Wednesday, August 28, 2013

4 Reasons You Should Know About Linares, Spain

Browse through the pages of any major travel guide for Spain and you’d be hard-pressed to find even a single reference to Linares, a city 61,000 strong in the southern province of Jaén. More people live in Linares than in the tourist hotspots of Segovia and Ávila, yet hardly anyone has heard about this place. This is a real shame because Linares is a decent-sized, typical Spanish town but without the hordes of tourists that mob Granada or Sevilla. Although a fairly anonymous, workaday town, Linares makes up for its lack of cathedrals or castles with a significant cultural heritage and an accessible setting. Find out why Linares should have its name on your map after the photo!

Linares, Spain
Plaza de San Francisco

1) Bullfighter Manolete died here

Linares, Spain
Monument to Manolete in front of the bullring
If you’re like me, you probably don’t know a thing (or care) about the history of Spanish bullfighting, but apparently The Most Famous Bullfighter of All Time was Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez a.k.a. Manolete. He died from wounds sustained in his last bullfight here in Linares on August 28, 1947. Manolete was one of the most important bullfighters who fought (played? worked?) in the post Spanish Civil War-era, and after he died at just 30 years of age, the city erected a monument to him outside their quite large, white-and-gold painted bullring.

2) Guitarist Andrés Segovia was born here

Linares, Spain
Terrace-filled street
Andrés Segovia was the man who probably single-handedly dignified the guitar as an instrument worthy of classical music concerts, who transcribed a ton of classical music for the guitar, and who taught many of today’s contemporary guitarists. Although he was born in Linares in 1893, he grew up in the nearby village of Villacarrillo and later moved to Granada where he seriously began studying the guitar. He returned to visit Linares for the first time in the 1950s having lived in Madrid for most of his professional life. Segovia died in 1987 and today there is an international classical guitar competition held annually in town.

3) Lively culture of tapas and flamenco

Linares, Spain
Peña Flamenca Plomo y Plata
Although Spanish provinces like Granada and León are famous for serving with your drink free tapas—small plates of food like sausage and fried potatoes or salmon rolls on slices of bread—the province of Jaén is Spain’s best-kept secret when it comes to the free tapas scene. In most bar/restaurants you go to, you can even choose which free tapa you get, and rarely will your bill be more than two euros. I know, it’s a steal!

Additionally, the town has a healthy appreciation for flamenco, a style of music that involves ornate, Arabic-sounding singing, guitar playing, hand clapping, and passionate dancing. This uniquely-Spanish genre began centuries ago in the region of Andalucía, based on the musical traditions of Gypsy people who form a large part of the population in the south. My friend Alissa lived and worked in Linares this past year and once invited me to a flamenco performance that was completely free yet totally authentic. A little under a hundred locals (and us) crammed into a converted garage that hosted the flamenco club, enjoying fresh food and drink and a powerful expression of emotion.

4) Train station was Andalucía’s only gateway to the rest of Spain

Linares, Spain
Estación Linares-Baeza
Here’s a fun fact: up until the arrival of the AVE high-speed rail linking Madrid with Córdoba and Sevilla in the early 1990s, virtually all rail traffic in and out of the entire Andalucía region had to pass through the Pass of Despeñaperros and the Linares-Baeza train station. The station was so important that it has its own town—literally; Estación Linares-Baeza is also the name of the tiny village outside Linares that developed around the rail traffic. Today, the station isn’t quite as busy as it once was decades ago, but all non-high speed and freight traffic still rolls on by on its way to Madrid, Barcelona, and beyond.

Have you ever heard of Linares before? What other important cities can you think of that are completely overlooked by travel guides? Tell me in the comments below!

For more pictures, check out my set on Flickr here.
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