Spain

Introduction

Spain has got more to offer than just flamenco dancers and bullfights – the whole country is a fascinating combination of the traditional and the modern. Festivals, historical sites and customs on one hand, cutting-edge art and design on the other. Even the landscape is everything at the same time: There are the peaks of the Pyrenees and the flat plains of Castile, the rocky shores of the Costa Brava and the desert-like regions of Almeria. The country’s architecture follows the same varied pattern: from Roman ruins to medieval cathedrals or Moorish architecture – Spain has got it all!

Places to go in Spain

History

The elections of 1931 saw a clear shift in favour of the Republican movement when most major cities rejected candidates supporting the monarchy although rural towns still seemed to retain their support for the monarchy. The force of the republican movement was eventurally so strong that in April 1931 the King was forced to abdicate. This precipitated a period of unrest and hardship and eventually in 1936 a 3-year civil war.


During Franco's 40-year dictatorship which began in 1936 when he took over as Head of State and Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces, Spain was isolated by economic blockades, excluded from NATO and the UN and strongly affected by economic recession. The growth of Spain’s tourism and a treaty with the USA in the 1950s that provided the country with much needed funds made recovery possible.


With Juan Carlos on the throne (after Franco’s death in 1975), Spain turned from dictatorship to democracy. The first elections followed in 1977, a new constitution was drafted in 1978.


In 1986 Spain joined the EC (now the EU) and in 1992 Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games, Seville hosted the Expo and Madrid was declared European Cultural Capital. Spain was riding high!


In 2004, a terrorist attack in Madrid killed 192 people and led to great anger but also self-reflection amongst the Spannish population. Recently the Socialist government has been responsible for significant social reforms, such as legalising gay marriage and granting residency papers to almost a million illegal immigrants.

Politics

Following Franco's dictatorship which lasted until his death in 1975, a constitution was established in 1978 and Spain introduced a constitutional monarchy. Executive power now lies with the government of the day, and legislative power with the two chambers of parliament. The country's judicial power is held separate and independent of executive and legislative power.


The two major political parties in Spain are:


1. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español; that also includes other regional Socialist parties; and


2) The People's Party (Partido Popular); a coalition of People's Alliance (Alianza Popular), Democratic People's Party (Partido Demócrata Popular) and Liberal Party (Partido Liberal).


The Socialists won power in the 2004 elections in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Madrid.


Geography

In the north, Spain is surrounded by the Bay of Biscay, France and Andorra; in the east by the Mediterranean Sea; in the south by the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean; and in the west by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. The 13km wide Strait of Gibraltar (in the south west) separates Spain from Africa.


Spain covers about 85 percent of the Iberian Peninsula; its Mediterranean coast is 1,660 km long, and the Atlantic coast 710 km long.

Economy

Spain is currently the 9th largest economy in the world.


With the Oil Crisis in 1973, which caused about 10 years of severe industrial crisis in Spain (1975-1985), the need to modernize the economy and join the European Community became obvious.


In 1986, Spain joined the European Community (now European Union (EU)), which made it necessary for the country to open its economy, and modernize its industrial base. With support from the EU, Spain improved its infrastructure, reduced Public debt and unemployment as well as inflation.


The country's tourism industry has continued to grow in importance and value and is now the second largest in the world and critical to the country's economic well-being. This has also had a knock-on effect on the country's property industry and prices which have also seen a huge boom in recent years.

Country Information

CurrencyEuro
LanguagesSpanish, Catalan, Basque, Galician
GovernmentConstitutional monarchy
TimezoneGMT + 1
Population43 million
ATM availabilityAvailable
CapitalMadrid
Dialing code(00) 34
Emergency servicesAmbulance 112 and 061, police 091 & fire 112
WeatherSince Spain is such a large country, its climate varies significantly depending on the region. Generally, you can expect a Mediterranean climate; hot, dry summers and mild, often with rainy winters. The vast central plateau (Meseta), has a more continental climate with hot, dry summers and cold winters. Mountains that surround the plateau have a higher rainfall and often heavy snowfalls in winter. The Basque Country, including Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia has a maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters. On the Mediterranean coast, the climate is moderate. Rain is rather rare and the heat haze (calina), is common during summer. Summers on the Atlantic coast by contrast are cooler and there can be rather heavy rainfall during winter. Inland, the summers are hot and there’s less rainfall. The Balearic islands have a maritime climate, with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers, with the Canary Islands being even warmer than the Balearic Islands. The coastal regions are generally fairly mild, but in arid areas such as Tenerife, can get very hot.
Tourist boardhttp://www.spain.info
Famous forBullfighting, paella, Don Quixote
Useful phraseshola (hello), adios (goodbye), gracias (thank you)
Accommodation forHotel-style accommodation in large cities is interchangably referred to as hotel, hostal or pension. Don’t confuse a hostel with a hostal; a hostel is a backpacker-type of accommodation whereas a hostal is more like a guest house although generally cheaper than a hotel. A Casa Rural is the equivalent to a Bed and Breakfast or a Gîtes in France. They generally are located in the countryside or in smaller towns. They vary in quality and price, depending on the region; in Galicia for example, they are controlled and inspected. A Parador ("inn") is a state-owned hotel in Spain. There are more than 100 of them, and they are all part of the chain of hotels founded by the Spanish King Alfonso XIII in 1928! Unique about the Paradores is their location and their history. You’d find most of them in historical buildings, castles (like La Alhambra), or haciendas. In most cases they serve breakfast and often you get the chance to get to know the regional cuisine while staying. Particularly in the capital, Madrid as wellas other large cities, there are plenty of hostels. You can get a bed in a shared room from €15 to €25 per night.
Business hoursBanks are open Monday - Thursday 09.30-16.30, Friday 08.30-14.00 Saturday 08.30- 13.00. Shops' nornal opening hours are Monday- Saturday 09.30/10.00-14.00, then 17.00-20.00/20.30, although big stores do not close for lunch and some are also open on Sunday.
VisasCitizens of EU countries, as well as those in Iceland, Norway and Switzerland do not need a visa. Citizens of Andorra, Anguilla, Argentina, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cayman Islands, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Falkland Islands, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong (SAR), Israel, Korea (Rep), Liechtenstein, Macau (SAR), Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Montserrat, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Romania, St Helena, San Marino, Singapore, Turks & Caicos Islands, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
TippingService charges are generally not included in the bill, but tipping is common. Generally your tip would be 10-15% of the price, or you could simply leave the small change after paying with a note. Since VAT is not alway included in Spain, always check in the menu whether VAT (7%, IVA in Spanish) is or not before ordering!

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