Destination: Spain

Official Name: Kingdom of Spain
Established: January 1479 (First constitution 19 March 1812)
Population: 47,431,256 (2020 estimate)
Religion: 61% Roman Catholic, 35% No religion
Language(s): Spanish 
Capital: Madrid
Order of Visit: Twenty    
First Visit: 28 June 2006
Last Visit: 26 October 2012
Duration: 12 Days
Visit Highlights:
Barcelona
– Bustling Las Ramas, Placa de Catalunya (beautiful fountain), Borri Gothic sector,  tapas bars, flamenco dancing (2006). 
Madrid
– The crazy Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, excellent Museo Nacional Del Prado, bullfighting, flamenco dancing (2012).
Burgos – the amazing Cathedral.  San Sebastian – beautiful beaches and tapas bars.   
Segovia – Alcazar (castle), Cathedral and ancient and magnificent Aqueduct. 
Avila – the walled city.
Places Visited: Avila, Barcelona, Burgos, Madrid, San Sebastián, Segovia
Spain Journal Entries  

History and Geography 
Spain is a country in Southwestern Europe and is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.  Spain covers 505,990 square kilometres making Spain the largest country in Southern Europe, the second-largest country in Western Europe and the European Union.

Modern humans first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around 35,000 years ago. Iberian cultures along with ancient Phoenician, Greek, Celtic and Carthaginian settlements developed on the peninsula until it came under Roman rule around 200 BC, after which the region was named Hispania (Spain). 

At the end of the Western Roman Empire, Germanic tribal confederations migrated from Central Europe, invaded the Iberian peninsula and established relatively independent realms in its western provinces. One of them, the Visigoths, forcibly integrated all remaining independent territories in the peninsula, including the Byzantine province of Spania, into the Visigothic Kingdom.

In the early eighth century the Visigothic Kingdom was conquered by the Umayyad Islamic Caliphate. The Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula soon became autonomous from Baghdad. A handful of small Christian pockets in the north were left out of Muslim rule.

Eventually over seven centuries a re-emergence of the Christian kingdoms of León, Castile, Aragon, Portugal and Navarre occurred that pushed out all Muslim rule with the last Muslim territory the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada ceasing in 1492.

A process of political conglomeration among the Christian kingdoms also ensued, and the late 15th-century saw the dynastic union of Castile and Aragon under the Catholic Monarchs, sometimes considered to be the emergence of Spain as a unified country.

Through exploration and conquest or royal marriage alliances and inheritance, the Spanish Empire expanded to include vast areas in the Americas, islands in the Asia-Pacific area, areas of Italy, cities in Northern Africa, as well as parts of what are now France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The first circumnavigation of the world was carried out in 1519–1521. It was the first empire on which it was said that the sun never set.  Spain ruled one of the largest empires in history which was also one of the first global empires which is why to this day Spanish is such a worldwide language. 

The Protestant Reformation dragged the kingdom into religiously charged wars. The result was a country forced into ever-expanding military efforts across Europe and in the Mediterranean. By the middle decades of a war- and plague-ridden 17th-century Europe.

In the latter half of the 17th century, Spain went into a gradual decline, during which it surrendered several small territories to France and England; however, it maintained and enlarged its vast overseas empire, which remained intact until the beginning of the 19th century. 

A true Spanish state was established when the first Bourbon king, Philip V, united the crowns of Castile and Aragon into a single state, abolishing many of the old regional privileges and laws.

In 1793, Spain went to war against the revolutionary new French Republic as a member of the first Coalition. The subsequent War of the Pyrenees polarised the country in a reaction against the gallicised elites and following defeat in the field, peace was made with France in 1795.  

Spain switched sides and allied with France in the brief War of the Third Coalition against Napoleon which ended with the British naval victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In 1807, a secret treaty between Napoleon and the unpopular prime minister led to a new declaration of war against Britain and Portugal. Napoleon’s troops entered the country to invade Portugal but instead occupied Spain’s major fortresses. The Spanish king abdicated in favour of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte. 

Joseph Bonaparte was seen as a puppet monarch and was regarded with scorn by the Spanish. The 2 May 1808 revolt was one of many nationalist uprisings across the country against the Bonapartist regime. These revolts marked the beginning of a devastating war of independence against the Napoleonic regime.  Following Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia, led to the ousting of the French imperial armies from Spain in 1814, and the return of King Ferdinand VII.

In 1812, a constitution for universal representation under a constitutional monarchy was declared, but after the fall of the Bonapartist regime, Ferdinand VII disregarded the constitution to rule as an absolute monarch.

