The Snow in Spain Falls in Sevilla

It is no secret that a large contingent of (mostly Anglo) travelers defines Spain by its much reputed fair climate.  If you visit in August, and go to the Canary Islands for example (a Spanish “autonomous community” like any other, but located just off the coast of southern Morocco), a warm and sunny beach paradise is of course going to be your impression. I think that a large reason this balmy stereotype exists is because the tourists are doing just that, flocking to the warmest and sandiest places during the summer months. Andalucía is Spain’s southernmost mainland region, and as such enjoys the mildest climate in Spain apart from the aforementioned islands. But Andalucía’s traits cannot be extrapolated to represent the entire nation. Just as many foreigners do not separate flamenco (a 100% and inextricably Andalusian art), bullfighting (vastly more popular and culturally integrated in Andalucía than anywhere else), and beaches (any sane Spaniard will tell you to head straight south for its unrivaled quality and quantity of playa) from the rest of Spain, so too has the climate of the south been conveniently appropriated for the country’s image abroad. If you don’t believe me, just check out Spain’s official tourism logo.

Spain is actually far more geographically diverse than many believe. Madrid’s location, perched over 2,000 feet up on the meseta (high plateau), qualifies it as Europe’s highest-altitude capital, with a climate variable enough to surprise those who imagine this nation to be basically the world’s longest beach. The north of the peninsula — specifically the regions of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country — is notoriously rainy, where a full day of sun is just about as rare a guiri who packs an umbrella for a trip to Spain. The Pyrenees, the Picos de Europa, and the Sierra Nevada are all important Spanish mountain ranges where snow-capped peaks and freezing temperatures are common in all but the dead of summer. The windswept plains of the interior are subject to temperature extremes, and just last year I was caught in a snow and hail storm near Salamanca…in April. If your idea of Spain’s climate more closely resembled the Caribbean than the North Atlantic country that it is, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider that notion.

A photo from my trip to the snow-capped Picos de Europa, Asturias, spring, 2006

This past week, the entire country has been hit by snowstorms, including way down south. Despite the colder-than-you-realize temperatures, it is still extremely uncommon to ever see snow in Andalucía, with the exception of in Granada’s Sierra Nevada, the highest range in Spain and whose name tellingly means “snowy mountains.” December through early March in Sevilla are like a Boston November in terms of temperature and gray skies, a far cry from a perennial Mediterranean resort town. Yesterday morning, however, copious white flakes descended upon the metropolitan Sevilla area for the first time in apparently 56 years. (If you are as into Spanish-English word play as I am, you might appreciate my use of the adjective ‘copious’ to modify ‘flakes,’ as the latter in Spanish is copos.) I was, alas, asleep during this monumental event, but luckily a bunch of dumbfounded sevillanos put some videos on YouTube, including this one recorded in Castilleja itself. I also have included a video report of the soccer stadium in Córdoba, an Andalusian city 85 miles northeast of Sevilla, where this past Sunday’s divison 2 match was canceled due to the “substantial” snowfall.

This first video is from the town I live in, Castilleja de la Cuesta, just about 3 miles from Sevilla. Quick Spanish lesson: the phrase that this man is constantly repeating, “mira como nieva!”  means “look at how it’s snowing!”

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~ by lincolnbrody on January 12, 2010.

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