By Nancy Todd
Girona is gorgeous. That is it. As a small city, easily reached by air or train, it is a cinch to walk, you won’t need any public transportation, and there are surprises at each twist of the lane. Massive doorways with tranquil courtyards. Long range views from a walk up high on the city walls. You will see slender rectangles where archers let their arrows rip at the enemy. Many British people have homes here. And the menus are still in Catalan. Red geraniums tumble from window ledges. Kids play in the plazas. Wander, get lost and be delighted.
Seven cool things you will will want to do:
l. Take a hike on the 11 bridges of Girona to see the city with it’s old houses packed along the river front. Crisscross each bridge for a different perspective. Most are pedestrian bridges with excellent photo ops. The nagingly disturbing part is how shallow the river is in places which is a direct result of misuse of water in Spain.
2. Be in awe in the Cathedral of Santa Maria. Gold plated sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and The Creation Tapestry. Climbing the 86 steps will work off the calories from the delicious Spanish bread you have snarfed down. Steps especially beautiful during The Flower Festival. The nave is the broadest nave in the world, an awesome building feat. Originally the site of a mosque built by the Moors who brought libraries, a democratic government, water systems, etc. to Spain. The Catholic church has never been shy about knocking down a religious building that doesn’t belong to them to do a take over.
3. Explore weird stuff in The City Museum of History. I am a museum geek and love the odd. Visit the coal cellar, a cistern used to collect rainwater for the monastery, and a room with huge industrial gears. (I guess the city fathers didn’t know where else to put these). A strange part of the museum is an indoor cemetery where dead friars were propped into a sitting position until their bodies dried out. This was probably a cult. Oh, no, the Catholic church, a cult? Dead dudes were then dressed in robes, wedged into place and used for fraternal devotion. Not exactly how I want to spend my Sunday morning.
4. Wander the medieval Jewish Quarter which is a puzzle of dank stairs and leaf thin cobbled lanes. One of the most important Jewish communities in Spain, it thrived with over 1,000 moms, dads, cousins, and kids. In 1492, the Queen of Mean, Queen Isabel, proclaimed that all Jews and Moors had to leave Spain. They had three choices: leave, be killed, or convert. Untold numbers who converted were, guess what, killed also. In the summer, musical events are held in the courtyard by Jewish Museum.
5. Wonder at how the hell these medieval structures were built when you look at Sant Pere de Galligants, a cloister which is a fat, outstanding example of Catalan Romanesque architecture.
6. Walk the wall. Great views of the city and countryside, and photo ops for roof lines merging into odd angles. Red tile roofs included. My fav. Depending on the time of year, flowers sprout out along the seams of the tiles. The old walls were used as protection. I imagine medieval armies charging across the meadows.
7. Fun for kids and adults is to study the origins of film making at the Museum of Cinema. Old, odd devices that were clever inventions, many the size of a horse. Of course you can video these with your fit-in-your-pocket-sized camera.
How to get there: Easy. Go to the Renfe train station in Barcelona (www.renfe.com/). Both Sants and Passeig de Gracia stations are the departing points. About one hour and 15 minutes to Girona. No need to get tickets in advance. Kiosks often don’t work. When I go with friends, one of us waits in line at the kiosk, the other in line for a real person. Whoever gets the tickets first, wins some kinda prize. The prize has yet to be determined.
Where to Stay:You can slumber in Girona proper or in a nearby village or beach town. The area is very diverse so it all depends on whether you want countryside, city or sea. Check here for hotel discounts in Girona and other areas of Spain.