Potpourri: Spain Edition

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In the process of doing research, I often come across various stories which are interesting but might not be worthy of a full episode. They are more like snippets than stories.

Every so often I save these things up for a special episode because I really hate to let things go to waste. 

So without further ado, here is the Spanish potpourri episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.

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This episode is sponsored by the Tourist Office of Spain.

In the past, I’ve talked about different aspects of what Spain has to offer. Food, festivals, history, beaches, mountains, museums, restaurants, and live entertainment. 

There is a reason why over 82 million people a year visit Spain, making it the second most visited country in the world. 

If you’ve been to Spain, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t been to Spain, then you owe it to yourself to visit.

You can start researching your dream trip to Spain today by visiting Spain.info where you can get everything you need to know to plan your Spanish adventure.

Once again, that’s Spain.info

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Our first story on this episode has to do with the borders of Spain.

Most countries have set, established borders. They have worked out a deal with their neighbors and there is an agreement as to where one country ends and the next country begins. 

For Spain, this is mostly the case as well. However, there is one notable exception. 

The border between France and Spain is set and it mostly goes through the Pyrenese Mountains. The far western end of the border, however, is the Bidasoa river. For about 10 kilometers, starting at the Atlantic Ocean, the river serves as the border. 

In the middle of the river is an island known as Pheasant Island. It is a really small island with no real significance outside of its geographic oddness. It is only about 200 meters by 40 meters in size, there are no buildings on the island, and no one lives there. 

Normally, when there is an island in the middle of a river that serves as a border, you have two options: 1) you put the border somewhere down the middle of the island, or 2) the entire island is given to one country or the other. 

The Spanish and the French, however, went for option number 3.

In 1659, Spain and France signed the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which was the conclusion to the 25-year-long Franco-Spanish War.

The final treaty signing ceremony took place on Pheasant Island with both Louis XIV of France and Philip IV of Spain in attendance. 

The agreement was to share the island. However, they don’t share it at the same time. 

From February 1 through July 31, the island is a part of Spain, and from August 1 through January 31, it is a part of France.

There is nothing on the island other than a marker that recognizes the treaty signed there. 

The local communities from France and Spain each access the island once every six months to clean up litter, but that’s about it. The rest of the year no one else is allowed on the island. 

The island is slowly eroding from the river and at some point in the future, there might not even be an island to share.

Story number two has to do with Christopher Columbus. 

All of you know who Christopher Columbus is and why he is famous. This story isn’t about that. 

Columbus died in 1506 at the age of 54 in the town of Valladolid, Spain.

Columbus was buried in a convent in Valladolid which was the nearest place he could be buried

However, his son Diego wanted his body buried in Seville, so it was moved sometime around 1509 to the convent at La Cartuja, an island in a river near Seville. 

Then around 1513, the body was moved to the Cathedral of Seville. 

Columbus’s wish was to be buried in the New World. At the time of his death, there wasn’t anywhere in the New World which was dignified enough for his tomb.

By 1537, however, Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere, had built a cathedral and the remains of Columbus were sent across the Atlantic to reside there. 

Over time, Santo Domingo lessened in importance to the Spanish Empire. In 1795 Spain ceded all of Hispaniola, including Santo Domingo, to the French. 

The body of Columbus was too important to be left behind, so it was once again moved, to Havana, Cuba. 

Then in 1898, Cuba became independent, and Columbus made his last trip across the Atlantic, once again back to Spain and the Seville cathedral. 

The problem was, over the centuries, things became…..confused.

In 1887, workers in the Santo Domingo cathedral found a heavy lead box with the words “Illustrious and distinguished male, don Cristobal Colon.” Inside the box was a partial set of male human remains. 

Everyone in Santo Domingo just assumed it was Columbus’s remains. The remains suffered arthritis-like symptoms as Columbus did, and so people in Santo Domingo claimed that it was still the remains of Columbus. In 1992, they transferred their remains to a new building called the Columbus Lighthouse, which was intended to be a mausoleum for Columbus. 

However, Seville also claimed to be the burial site of Columbus. Inside the Cathedral of Seville, there is a huge mausoleum for Columbus as well. 

In 2003, the remains inside the Seville crypt had their DNA tested. The remains were very similar to the DNA found in the tombs of Columbus’s brother and son. 

As of today, the remains in Santo Domingo haven’t been tested. 

So, the remains of Columbus are probably in Seville, but there is a theory that his remains are actually in both cities. 

Unless the DNA in Santo Domingo can be tested, we’ll never really know for sure. 

The third story has to do with something in Spain which is a rather unique custom to the country. Dinner time. 

If you’ve been to Spain, you will know that they tend to eat dinner unusually late. It is not at all uncommon for people in Spain to eat dinner around 9, 10, or 11 in the evening. 

It isn’t just restaurants. Primetime television doesn’t even start until 10:30.

So why is everything in Spain so late in the evening? 

There are two reasons for it. 

The first is that Spain is really in the wrong time zone. If you look at a map, Spain is in the same time zone as Germany and Poland. Yet, they are south of Ireland and Britain and attached to Portugal,  all of which are in a time zone one hour earlier. 

Why is Spain in the time zone that it’s in? Back in World War II, Franco adjusted the time zone of Spain so it was on the same time as the rest of Europe.

After the war, they just never bothered to change the time zone back. The result was that at sunset, it was much later on the clock than it was in the rest of Europe. 

The second reason has to do with the Spanish tradition of the siesta. Most people in Spain take a two-hour break between 2 and 4 in the afternoon where they go home and take a long lunch. Traditionally, they would also take a nap.

However, most people don’t actually nap anymore. 


The result is that the workday in Spain often starts at 9 am and doesn’t end until 8 pm, mainly because the 2 hours in the middle of the day doesn’t count as part of the workday. 

There is a movement to both change the time zone and to get rid of the siesta. The time zone change might be easier to accomplish because it’s just a matter of changing the time by law.

Getting rid of the siesta, however, might be a far greater challenge as it is a cultural change. 

Many restaurants in Spain, especially those which are in tourist areas, do open early to cater to non-Spaniards who want to eat at around 7 or 8 pm. However, be prepared to eat a little later if you are in an area without tourists. 

Also, don’t be surprised if stores are closed between 2 and 4. Just come back later in the evening and they will probably be open.

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The associate producer of Everything Everywhere Daily is Thor Thomsen.

Today’s five-star review comes from listener Simon P over at Podcast Republic. They write:

What an excellent podcast. I tune in from Victoria BC, Canada, and really enjoy that your podcast has a very well-researched, and international focus. thank you for the educational listening.

Thank you Simon! I’m glad you enjoy it. The world is a big place, and you can’t really understand the world without looking beyond your borders. 

Remember if you leave a 5-star review, you too can have your review read on the show.