Undiscovered Spain - Galicia

by : Scott James

Galicia in particular and Northern Spain in general have long been considered to be a hidden jewel in the entire Spanish tourist industry. All over Northern Spain the climate is much more moderate than the rest of the Iberian Peninsula and the autonomous regions that make up this area of the country have exactly what it takes to help visiting tourists have a good time.

The Galician coastline boasts two different features in that in certain places it is extremely rugged and in others it can boast some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain.

Of all of the autonomous regions of Spain it is understandable given its location that Galicia is considered the most remote. Found in the North West corner of Spain, Galicia as has been said is a region of vast contrasts.

As well as beautiful scenery in Galicia you have excellent cuisine especially the seafood whilst at the same time you have right on your doorstep one of the most visited religious pilgrimage sites in the world at Santiago de Compostela. Indeed a whole tourism industry has sprung up around Santiago de Compostela and the whole Way of St. James otherwise known as the "Camino de Santiago."

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

Historically, always classed as the poorer cousin to some of the other richer regions Galicia had an economy that did not easily lend itself to modernisation. Galicia always seemed to be a very closed and inward looking area being fiercely resistant to any formal external invasion. It was only very briefly an independent monarchy in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Bordering Portugal to the south and enclosed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the west Galicia could offer its inhabitants little in the way of new land for cultivation. As with a lot of the major Celtic communities in Western Europe after a while the major industry became emigration.

Slowly but surely in the 20th century, Galicia began to develop and today traditional lifestyles rub shoulders with modernity throughout the region whilst at the same time the region has lost none of its more traditional culture.

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.

As well as the major ports the coastline of Galicia is dotted with tiny little 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. Throughout the region especially in the hills are concealed many remains of ancient Celtic settlement's, quite often especially up in the hills, these are often shrouded in mist. 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. With respect to the Galicians, there is a certain Melancholy to their traditional songs and poetry and this too they have in common with the Irish, Breton, Scottish, Welsh and other Celts. With regards to Galicia (as with County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland), as anyone who has experienced some of the fierce storms coming in from the Atlantic perhaps this is understandable.