14.12.15

Cycling In Spain: Alcover


Our overnight accommodation at the Hotel Nou.

We spent our second-last night in Spain in the small town of Alcover.  Far enough away from the busy coast and just a six-hour ride to Solsona, it provided an ideal location to eat, sleep and hopefully, wake up refreshed early next morning. Dinner that evening was a short stroll down the road from our accommodation at the Hotel Nou. Named ‘Pizzeria Sandra’, it looked nothing flash, just a reasonably priced restaurant with a cosy mezzanine floor. Yet, as with almost every place we dined, whether in Spain or in Portugal, the menu contained a wide variety of delicious dishes to choose from. To the hungry carnivore, herbivore and particularly the less pernickety omnivore, it was a gastronomic delight. Particularly renowned for its cheap and rather sizeable serves of spaghetti bolognaise, it remained true to its reputation. Washed down with a glass or two of Catalan Tempranillo it tasted delicious, all for the price of 20 euro. 
 
 

One of Alcover's three main portals.
Though only having time enough for a short glimpse, Alcover’s Old City, like so many of the old cities we’d visited, had its own fascinating atmosphere. As we entered one of its three main portals, that for a millennium would have born witness to some of the more dramatic events throughout Catalonia’s history, it was difficult to imagine some of its age old buildings aflame during the Spanish Civil War.
 
 
Today Catalonia is probably best known for being home to surrealist artist Salvador Dali, its lively beach resorts along the Costa Brava and its close proximity to the Pyrenees mountains. Fiercely independent, ever since its counties gave up their allegiance to the rulers of the Frankish Empire during the later-10th century, its parliament has the power to flex its own muscular autonomy, while Catalan is spoken by half its inhabitants in preference to Spanish.
 
 
During the rise of the County of Barcelona, in the later Middle Ages, an identifiably Catalan culture and language began to emerge. For a significant time, this roughly triangular region nestled in the country’s far north-eastern corner, ruled as a self-governing principality within the kingdom of Aragón. Even after Spanish became the language of court and literature, following the marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella I, in 1469, Catalan remained the popular tongue.
 
 
Following the new Bourbon dynasty's taking of the throne after the War of Spanish Succession  in 1714, the territory, come province, had restrictions imposed on its autonomy and its use of Catalan.  Despite a renewed sense of identity in the 19th century, which cultivated a fervent desire for political autonomy and self-rule, Franco’s fascist dictatorship in the years after the civil war, did everything in its power to suppress Catalan nationalism and extinguish the language altogether.
 
 
It wasn’t until the emergence of a democratic Spain after the death of Franco in 1978 that Catalonia finally returned to self autonomy. While the voice of full independence only resonated amongst a minority of its inhabitants during the years that followed, the country’s past decade of economic crisis has rekindled support for separation.
 
 
Belonging to one of the country’s richest and most highly industrialised regions, many present day Catalans believe that they are paying more of their dues than they should be to an incompetent central government. As recently as November 2014, more than 80% of cast votes at a Catalan government-held independence referendum supported the motion for independence.  Only a year later, its parliament has approved a declaration to embark on the process of Catalonia becoming an independent state in the form of a republic.
 
Meanwhile, the government in Madrid will continue to argue the line that it has no constitutional right to break away. 
 
 
 

The road to Solsona.

 

 

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