In my time travelling I’ve discovered that most countries have some strange and interesting traditions and laws, but none more so than Spain. Here are 10 facts that you probably didn’ t already know about this weird and wonderful land.
While you would be well within your rights to walk along the street naked in broad daylight in Spain, if you are a prostitute in the Barcelona area you better grab your high-visibility vest or you will likely face a fine. (Safety first, after all.)
Once you get hired into public sector government jobs, as a teacher, for example, you cannot be fired. It is a job for life and you will simply be moved from job to job if you don’t perform up to scratch. (Seems like a perfectly logical arrangement does it not?)
At Christmas time in many homes in the Catalonia and Aragon regions of Spain, you will find “Tío de Nadal” or “Caga Tio” (poop log) as it’s often known. This defecation-based Christmas tradition involves filling a log with four wooden legs, a smiley face, and a hat with treats such as dried nuts, fruits and candy. This is carried out every night from the December 8th until Christmas Eve. When the big night of Christmas Eve arrives, the children whip poor Caga Tio continuously until he defecates out all of the treats. The whipping is accompanied by the singing of a special songs which is based on threatening the log to poop well or face being beaten with a stick.
Now if it didn’t already seem like they have a bit of a poop obsession then it will now. As well as Caga Tio, they also have “Caganer”, which is quite literally a porcelain figure of a man taking a dump – did I mention it’s part of the nativity! He dates back to the 18th Century and he’s certainly a firm favourite in the nativity scenes with the kids – I can see why!
The Tooth Fairy or Rat?
If you lose a tooth in Spain, rather than receiving a visit from the tooth fairy, you’ll bag a visit from “Ratoncito Perez” (Perez the Mouse). This is a tradition that dates back to 1894 when a writer called Luis Coloma made him the character in a story. Like the tooth fairy, Perez will exchange your tooth for a small gift or money.
Buñol, a small town in Valencia is host to “La Tomatina” -a festival that consists of pelting thousands of tomatoes at each other for pure enjoyment. It’s a huge event, which can attract up to 50,000 participants (Buñol’s usual population is just 9,000) and use more than one hundred metric tons of tomatoes.
At around 11am lots of trucks arrive in the centre of the town filled with tomatoes but the festival does not technically begin until someone has climbed to the top of a greasy wooden pole, which is two stories high to reach the coveted ham. However nobody ever managed to reach it, but none the less the chaos begins and it is every man for himself.
Time Travelling Zip Wire
Have you ever wanted to time travel whilst doing an extreme sport? Well you’re in luck because Spain boasts the world’s only zip line that will allow you to zip wire your way across not only country borders but also through time (considering the 1 hour time difference between Portugal and Spain). “Limite zero” attracts thrill-seekers from all over the world to take the 60-second trip from beautiful south-western Spain into scenic south-eastern Portugal across the Guadiana river. You can fly at speeds of up to 80 km/h.
Unusual McDonald’s Treats
If you’re bored of a simple cheeseburger and Coca-Cola at McDonald’s, then have no fear, in Spain you can order both ‘gazpacho’ (a typical cold Spanish soup) and beer (You know what beer is) to jazz up your meal a bit.
World’s Largest Lottery
Spain is home to the world’s largest lottery. “El Gordo” (The Fat One) as it’s affectionately known is held every year at Christmas and offers the biggest total prize money in the world. In 2017 it was worth a whopping 2.3 billion euros ($2.6 billion). A ticket doesn’t come cheap though, at 200 euros, many choose to pool together with friends or workmates to soften the blow. In 2011, the criss-hit town of Grañén, home to just 2,000 people won 700 million euros, which was shared by many locals and helped to bring them out of crisis.
Did you know the Eiffel Tower was originally meant to be in Barcelona? Initially it was planned for the vibrant coastal Spanish city but was eventually rejected on the grounds that it would be an eyesore. With the Eiffel Tower now worth 400 billion euros, I wonder if Spain is starting to regret that decision somewhat? But perhaps it’s for the best given that the Sagrada Familia is still under construction 136 years later.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the oldest restaurant in the world is ‘Sobrino de Botín’ in the Capital city of Madrid. Sobrino de Botín opened its doors in 1725 and has never closed since. Amazingly the oven has been burning continuously this whole time – that’s nearly 300 years!
Guest Author: Andrea Furneaux
Psychology graduate Andrea Furneaux fell in love with travel at a young age, living abroad and exploring far corners of the world with her family. After volunteering in Mexico and Brazil on a gap year, she headed for Spain straight after university, where she has worked as an English teacher for the last three years. When she’s not lying on a beach on the Costa de Sol, she’s playing tennis at the local club or working on her new blog. Check out her blog: www.andreaisla.com