. But Sant Pau in Barcelona, with over 600 years of history, is strangely a breath of fresh air when it comes to the typical hospital architecture that we have become used to.

In the late 19th century, Barcelona was expanding beyond its old city walls, and the Hospital de la Santa Creu which had served the city since the early 1400s was struggling to cope with the growth. In 1896 a wealthy Catalan banker named Pau Gil i Serra died, leaving behind a will that requested his estate be used for a new hospital that would bring the latest medical technology to Barcelona.

  

A plot was found just over three kilometres from the old medieval hospital, which now houses the National Library of Catalonia. Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner designed the site, which would represent the merging of six of Barcelona’s hospitals.
 

Domènech was an influential artist in Catalan Modernisme and Art Nouveau. He designed the 27-building complex that took up the equivalent of around nine city blocks to be interconnected by underground tunnels. Sixteen of the structures were built in the Modernist style making up the largest Art Nouveau site in the world, something often overlooked by guidebooks.

 

The complex was finished in 1930, with each building representing a different medical speciality. The Hospital de Sant Pau was fully functioning until 2009, when a new building, erected in the northern half of the complex, took over the duties. Several of the historic buildings were refurbished over the next several years.

The site, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, reopened to the public in 2014 and now serves as spaces for events, meetings, and tours of the Art Nouveau style. To this day it continues to serve its original purpose while representing an important point of reference in world architecture.

 



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Medieval Sewers open to public in Barcelona
05 June 2019

Barcelona's historic 19th-century sewers, whose foundations were laid in medieval times, are now open to the public for exploring. 

Originally the Aqueduct-based sewer system was introduced to Barcino, an ancient Roman colony because when it rained the whole city would flood. Much later, in 1364 when the city become known as Barcelona, medieval architects expanded on the sewers and ran water beneath La Rambla, the city’s most frequented street. 

It wasn’t until 1886 that Pere García Faria designed the first modern sewers in the city, intended to serve Eixample, the bourgeois proto-suburb being expanded outside the medieval walls. These, too, expanded on and connected with the sewers of previous eras. 

Today some of these tunnels are still in use. Most are inaccessible to the public, but thanks to a dedicated group of Barcelonian tour guides, the sewers are open for adventuring. A walk down history lane.

The best remnants are apparently located below Passeig San Joan, a strategic avenue which linked Gracia, a formerly independent village, with Parc de la Ciutadella, the site of the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Beneath these streets, a whole world opens up: The quiet flow of water in the dank sewers is illuminated by dim fluorescent lights while the city’s hustle and bustle continue on above.

 

 

The visits are organised by La Fabrica del Sol, an institution responsible for educating the public on Barcelona’s environmental activities. Small groups (no more than fourteen) are guided by locals who explain the evolution of the aquatic tunnels, their technical processes and engineering, as well as other curiosities. 

How to get there - Metro: the L4 and L5 Verdaguer. Buses: 6, 15, 19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, 55. Visits must be booked through La Fabrica del Sol. 

http://ajuntament.barcelona.cat/lafabricadelsol/es/content/como-puedo-visitar-las-alcantarillas-de-barcelona



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