In an effort to highlight places of interest in countries across the world, their varied culture, economy and history, The Statesman brings to you a Weekly Focus on countries with which India shares diplomatic ties and friendship. This week’s focus is on Spain. Know all about the country.

Capital: Madrid, Currency: Euro, Ethnic groups:Composite of Mediterranean and Nordic types, Languages: Castilian Spanish (official nationwide) 74%, Catalan 7%, Galician 7%, Basque 2%, Aranese (Small number), Religion: Roman Catholic 67.8%, atheist 9.1%, other 2.2%, non-believer 18.4%, unspecified 2.5% (2016 est.)

Secular celebrations

Many of Spain’s major festivals have a dual quality, whereby essentially secular festivals are enacted at times that have religious meaning as well. Some of the events that take place on specified religious holidays have a distinctly secular quality like bullfights on fiesta days, the king’s official birthday on 24 June, the Feast of San Juan, village business accounting meetings held after mass on designated days. Spain’s most secular national holiday is 12 October, the celebration of Hispanidad, or the Hispanization of the New World following Columbus’ landfall on that day in 1492. But true to form, many Spaniards also celebrate the very popular Virgin of El Pilar on 12 October, either because they are named after her or live around Zaragoza (of which she is patroness).

Weather and climate

Spain’s climate varies from temperate in the north to dry and hot in the south. Overall, the coastal regions in the South and Eastern parts of Spain are excellent to visit all year round thanks to the Mediterranean climate (mild temperatures and long days). Northern Spain generally experiences colder temperatures than the South, while Central Spain stays hot and dry due to its location on a plateau. The shoulder season for travel in Spain is usually late spring and autumn: from April to end of May and October to November.

Food and Drink

Spain’s eating and drinking culture is one of its greatest attractions, and a very sociable one too, with people rubbing shoulders in tapas bars and cafés. Food is generally dictated by the seasons and freshness, whichever corner of Spain you go to. An excellent way to understand different facets of Spanish cuisine is to sample tapas (pintxos in the Basque Country) ~ small snacks served with drinks in local bars across the country. Spanish drinks have also brewed up quite a storm worldwide from the thirst-quenching Sangria to bubbly Cava to the sophisticated Rioja wine. Some of the specialities include Paella, Croquetas, Cocido, Tortilla Espaniola, Gazpacho, Jamón, Pulpo á feira, Chorizo, Bacalao al pil, Sherry, Fino and Manzanilla, amontillado, Oloroso and sweet
sherries such as Pedro Ximénez. Rioja, Cava and Albondigas.

Indian presence

The Indian community forms a very small percentage of the immigrant population of Spain. Among the Asian communities, the Indian diaspora is the third largest group, after Chinese and Pakistanis. The earliest Indian settlers were Sindhis, who came from the sub-continent at the end of the 19th century and settled in the Canary Islands

Economic relations

Bilateral trade between India and Spain during the year 2016 stood at US$ 5.22 billion. India’s exports to Spain stood at US$ 3.83 billion and Spain’s exports to India at US$ 1.39 billion, thus resulting in a trade balance of US$ 2.44 billion in India’s favour. Spain is India’s 7th largest trading partner in the European Union. Indian exports to Spain include organic chemicals, textiles and garments, iron and steel products, automotive components, marine products and leather goods.

Indian imports consist largely of machines and mechanical appliances, vehicles and automobiles, plastic manufactures, electrical appliances, rubber and rubber products and olives/olive oil. Spain is the 12th largest investor in India with US$ 2.32 billion in FDI (April 2000-December 2016), mostly in infrastructure, renewable energy, auto components, water desalination and single brand retail. A total of around 200 Spanish companies have subsidiaries, joint ventures, projects or liaison offices and purchase offices in India. There are over 40 Indian companies in Spain, the most significant ones being in the areas of IT (TCS, Infosys, Tech Mahindra, Wipro), Energy (Avantha, Suzlon), Automobiles (Mahindra) and Pharmaceuticals (Sun, Ranbaxy, Aurobindo, Dr.Reddy´s, Vivimed). The stock of Indian investment in Spain is approximately US$ 800 million euros.

Visa: Applicants will have to apply for Schengen Visa. General required documents for a Spain Visa Application are: application form, 2 photos must be attached, passport and copies of previous visas ~ valid for at least three months beyond return date ~, return-ticket reservation, a covering letter stating the purpose of visit to Spain and itinerary, flight reservation, hotel booking reservation, proof of civil status, proof of sufficient financial means for the period of stay in Spain (a foreigner, who seeks to enter the territory of Spain, needs to attest, owning the overall amount for duration up to 10 days that is representative of a 90% of the gross national minimum wage (598.68 euros), which comes to 583.74 euros).

Machu Picchu: This is one of the most beautiful and impressive ancient sites in the world. The “Lost City of the Incas” is invisible from the Urubamba Valley below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces and watered by natural springs. Although known locally, Machu Picchu was largely unknown to the outside world before being rediscovered in 1911 by historian Hiram.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

Alhambra: The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens, Granada. The Nasrid dynasty’s royal palace is the artistic highlight of Spain’s Islamic period, when Al-Andalus, as they called Andalucía, represented the epitome of culture and civilisation in Europe’s Middle Ages. Generalife’s terraced gardens offer a peaceful respite from the grandeur and splendid views back at the rest of the Alhambra.

Mezquita of Cordoba: The Mezquita (Spanish for mosque) of Cordoba is a fascinating building famous for the forest of pillars and arches inside the main hall. The site was originally a Roman temple, then a Visigothic church, before the Umayyad Moors built the Mezquita. After the Spanish Reconquista, a cathedral was built into the centre of the large Moorish building.

Sagrada Familia: The Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona and one of Spain’s most visited tourist attractions. It’s a design by Antoni Gaudí, a Catalan architect, who worked on this project for almost 40 years until his death in 1926. The construction of the basilica began in 1882 and as yet not finished.

Other attractions include The Prado and Paseo del Artes, Madrid (The Prado alone ranks among the world’s top art museums for the richness of its collection); Cuenca (Medieval City), Ibiza, Plaza Mayor, Madrid; San Lorenzo de El Escorial; Guggenheim Museum; La Giralda tower; Seville Cathedral and the Alcazar (UNESCO World Heritage Site); Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, Costa del Sol Beaches, Toledo’s Old City, The White Towns of Andalucía, El Teide, Tenerife (The highest peak in Spain).

 

Compiled by Kunal Jain ([email protected])