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Information about Spain

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Information about Spain

Facts about Spain

The (national) flag
Official name Espana (Spain)
Surface 504,782 km² (12.5x the Netherlands)
Inhabitants 45.5 million (2016)
Population density 96 people per km²
Capital Madrid
Currency The euro since 2002. 1 € is about $1.17 (2017)
Road network The main roads are quite good. There are some toll roads.
Fuel prices For actual fuel prices in all European countries see Autotraveler.ru.
Code licence plate E
Telephone countrycode 34
Internet countrycode .es
Time difference GMT+1; the same time as in the Netherlands

Geographic data

Spain is located on the Iberian peninsula, of which it occupies 80% (the remaining 20% being Portugal), in the southwest of Europe. To the north are France and Andorra with the Pyrenees as a natural border. Also the Balearean islands (Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza) in the Mediterranean, the Canary islands in the Atlantic (near the Maroccan coast), and Ceuta and Melilla (located in Northern Africa) belong to the Spanish territory.
Spain is the third country in Europe as for it's size and fifth as for population numbers. It has a surface of about 505.955 square kilometers. This includes all the islands above mentioned. Spain counts more than 40 million people, most of them living in the cities or along the Costa's. Spain is divided into 19 autonomous areas, including the areas outside the Iberian peninsula. The most prosperous areas are Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country. Extremadura is the poorest area of Spain, adjacent to Portugal, Andalucia, Castilla La Mancha and Castillia y Léon.

There are 5 large mountain ranges which cross the country and about 50% of the land lies considerably higher than sea level.
The sceneries vary from almost desert-like to a fertile and green land and of course there are the long coastal strips, in the east along the Mediterranean (from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar), next in the south and west to Portugal along the Atlantic Ocean.

PopulationNaar boven

Spain counts more than 40 million people, most of them living in the cities or along the Costa's. Spanish state encompassed numerous distinct ethnic and cultural minorities. The 1978 Constitution recognizes and guarantees autonomy of nationalities and regions making up Spanish state, and seventeen autonomous communities existed in late 1980s. Major ethnic groups: Castillians, Basques, Catalans, Galicians, Andalusians, Valencians, Asturians, Navarrese, and Aragonese. There is also a small number of Gypsies. Ethnonationalistic sentiment and commitment to the ethnic homeland varies among and within ethnic communities. Nationalist and separatist sentiment run deepest among Basques.

LanguagesNaar boven

Spanish is the main language, spoken throughout the whole of Spain. But there are some regions with an additional language. In Cataluña people also speak Catalan, in Galicia Galician, Basque in the Basque Country and finally Valencian in the Valencian society. This can be very confusing at times, because in Cataluña and Basque Country many people consider their dialect the main language. On schools sometimes the regional language is taught as the first language, wih Spanish as a second one. Roadsigns are often first in Basqe or Catalan and only then in the Spanish language in these autonomous regions.

HistoryNaar boven

In prehistoric times various people have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar, coming from Africa, as show the archeological findings in the caves of Altamira. Ligurians and Iberians originally have African roots. Mycean sailors played an important part in the trade with Spain. Since the 7th century BC. the Greek also participated in the trade. The Phoenicians from Carthage conquered part of Spain at the end of the 5th century BC and met with the Celts in the north of the peninsula who had arrived between 900-600 BC.
But soon all people in Spain were dominated by the Romans. The three provinces Tarraconensis, Baetica and Lusitana became important centres of Roman civilisation and the economy thrived. Spain had become totally romanised. But the prosperity and civilisation waned after the invasions of German tribes in the 3rd century AD. In 411 tribes sign an alliance with Rome, which enables them to establish military colonies within the Empire.

