Girona, Eva’s hometown, is a small, beautiful city and what wikitravel says about it doesn’t do the city enough justice. Eva is very proud of Girona and so she told me a lot about its legends, history and culture as she showed me around the different places. That was really enjoyable and many a times, I saw other tourists coming close just to listen to her commentary. 🙂 I think I must have been partly influenced by her because I am a fan of Girona. I also really like how romantic the old town is and that the city does not have an overwhelming number of tourists and as a consequence of that, pickpockets are not as ubiquitous as that in more touristy cities like Barcelona. Furthermore, I have special feelings towards this city because it was the first city that I managed to navigate around without a map. It wasn’t difficult because it is quite small and Eva had already guided me around the city once before but it did take a leap of faith on my part to do so.
It also has a fairly rich history for a city of its size – in the past, the Catholics, Jews and the Muslims have been residing in Girona. Hence, in the old town, it is interesting to see traces of each community so near to one another – there is a church and a cathedral (Catholics), a well-preserved Jewish quarters and the occasional hand of Fatima on the doors and Arab baths (Muslims). It’s quite an interesting mix of cultures. Not only does it have an interesting old city, Girona is quite close to nature as well because it is pretty much surrounded by mountains. This is a small park very near to Eva’s house – something I definitely do not have in my neighbourhood. Behind this park lies the castle which is pretty much in ruins right now but it is still a delight to walk around there and enjoy the fauna and flora as well as the huge thick walls.
I find the houses by the riverside colourful and cute. It is fairly calming to just stand on the bridge and stare at the river.This is the Eiffel bridge which was built by the same person who constructed the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
2. Iglesia de San Felix
From my understanding, it is a basilica and what is truly fascinating about it is the mix of architectural styles – the building on the left side is Gothic while the one on the right is Romanesque. I wouldn’t be able to spot this difference if not for Eva and her lesson on the architectural styles. It’s funny how subsequently whenever we walked past a church/ cathedral/ castle, she would test me, “What style is this?” I miss those days. 🙂 Before coming here, I never really thought too much about how these places of worship were built even though I have seen quite a number in France last summer. But now I think I can better appreciate the sheer amount of time (enough for one style to go out of fashion) and manual effort needed to build them. On this note, apparently, many of these buildings are “buildings within buildings” so it was common for people back in those days to build a Gothic church with bigger naves over a Romanesque one. For this basilica, there is a very nice Romanesque garden at the back of it and it is interesting to see the various cravings on the pillars depicting biblical scenes.
3. Jewish quarters
Girona has one of the most well-preserved Jewish quarters in Europe and is one of the biggest draws of Girona. This gate, which took us quite a while to locate, leads to the Jewish quarters and in the past, when the Catholics attacked the Jews, the Jews would shut this gate to protect their community. “The Cathedral of the Sea” by Ildefonso Falcones also made references to how the Catholics attacked the Jews in Catalonia, rendering this protective gate necessary but still insufficient.
4. City wall
Due to its proximity to France, Girona was attacked by the French on three occasions in the past. Hence, there was a city wall constructed around the old city to protect the people. It is pretty well-preserved together with the towers and it is a really nice walk, probably because there were not too many tourists walking on it. The towers were quite fun to climb as the stairs were winding with narrow steps. From the city wall, you get a pretty good view of the city.