There is something special about Spanish cities. It could have to do with their age
– most can trace their roots back to the Romans, or the Phoenicians, or earlier still.
It could have to do with their location, by the sea, on top of spectacular mountains,
on the banks of rivers in picturesque valleys. It could have to do with their artistic
treasures and architectural gems, their palaces, castles, museums and cathedrals.
But none of this is enough to explain why the cities of Spain hold such a fascination.
No, it has to do with the manner in which these cities are alive. Spanish cities
are meant to be touched, breathed, listened to and enjoyed. They are at the same
time ancient and young, combining tradition with joie de vivre in a way that is not
found elsewhere. Monuments that in other countries would be cordoned off to be admired
from a distance, here form part of the fabric of life. Monasteries become restaurants,
palaces are used as art galleries, castles are converted into hotels, concerts are
held in 2000- year-old Roman theatres. For Spaniards, their city –what they call
their patria chica, the “little homeland”– is an extension of the home. Fair weather
allows life to be enjoyed outdoors, and the tradition of the paseo, the evening stroll
to be seen in every village in Spain, survives in the cities, no matter how large.
Perhaps this is why newcomers, be they worldly-wise travellers or small children,
feel immediately at ease in Spain. Like any proud home-owner,Spaniards are eager
to show their patria chica to visitors, sharing with them those things that make
them proud to call a city their home.