In Marca Hispanica I: Girona

And with this post we finally clear the pre-Catalunya backlog (do you see what I did there? well, never mind, maybe some day someone actually working on this stuff will read this blog) and come to the holiday photoes. This post has been slightly delayed by an irritable computer, but in fact this allows me to have sort-of-participated in the LJ strike by not feeding stuff to my LJ syndication, and as I have friends who will definitely have been concerned by the issues over there, this may be no bad thing.

Anyway, I promised medieval eye-candy, and eye-candy there will duly be. Part of the point of the trip to Catalonia was after all the taking of pictures, some with a view to being plates in the eventual book, some for teaching aids and some just for memory. This did however entail me getting to grips with a new camera in very short order…

Is this thing on?

… and so I’m afraid the later photoes are rather better than the early ones. Anyway. The first port of call, by way of entry to the country, both because of being a cheap-skate and because it’s closer than Barcelona to the farm which was my main base, was Girona. Of course the airport isn’t very near Girona, but Ryanair would have you believe it’s convenient for Barcelona, which is even more ridiculous. The result was, anyway, that we had some hours to kill in Girona. In fact, they were really the wrong hours: everything even faintly useful in Catalonia beyond restaurants and stations shuts at mealtimes, which is 1 to 4 and 8 to 12 p. m. This kept stymying us (I’m not sure about that spelling, but if one can be `stymied’ there must be a verb, and `stymieing’ is all kinds of wrong) over the trip, as we kept being more or less ready to do stuff as Catalonia collectively opened its belt a notch and sorted out the second course, and running out of steam just as the streets might have been livening up again. Anyway, we headed for the old bits, having first found lunch. An immediate impression was made on us by the river…

View up river from a bridge in the centre of Girona

You know, where is it? Apparently the whole province is badly short of water at the moment, though the blanket of holm oaks and pines that cluster over every inch of hillside in Catalonia would suggest otherwise; but they are drinking deep, and a lot of the ground is bare dry earth. It did make up for this more than a bit while I was there, but not at first.

Well, Girona’s main attractions are supposed to start with the Jewish quarter. We did find ourselves there on the way between things, but basically it’s three blocks which you can’t get inside, only around the outside, because the relevant houses are all still in private use, and the `Christian’ ones just up the road are no different. The only difference is in who lived there. The Museum would probably have given us more, and was open, but our time was short and I focussed on the Christian heritage. There are a lot of signs up about that sort of thing, and they have a lot of roads named after medieval historians, which came as a bit of a culture shock; but Girona is a city whose main source of identity is its age. The lively bits are down near the river. Up the hill (and Girona does mostly go up

View up steps towards the cathedral of Girona from the Call

… with the cathedral at the top) is all old and cobbled narrow streets, out of which cars occasionally pop even though there’s no sign that these are actually roads, and therefore look completely anachronistic. Once you get to the top, the cathedral is quite impressive from close up…

Western portal to the cathedral of Santa Maria in Girona

… but really, it only starts to make proper impact once you view it from the top of the city walls which are accessible from beside the Museu Arqueològic, via the Jardins John Lennon, which didn’t quite seem to fit the theme and of which we couldn’t find a decent explanation. Once you get up there, past the rather nice setting the Museu’s cypress gardens give it…

The cathedral of Santa Maria de Girona seen from the garden of Sant Pere de Galligants

and the monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants which is now the home of the Museu…

The cathedral of Santa Maria de Girona and the tower of Sant Pere de Galligants viewed from the inner end of the city wall

… you can start to realise how crowded the old city is. Really, the close streets and tiny doors of the Jewish quarter don’t stand out that much at all.

The medieval city of Girona viewed from atop the city walls

We were there at lunchtime of course, and so it was very quiet, but I didn’t really get the sense anyway that Girona has a lot going on beyond its heritage and intellectual industries; in this respect, and its tiny streets, it may be closest to Cambridge of any town we went to, except without the distressing attempts to make itself into a shopping capital. And it’s never really been a place on which I’ve focussed, because it’s not on the frontier and never was, and generally there is less evidence. But I’d like to get a proper look around when things are open.

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2 responses to “In Marca Hispanica I: Girona

  1. Ecellent pictures.They are just as if some professional has taken them.your first impression of Girona was of the river and i think its so beautiful.Speacially the evening walk beside the river is matchless.

    • You’re very kind, but I did nothing like as well as I wanted with the cathedral; the light was just too bright for my camera. I hope to do better next time I’m there, and spend more than a few hours in the town.

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