by Bob Sparrow
In my next missive, I’ll be coming to you from somewhere in Spain or Portugal and as I’ve prepared for this six-couple, 16-day trip, I have, of course, researched the major cities we will be visiting – Madrid, Malaga, Ronda (Help me!!), Seville, Lisbon, Cascais, Sintra and Fatima. You’ll be hearing highlights from each of these burgs as we visit them. But what has really kept me busy these last few weeks is learning the amazing history of the ‘Iberian Peninsula’. To wit:
- Spain was once THE most powerful country in the world; it had spread its influence to North, Central and South America as well as taking over the Philippines for over 300 years. It has left a whole lot of people, all over the world, speaking Spanish. While this phrase is more commonly attributed to the English, the Spanish Empire was the first where the sun never set.
- The modern world’s first novel, Don Quixote, was written by Spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes
- The Moors (Muslims), from northern Africa, invaded what is now Spain and Portugal and ruled the area for 800 years, from the early 8th century to the late 15th century, when they were ultimately defeated by Christian invaders.
- Spain has over 600 ‘Blue Flag’ beaches (meets environmental standards), more than another other country in the
- Although they met only days before their ‘arranged’ marriage in 1467, the wedding of Ferdinand of Aragon, who was 19, and Isabella of Castile, who was 18, unified Spain as they ruled for the next 30 years.
- The Spanish Inquisition was intended primarily to identify heretics among those who converted from Judaism and Islam to Catholicism. According to modern estimates, around 150,000 people were prosecuted for various offences during its three-century duration
- Spain has more bars than any other European country. However, I’m sure you can appreciate my disappointment when I finally realized they were talking about ‘tapas bars’, not topless bars!
- The famous or infamous, Generalissimo Franco, was a dictator of Spain from 1938 – 1973. Yes, Spain was under a dictatorship in the ‘70s!! During World War II, Spain remained neutral, but supported Hitler, because he supported Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Franco’s use of forced labor, concentration camps, executions and wartime killings created a death toll in the range of 420,000!
- Portugal was the first country to practice ‘colonialism’; from the 15th century on for the next 600 years, they started creating colonies in Africa, South America, North America, Oceania, and South Asia.
- Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan was the first to find a route to East Asia through the Americas in 1519.
- Vasco da Gama, another Portuguese explorer, was the first European to reach India by sea, thus linking Europe to Asia.
- Fatima is the Portugal city where, as the story goes, three shepherds allegedly spotted the Virgin Mary in their fields in 1917. Since then, the number of pilgrims to Fatima run from about six to eight million every year.
- Porto, Portugal houses the world’s most stunningly beautiful MacDonald’s restaurant complete with an elegant chandelier.
- There is at least one of our travel companions who wants to take a serious look at Portugal real estate – its climate is very similar to Southern California, it has great people, great beaches and great food – lots of ex-Pats there! So, if I’m not back by June 1st, you’ll know where to look for me.
OK, it’s difficult to try and summarize the historical highlights of these two ancient and amazing countries in a 600-word blog, so just plan to come along with us and see for yourself, without the hassle of delayed flights, luggage being lost or trying to figure out what not to wear to a topless bar.