Spain's Aragon, Zaragoza & the Aragon Pyrenees

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Publisher Description

When the Moors spread across the country during the eighth century they could never penetrate the Pyrenees, though they left quite a legacy in other parts of Aragon. By the ninth century the Christians had begun to reconsolidate in the Pyrenees; they formed the Kingdom of Aragon and made Jaca - today the most popular village among mountain sportsters - their earliest capital. The Romanesque churches scattered throughout the Pyrenees stand as a genteel testament to the devotion and determination of these rallying Christians. During the 12th century they had worked their way south into the wide-open landscape of the Rio Ebro basin in Aragon's central region. In 1118, under King Alfonso I, they overtook the Moors of Zaragoza, the largest city in the basin. As throughout Spain during this period, the Moors who remained on the land under Christian domain came to be called Mudejars. For the next 300 years the many skilled artisans among them merged their traditional Islamic decorative motifs with European architectural techniques with remarkable results. Mudejar monuments are still evident in Zaragoza. But it was in southern Aragon, a sparsely populated, dry region buffeted from Valencia and Castilla-La Mancha by the Iberian mountain chain, that the Mudejar style truly manifested itself, particularly in the provincial capital of Teruel. That tradition, however, came to an end when Ferdinand II of Aragon married Isabella of Castilla in the 15th century and the Moors were expelled, setting the framework for Spain as a unified, Christian nation. As Spanish cities go, Zaragoza is one of the finest, a blend of the traditional Castilian air felt in a metropolis like Madrid and that cosmopolitan Euro-vibe that characterizes Barcelona. The capital of Aragon is a stylish, highly modernized city wrapped around an old quarter on the banks of the Rio Ebro. This area conforms to the original settlement of Caeseraugusta founded by the Romans in 24 BC. The story of 2,000 years can be haphazardly pieced together in a walk across the city's beloved Plaza del Pilar, where Roman ruins stand alongside a tower built by Moors, down from which is a grand Catholic basilica where legends of a miracle by the Virgin Mary continue to attract pilgrims in the know. That, some might venture, is what traveling through Spain or any other country boils down to - knowledge, gleaned through the desire to do and see what most travelers simply pass by. The Plaza del Pilar extends along the riverbank from the Plaza de Cesar Augusto to the Plaza de la Seo, encompassing a spectacular range of monuments ranging from Roman times to the present. The Plaza de Cesar Augusto on the western end preserves remains of the original Muralla Romano (Roman Wall), the 15th-century Mudejar Torreon de la Zuda and the 17th-century Baroque Iglesia de San Juan de los Panetes. With a little imagination it is still possible to visualize the rectangular site of the original Roman town of Caesaraugusta, established by the emperor in 24 BC in the area of the Plaza del Pilar. The Museo Foro Romano de Caesaraugusta shelters excavations in the Plaza de la Seo of a Roman market dated to 19 BC during the time of Caesar Augustus and a town forum built in the first century AD. The Pyrenees Mountains of Aragon comprise the heart of this impressive range separating Spain from France in its skyward thrust from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea. Where the eastern and western flanks of the range descend in the neighboring regions of Cataluna and Navarra, creating gentler landscapes more tolerant of human activity, the mountains of Aragon reach for the heavens in a grandiose setting of alpine extremes and isolation rarely equaled in the country. In its northernmost heights, Aragon claims the highest peaks in the Pyrenees, some of which are still capped by the last surviving Spanish glaciers. These are an undeniable lure to climbers and alpinists and guaranteed to put a smile on any naturalist's face. You can look above to see eagles, falcons and vultures carving the sky or below to the lush valleys descending through fields of wildflowers tramped by chamois, wild boar, roe deer and backpackers. These valleys shelter ruined villages that have long since been deserted and others that have profited tremendously from the surge of interest in the outdoors during the last 20 years. Ainsa, Benasque and particularly Jaca serve as gateways into the wildest reaches of the Aragon Pyrenees and the plentiful snow skiing, hiking, canyoning and whitewater opportunities that await. The author, who has lived in Spain for many years, provides every detail you need to know for an unforgettable visit - where to stay, where to eat, entertainment, activities of all kinds, from hiking to canoeing, concerts to festivals - plus the historical background of what you see. There is also an extensive section on what you need to know when traveling to Spain in general, plus a language and Spanish vocabulary chapter is included. A great new resource. -- Travel + Leisure. The perfect companion for planning. -- Rutgers Magazine. These useful travel guides are highly recommended... -- Library Journal

Travel & Adventure
2 May
Hunter Publishing, Inc.

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