Catalunya, Catalonia, Cataluña...has it all from  Barcelona's vibrant culture to the stunning coasts of Costa Brava and Costa Dorada up to the Pyrenees a landscape as diverse and stunning as any found in Europe.

Catalunya Map  

Catalunya has a culture of its own most evident in its language, catalán, deriving from Latin as the Spanish, French, Italian or Portuguese languages do.  Cataluña’s culture is one of the oldest and richest of the European Mediterranean.  The presence of Catalan merchants in the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages was pivotal in the creation of trade routes that stretched from Sardinia and Sicily to Constantinople.  The magnitude and wealth of medieval Catalonia isCatalunya-La-Sagrada-Familia-Gaudi very much still palpable in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, the capital of the region and the second leading city in Spain after Madrid.   Catalonia and in particular Barcelona became and still is an  important industrial center that led to the emergence of a wealthy middle class willing to spend their money on the beautification of their city giving way to the birth of Catalan modernism.  Modernist architects expressed themselves in different ways; some wanted to revive Romanesque architecture while others looked to the French neo-Gothicism and modern styles of Germany and Austria.   The goal was to create a modern art based on Catalan traditions mixed with the use of new materials as seen the works of Gaudí with La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera and Parc Guell or Doméch and Montaner with el Palau de Musica Catalana and the Hospital of San Joan all of which represent the tourist image of Barcelona along with the cheerful Paseo de La Ramblas and colorful Mercado de la Boquería.  An image updated in 1992 when Barcelona was host to the Olympic Games, the nomination sparked an ambitious urban plan resulting in a large scale restoration making Barcelona one of the most visited cities in Spain and for a long time the leader of the cultural vanguard.

Barcelona for the most part is the image of Catalunya in the world but Catalonia is more than just Barcelona, Gerona or Girona in catalán is a beautiful historic city with an extraordinary Cathedral and Jewish Quarter, el Call.  The city of Tarragona preserves its rich Roman heritage with a magnificent amphitheater, forum and Aqueduct along with the Old quarter and the cathedral.  The city is open to the sea and the views from el Balcón del Mediterraneo are magnificent.  South of Catalunya-Girona-RiverTarragona is the natural park of Delta del Ebro, an extraordinary haven for thousands of birds, including a large breeding colony of flamingos.  Lérida or Lleida in catalán is less charming than the aforementioned cities but its province in addition to being an excellent producer of fruits and vegetables has one of the most famous ski resorts in Spain, Baqueira-Beret, located in el Valle de Arán in the Pyrenees, very popular among Spanish skiers including King Juan Carlos and his family.  Not far is the National Park of Aigues Tortes and Lago San Maurici some of the most striking mountain landscapes in Spain.

Catalunya has excellent beaches all along the Costa Brava in Girona and Costa Dorada in Tarragona.  Fishing ports are abundant such as Palamós, Cambrils, Sitges picturesque towns and the origin of excellent seafood dishes.  The cuisine in Cataluña is extraordinary, around the coast travelers can enjoy outstanding rice dishes and unforgettable suquet de peix (seafood soup) while towards the interior of the region dishes are heartier rabbit with snails, escalibada (check out my food recipes if you want to learn how to make it), or peus de porc amb rovillons (pig’s trotters stuffed with mushroom sauce).  The Catalan region produces first-class wines like those from the appellations of Penedés, Priorat and Alella as well as magnificent olive oils such as those from Siurana, however, the star of Catalonia is cava the delectable Catalan champagne.  Bon viatge!



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