Features of Galicia, Spain
The first thing most English speaking visitors to Galicia will notice is the landscape and climate. The countryside is generally green and naturally well irrigated, but this cooler and wetter climate has also resulted in some unusual and distinctive structures evolving.
Galicia is not alone in having characteristics and features that set it apart from the other principalities of Spain, but some of these features, both natural and man-made, are worth looking out for. In particular, the examples (described below) can be seen in almost any town or village, or on any countryside drive or walk, and are particular to this region of Spain. They are:
- Elevated granite grain stores, known locally as horreos
- Fresh spring water drinking fountains
- Glass enclosed balconies, known as galerias
Below, a photo of a traditional Galician elevated grain store (horreo) in Oin Oeste.
The many elevated grain stores peppered around the towns and countryside were traditionally used to store maize and other grains. They were designed with rat and small mammal proofing in mind and it is for this reason that they are elevated on granite legs, each with a projecting soffit. They all have a cross, indicative of the historic importance of Christianity to the community and Galicia.
Small models of these grain stores are a typical tourist keep sake from Galicia and are sold in nearly all tourist areas.
"Spring water" drinking fountains are found in all the towns and villages scattered around the countryside of Galicia. You will also see some more elaborate versions on, or close to, town squares and other public areas.
Left, this especially ornate fountain can be found at a the "Pesqueria del Tambre", a hydro electric plant that is also a National Park.
Galician tradition dictates that all of these fountains must be accessible to anyone, even if they are on private property. Unless otherwise stated, the water from these fountains is always safe to drink and the locals use these fountains in preference to tap water.
If you are from the UK and concerned about drinking from a fountain, just bear in mind that as of 1999, the UK was the only EU country whose drinking water did not meet the European standard.
A further architectural feature, particular to Galicia, is the "galeria", an enclosed glass paneled balcony (see below). These features adorn the more traditional buildings in the region and are simply narrow balconies enclosed in a glass frame, making them practical all year round. They are used like narrow high level conservatories when the weather is bright, but cool, allowing the Galicians to enjoy the sun whatever the temperature.
Right, these examples of galerias are in the town of Noia (A Coruna province) and are original, but refurbished examples.
Over recent years many new apartment blocks have also started to adopt the galeria style (albeit in upvc), acknowledging the regions architectural heritage. This results in some very distinctive facades and ensures that the old blends in successfully with the new, particularly in architecturally sensitive areas.
One of the most famous examples of "galerias" can be seen at the harbour front in the city of "A Coruna", you can see a photo of this on the "A Coruna" page.