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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...

Spain's Abandoned Pyramid
Friday, March 25, 2022


Humanity has been characterized throughout history by building all kinds of buildings. With multiple purposes, among them, the adoration of divine figures or veneration of the leaders to achieve posterity.

Spain has countless places within its borders where there are authentic and magnificent buildings envied throughout the world. Every year thousands of tourists, both Spanish and foreign, decide to visit the most characteristic buildings of Spain, something that has led this country to be one of the leading nations in this area.

History or monuments are usually one of the main attractions of the country that, together with the sun and sand, make up a varied tourist offering. Spain also has thousands of places to visit if you are in search of unique curiosities, such as the fact that it is one of the nations with the largest number of World Heritage Sites.

Among all the wonders that the country hides, there is a singular building that has been abandoned since 1975. The Pyramid of the Italians is a unique structure in Spain that was built in 1939 to commemorate the combatants of the transalpine country in the Civil War. 



Although these buildings are rightfully very famous in other countries such as Egypt or Mexico, in Spain this type of construction only has one representation. Thanks to the help that Benito Mussolini gave Franco during the Civil War, the Spanish dictator decided to honour the Italians who fell in the war.

This construction of more than 20 meters in height has a typical pyramidal structure covered with limestone plates. It is located in Burgos, in the Valdebezana Valley, Castilla y León, where its structure stands out above the landscape due to its unique shape.

The pyramid was inaugurated on August 26 to commemorate the victory over the Republicans in the Battle of Santander. Franco had the pyramid built to honour the fallen soldiers in 1937 whose architect was the Italian Pietro Giovanni Bergaminio.



In the early years, the pyramid was used to shelter more than 300 Italian soldiers who fell in the war, although in 1975 the Italian government claimed the bodies. From that moment on, the construction has been empty, although some still commemorate those soldiers today.



The main reason behind its construction was to bury the Italian soldiers with a grand inaugural ceremony led by the Foreign Minister and Mussolini's son-in-law at the site. Today the niches are still present in the pyramid with the plaques of the names of the deceased who occupied the place even though they are empty.

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Deadly Critters are out and about
Tuesday, March 15, 2022

If you live here in Spain, you need to be aware of a dangerous and often deadly critter known as the Pine Processionary Caterpillar (Thaumetopoea Pityocampa).

Unlike the vast majority of caterpillars, this particular species can be harmful to young children and sometimes fatal to dogs and cats.

Many dog owners have lost their pets after coming into contact with the caterpillars so it is important that you are familiar with them and the potential dangers.

In early spring, the processionary caterpillars leave their nests high up in the Mediterranean pine trees and head to the ground to pupate. When this happens, they potentially come into contact with young children and curious pets.

Below we provide you with everything you need to know about this insect including the dangers, how to identify them, where they can be found, how to stay safe and what to do if you come across them.

What is a Pine Processionary Caterpillar?

The processionary caterpillar is mostly found in wooded forests and can be identified by the thousands of small fine poisonous hairs or bristles that cover their bodies.

The caterpillars are 3-4cm in length and are usually an orange-brown colour.

The name ‘processionary’ comes from the fact that they create a procession or caterpillar style ‘conga’ from head to tail to form a long chain. It is not unheard of to see chains with hundreds of them all joined together.



In recent years, Europe has seen a big increase in numbers with Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium experiencing plague-like infestations.

The caterpillars can often be found in oak trees, which is where they were first discovered in the UK in 2006. However, here in Spain, they are more commonly found in pine trees which of course are a frequent sight.

The caterpillars are not only extremely toxic and therefore dangerous to anyone who comes into contact with them, they are also responsible for the destruction of the pine trees they inhabit.

Their nests are like tents and are usually found high up in the pine trees. The larvae (caterpillar) are considered to be real forest pests and will frequently come out at night and feed on the pine leaves



When the larvae are ready to pupate between late winter, early spring, they will march single file down the tree to the ground where they disperse looking for somewhere to continue their life cycle, often burrowing just below the surface.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to visit a forest to put yourself in harm’s way. Many of the parks and communal areas in Spain feature pine trees meaning that you can just as easily find them in urban areas.

Although many of the local councils will spray down the local municipal parks to prevent their spread, this isn’t always enough to keep them completely at bay. A brief search on the web will reveal many horror stories of dog owners losing their best friends after coming into contact with the caterpillars. In some cases, animals may need to have their tongues or parts of their lips amputated as a result. A horrible thought!



The dangers of the processionary caterpillar cannot be understated. The barbed hairs on their bodies are often fatal to dogs who either decide to eat one of the insects or sniff the hairs which can also be propelled by the caterpillar in an attempt to protect itself.

The hairs or bristles contain an urticating protein called Thaumetopoein which can in minor cases cause skin irritation or a rash much like that experienced after rubbing a stinging nettle. An antihistamine cream will usually be enough to alleviate the symptoms.

In more severe cases, humans can experience allergic reactions or respiratory problems. Asthmatics are particularly vulnerable and at risk of having a severe attack.

If you walk your dog in wooded areas, it is advisable to keep them on a tight lead at all times to make sure they don’t come into contact with the insects.

Loose hairs that can lie on the floor are also highly toxic as they will get caught in a dog's paw. The dog will then attempt to clean them which transfers the hairs to its tongue resulting in vomiting, swelling of the tongue and potentially suffocation.

