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The fascinating and beautiful country of Spain is one of the largest countries in Europe. The history that Spain has had has left great stories to tell and remarkable landmarks to visit. Spain is located in the south west corner of Europe, with its neighboring countries, Portugal and France. It has a population of forty million plus people, but almost one-third of the nation’s population is foreigners that reside in its territory. One of the most important facts about Spain is that its economy is one of the largest in the world.
Spain is currently in a recession, with low employment rates and poverty. Sports and games are a very important and popular pastime of Spain. The Spaniards have traditional and regional games, which include soccer and the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Soccer is the most popular sport in Spain. La Liga (The Spanish League) is known to be one of the world’s best competitions. Spain’s world famous teams like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have dominated this competition in the past and continue to do so.
Spain’s National Soccer Team has qualified for the Fifa World Cup tournament thirteen times since 1930. In 2010 Spain won the Fifa World Cup for the first time, defeating Netherlands in the final. In the European Championship soccer tournament, Spain has won three times, in 1964, 2008, and 2012. Spain has won two medals in the soccer Olympic games tournaments. Spain is currently ranked number one in the world for soccer. Although Spain is world renowned for its capabilities in soccer, they also have great achievements in others sports like tennis, basketball, cycling and motor sports.
Spain has produced a number of tennis champions. For example, Rafael Nadal, considered to be the best Spanish tennis player of all time. Rafael Nadal has won 11 Grand Slam trophies, seven French Open titles, two Wimbledon titles, one US open title and one Australian open title. The Spanish ACB is one of the major European basketball leagues. A number of Spanish players, like Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol are currently playing in the world famous NBA. Cycling has been an important sport in Spain since the 1940s. The Tour of Spain is one of the most important ycling events in the world, along with the Tour of France and the Tour of Italy. Several Spanish cycling athletes have won the world famous cycling event, the Tour of France. The regional pastime of the running of the bulls in Pamplona is an exciting tradition that involves a group of bulls that are lets loose in the streets of Pamplona. The main purpose of the run is to transport the bulls from the corrals into the bullrings, where they will be killed. This run takes place for seven days in San Fermin, Pamplona in Spain.
It started in the 14th century. Today the running of the bulls attracts many tourists from around the world that like to participate. Many participate by joining the bulls, and running along side of them. This is very dangerous, many are injured and some are even killed. Others participate by dressing the part and cheering. Runners wear the traditional outfit of a white shirt and pants. Some have a red scarf or handkerchief, some wear red belts. Runners also have with them a newspaper to draw attention away from the bulls just in case.
The food and eating habits of Spain are unlike any other country in the world. Spain has the longest working week in Europe, which calls for very long working days. The Spaniards call for eating well throughout the day. The eating hours in Spain are loosely defined and restaurants are open later hours. Unlike in America where it is considered that breakfast should be the most important and filling meal of the day, Spaniards have a quick breakfast. It will usually consist of a glass of orange juice or coffee, accompanied by a pastry, for example a croissant or the very delicious churro.
Most Spaniards have their breakfast out at a cafe or bar, it is unusual for them to have it in there own home. At around 11am a Spaniard has a “merienda”, which is Spanish for a snack. Almost usually it is a “bacadillo”, which is Spanish for sandwich. This sandwich can be filled with anything from tuna fish, to cured ham, cheese or meat. This merienda means that lunch is a couple hours away, even though midday is near. In Spain, lunch is a big deal. At times it can last well over an hour.
Depending on what region of Spain, and the time of year, lunch comes with a “siesta”, which is Spanish for nap. Because of the daily siesta, many shops and establishments close for a couple of hours. Lunch is a great time to go out to eat at restaurants. All Spanish restaurants are required by law to have a “menu del dia”, a 3 course menu that has a fixed price, it is economical compared to the actual menu. The “menu del dia” usually consists of two or three starters and mains courses to choose from. There are options for dessert; usually it is something simple like yogurt or fruit.
The working day ends late, usually at around 8pm. Many Spaniards stop at a bar to socialize with friends before heading home. When at the bar, “tapas”, a free snack is given to patrons with their drinks. The evening meal can start as late as 9 or 10 pm. The most famous dish from Spain is La Paella; a rice dish with seafood, Jamon Serrano; Spanish ham, Gazpacho; a cold tomato soup, and Tortilla; an egg and potato omelet. Spain is a country that is very interesting. Its beauty, culture, and cuisine make it very appealing and enticing.