Just a small reminder from the previous post: we realized our goal of visiting all 17 autonomous communities (administrative regions) of Spain and because of that we wrote very shortly what there is to see in each of Spain’s regions.
Cantabria (capital: Santander)
In Cantabria you can enjoy the beautiful northern coastline and if you are not in a mood for the sea you can always please yourself with its famous Sobao sponge cake. It is the homeland of the Santander Bank – one of the most recognized Spanish brands worldwide – but you don’t need an impressive bank account to enjoy a walk around the City. In Cantabria you can also see the paintings in Altamira Cave from Old Stone Age (although now it is not so easy to organize a visit into the cave because the museum management is now working on the new rules for visits of the public) Cantabrian flag without coat of arms in the middle looks just like Polish, so if you are a Pole and arrive there during some Cantabrian feast you may get idea that they were preparing a warm welcome especially for you!
Castile-La Mancha (capital: Toledo)
Castile-La Mancha is the homeland of Don Quixote of La Mancha, windmills and a tasty manchego cheese. Surrounded by mountains it may be very hot in the summer and quite cold in winter. Its pearl is Toledo portrayed by famous painter El Greco, the old capital of Spain. It’s also famous for Cuenca and its hanging houses. Who knows if the true meaning of the colours on the Spanish flag is not the golden olive oil bottle between two glasses with red Valdepeñas wine of Castile-La Mancha? In any case you should try both.
Castile and León (capital: Valladolid)
Castile and León is a region of rich culture and history, you can find there such heritage sites as Alcázar and aqueduct of Segovia, Burgos Cathedral or medieval walls of Avila among many other monuments. It is known for its pure Castilian Spanish so it’s a good place to practice your skills if you plan to learn the language and University of Salamanca is the oldest in Spain with its roots being traced back to the XII century. As with Castile-La Mancha, the climate gets a bit more continental which influences temperature changes. The saying about Castilian weather says “9 meses de invierno y 3 meses de infierno” (9 months of winter and 3 months of hell). If you come from a northern country the winter in Castile isn’t that scary but it is true that the differences between hot and cold months are huge.
Catalonia (capital: Barcelona)
Barcelona is the city most visited by tourists in Spain so it can get a bit crowded. It is worth visiting though, with its outstanding Gaudi architecture, museums, parks and beaches (entire coast of Catalonia is blessed with them). Catalan people are known in Spain for being hard-workers. The saying goes: “catalanes de las piedras hacen panes” (Catalans can make a bread out of stone). At the same time some of them complain that they are working too much for the rest of Spanish people and dream of independence – the topic which almost surely will come up in any discussion about the Catalan identity. In Spain Catalan people are sometimes called “Polacos” (Poles) and that’s actually how our blog got its name : ). They have their own language too which may sound very sweet almost as sweet as crema catalana – their most famous dessert! If you are fan of George Orwell, he wrote a book “Homage to Catalonia” in which he described his complicated experiences from Spanish Civil War.
Extremadura (capital: Mérida)
Extremadura is the land of conquistadors. Hernan Cortes who conquered Aztec empire and Francisco Pizarro who conquered Inca empire are both extremeños but also Pedro de Validivia and Inez de Suarez, conquistadors of Chile among many others. It is known for its red peppers and for rock band Extremoduro (the name could be translated as „extreme hard”). But it doesn’t mean that you cannot have a calm rest in Extremadura. Emperor Charles I (Charles V in Germany) who forged the empire “where the sun never sets” in the end of his reign decided to abdicate and settled in Yuste Monastery in Extramadura. It is worth seeing Old town of Cáceres, Archeologic site in Mérida and Monastery in Guadalupe.
Galicia (capital: Santiago de Compostela)
Santiago de Compostela is the spiritual centre of Spain (if not Europe) and the famous pilgrim destination, many roads lead to Santiago and many people go there on foot from France or even more far away. In the medieval times pilgrims could go a bit further to Finisterre cap, which means the Land’s end, the end of the world. Now we know that it’s not actual finisterre but the great Atlantic ocean has a deep impact on Galicia. There you can find arguably the best seafood’s in Spain (in our personal opinion also bread and beer are better there)! Galicia is also famous for its liquor Orujo. Galician people speak Gallego language which is a mix between Spanish and Portuguese (but Galician people can assure you that both Spanish and Portuguese descend from Gallego – and they may be right). Galician people have interesting culture with Celtic roots – for example they play on bagpipes (what Asturians do as well).