Starting in 1809 Spain’s American colonies began a series of revolutions and declared independence, leading to the Spanish American wars of independence that ended Spanish control over its mainland colonies in the Americas. King Ferdinand VII’s attempt to re-assert control proved futile as he faced opposition not only in the colonies but also in Spain.  By the end of 1826, the only American colonies Spain held were Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Spain remained neutral during World War 1.  In 1931 the king left the country and the proclamation of the Republic on 14 April 1931.  A constitution for the country was passed in October 1931. 

The Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936: on 17 and 18 July, part of the military carried out a coup d’état that triumphed in only part of the country. The situation led to a civil war, in which the territory was divided into two zones: one under the authority of the Republican government, that counted on outside support from the Soviet Union and Mexico, and the other controlled by the putschists (the Nationalist or rebel faction), supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Republic was not supported by the Western powers due to the British-led policy of non-intervention. General Francisco Franco was sworn in as the supreme leader of the rebels on 1 October 1936.

The war claimed the lives of over 500,000 people and caused the flight of up to a half-million citizens from the country.  On 1 April 1939, five months before the beginning of World War II, the rebel side led by Franco emerged victorious, imposing a dictatorship over the whole country.

The Franco  regime remained chiefly “neutral” from a nominal standpoint in the Second World War, although it was sympathetic to the Axis and provided the Nazi Wehrmacht with Spanish volunteers in the Eastern Front.

After World War II Spain was politically and economically isolated, and was kept out of the United Nations. This changed in 1955, during the Cold War period, when it became strategically important for the US to establish a military presence on the Iberian Peninsula as a counter to any possible move by the Soviet Union into the Mediterranean basin. In the 1960s, Spain registered an unprecedented rate of economic growth which was propelled by industrialisation, a mass internal migration from rural areas to Madrid, Barcelona and the Basque Country and the creation of a mass tourism industry. Franco’s rule was also characterised by authoritarianism, promotion of a unitary national identity, National Catholicism, and  discriminatory language policies. 

With Franco’s death in November 1975, Juan Carlos succeeded to the position of King of Spain and head of state in accordance with the franquist law. With the approval of the new Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the restoration of democracy, the State devolved much authority to the regions and created an internal organisation based on autonomous communities. The Spanish 1977 Amnesty Law let people of Franco’s regime continue inside institutions without consequences.

During the 1980s the democratic restoration made possible a growing open society. On 30 May 1982 Spain joined NATO, followed by a referendum after a strong social opposition. That year the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) came to power, the first left-wing government in 43 years. In 1986 Spain joined the European Economic Community, which later became the European Union.  On 1 January 2002, Spain fully adopted the euro.  n 2005 the Spanish government legalised same sex marriage.

A Catalan independence referendum was held on 1 October 2017 and then, on 27 October, the Catalan parliament voted to unilaterally declare independence from Spain to form a Catalan Republic on the day the Spanish Senate was discussing approving direct rule over Catalonia as called for by the Spanish Prime Minister.  Later that day the Senate granted the power to impose direct rule and Mr Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament and called a new election. No country recognised Catalonia as a separate state.

Cascada Fountain – Barcelona, Spain (Taken 30 June 2006)

Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras – Madrid, Spain (Taken 01 July 2006)

Cathedral- Burgos, Spain (Taken 04 July 2006)

San Sebastián, Spain (Taken 05 July 2006)

Aqueduct – Segovia, Spain (25 October 2012)

What I experienced
I got to visit twice, once in 2006 during a world trip that had a major focus on Europe which was done on BusAbout on the backpacker circuit and in 2012 this time a short Spain stop on the way to Argentina with 2012 being an upgrade to hotels.

 There was a major energy in Spain each time I attended.  With backpackers you end up in places that can be jumping but I still felt this energy for fun in 2012.  The climate was very hot both times I visited and I think maybe a autumn or winter visit might still be good with nice weather.  

 The colours of the markets I visit remain with me to this day.  I visited bullfights back in 2006 and that is something which I was on the fence about back then and definitely would not do these days.  Still it gave an insight into a very old pastime in Spain.

 The beaches of San Sebastian  would be an ideal way to relax over an extended time.  Everyone I meet was friendly but I could tell there were economic tensions.  Two individuals attempted to scam me by pretending to be police, as I had heard of this scam I didn’t hand over my passport (it was safely locked away anyway) and insisted they take me to police station instead of me paying an on the spot fine (they let me go with a warning – LOL). 

 Spain has a long and fascinating history and have had a significant influence on modern world history so definitely worth visiting.

Countries Visited List

About Nathan

A World traveller who has so far experienced 71 countries in this amazing world. https://nathanburgessinsights.com/travel/
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