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Prep Work LOL....

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I have always been fascinated by the Iberian Peninsula. It is a land of beauty – passion – and contrasts, in its geography – politics – and culture. Isolated from most of Europe, and further divided into distinct geographical and political regions. It is a melting-pot of various cultures, from Celtic – Phoenician – Greek – Carthaginian – Roman – Visigoth – Moorish, and ultimately after the 800 year Reconquista, decidedly Christian.

I hope you enjoy my travel-journal, as I get to know this amazing land and its people!!

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I will start my journey in the Republic of Portugal, one of the first nation-states of Europe, unified since the 11th century. Tiny Portugal was a leader during “The Age of Discovery”. With explorers such as Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan. Laying claim to a wide area of the world, the country became flush with easy money from its colonies. After this heyday Portugal entered a long painful decline punctuated by the loss of colonies, and invasion/occupation by Spain (1580-1640). All this was topped off by a massive earthquake that virtually destroyed Lisbon in 1755, and heavily damaged the rest of the country. In 1822 with the loss of Brazil as a colony, Portugal slid into isolation, with a rural monarchy and rigid class system. The monarchy was eventually deposed, but things did not change much for the common people. For over four decades until the 1970’s, Portugal was ruled by the dictator Antonio Salazar. After the “Carnation Revolution” in 1974, the country finally attained true democracy. Portugal joined the EU in 1986; this brought a wave of revitalization to this tired but unique country.

Central to Portuguese culture is the concept of “Saudade”. A yearning for people, places and times that are gone. Interwoven within this idea is the musical-style of Fado (Fate).

I have broken my travels into regional areas, the first is Lisboa Regiao and the capital city of Lisbon (Lisboa), I plan on taking several day-trips outside Lisboa, one being too the city of Evora in the Alentejo region. Then I will move my base to the coastal town of Nazare and the Estremadura region, exploring the fantastic religious sites nearby. The next region I will travel to is Centro de Portugal, and the University-City of Coimbra. My last stop in Portugal will be the region of Porto e Norte, and the city of Porto, a majestic place with a distinct outlook. I will be exploring the area on day-trips to Braga, and up the Duoro Valley.

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And now onto “Reino de Espana”, or the Kingdom of Spain. This country has had a long and turbulent history. From great-heights to the lowest-low, she has seen just about everything. During Roman times it was an integral part of the Empire, giving rise to three of its great Emperors. During Europe’s dark-ages Spain was a beacon of culture and tolerance under the 700 year rule of the Moors. But all during that time the Reconquista slowly retook the land from the Arabic Moors. In 1492 everything for Spain changed, under Ferdinand and Isabella the Moors were defeated, and Columbus discovered the “New World”.

From 1500-1600 Spain established a huge colonial Empire, and thru marriage became the most powerful country in the world. And just as quickly everything was flushed down the “Bano”, by foolish wars and mismanagement. After the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, England rose to become the most powerful nation in the world. Over the next 300 years Spain spiralled downward, debt-ridden, overextended, trying to maintain what it could thru costly wars. They early 20th century was difficult for Spain; the old ruling class did not want to give up power easily. The country was plunged into a Civil War, which lasted for three years, and killed 600,000 people. This conflict pitted brother against brother, in the end the Nationalists under Francisco Franco won. And Spain languished under his dictatorship until 1975. After being released from these confines this normally conservative country exploded in new ideas and radical thought, trying to make up for the lost time.

Spain is a country of distinct regions and peoples, a true cultural melting-pot. It’s a forward looking country, with liberal laws that contrast with its staunchly Catholic background. All this tumult is reflected in its art, from the religious-mysticism of El Greco, to the ironic-portraiture of Goya, and the stark-realism of Picasso, and we can’t forget the chaotic-psychosis of Dali :-)

My first stop after an overnight train from Portugal is the Basque region, Pais Vasco in Spanish, (Euskadi) in the local language. I will be staying in San Sebastion (Donostia), and plan to visit Bilbao (Bilbo), and Hondarribia. Then onto Madrid, using this as my home for a week, I will be making several day-trips; Salamanca, Toledo, the palace of El Escorial and Valley of the Fallen, Segovia/La Granja. All these sites are in the regions of Castilla y Leon and Castilla-La Mancha. After that whirlwind I head off to the region of Andalucia, where I will spend many days basking in this areas famous art/culture-food/sun. Several different base-sites will be included on this part of my journey. Cordoba, Sevilla, Arcos de la Frontera and a day trip to Jerez, Ronda, Granada with its magnificent “Alhambra”. And last but not least it’s off to Cataluña and Barcelona. Most of my time will be spent in Barcelona, but I plan to see Sitges, and Girona/Figures.

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And finally home to Calgary via Frankfurt, 6-weeks and God knows how many KM’s latter!!

Posted by Bojangles43 12:53 Archived in Canada Tagged preparation

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