Most of us know about the Valencia region as the place where the wonderful paella originated, or maybe as the city where Las Fallas festival takes place and incredible paper mache sculptures are burned to the ground. However, you may not know the following surprising facts about the Valencia region of Spain.
1. That’s a hell of a bell
The tower of Valencia`s Cathedral, known as Miguelete or Micalet, contains a seven and a half ton bell inside, which is called Miguel, in honour of the saint who is in charge of protecting Valencia from storms and evil.
2. Breathe in, that’s a narrow building
In Valencia’s Lope de Vega Plaza, we can find the narrowest building in Europe – being only 107 centimetres wide. The structure is only beaten in narrowness by a house 100 centimetres wide located in Brazil.
3. The sky’s the limit, or is it?
Benidorm is the city with the most skyscrapers per capita in the world. Hong Kong has the highest number of skyscrapers by area with New York coming in second.
4. Medieval Valencian literature is a good read
There was a medieval Golden Age in Valencian literature and its most well-renowned work was Tirant Lo Blanc (Tales of the White Night), written by Joanot Martorell. It was hailed by the world famous author himself, Miguel de Cervantes, as the “best book in the world”. The feisty novel looks at the life of a knight and romance in the Byzantine Empire. The book was first published in the late 15th century.
5. That’s a long time for the distance
The first Spanish long distance rail train was launched on May 25th 1858, by the Spanish Queen Isabel II and connected Madrid with Alicante in the Valencia region. The journey took 16 hours and the opening of the route influenced the expansion of the port and the urban settlement of Alicante.
6. That’s a batty legend
Curiously the bat is honoured in Valencian culture. According to legend, a bat woke Jaime I and his soldiers up during a heavy sleep, and as a result their men were awake and prepared when the Muslims unexpectedly attacked the city during that same night.
7. Film stars in Alicante
The famous film The Impossible, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona and starring Ewan Mc Gregor and Naomi Watts was filmed in La Ciudad de La Luz studios, in Alicante.
8. Castellón, a great place for exile
Three of the four Spanish popes were from the Valencian region: Calixto III, Alejandro IV and Benedicto XIII. Benedicto XIII achieved the role in the 14th century and was known as the Moon Pope due to his full name Pedro Martínez de Luna. Due to his unorthodox behaviour he was declared a heretic and lived in isolation in the beautiful Peñíscola Castle, in Castellón.
9. Beginner’s luck in the Champions League?
Villarreal FC is the football club that has reached the furthest stages in its Champions League debut. The team reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2005-2006. Unfortunately, the Valencian football team, Villarreal FC was defeated 1-0 by Arsenal in the London Highbury Stadium in the first leg and drew 0-0 in El Estadio de la Cerámica, Villarreal. An important point in the game was when Argentine Juan Román Riquelme missed a penalty.
10. A tragic romance causes a face to turn to stone
According to legend, during a period of Muslim domination in Alicante, a Caliph (Muslim leader) wanted to arrange a marriage for his daughter Cántara, and decided to test two suitors, Almanzor and Alí. Almanzor won the contest by bringing a ship full of spices and fabrics from Indian for which the Caliph was impressed. However, Cántara was in love with Alí, who had been distracted from the task and instead had been showering her with affection and gifts. Not wanting to live apart, Cántara and Alí jumped to their deaths. The Caliph was depressed from the death of his daughter and died soon afterwards. Apparently the face of the Caliph appeared on the side of the Benacantil Mountain. The residents were heartbroken and combined Alí and Cántara’s names to form the name of the city, Alicante.
Look out for more in the 10-surprising-facts-about... tag as we add more surprising facts about Spanish regions in the coming weeks. If you know surprising facts about your region, let us know in the comments below.