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G a l i c i a

The green land in the North-West of Spain

G a l l a e c i a

The end of the land for Roman Empire

on the North of Portugal

 

 

The Spanish Autonomous Community,  G a l i c i a , which Vigo and Baiona belong to, is the place which is devoted to God for its beauty, people, good environment, wine and cuisine and its cultural heritage.

 

Galicia looks out over the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay with over two thousand years of history behind it. To explore these lands in the northwest of Spain, just on the border with Portugal, means a chance to live the adventure of a lifetime, full of tradition, lush landscapes and unique cities. 

 

In Galicia, the frontiers between sea and land cancel each other out. Both blend together along the 1,300 kilometres of coastline, 772 beaches, and five large Rias (long sea lakes that stretch inland).

 

A traveller coming to Galicia soon discovers that, in this territory situated in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, over two thousand years of history have endured. Local history offers every visitor its enigmatic castros (Celtic dwellings) with their peculiar citadels; and in them, perhaps, discover the Celts, ancient occupants of an evocative granite world (the castros at Baroña –Porto do Son–, Viladonga –Castro do Rei– or Santa Tegra –A Guarda– are the best preserved).  

 

The traveller can also see Gallaecia, the Roman Galicia. The great Roman Wall in Lugo is still standing, a unique fortified enclosure with a circular structure and a perimeter of 2,200 metres lasting since the 3rd century. Something different is immediately noticeable here. Clear connections with the Celtic peoples are to be seen in this fertile land. 

 

Galicia is also the land of a thousand rivers. Water runs into many of them off the mountains of Os Ancares, O Courel or Pena Trevinca (with altitudes over 1,800 metres). The father Miño River crosses Galicia from northeast to southwest, to flow placidly out to sea at the Portuguese frontier. The river channels are as varied as the landscape: from the remarkable Sil Canyons (whose river is the Miño’s main tributary, and which can be comfortably travelled by catamaran) and the Ribeira Sacra, an area of uneven contours, ideal for vine growing.  

 

The way out of Galicia by sea is through its rias. Altas (high) or Baixas (low) which nestle into the landscape making an incomparable backdrop for water tourism, with seven blue flag ports in 2006 (Real Club Náutico de A Coruña, Nauta A Coruña, Portosín, Sada, Ribadeo, Baiona and Sanxenxo).

 

C o o k i n g

 

The obligatory finishing touch to a trip to Galicia is its cooking. More than eighty types of seafish and over half a dozen river varieties can be found in its restaurants and taverns. There are also nearly fifty different kinds of shellfish, fifteen meats (or more, if we count game), one and a half dozen different vegetables and pulses, and a wide range of delicious cheeses, fruit and desserts.

 

W i n e s

 

The local wines are the perfect accompaniment to all this. The Ribeiro, Rías Baixas, Valdeorras, Monterrei or Ribeira Sacra varieties top the list in a wide range of exquisite wines. In fact, the list would only end depending on the inclination of the diner. 

 

T h e   c i t i e s

 

The cities are both monumental and welcoming. Santiago de Compostela (the administrative capital of autonomous Galicia community) is the medieval centre. It has been declared Cultural Heritage of Mankind, and is the finishing point of the Christian pilgrims’ roads to the tomb of the Apostle St. James. A Coruña is the city of light and modern beauty.

 

We have referred to the Rías Baixas, which have the main centre of population: Vigo, looking out over the placid waters of the Atlantic, offering some of the best seafood.

 

Lugo and Ourense are the two main cities to visit inland. The former, as we have mentioned, is a living testament to its Roman past. Both are crossed by the mighty Miño which, as it passes, leaves behind autochthonous forests with centuriesold oaks and chestnuts, which have been an inspiration on countless occasions for artists all over the world. Ourense is interesting for its Roman bridge, its thermal waters –hot springs– and the entrance portico to the Cathedral, known as the Porch of El Paraíso, by the MasterSculptor  Mateo.

 

The land of Galicia leads us, in short, to the sea. And there, Fisterra, the Finis Terrae where the Romans located the end of their known world.

 

S a n t i a g o  de Compostela

 

Santiago has been declared World Heritage of Mankind in 1984 , and the road to Compostela has been acknowledged as the First European Route and a World Heritage site. Countless people have gone to Compostela on pilgrimage, since Saint James tomb was discovered in the early 9th century. It holds the privilege of the Sacred Indulgence Year, which takes place when the Apostle Saint James day (July 25th) coincides on a Sunday, that it´s to say every 6,5,6 and 11 years (last one has been 2004). It increases the number of visitors from 3 to 7 millions people in a year.

 

The city was also honoured as European City of Culture of the year 2000 by the Council of Ministers of Culture of the European Union as recognition to the importance that its splendid architecture, monumentality and cultural activity have in its history and its present.

 

Since 1980 Santiago has been the political and administrative capital of the Autonomous Community of Galicia.

 

We´ll start the visit of this charming city on the outstanding Obradoiro Square, facing the Cathedral. This Romanesque jewel covered with Renaissance, baroque and neoclassical ornaments holds the Apostle´s tomb and the Porch of Glory, a genuine stone Bible that constitutes Maestro Mateo´s masterpiece. Each cathedral entrance faces a square, with aristocratic houses and important buildings all around. We can go to Quintana, Platerías or Azibechería Squares in order a have a different look, and also can go up to the Cathedral roofs to have an impressive look of the city. 

 

Beside the Cathedral, on the north side, is the old archbishop´s palace, called the Palace of Xelmirez. Right opposite we´ll find the classicist simplicity of the Palace of Raxoi. On his left there is the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, a plateresque building from the 16th century, which was originally a pilgrims´ hospital. Opposite the Hostal there is the Palace of San Xerome with its Romanesque façade.

 


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