415-711, Visigothic Kingdom
The Visigoths considered themselves the heirs of the defunct imperial power. Around the middle of the 5th century, the threefold pressures of the Suevi, from the west (Galicia), the Cantabrian-Pyrenaic herdsmen from the north and the Byzantines from the south, the Betica, forced them to establish their capital in Toledo, in the centre of the Peninsula. This was a first attempt to form a peninsular unity, independent of the rest of the empire, and therefore the Visigoths are still considered as the creators of the first Peninsular kingdom.
The Visigoths defended themselves well against the Suevi in Galicia and subdued them in the 6th century AD.; however, in the north, the Basques, Cantabrians and Asturians were more successful in resisting the Visigoth onslaught than they had been in resisting the Romans, and were almost as adept as they would be against the Moors. The Betica, from the 6th to the 11th century AD., constituted an exception within western Europe. Facing a continental Europe which was increasingly closed and fragmented, it would maintain its urban culture and its commercial and cultural connections within the Mediterranean domain; firstly, with the eastern Roman Empire, with Byzantium and later with the Muslim Caliphate.

711-ca. 1250, Muslim rule
Quarrels between the leaders became the downfall of the Visigoths. Some of them asked the Muslims from Northern Africa for help, but they had their own plans. The Muslim troops crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and defeated the Visigoth king Rodrigo at the battle of Guadalete in 711 AD. Muza ben-Nosair completes the Muslim conquest in 712 In Cordoba the Caliphate of Cordoba was proclaimed, indepent of Damascus. The caliphs strenghtened their kingdom and consolidated the economic relationship with east-Byzantium. By 950, the Germano-Roman empire was exchanging ambassadors with the Cordoban Caliphate. The small Christian strongholds in the north of the Peninsula became modest feudal holdings of the Caliphate, recognizing its superiority and arbitrage. The Cordoban caliphate had a currency-based economy, and the injection of coinage played a central role in its financial splendour. The gold Cordobes coin became the principal currency of the period and was probably imitated by the Carolingian empire. Therefore, the Cordoban caliphate was the first urban and commercial economy that had flourished in Europe since the disappearance of the Roman Empire. The capital and most important city of the Caliphate, Cordoba, had some 100,000 inhabitants, making it Europe's principal urban concentration during that epoch.
Muslim Spain produced a flourishing culture, above all after the Caliph Al-Hakam II (961-976) came to power. He is credited with founding a library of hundreds of thousands of volumes, which was practically inconceivable in Europe at that time. The most distinctive feature of this calture was the early readoption of classical philosophy by Ibn Masarra, Abentofain, Averroes and the Jew Maimonide. But the Spanish-Muslim thinkers stood out, above all in medicine, mathematics and astronomy.
The fragmentation of the Cordoban Caliphate took place at the end of the first decade of the 11th century; this came about as a result of the enormous war effort deployed by the last Cordoban leaders and the suffocating fiscal pressures. The thirty-nine successors of the united Caliphate became known as the first (1009-1090) Ta'ifas (petty kingdoms), a name which has passed into the Spanish language as a synonym for the ruin generated by the fragmentation and disunity of the Peninsula. This division occurred twice again, thereby creating second and third Ta'ifas and producing a series of new invasions from the north of Africa. The first time the Almoravides (1090), invaded the Peninsula, the second time it was the Almohads (1146) and the third, the Banu Marins (1224). This progressive weakening meant that by the middle of the 13th century, Islamic Spain was reduced to the Nasrid Kingdom in Granada. Located between the Strait of Gibraltar and Cape Gata, this historical relic did not capitulate until 2 January 1492, at the end of the Reconquest.

1250-1504, Completion of the Reconquista
In 1250 Spain had a christian rulership, except for the Nasrid Kingdom in Granada. But for 2 centuries the country was divided over several states: Castile, Aragon, Navarra and Portugal. Isabel I of Castile and Fernando II of Aragon are married in 1469, thus restoring the unity of a great part of Spain.
They complete the Reconquest by taking Granada (January 2nd), taking advantage of the rivalry of the last Muslim governors of Spain. Fernando III unites Castile and Leon.

1504-1700, The Habsburgs, the Catholic Monarchs
One of the most significant dates during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs was 12th October 1492: the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Spain became rich by the conquests in America and expanded it's empire throughout Europe. The new rulers came from the house of Habsburg, starting with Charles V of Germany who became Charles I of Spain. The setting up of the Inquisition probably was one of the worst things that happened in this time. Countless people died, guilty or innocent. Wars wear the empire out, financially. With the death of Charles II, the dinasty of the Habsburg comes to an end and the War of the Spanish Succession breaks out, in which France, England and Austria are involved.

