The Begur Experience

Begur Costa Brava what to do and where to go.

Girona

on March 23, 2012
The bridges over the river Onyar : Pont de San...

The bridges over the river Onyar : Pont de Sant Feliu with in the background the Church of Sant Feliu; Girona, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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In contrast to the boisterous and animated Barcelona, Catalonia’s second city is not yet a major tourist destination – and that is it’s great appeal. With 80,000 Catalans living in Girona, visitors are warmly welcomed to participate in all it’s life and charms.

Girona was founded by the Romans and is divided in half by the Onyar River, which separates the old and new quarters. While modern side of town is certainly worth exploring, the true beauty of the place is in the old part. Along the Onyar, 19th-century buildings sit atop the ancient city wall at the water’s edge, freshly painted in cream, pale green, and ochre. Under the Eiffel pedestrian Bridge, built by the same company as the tower, lazy carp expect to be fed. On the far side, the old city waits to be discovered.

The medieval quarter demonstrates its history through the mixture of architectural styles. The Rambla, a wide pedestrian walkway hugs the river, with shops and restaurants on the ground floors of the colourful buildings. Renovated in the last 10 years, it is an area of book shops, antique stores, modern furniture shops, restaurants and apartments. You will not find a single T-shirt stall, postcard and film stop, or corporate chain outlet. Under stone arcades in the Rambla, vendors hawk vegetables, spices, and nuts. Nearby streets have names that each tell a story: Plaza of Chestnuts, Street of Ironworkers, Street of Traders.

Turning away from the river, a labyrinth of cobblestone streets rises up a slight hill, and stone buildings with red tile roofs form narrow passageways beneath boughs of wisteria.

When the Romans lived here, Via Forca was part of the Via Augusta, the Imperial path that led to Rome. In the 13th and 14th centuries, it was the main artery of the Call, or the Jewish Quarter. Today, Via Forca leads to the Museum of the History of the Jews, located where the last known synagogue in town was built. What’s most impressive about this town-run museum is that there are no Jews in Girona, and haven’t been since their expulsion in 1492. Yet their 600-year presence is lovingly documented and celebrated through exhibits, music and dance, a library, and a collection of tombstones from the medieval cemetery.

Further up the street, the cathedral stands on a Roman temple site. The cathedral’s architecture spans several periods: Baroque facade, Gothic interior, Romanesque cloister, and neoclassical bell tower. There is a stunning view of the town from its upper plaza. In this quarter, too, are 12th century Arab baths, a Benedictine monastery, and the Romanesque Church of Sant Nicolau.

Girona is an interesting town to simply stroll around in, and it is also an excellent base from which to explore the Emporda region.

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