Archive for March 8th, 2018

March 8, 2018

And Aragon is great too, of Spain!

So as we are in the Spain mood, and not because it is raining outside with temps of 10C or about 50F , well, this is typical nowadays. We look forward to Spring, back in my hangout of Castilla they told me yesterday the same and even snow in the mountains/Serranias area. However, today I like to tell you a bit about another great historical region of Spain; this is Aragon.

Aragón is in the north of Spain and has three provinces (states, dept etc) ,these are Huesca, Zaragoza, and  Teruel. It took the name from two small creeks from the Pyrenees ,the Aragon , and the Aragon Subordan.  The small county was first established in Jaca in the 10C and took the name of these creeks that are in the Valley of the Ebro bordered on the north by the peaks of the Pyrenees and on the south by the Iberian peaks .  It is here in Aragon ,where we find the highest peaks of the two mountains ranges ,these are the Aneto and the Moncayo.

The grand feast or festival is that dedicated to Saint George on April 23rd the patron Saint of the Kingdom of Aragon since the 15C. The Castilian or as usually call the Spanish is spoken here of course but, also, the Aragonese on the north and the Catalan on the western parts.

It is beautiful country , unfortunately I am not a mountain person , so will tell you anyway. The National Park of the Ordesa and the Mount Perdido extends over 15K hectares in the province of Huesca at the heart of the central Pyrenees. It is the second oldest park in Spain, and ,also Unesco biosphere reserve. You have here the Lake Gallocanta (singing rooster), extends over 7 km long and 2,5 km wide at more than 1000 meters altitude over the towns of Daroca and Jiloca. It is protected as a humid salted zone by the International convention of Ramsar. The other salted reserve is at Chiprana  and extends over 154 hectares in the town of Chipriana, that has several salted ponds such as those of Roces, Prado del Farol and other smaller ones. They are also protected by the international convention of Ramsar.

 Now a bit on the transport. This is best to check the sites geared for that as they can be up to date. However, the region has a wonderful airport at Zaragoza, just about 10km from the city. There is,also, the smaller airport of Huesca-Pirineos mostly for domestic flights. There are excellent roads that I take every year such as the N-II, AP-2, N232, A222 is trying to make another beltway like the Z-50 with it. The A23 (Autovía Mudéjar )is best and it has the beltway Z40 around Zaragoza.  There are good train service with AVE the fast trains of Spain regularly stop at the stations of Zaragoza-Delicias and Calatayud.

Now a bit of history I like:

The Romans were here in the 2C BC ! and by the 1C BC what was Aragon per se was part of the province of  Tarraconaise.  The Romans turned cities in the celtic mold and Romanize them into Roman towns such as  Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza), Osca (Huesca) ou Bilbilis (Calatayud). By 459, Majorien  was the last roman emperor  in Spain ; after him the Visigoths kings took over and held it as their kingdom until taken over by the Moors/Arabs in 711 AD . The name of Aragon was first shown for the first time in the high middle ages or about 828AD when a small country near the town of current Jaca took the name of the nearby creeks as told above. The Aragon was special, considered part of a Lordship led by a Count but obeying a king of Pamplona.  It all started when Sancho the Great gives in 1015  the territories of Aragon to his bastardy  son Ramiro and becomes the first king of Aragon.  By 1104, Alfonso Iro el Batallador (the battler) continues the conquests of the towns nearby the valley of the Ebro such as Ejea, Valtierra, Calatayud, Tudela , and Zaragoza, then capital of a powerful arab taïfa. Upon his death in 1134, the Aragonese nobles elects his brother Ramiro II aka as the Monk,and to continue the line he marries Agnes of Poitiers; by 1137 his daughter Petronella marries Raymond Berenguer IV count of Barcelona. This union gives rise to the crown of Aragon and led to further conquests in Mallorca and Valencia as well as Sicily and Naples. By 1412 the reigning king Martin Ir dies without heirs and the compromise at Caspe led to the election of Fernando of Antequera, a noble Castilian of the family of the Trastamare and descendant of Aragonese king Pedro IV by his mother Eleonor of Aragon.  The kingdom of Aragon had its own government or cortes; the union of Fernando II of Aragon and Isabel I of Castile (the Catholic kings)  in 1469 at Valladolid creates the union of the two principal kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula, and is the base of the creation of Spain as of today.

By 1931 most of the towns and countryside wants autonomy. In June 1936 it is presented in the government cortes the project of autonomy of Aragon on the model of the Basques and Catalans that will be the models of autonomous independents later on .  The Spanish Civil War starts on the same year of 1936 and stops all these projects of autonomy.  From the first days of the conflict Aragon is cut in two; the western half with the capitals of Zaragoza and Téruel are in the hand of the Nationalists. Between 1936 to 1939 several important battles are held in Aragon, these are  Belchite, Téruel and all the Ebro valley.  In the offensive of 1939 all of Aragon falls to the Gen Franco’s troops. Like the rest of Spain, it is finally a monarchy parliamentary and democratic in 1976 with a national constitution of 1978.

The gastronomy here is diverse and rich, and I love it.  The blood sausage of rice (morcilla de arroz), the sausage of Graus (Longaniza of Graus) and the Botifarra (Butifarra). But the most famous of the specialties is the ham of Teruel. The migas of pastor, kind of stew of hard bread fried with bacon, chorizo, pepper, onion and garlic. It is traditionally served with fried eggs. Among the cheeses, the most famous is the Queso de Tronchón, made on the heights of the Maestrazgo, in Tronchón. IIt is at Catalayud that the desserts of Frutas de Aragón, prepared from macerated fruits and cooked in syrup, and then covered with chocolate, are made to give them an appearance of candy paved with the Pilar (figure of the Virgin of Zaragoza) is a big candy , about 500 grams, packed with an image of the Virgin of  Pilar on a white background, while the inside contains the lyrics of a popular Aragonese song. The patties of the soul (Tortas de Alma) are made in the province of Teruel, and  are small pies of dough filled with angel hair and scented with anise or moscatel. There are other traditional pastries I like such as the , the Knots of Jaca (Lazos de Jaca). The wine is good here with a DOC designated area of the wines of Somontano, Campo de Borja, Cariñena and Cabra.  The olive oil of the lower Aragon and the Sierra de Moncayo is also protected by an appellation.

The tourist information you need to really enjoy this region other than reading my post ::) is to be found here:

Tourism autonomous community of Aragon :

Tourism province Zaragoza :

Tourism province Huesca :

Tourism province Teruel :

Hope you enjoy this ride high in the mountains but nice on the valleys just like I like it. Aragon has something for everyone. Enjoy it. Cheers!!!

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