1700-1868, The Bourbons, War of Independence
During the reign of Felipe V of Bourbon, Spain lost the its provinces in the Netherlands and Italy. But he led Spain into the Enlightenment, an epoch of harmonious foreign relations, reform and interior development. The English occupy Gibraltar. After a brief period of enforced alliance with France, which cultimated in the British defeat of a Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, Napoleon's troops invaded Spain. The bloody six-year war which followed - the Peninsular War, known in Spain as the War of Independence - in which guerrilla tactics and a scorched-earth policy were applied, dealt a death blow to the Spanish economy. In 1808 The Spanish people rose against French domination (May 2nd, 1808) and with English help defeated Napoleon.
Fernando VII and later his daughter Isabel II rue the country until 1868. During the reign of Fernando VII, the Spanish colonies of America gain their independence, except Cuba and Puerto Rico. In 1868 generals head a revolution which overthrows Isabel II.

1868-1923, The Restauracion
The first Spanish Replublic is proclaimed in 1873, but a year later the kingdom is restored with Alfonso XII as king. This period is known as the Restoration, with a liberal constitution. The war with the United States puts an end to the remains of the Spanish colonial empire: Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines are turned over to the victors in 1898. Many of the Caribbean Islands, such as St. John, are U.S. territories with English as the official language, but still have some Spanish speaking immigrants from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Caribbean travelers looking for a St John villa rental or other types of St John Virgin Island rentals will likely need to be fluent in English though.
In World War I Spain remains neutral.
In 1923 the elections are won by the socialist party.1923-1939

Dictatorship, Civil War
Reacting on this, General Primo de Rivera gained power by a coup d'etat and rules as a dictator.
After the municipal elections, the (second) Republic is proclaimed in 1931. Niceto Alcala Zamora is named president.
But right-wing party obtained a majority in 1933 and after a period of fascist terror Civil War broke out, 1936. It ends in 1939 and is won by the Nationalists. General Franco becomes dictator, supported by the only allowed political movement, the Falange.

1939-1975, The Spain of Franco
Franco started to get rid of all his political opponents and is quite successful in it. Spain stayed out of the 2nd World War, but volunteers of the Falange took part in the war against teh Soviet Union and German submarines were allowed to use Spanish harbours.
In 1947 Franco announces the restoration of the monarchy when he dies or retires and appoints Juan Carlos de Bourbon y Bourbon as successor with the title of King. Franco dies November 1975.

King Juan Carlos
The new king was as determined as he was prudent in his efforts to assure Spain a rapid democratic process. The first free democratic elections for Parliament were held in 1977 and the Spanish people approve by an 88% majority the new Constitution, which defines Spain as a Parliamentary Monarchy in 1978.
Spain joined the European Union and NATO in 1982.

News about Gibraltar:
At this moment (2001) Spain and the United Kingdom are having talks about the Gibraltar problem and want to conclude a comprehensive agreement before the summer of 2002 covering all outstanding issues including cooperation and sovereignty. But Gibraltar has it's own government and feels betrayed by these negotiations behind their backs. Occupied in 1704 by the British, it became part of the British Empire officially in 1713, under the Treaty of Utrecht. According to the constitution of 1969 of the colony the government of Gibraltar formally can agree or refuse any proposals. A majority of the inhabitants is against joining Spain and wants to keep it's independence (if only for the tax advantages).
On November 7, 2002, the inhabitants vote no against joining Spain, but Spain calls the referendum illegal.

