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Month: June 2019

Castle 7

Andorra

Andorra is a tiny little country in Europe, between France and Spain, in the mountains of Pyrenees and has no airport.

How to fly there? Well, I got to Girona first and rent the car from there. Google says 3 and half hours for 220 km. How is that possible? Well, when we saw the landscape – mountains crossed with steep bends we realized that the max speed is going to be 50 km/h.




Believed to have been created by Charlemagne, Andorra is nowadays ruled by the diarchy headed by two Princes: the Catholic Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Spain, and the President of France.

Anyhow, driving through Pyrenees was amazing. Green hills, sunshine and blue sky and far away the white snow in the mountains…

We couldn’t help but stop to admire and take some fresh air. You know how they say: Fresh air makes hunger. So we had a diner in this beautiful old house – restaurant:

The Andorran people are a Romance ethnic group of originally Catalan descent. The spoken languages are French and Spanish (both castillan and catalan).

Anyhow, we arrived to our hotel which was not in the capital city but some small city called Erts. Something like 15 min away from the capital. Honestly, if we would have been driving 15 min more we would end up in France.

It was off the winter season, and seems like in Andorra they live for winter tourism so the Christmas decorations were still on. The price was cheap cause they don’t have VAT taxation and yeah, it is off the season. Andorra is not a member of the European Union, but the euro is its official currency.

So we had the most beautiful room with the view on waterfall and mountains. It was loud all night and relaxing… 🙂

Next day after the healthy breakfast in the mountains, we took a walk around the river and admired the nature.

Then, the journey planned was the capital city Andorra la Vella. Btw, I noticed the little bicycles placed on the street lights. Cute, isn’t it? 🙂

And the cable car 🙂 Unfortunately, we didn’t stop… Next time when I come back, I promise!

And then we arrived to the capital, after some minutes of drivings.

The principal industry is tourism, as already mentioned, although the country also earns foreign income from being a tax haven. Furniture and brandies are local products. Being at an elevation of 1,023 m, it is the highest capital city in Europe and a popular ski resort.

La Valira river

However, it was time to sit and make a planning of the afternoon.

We had a local beer. It tasted nicely, I have to admit.

The beer is called Boris according to an adventurer and nobleman Boris Skossyreff, who in 1934 self-proclaimed himself a Kinfg of Andorra with his promise of freedoms and modernization of the country and wealth through the establishment of a tax haven and foreign investments. He was arrested by the Co-Prince and Bishop.

After the small break we continued towards the city center. They call it old city but there is nothing old there, except three houses which were anyhow destroyed and rebuilt.

In the city centre was the Church of St Esteve, ocated on Plaça del Príncep Benlloch. It was built in the 11th-12th century and then restored in the 20th century.

Andorra nowadays continued with the same economic system that it had during the 12th–14th centuries with a large production of metallurgy and with the introduction of tobacco and import trade. The fair of Andorra la Vella was ratified by the co-princes in 14th century being the most important annual national festival commercially ever since. Indeed, the tobacco shops are present everywhere for the very cheap price.

Casa de la Vall is a historical house built in 16th century as a manor and tower defense by the Busquets family. Until recently it was the seat of the legislative and executive power of Andorra.

We entered the building and had a nice tour with a guide.

Folklor
Criminal Court

Andorra is a parliamentary co-principality with the President of France and the CatholicBishop of Urgell (Catalonia, Spain) as Co-Princes. When I asked the guide how many times do they meet, I was told that the Bishop is regularly coming to govern but the French Presidents come twice in the mandate. Well…

Also, just a hint, imagine if Catalonia gets the so much wanted independence?! You can let me know your answers and possible scenarios in the comments 🙂

Anyhow, Andorra la Vella is one big shopping centre, so let’s do things as the Andorrans (tourists) do.

And then it was time to eat. Nice local specialties but more like Spanish food, I would say.

pinchos 🙂

Driving back was even more complicated. I guess all these tourists were coming back from their shopping weekend.

It was nice to meet you Andorra – officially country number 46. 🙂

abbey 5

Girona, Catalunya, Spain

Again some short weekend trip to some EU city. You gotta love it, right? Well, we did 🙂 We hopped on the plane Friday after work and landed to some cute hotel nearby airport in Girona. That night was reserved for spa and some nice tapas.

The next day was about to explore the city of Girona. Apparently entire season 6 of Game of Thrones was filmed here. Let me show you the data:

Entrance to medieval city of Girona at the confluence of the rivers Ter, Onyar, Galligants, and Güell

The first historical inhabitants in the region were Iberians.  Later, the Romans built a citadel there. Until it was conquered by the Moors in 8th century. Finally, Charlemagne reconquered it in late 8thcentury and made it one of the fourteen original counties of Catalonia. Yes, Girona is in Catalonia, right next to grande Barcelona. 🙂

As of then it has been given to spanish kings of Aragon.

Important to mention is that during this period of time the Jewish community of Girona flourish, having one of the most important Kabbalistic schools in Europe. The presence of the Jewish community of Girona came to an end in 15th century, when the Catholic Monarchs outlawed Judaism throughout Spain and Jews were given the choice of conversion or exile.

As a result of many battles by different rulers, Girona has amazing and long defensive city walls untouched but abandoned.

In recent years, the city walls on the eastern side of the city have been reconstructed. Called the Passeig de la Muralla it now forms a tourist route around the old city.

Time for break 🙂

The typical beer here is Estrella. Lager.

As the many things on this photo above remind about the Catalonia resistance, I couldn’t help but notice that the protesting symbols and marks are everywhere around.

Especially the yellow ribbons are symbol of protest for Catalonian Independence and freedom of political prisoners.

The ancient cathedral, which stood on the site of the Roman Forum, was used by the Moors as a mosque, but nowadsy is a fine and excellent example of Catalan Gothic architecture. It is approached by eighty-six steps.

The Collegiate Church of Sant Feliu or Saint Felix 🙂 is noteworthy from an architectural point of view. Its style is 14th-century Gothic and it is one of the few Spanish churches which possesses a genuine spire. It contains, besides the sepulchre of its patron and the tomb of the valiant Álvarez, a chapel dedicated to St. Narcissus, who according to tradition was one of the early bishops of the see.

The last thing we visited was the Museum of Art. If you love romantic and gothic art, you will love this place as well.

Before you leave this city, amke sure you got this amazing view on the cityscape at the sunset 🙂