11.04.2013 16 °C
Without meaning to sound too cliché, a wander around the city centre of Girona really is like stepping back in time. As we emerge from the train station we quickly find ourselves in a medieval wonderland where meandering streets, crumbling walls and hidden, winding staircases appear unchanged for centuries. Its unspoiled architecture is evocative and telling and hurls our imagination amidst scenes of knights and lords, hungry battles and exquisite feasts. Sudden twists in the road, mysterious corners and intriguing nooks and crannies whisper tales of yesteryear and fire our thirst to delve deeper, to loose ourselves amidst the cloak-and-dagger alleys of old Girona.
Colourful and captivating cobbled mazes lead us up and down, to and fro, around enchanting towers, ghostly palaces, imposing churches and secret gardens. We are overwhelmed by the historic vitality and magnetism of the place, and can’t help but feel as though we have been thrust into the setting of a troubadourian romance. Warm-shaded pastel buildings line the streets like a perfectly set out fairy tale town, and rustic, flowery balconies offer the perfect setting for a theatrical outcry. Now and again we stumble upon a dark bend, a shadow-ridden, forgotten archway, and haunting thoughts of witches and plagues take over.
Girona would be an ideal set for a vibrant period drama, the characters perfectly posed on a real-life medieval stage. The old Jewish quarter is intriguing and bewitching, whilst the brightly coloured houses lining the river, charming and thought provoking. We can easily picture princes and peasants raucously filling the streets, dressed with swords and shields, rags and grime. Indeed, they wouldn’t look out of place there even today. Scenes and personalities of the Spanish Inquisition would indeed also suit the old city well, and we have no trouble imagining fervent ecclesial groups, chanting, tormenting, attacking, pungent incense and burning stenches taking over church squares.
Today, thankfully, there’s no risk of us being burnt at the stake, and the Spanish Inquisition couldn’t be further from reality. Instead a passionate Catalan culture rules the way, and pro independence flags endlessly decorate the homes of locals. And it really is most enjoyable perching at a table in one of the many cafeterias of the Rambla de la Llibertat, or any other of old Girona’s enchanting streets for that matter, allowing the balmy sun to rouge our cheeks whilst musing over a coffee. And as we take in the simply wonderful atmosphere we can’t help but ponder what the future of Catalonia may hold. If we were to sit at this very table in ten years time, would we indeed be sitting in a new country, or in the Spain of old? Only time will tell. And since the old stone walls of Girona have already witnessed an epic and fascinating history, for them, it will be just one more chapter, in a long, and dramatic story.