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Spain

Culture

Sardinero Beach, Santander, SpainSpain is most certainly a mosaic of cultures! Over the years Spain become increasingly drawn into a diverse international culture and touches upon all forms of artistic expression.

From each aspect of art - literature to painting, music to architecture, theatre to sumptuary arts, Spanish culture has reached the highest artistic heights: from bygone times (with outstanding examples of cave art) until present day (a time in which Spanish architecture is universally avant-garde), culture and art in Spain are prominent features of the country.

Cultural tourism is becoming an alternative to sun and beach tourism, as a result of the wealth and quality of the museums, monuments, fiestas and traditions, not to mention the expositions and various cultural displays. Just to give an example, Spain boasts one of the greatest collections of historical and architectural monuments in the world, as demonstrated by the fact that it is the country with the second highest number of UNESCO World Heritage designations,
with a total of 40. An approximate inventory of the monuments in Spain would reveal over 20,000 important pieces. Spanish theatre and cinema is becoming a reference point in Europe, thanks to events such as the Theatre Festivals of Mérida, Sagunto and Almagro and the San Sebastian and Valladolid cinema festivals.

Holidays

Semana Santa CapuchonesThe most important Spanish holidays is "Semana Santa" (Holy Week), celebrated the week before Easter with large parades and other religious events. Spaniards also hold celebrations to honour their local patron saints in churches, cities, towns and villages. The people decorate the streets, build bonfires, set off fireworks and hold large parades, bullfights and beauty contest. One of the best known Spanish celebration is the festival of "San Fermin", which is celebrated every year in July in Pamplona. Bulls are released into the streets, while people run ahead of the animals to the bullring.

Sport

While football has long dominated Spain's sports scene, there are many other sports for the athletically-inclined to both watch and play. From top-notch golf courses to modern ski resorts, roaring football stadiums and one of the world's best professional basketball leagues, Spain qualifies as a sports-lover's paradise!

Food

A significant portion of Spanish cuisine derives from the Roman, Jewish, and Arab traditions. The Moorish people were a strong influence in Spain for many centuries and some of their food is still eaten in the country today. However, pork is popular and for centuries eating pork was also a statement of Christian ethnicity or "cleanliness of blood", because it was not eaten by Jews or Muslims. Several native foods of the Americas were introduced to Europe through Spain, and a modern Spanish cook could not do without potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and beans. These are some of the primary influences that have differentiated Spanish cuisine from Mediterranean cuisine, of which Spanish cuisine shares many techniques and food items.

Eating out in Spain is relatively cheap and meals are usually substantial instead of gourmet. The Spanish tradition of tapas is a good way to sample the local food. Tapas are small dishes of snacks which are served anytime especially in small bars. They cover all types of foods from seafood to vegetables. Many Spanish people make an evening of hopping from bar to bar trying different tapas. Another of Spain's favourites is Serrano Ham. Spain is famous for its fish delicacies and simply must be sampled, especially if you get to coastal areas. Paella has long been a Spanish favourite, based on either meat or seafood. Every region in Spain has its own specialities.

Spanish TapasOne popular custom when going out is to be served tapas with a drink, including sherry, wine and beer. In some areas, like Almería, Granada or Jaén in Andalusia tapas are given for free with a drink and have become very famous for that reason. It should be noted that almost every bar serves something edible when a drink is ordered, without charge. However many bars exist primarily to serve a purchased "tapa".

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