Guest Post: 7 Reasons Your Child Will Learn More History In Spain Than School
We all remember history lessons, don’t we? Falling asleep at the back of the class while a droning teacher with all the inspiration of a brick tried to stimulate some interest in the War of the Spanish Succession, or the Defenestration of Prague? Spain has such a rich and varied history that it provides the ideal canvas for a child’s mind, making dry-as-dust stuff about the past really come alive.
Family holidays here are a relaxed affair, with welcoming hosts, good food and accessible, scenic roads. Car hire in Spain is affordable and easily arranged, and there’s an enormous range of cultural festivals and events on throughout the year, making this the perfect destination for a trip learning about Europe’s past and present without it feeling like a lesson at all.
1. A unique cultural mix. Spain was the battleground for Christian kingdoms of the north and Moorish Caliphates of the south, who slogged it out for centuries until 1492, when the Christians captured Granada. Across Spain there’s a fabulous mix of Gothic and Arabic in the architecture – a lesson in how multiculturalism can transform and beautify the landscape of any country.
2. Castles and battles. The phrase ‘Castles in Spain’ may refer to unrealistic daydreams, but Spain really does have some of the most magical and dreamlike castles in Europe. The Alcazar of Segovia was the model for Disney’s Magic Kingdom, a soaring confection of turrets and towers that would make the perfect backdrop for any medieval make-believe.
3. Extravagant festivals. Every village, town and city across Spain has its festivals, and these are usually noisy and colourful occasions. The week leading up to Easter is especially atmospheric, with candle-lit processions through the streets to churches and cathedrals to mark Holy Week. At the other extreme, at the Tomatina in Valencia in August thousands of people spend three days pelting each other with tomatoes.
4. Gaudi’s experimental cathedral. There’s no other cathedral in the world quite like Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It has seven spires for a start, and looks nothing like the staid and brooding cathedrals you find elsewhere in Europe. The ‘warped Gothic’ architecture makes it look like it’s melting in the heat, and bright mosaics reflect the sun like bowls of Caribbean fruit. Eat your heart out, Cologne!
5. What the Romans did for everyone. Spain was an important Roman province, and in fact the first non-Roman emperor, Trajan, was born here. Roman remains litter the Spanish landscape and one of the most awesome is the great aqueduct of Segovia. Of course, bath houses were never far away either – when not wiping out all opposition, the legionnaires liked nothing better than a good, manly scrub.
6. Gardens of the Alhambra. The Moors tended to enjoy cool fountains and shaded gardens, and in the Alhambra at Granada you can see that they and their northern Christian counterparts were as different as chalk and cheese when it came to relaxing and enjoying the finer things in life. On the other hand they did end up being kicked out, so there’s a lesson there somewhere.
7. Flamenco. Flamenco, the Spanish national dance, comes from the Arabs and is characterised by mad passions, obsessive jealousy and barely suppressed lust – history in a nutshell. The rhythmic, aggressive stamping takes enormous stamina, and wielding lethal castanets without doing serious damage is a great skill. Just watching a performance can leave you completely exhausted and ready for a tapas and a large glass of chilled Torres Milmanda Chardonnay.
About the author: David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.