Spain: It’s much more than the land of flamenco dancers, matadors, paella and siestas. César Espada
of the Spanish Embassy in Canberra tells us what he loves about his country.
MUST READ BOOK
It is almost impossible to recommend one book that represents Spain, therefore what better way to be introduced to Spain than by reading a book that will dismantle all your stereotypes of paella, sun and bullfighting? Let yourself be engulfed in the engrossing thriller of The Invisible Guardian, an intriguing bestseller that takes place in the rainy and mysterious forests of Navarre peopled by the millenary myths of the Basque mythology. You will never think of Spain the same way. The author, Dolores Redondo, was in Australia to promote the first book of this trilogy.
MUST VISIT TOURIST SITE
The Mosque of Cordoba (pictured at top). The remains of the mosque, the outdoor walls as well as the forest of columns and interior decoration (pictured at the top of the page) reflect the splendour of a bygone era and a way of understanding life and religion that would be worth reflecting upon nowadays. The city of Cordoba itself is a feast for the senses, with the beauty of the small streets of the Jewish neighbourhood, the smell of jasmine and orange blossom and the hidden gardens in the courtyards (which can be visited). A perfect example of the mixture of three cultures: Jewish, Muslim and Christian.
MUST DO EXPERIENCE
If you happen to be in Madrid on a Sunday morning, you should visit the flea market called El Rastro, a market of antiques and trinkets; a great opportunity to visit the many lively bars you will come across in its surroundings.
MUST LISTEN MUSIC
There is so much to say about music in a country like Spain, so full of so many diverse musical traditions. Therefore I would recommend you someone who mixes some of these traditions in her songs: Silvia Perez Cruz. She is a Catalan singer who sings in Catalan and Spanish. She has flamenco roots mixed with Portuguese fado and habanera (music of Cuban origin). The result of this fusion is just amazing.
In the central neighbourhood of Lavapies in Madrid, a very multicultural zone, where the New Chinese Year and Ramadan are even more celebrated than Christmas, you will find this secret place: the old Schools of San Fernando, funded in the 18th century for poor children, burnt down by the anarchists during the Spanish Civil War and completely abandoned until 2002 when a University built a new library on the ruins of the old church. After visiting the library you can go up to the rooftop, where there is a café with a view of the roofs of Madrid (pictured). It is so secret that there is no sign advertising this place.
MUST SAMPLE FOOD AND DRINK
In a country of famous wines, we should make people discover not so well known excellent wines like Ribeiro from the region of Galicia. Try a white Ribeiro with grilled octopus. Or you can also have pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus, boiled, with potatoes and paprika) and a red Ribeiro. TTW
César Espada is the Segunda Jefatura/Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Spain in Canberra. Photos: supplied/Pixabay.