Discovering Undiscovered Spain and Galicia

by : Stephen Morgan

Northern Spain and Galicia particularly has long been an undiscovered jewel in the whole of the Spanish tourism industry. Whereas elsewhere in the Iberian Peninsula the climate can be quite continental and extreme, in the northwest and on the coast the climate is as you would expect much milder and more of a maritime nature.

With regards to Galicia you have a region where you have a rugged coastline with extremely attractive sandy beaches whilst inland the mountainous regions provide a completely different experience for the visitor.

Of all of the autonomous regions of Spain it is understandable given its location that Galicia is considered the most remote. Located in the northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula Galicia is a green, rain swept region remarkable for the diversity of its landscape, where coastal cliffs alternate with lowlands and "rias."

The region is famous for its excellent cuisine and boasts one of the most visited religious pilgrimage sites in Western Europe after the Vatican in Santiago de Compostela. This particular pilgrimage site has actually generated a vast tourist industry all of its own that is vital to the economic viability of the region.

The cultural and language origins of Galicia are very much rooted within the Celtic family of communities found elsewhere in North West Europe.

Traditionally, Galicia was seen as a poor agricultural region, whose economy did not lend itself to modernisation. Because of its location and partisan traditions Galicia was always fairly inward looking having managed to survive throughout the centuries without ever really been conquered by anybody. It was only very briefly an independent monarchy in the 10th and 11th centuries.

One of the problems with Galicia as with some of the other remote communities in Western Europe lies within its geographical constraints. The end result of all this was that like Ireland in the north in Galicia, emigration became a major industry.

In what has been a mountain to climb slowly but surely Galicia is now trying to manage successfully the twin track of its regional lifestyle with a much more modern society.

Galicia has always maintained strong links with the sea and the port cities of Vigo and Corunna are centres of culture and industry. As has been mentioned elsewhere, the seafood cuisine is second to none as you would also expect from a region where fishing is one of the most vital sectors of the economy.

The coastline, cut with fjord like Rias is dotted with fishing villages. The coast which was devastated by the damage caused by the 2002 sinking of the oil tanker Prestige has now by almost recovered and in some cases is almost better than ever.

Cape Finisterre, the most westerly part of the Spanish mainland is part of the Galician coast. Inland the region is dotted with ancient Celtic settlements which can be found in the often mist shrouded hillsides. As a further reminder of the traditional way of life still in existence in Galicia it is not uncommon to find various old stone crosses at crossroads and junctions throughout the region alongside old stone granaries found throughout the villages.

The whole Celtic culture in Galicia is completed by the sound of the favourite instrument of Galicia, the bag pipes and their language, Gallego, is an amalgam almost of Portuguese and the various other Gaelic tongues and there is an extremely strong link between Galicia and some of the other Celtic Countries of North Western Europe.

There are a great many similarities between Galicia and the other Celtic Countries and nowhere is this more evident with Art and Culture. This is further exemplified with the slight theme of melancholy running through quite often the words and music of the region. For those who find this a concept difficult to understand and view it as being purely depressing and boring then you have to try and understand the traditional background to the entire region and realize the centuries of hardship that these communities have had to withstand and as a result have manifested themselves in their traditional words music.