ClimateNaar boven

Spain covers a large area and it has territories outside the European mainland, therefore the climate in the different parts of Spain can be very different: a short summary:

The north and northwestern part:
This area is influenced by Atlantic depressions, especially in autumn and winter. But even in the summer the weather can be variable. This part of Spain has the most precipitation and cloudiness. In the interior of Spain the sun shines about 10 hours a day, averagely, but to the coast it is only 6 or 7 hours a day. The average temperature in January on the northwestern coast is about 10°C and this area rarely has frost. But the interior knows temperatures well under 0°C. In the middle of the summer (July) it can become 22°C on the coast and 25 -30°C more to the interior of the country. This area has quite a lot of precipitation: 1000 mm (coast) to more than 2500 mm in some mountainous areas. In the winter months there is rain on 16-20 days. In the summer it rains for 12-14 days a month (at least a little), but less in the interior land.

The east coast along the Mediterranean:
The mediterranean climate distinguishes itself by the mild, humid winters and the long, dry summers. The coldest month is January, and the average temperature around Barcelona then is 8°C and around Malaga about 13°C. But averages don't say everything: it can be much colder or much warmer than the average temperatures, freezing or summer temperatures.
Sometimes there isn't any precipitation at all in the summertime and when there is some, it is mostly from short during thunderstorms. But the area around Barcelona is an exception to that: even in the most dry month, July, there falls an average of 70 mm rain, mostly from heavy thundershowers. But there is always a lot of sun and temperatures vary from 28-30°C. The interior of Spain:
The big differences in altitude make the climate varied: in winter, at higher altitudes one can do winter sports and in summer it can be very hot. The more one goes into the interior of the peninsula, the colder the winters are and the hotter the summers, whereby it is colder in the north than in the south. Frost isn't uncommon in the winter. Average temperature in Madrid in January is 9°C, near Cordoba 13°C. In summertime temperatures vary from 25-35°C but sometimes they are as as high as 40°C.

Flora and faunaNaar boven

Flora and fauna in Spain have a typical Mediterranean character. Most common trees are the oak, chestnut, birch and the beech tree. On higher areas there are also coniferous woods.
The fauna has some African elements (chameleon, mongoose and others), which slowly penetrate into the north. Big mammals are: the brown bear, wolf, lynx, feral cat, wild boar, red deer, roe deer, Spanish ibex and chamois, although some of these species have become quite rare. But the last few decades there is much more attention for the protection of these species, for example by creating national wildlife reserves. There is a great variety in birdlife: the stork and several sorts of large birds of prey are still common in a lot of areas. One of the most striking species is the blue magpie, which can be found in central and south Spain and (except for Portugal) only exists in China. Of all European countires, Spain has the greatest variety of reptiles. And of course there is a lot of fish in the seas surrounding Spain, tuna being the most popular for consumption.
Spain has nine national parks and hundreds wildlife reserves.

EconomyNaar boven

Spain was a latecomer to economic and industrial modernization. Early in the twentieth century, economic progress was made in fitful starts, but in the 1960s the process of renewal began in earnest. Before then, the Spanish economy was one of the most underdeveloped in Western Europe, and it was sometimes characterized as a Third World economy. A spectacular period of growth and modernization during the 1960s and the early 1970s profoundly transformed the Spanish economy, bringing it much closer to the West European consumer society prototype. A new spectaculair growth is going on the last few years thanks to the Eurpean Union, but as a side effect unemployment has also grown to almost 25%. But the growth of the economy still depends on the banks, rich families, state companies and large landowners and not on the small and medium-sized businesses which would be healthier.
In 2001 the working population of Spain counted 18 million people.
8,3% of the labour force work in agriculture, although it uses more than 50% of the land surface for it. But the production per hectare is less than in other European countries. 29,9% of working population work in the industrial sector and 61,8 % in the service industry, the latte being the biggest contributor to the National Gross Product.
Most important sources of income at the moment are tourism and export.

