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Galicia Travel Guide

Santiago de Compostela, Galicia (© jarroyo1982 - Fotolia.com)
Santiago de Compostela, Galicia.

Introduction

Named by the Romans after the ancient Celtic tribe that resided north of the Douro river, Galicia has a long history as an independent nation within Iberia. The Kingdom of Galicia was founded in 410 by the Suebi, a Germanic tribe, and continued to exist formally until 1833 - longer than any of the four other kingdoms upon which Spain was founded in the 15th century.

Galician language, spoken by most of the Galician population, was the first Iberian language to be consolidated from Latin. It is considered to be the same language as Portuguese, both having their roots in Mediaeval Galician, before Galician knights (re)conquered the land that would become Portugal from the Moors.

Galicia looks and feel very different from the rest of Spain and cerrtainly doesn't fit any of the most common stereotypes about the country. With its Atlantic climate, rocky coastlines, rugged terrain, small towns of stone houses, and Celtic heritage, Galicia has been likened to Brittany and Ireland. The analogy runs in place names too, like the Cape Finisterre, Galicia's westernmost point, whose names mirrors the Finistère at the western tip of Brittany.

Galicia has a population of 2.8 million, comparable to that of Albania, Mongolia, or the U.S. state of Nevada. It has a land area of 29,574 km2 (11,419 sq mi), slightly smaller than Belgium, but a bit bigger than Albania or Hawaii.

Famous people from Galicia include (chronologically): general Francisco Franco (dictator of Spain from 1936 to 1975), the Nobel Prize novelist Camilo José Cela writer, and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Also not that the parents of Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba, were both born in Galicia.

The businessman Amancio Ortega Gaona, although born in Castile & León, founded the Inditex fashion group (Zara, Massimo Dutti, etc.) in the Galician town of Arteixo in 1985. In 2013, Mr Ortega was the world's 3rd richest person according to Forbes. He resides in A Coruña.

Cuisine

Galician cuisine is renowned for its seafood, especially octopus and shellfishes (oysters, scallops, mussels, clams, heart clams, razor shell clams), and for its sauces. Scallop shells are so emblematic of the region that they have been worn for centuries by pilgrims on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Typical dishes include the caldo gallego (Galician broth, with cabbage, potatoes and beans), pulpo gallego (Galician-style octopus), pimientos de padrón (small peppers fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt), vieira (scallop served in its shell), empanada galega (a baked pie stuffed with cod or pork loin and vegetables), lacón con grelos (pork leg boiled with turnip leaves), filoas (crêpes), and tarta de Santiago (an almond and lemon pie).

The local wine is the Albariño, a fruity Riesling-like white wine produced in the Rias Baixas region, along the Portuguese border. The north of Spain is also for famous aguardiente ("burning water"), a white spirits with an alcohol content between 29% and 60%, and orujo, a pomace brandy similar to the Italian grappa and the German Tresterschnaps.

Attractions

West

Pontevedra
Praza da Leña, Pontevedra (© lansbricae - Fotolia.com)
very good Pontevedra
Soutomaior Castle
Soutomaior Castle (photo by Xoan Anton - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)
very good Soutomaior Castle
Vigo
Basket shop, Vigo (© PABLO I. ABREU GARCIA)
very good Vigo

Centre & East

Santiago de Compostela ※
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela at night (© Luxian - Fotolia.com)
must-see Santiago de Compostela
A Coruña
Town hall of A Coruña (© mrks_v - Fotolia.com)
very good A Coruña
Lugo ※
Lugo Cathedral (©  MIMOHE - Fotolia.com)
very good Lugo

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