Before I went to Galicia, everyone enthusiastically told me “you’re going to love it!” Whether it was my host family, my boss, the director of our program, or professors, I heard nothing bad about the northwest province of Spain.
Interestingly, my guidebook said very little about Galicia. Though it briefly mentioned Santiago de Compostela, and its importance for the Camino de Santiago pilgrims, there was no information on the rest of the province. I quickly googled “Vigo” (the town we were staying in), and didn’t find much more than some pretty pictures of a coastal city. I had no idea what we were going to do during the long weekend, so I was basically just along for the ride.
What I found in Galicia was a completely different image of Spain than I could have imagined. Sometimes the city’s wet, hilly streets reflected Seattle, but the palm trees and architecture didn’t fit. Sometimes the ocean glistened a tropical blue, but sometimes it just looked cold. Unlike Madrid (and much if the rest of Spain) where the underlying color is brown, Galicia is green.
The colors are cooler; light grey stone buildings surrounded by grass that rivals the intensity of the Irish countryside slopes down into the blue ocean. Pleasant mountains covered in evergreens, dotted with red tiles roofs reach into the gloomy, overcast skies. The architecture was completely different than Madrid. Where the architecture of Madrid maintains a historic-charm with an abundance intricate carvings and iron balconies; Vigo’s simple, geometric, stone buildings reflect the stereotype of the serious people who inhabit them.
After only five days of slowly exploring some of the small towns and bigger cities of Galicia, I knew I had to return. There’s something magical about the lush greenery contrasting with the ocean. The scenery reminded me of the enchanted admiration that people use when talking about places like Iceland and New Zealand. It’s true that Galicia didn’t have the striking mountains or fjords of these countries, but there’s something else that truly makes Galicia Spain’s best kept secret.