Some Numbers (1998):
GDP: $646 billion
GDP per head: $16,500
Annual growth: 4%
Inflation: 2%
Major industries: textiles & apparel, food & beverages, metals, chemicals, shipbuilding, tourism
Major trading partners: EU (esp. France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, UK, Benelux), US
Member of EU: yes
Euro zone participant: yes

Because the interior of Spain is dominated by semiarid plateaus and mountains subject to temperature extremes, the most productive agricultural areas in the late 1980s tend to be the coastal regions. Thus the north and the northwest, where there is a relatively mild, humid climate were the principal cornproducing and cattle-raising areas. Apples and pears were the main orchard crops in this area, and potatoes were another of its leading products.
Galicia, which consists of Spain's four westernmost provinces directly north of Portugal, had a concentrated farm population living on intensely fragmented plots. Accordingly, per capita farm income was low, compared with that of the northern provinces lying to the east, where there were fewer people and higher per capita income levels because of a more diversified economy that included industry, mining, and tourism.
Catalonia, on the northeast coast, also has a climate that permits diversified agriculture. At the end of the 1980s, livestock particularly the expanding poultry industry was important in the area. Modern farming methods, including the use of tractors, were more advanced here than they were in the rest of the country. South of Catalonia, along the narrow Mediterranean coast, or Levante, was Spain's principal area of intensive, irrigated horticulture. Orange trees, orchard fruits, rice, and vegetables were produced in this region, and farther to the south, fig trees and nut trees were grown.
Andalusia, which includes all of tillable southern Spain, was another major agricultural area in the late 1980s. It was also the target of several agricultural planning programs. Although olive trees grow throughout the Mediterranean coastal region, as well as in parts of the Meseta Central (Central Plateau), they constituted the most important crop in Andalusia, particularly in the province of Jaen. Other warm-weather crops, such as cotton, tobacco, and sugarcane, were also produced in Andalusia, as were wine and table grapes.
The vast dry plateau region of central Spain contrasted sharply with the country's relatively productive areas. The production of agricultural commodities was particularly difficult in central Spain because of a lack of rainfall, a scarcity of trees and other vegetation, extremes of temperature, and harsh, rocky soil. Nevertheless, the farmers of the region grew wheat and other grains, raised sheep and goats, maintained vineyards, and carried on other agricultural activities.

Total value of import in 1996: 89.700 million Euro (Eurostat yearbook 1997). Most important importing countries: France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Most important products: vehicles and other transport necessities, chemicals, machinery, capital goods. Merchandise imports generally exceeded merchandise exports by about one-third. In the 1980s, manufactured goods constituted about two-thirds of all imports, fuels as much as one-fifth, and other raw materials and foods about one-tenth each.

Total value of export in 1996: 80.800 million Euro (Eurostat yearbook 1997). Importing export partners: France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Although famous for its production of citrus fruits, olives, and wine, about 70% of Spain's exports consists of manufactured products while foodstuffs accounts for 17 percent. Raw materials make up about 4 percent of Spain's exports, and fuel products about 6 percent.

State railroad system covers about 15,000 kilometers. The total road network amounted to about 330,000 kilometers, of which 7,000 kilometers are super highways and about 20,000 are main roads. 77% of the transportation of goods and 89% of the transportation of people use the road as the most important means of moving. There are about 200 ports, of which the two most important are Bilbao and Barcelona.
Important rivers are the Tagus, the Ebro, the Rio Guadiana, the Rio Gudalguivir and the Douro.
Spain has about fourty civil airports, the international ones are at Barcelona, Gran Canaria, Málaga and Madrid.

TourismNaar boven

Although historical sites and unique cultural features have always made Spain attractive to foreign visitors, the tourist boom that began in the mid-1950s was based primarily on the recreational assets of the Mediterranean seashore areas. The most popular areas are the Costa Brava, Costa del Maresme, Costa Dorada in the east and Costa del Sol in the south of Spain. The popularity of the Costa de la Luz in the south along the Atlantic Ocean is growing fast over the last few years. But the government tries to prevent too much building of supersized luxurious hotels and apartments (like the Mediterranean coast) because the biggest and most beautiful nature reserve of Europe is also in this area, the Coto Doñana. Every year, millions of migratory birds stay here for the winter. But the winter of 1999 was so dry that most of the swamps dried out and the birds left to another place.
Next to it's beautiful climate, beaches and nature, Spain als has a rich cultural history. The many beautiful cities, like Sevilla and Córdoba in Andalucia and Barcelona, are very popular among tourists who want to see something more than only sea and beaches.

The actual weather

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