Top 5

Top 5 Places to find the Ghosts of Spain

A while back I wrote to Giles Tremlett, the Guardian’s Spain correspondent and author of Ghosts of Spain, to see if he would like to take part in our Spain Top 5’s series. He’s been very busy up until now with the release of the Spanish version of his book (España Ante Sus Fantasmas, published by SIGLO XXI), but here at last are Giles’ Top 5 places to find the Ghosts of Spain…

1. Valle de los Caidos

Franco’s tomb and a ghostly reminder that his regime was about both God and Patria. Set in a beautiful wooded valley outside Madrid, the conjunction of fascist grandeur, natural beauty and religious ardour is, in the true sense of the word, awesome. Also El Escorial is just down the road.

2. The cemetery at Paracuellos de Jarama

The huge white cross you see on the hillside by Madrid’s Barajas airport marks a cemetery where the mass graves of those murdered by the defenders of the Republic lie. The civil war was not black and white.

3. The Roncesvalles pass in the Pyrenees

Where the Basques fell on Charlemagne’s rearguard – a central act in the Basque myth of statehood. Also a beautiful spot (though you can skip the “monuments”), and specially good for looking at vultures.

4. The monastery at Poblet

I always try to visit the Cistercian monastery here during the week and out of season. A chilly winter afternoon is best, because you get it virtually to yourself. What can I say? There is something magical about the place, and not necessarily because it represents part of Catalonia’s pre-Spanish past. No wonder Gaudi found his inspiration here.

5. The Creation Tapestry in Girona cathedral

They recently dimmed the lights here so as to prevent the tapestry from fading. This makes the intense colours harder to make out but I can’t help looking at this huge piece of fabric without imagining the 11th century fingers that put it together. Girona is the Granada of the north-east and well worth a visit anyway.

Have you got a Spain Top 5 you’d like to send in to Notes from Spain?