In his book 'Homage to Barcelona', the author Colm Toibin gives a compelling recount of the siege on a number of buildings in the city during the Civil War. When we were walking in Barcelona near the Cathedral we came across a square where the massive blocks of ancient stone surrounding a doorway were pock marked with bullets and chunks of stone had been blown away. It was really energetically draining to just stand and observe the space- we had a deep sense that ‘shit had gone down’. Some spaces are really charged with their past.
It seems that Spain is a country that contains many stories about the defense of space and identity across the ages.
When we were on the train platform waiting to go to Girona we noticed the two differing forms of language for exit – Salida in Castilian (what we would call Spanish) and Sortida in Catalan (the language of the northern part of Spain where a proud separatist identity exists similar to the Basque region).
The guidebooks give a few words in Catalan and of course we were travelling north into Catalan country but neither of us fully realized
how limiting our Castilian vocabulary would be.
The train trip was surprisingly quick and we were so absorbed by looking through the maps of our bike trip we nearly missed our stop. Nothing like trying to gather papers and other belongings and exit a train at speed whilst wearing reading glasses so that all distances are distorted to really get the adrenalin pumping!
Thanks to our old mate Senor Google Maps we found the Hotel Ultonia – a total contrast to the Avenida with its clean modern lines, décor and cool concierge Eduard who set us in the right direction to visit the old town.
It was Sunday so most of the shops and museums and attractions were closed but after the Park Guell experience this suited us just fine. We wandered around the streets and small alleyways noting the layers of architecture that date Girona from AD 797 when it was taken from the Muslims by the Franks and became the capital of the north until the 9th
century when it fell to Barcelona. We climbed a steep set of stone steps to a high wall (the Passeig Archeologic) that surrounds the old city where you
could imagine soldiers running along the battlements to defend the city from invaders. At one point we climbed an extra set of spiral stairs to a tower and caught a young couple in a how might you say politely on a blog? A lover’s embrace? Great view from up there scenically speaking but needless to say we didn’t linger.
On the way back down through the labyrinth of alleys we found a bold statement spray painted on the wall declaring that ‘Catalan is not Spain’. Even after only a day we were getting the feel that this was a place where defense of space and identity goes back a hell of a long way. And we felt we only understood the tip of the total story.
Back at the hotel, Dave headed out to find food and went to the roof terrace to capture a pic of the Cathedral glowing on the hill and then I went out for the count! Hasta luego!
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