If possible, avoid walking your dogs in wooded areas, especially during Spring.


Take a moment to watch this short video on the caterpillars.



When is Processionary Caterpillar Season?

Between December and April, the larvae will make their way to the ground in order to pupate and eventually turn into moths between May and July.

It is during these months that pets and young children are most vulnerable.

Where in Spain Do do You Find Processionary Caterpillars?

They’re found mostly in the Mediterranean region of southern Spain. The caterpillars are not exclusive to wooded areas, as they can also be found in pines that have been placed in communal or private gardens, at the golf course or by the roadside.



What to Do if You Find a Nest

If you do find a nest do not touch it! Contact the local authorities or specialists straight away so they can remove it safely.

Even if the nest is empty, the hairs from the caterpillars may still be present so still pose a danger to health. If the nests are not removed by a professional the hairs may become airborne causing further issues.

Make sure your neighbours are aware of the danger, especially those who may have young children, dogs or other pets.

What to Do if Your Pet Comes Into Contact With Them

If a dog or other pet comes into contact with processionary caterpillars, they may have small white spots around their mouth or on their tongue.

As the rash develops, this can lead to drooling and may cause your pet to become distressed. The tongue may also swell and lead to vomiting and potential suffocation.

If you believe your pet has come into contact with them, you should wash their mouth with warm water. It is advisable to wear gloves so you also do not get infected. It is then essential that you take them to a vet immediately. Do not delay!

The vet will most likely administer a fast-acting cortisone injection to reduce the swelling and irritation. They may be kept overnight for observation.


Like 3        Published at 10:14 PM   Comments (3)

A River From Nowhere
Wednesday, March 9, 2022


Found in the middle of the forest in Campanet, Spain, the Ses Fonts Ufanes is a unique hydrological wonder that only appears after heavy rainfall, like some sort of mythical natural legend. 

Asingular natural hydrogeological phenomenon in the Balearic Islands, Les fonts Ufanes are powerful intermittent water surges that come up suddenly and in a diffused manner, once enough rainwater has accumulated in the Puig Tomir massif and its surrounding areas.

These springs get their water from the rain that falls on the mountains and filters into the subsoil. Once it filters in, the water accumulates in an aquifer that sits over relatively impermeable materials. After several days of intense and constant rainfall, the aquifer overflows, and the water rushes up to the surface violently through the springs below the Gabellí Petit Estate.

The currents of these springs can go from 0 to 3 m³ /second in a matter of minutes under normal circumstances, reaching 100 m³/second in the case of exceptional surges. On average, these springs spew out an annual volume of 10 / 12 hm³. All of this water runs through the stream known as Torrent de Teló, comes together with that of other springs in the area and spills into another stream, the Torrent de Sant Miquel. From this point, the water placidly makes its way down to the flatlands of Sa Pobla, crossing the cultivation fields until it reaches S’Albufera. Here, in a radically different landscape marked by reeds and canals, the water virtually seems to stop in the final section of its course, before it flows into the sea.


The site can only be reached after a 20 minute walk through the woods, making it a well hidden marvel.
However the phenomenon is not completely unknown. In fact it has been marked as a contemporary UNESCO site, earning all the protections that affords. In addition, the property that the disappearing water flow sits on was purchased by the government in 2005, so that it could keep a better eye on it. At least when it hasn't vanished completely. 

Like 2        Published at 10:40 PM   Comments (0)

The Royal Stradavari Collection
Wednesday, March 2, 2022


Among the ornate rooms and historic artworks at the Royal Palace of Madrid is a surprise for anyone who wants to catch a glimpse of music history.

Known as the Royal Quartet, the foursome of stringed instruments kept at the palace are unique examples of the work of Antonio Stradivari, the renowned Italian instrument maker. The Royal Palace’s quartet—two violins, a cello, and a viola—are among the eleven decorated Stradivaris in known existence. 

The ivory-inlaid quartet were offered as gifts to King Felipe V in 1702 by Stradivari, and are the only set of decorated instruments the master is known to have made. The quartet was originally a quintet and contained another viola. Both violas were stolen by French troops during the Napoleonic wars; one was recovered in the 1950s, but the other remains missing today. 


For most Palace visitors, the quartet is a look-but-don’t-touch experience. One group is an exception, though. The Royal Palace hosts public concerts featuring their quartet-in-residence, Cuarteto Quiroga, where visitors can see and hear these rare instruments in action. “They were created in order to make music,” explained music adviser Álvaro Guibert, “so not playing them would be denying them their fulfilment.” Since being reunited with the stolen viola, the quartet has never left the Royal Palace, and according to Guibert never will again.

A Stradivarius is among the most coveted items in the world, considered to be the best-stringed instrument ever created. The violins, violas and cellos produced by the Stradivari family during the 17th and 18th centuries are prized for their remarkable sound and incredible craftsmanship, and a new study explores the possible techniques used by Antonio Stradivari. 

A Stradivarius in pristine condition can fetch millions of dollars. In 2011, a Stradivarius violin made in 1721, named Lady Blunt after Lord Byron's granddaughter, Lady Ann Blunt, was sold at a charity auction for $15,9 M The money collected during the auction went to Japanese earthquake relief funds. 

Approximately only 600 string instruments made by Stradivari are still known to exist...


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