07.05.2017 | Jerez - Circuito de Jerez
Location: Western Europe.
Area: 504,782 sq km (194,897 sq miles).
Population: 47,370,542 (2013).
Population Density: 93.8 per sq km.
Government: Parliamentary monarchy since 1977. The Constitution of 1978 set in place the current political framework.
Geography: Spain shares the Iberian Peninsula with its smaller neighbour, Portugal, and is bordered to the northeast by the Pyrenees mountain range that cuts across France and Andorra. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, Spain has numerous stretches of coastline that are extremely crowded especially in summer. Spain has two main groups of islands that are popular with tourists: the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) located 193km (120 miles) southeast of Barcelona, and the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa (mainly Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and La Palma). Located in continental Africa, the tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla also form a part of Spain. Mainland Spain is the second highest and most mountainous country in Europe, with an average height of 610m (2,000ft). The Pyrenees stretch roughly 400km (249 miles) from the Basque Country's Atlantic coast. In places the peaks rise to over 1,524m (5,000ft), the highest point being 3,404m (11,169ft). The main physical feature of Spain is the vast central plateau, or meseta, divided by several chains of sierras. The higher northern area includes Castile and León and the southern section comprises Castile-La Mancha and Extremadura. In the south, the high plains rise further at the Sierra Morena before falling abruptly at the great valley of the Guadalquivir. Southeast of Granada is the Sierra Nevada, which runs parallel to the Mediterranean. Its summit Mulhacen, at 3,718m (12,198ft), is the highest point on the Spanish peninsula. The highest peak in Spain is the Pico del Teide on Tenerife in the Canaries, measuring a height of 3,718m (12,198ft).
Language: The official language is Spanish (Castilian). Other languages spoken in the first language in Spain include Euskera (in Basque Country, northeastern Spain), Catalan (in Eastern Spain, with variations spoken in Valencia and the Balearics) and Galician (in the northwest). There are also various regional dialects, but you'll have no problems getting around Spain with knowledge of Castilian Spanish. English is not commonly used, so be sure to pick up some basic Spanish words before your trip.
Religion: There is no official religion in Spain. Approximately 73% of the population is Roman Catholic, while 22% has no religion. The young generation are less religious than before, but most still celebrate religious festivals. There are approximately 1 million Muslims (2.3% of the country) living in Spain.
Time: Mainland Spain/Balearics: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
The Canary Islands: GMT (GMT + 1 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Social Conventions: Spanish life has undergone rapid change in recent decades and stricter religious customs have been superseded by more modern ways, particularly in the cities and among women. In spite of this, traditions remain strong; hospitality, chivalry and courtesy thrive. Handshaking is the customary form of greeting between men, while women (outside of a business context) are greeted with a fleeting kiss to either cheek (left then right).
Spaniards eat late; lunch around 1400-1530; the evening meal 2100-2300. The Spanish have two family names; the maternal surname follows the paternal, but is rarely used outside a formal context. Smoking is banned in offices, shops, schools, hospitals, cultural centres and on public transport. Bars and restaurants must declare whether they permit or prohibit smoking. The vast majority have opted for the former, though large restaurants are obliged by law to have a substantial non-smoking section.
Electricity: 220 or 225 volts AC, 50Hz. Generally, round two-pin plugs and screw-type lamp fittings are in use.
Head of Government: Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy since 2011.
Head of State: King Juan Carlos I since 1975.
Recent History: Prime Minister Zapatero came to power in 2004 in the wake of the Madrid terrorist attacks. His Socialist Party was re-elected in March 2008. Presiding over a period of ongoing economic growth, Zapatero withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq and instituted social reforms including legalization of same-sex marriage, modernization of divorce laws, and raising of the minimum wage. Infrastructural improvements such as the proliferation of the high-speed train network have also been a feature of his premiership, which has been strongly pro-European, in contrast with that of his pro-USA predecessor.
A serious domestic issue continues to be tension in the northern Basque region. Since the breaking of a ceasefire in 2007, the government has moved forcefully against ETA, leading to the arrest of several key figures. Zapatero's initial support for negotiation, combined with a democratic approach to regional autonomy, has been criticized by the rightist opposition.
The global economic downturn of 2008/9 hit Spain hard; ‘la crisis' has seen unemployment climb to nearly 20% of the population.