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
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.
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.
the government in Madrid will continue to argue the line that it has no
constitutional right to break away.