Category Archives: Art and Culture

Discover Historic Gerona

If you’re planning to rent one of our holiday villas in the Costa Brava then make sure you allow some time in your itinerary to explore the historic gem of Gerona.

The Catalonian city of Girona is in the far north eastern corner of the province, only 70 kilometres from the French border and 100 kilometres from Barcelona. It was founded in 79BC by the Romans and as a result has the typical feel of an ancient Mediterranean city, with architectural landmarks from many different epochs.

Gerona, Catalonia, Spain
Picturesque Gerona

Its location is at the confluence of several rivers, including the Ter and the Onyar, alongside which much of its older dwellings have been constructed. These riverside houses are now painted with a palette of natural colours, such as ochre, terracotta and umber as set out by Enric Ansesa, the Catalonian artist and James J Faixó.

As a tourist destination, it has plenty of historic buildings to explore, with the existing cathedral having been built on the original site of a mosque from the Moorish period of the town’s past. Apart from the cathedral there are also several other significant churches, including Sant Feliu, located on the banks of the river Onyar and dating from the 14th Century and the church of Sant Pere de Galligants which is Romanesque in style and has been built on the foundations of the monastery that was first constructed in 992.

Surrounding the perimeter of the old town are the ancient fortifications, which were begun when the city was founded by the Romans and which have been added to down the centuries, culminating in the city wall that was built under Peter III in the fourteenth century. After this time, the walls and castle battlements were incorporated into the city´s structure as it expanded beyond the walls that originally defined its limits.

Nowadays, Girona´s landmarks have merged seamlessly into the cityscape and can be found amongst the narrow streets and stone stairways connecting the various areas of the town as it straddles the steep hillside of Capuchins.

The old Jewish quarter is testament to the period of Girona´s history before the Alhambra Decree was introduced in 1492, leading the majority of Jewish residents to flee from Spain. Prior to this point in Spain´s history, many cities thrived upon a successful cultural mix of Muslims, Jews and Christians.

The climate varies from cool winters, when temperatures may drop as low as freezing, to summer highs of 30-40º C. It is described as a temperate humid climate, receiving the majority of its rainfall in autumn and spring, although thunderstorms are also common during the summer months.

Spain – One Country,Many Cultures

Spain’s popularity as a holiday destination is renowned, with over forty years of high annual demand for its beautiful beaches, reliable sunshine and warm hospitality. British holidaymakers in particular have fallen in love with the Iberian Peninsula and often return year after year to specific resorts or locations.

Beach, Spain
Spain – Land Of Sand

Yet the country that comes under the name of Spain has numerous cultures and even separate languages which exist concurrently under this single identity. For instance, the Basque region, which abuts the Pyrenees and takes in the city of Bilbao, has one of the oldest European languages still in daily use and which is quite distinct from Castilian Spanish.

Similarly, the area of Catalonia, which is where Barcelona can be found, also has its own language, spoken not only in and around the Catalonian capital but also in the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. These differences in idiom are just the most obvious aspects of the cultural divide between the regions of Spain and the dominance of the Castilian heritage.

Thus the traditional assumption that flamenco is a typically Spanish style of dance and music is erroneous, as this unique artistic expression emerged from the gipsy or Gitano culture that was first documented in the eighteenth century. And it was firmly associated with the area of Andalucia, in the south-eastern corner of the country, until much later when its popularity began to spread to other regions.

Flamenco dancers, Spain

Similarly, bull fighting is only practiced in certain parts of Spain, with a ban introduced in Catalonia in 2012 and the sport never having really taken off in the Canary Islands. The first records of bull-fighting in its current form date back to 1726 although the culture of bull worship is far more ancient and it is thought that the sport may well have developed from Roman gladiatorial combat.

While the Balearic Islands owe their distinct cultural differences to a fusion of many diverse influences, due to their important logistical location in the middle of the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands are overwhelmingly Spanish. With the obvious caveat that Canarian culture has deviated from the hegemonic Castilian mode over the centuries, due to the islands physical remoteness from mainland Europe.

The reasons for the dominance of Castile over the other regions of Spain came about after the marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella I in 1469, uniting the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. And it was their grandson Charles V who first emerged as the King of Spain in 1516, although even six centuries later the country is still defined by its distinct regions and histories.