Monday, November 25, 2013


Okay, so as you know, I went on a trip with Karin this past weekend to Valencia. Valencia is on the eastern coast of Spain and it is not only a city, but also the name of the autonomous community. Valencia is also the third largest city behind Madrid and Barcelona. And I didn't know this before arriving, but Valencia has its own little language called valenciano. I felt kind of dumb for not knowing that before. I mean I knew there were different languages in Spain, the four I knew being Spanish, Catalan, Gallego, and Basque, but I had no idea just how many unofficial and recognized languages there were until this second. There's actually quite a few. I was embarrassed to ask about the language over the weekend, because I felt dumb for being uneducated, but I'm glad I did because I got an interesting/political response. The answer to "Is valenciano its own language?" apparently changes depending on who you ask. If you ask a person from Valencia, you will most likely get the answer "Yes." However, if you ask a person from Catalonia, which is the autonomous community north of Valencia, you will get the answer "Valenciano is a dialect of Catalan." Politically, you will get this answer because Catalonians want to and have wanted to separate from Spain for awhile now and it seems like the more people who speak Catalan or a dialect of Catalan, the more support they have from people. However, Valencianos like to see themselves as separate from Catalonians, so they call valenciano its own language. So, yep...that's the answer I got. Obviously, not all people feel this way, but it's possible that a majority of people do.

Long story short, when Karin and I first arrived in Valencia in the early afternoon and started walking to our first destination (the beach), it didn't take long to notice that the street signs were in Valenciano, whereas the map that our hostel gave us was in Spanish. Luckily, the names are pretty similar, so we didn't get lost at all. Anyway, like I mentioned, our first stop was the beach. Unfortunately, we missed the good weather by literally one week (it was beach weather the weekend before in Valencia), but we wouldn't have seen near the stuff we did if we would have "wasted" a day at the beach. I will say this though. If you are ever planning on traveling to Valencia and it's nice beach weather, you AT least need three full days, maybe even four. Karin and I definitely needed more time, but "luckily" and "unluckily" the weather was not beach weather. So, although we went to the beach briefly just to look around, we spent our afternoon at the City of the Arts and Sciences, which is pretty famous in Valencia. And it was awesome! I can't imagine if we would have completely missed it because of going to the beach!

The City of the Arts and Sciences is probably most famous for its architecture. It was designed by Santiago Calatrava who was actually born in the region of Valencia. He also designed part of the Milwaukee Art Museum (I'll show pictures so you can compare) and one of his big projects now is designing the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which will be completed in 2015.
Milwaukee Art Museum
Inside of the Milwaukee Art Museum
First sighting of the City of the Arts and Sciences
See the resemblance in the bridge?
Inside of the Science Museum in Valencia
Inside of the Science Museum

So, as you can see the architecture is pretty cool. The City of the Arts and Sciences is made up of several buildings and, what I'll call, complimentary structures: the Hemisféric (an IMAX theatre), Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe (a science museum), the Oceanográfic (an aquarium), Palau de les Arts (an art museum), the Umbracle (a bridge/garden), and the Ágora (an event hall, more or less). There is also an excess of reflective pools, which Karin pointed out to me, but they make for pretty pictures. :)

Enough about the outside, let's talk about what's in them, well not all of them, just one: the science museum! There is no way that Karin and I could have been able to see every building. I don't even think you could do all of them in one day! Karin and I ran out of time in the science museum, which is really a shame because it was a blast! Everything was interactive! It wasn't just reading about stuff, it was actual activities and experiments to show you how things work. That is my kinda museum!

An adorable little girl watching the pendulum swing
This is what she is seeing:
Karin completing a gyroscope and learning about angular momentum
A thermographic image of Karin and I
The amount of water in my body!
Needless to say, we had a lot of fun at the science museum and I wish we would've had time to see everything. Once we left, we hung out for a bit to get some night shots of the "city."

We then walked back to the hostel and ate paella for the first time! Paella is probably the most known dish from Spain and it originates in Valencia. Most of the paella that I have come into contact with has been made with shellfish, which isn't really my favorite thing so I was hoping that there were other kinds. Well, come to find out the most famous paella from Valencia is either made with chicken or rabbit! I don't know why the shellfish one seems so much more popular in Madrid, but yea, I'm going to trust the Valencians, who invented the dish. I also find it interesting that Valencia is a port city and yet their famous dish includes chicken, whereas the one in Madrid includes the shellfish...hmm? I don't get it, but whatever. I'm not complaining. My first try of paella was really good and to top on the Spanish dish, we drank sangria with it.
After the paella, Karin and I unintentionally/intentionally took a nap. I definitely could have slept through the whole night, but I knew that we had planned to go back out just to walk around. So after awhile, Karin tapped on my shoulder and asked if we were going back out. I was pretty un-enthused (don't think that's a is now) to go back out, but in the end, I'm glad we did. We got to see some of the other important buildings in town that I don't think we would have seen, if we had not explored that night.
Valencia's cathedral
Iglesia Catedral-Basílica Metropolitana de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora de Valencia (Spanish)
Església Catedral-Basílica Metropolitana de l'Assumpció de la Nostra Senyora de València (Valencian)
Puerta de la Mar
Ayuntamiento de Valencia
Plaza de toros
After our little exploration, it was time for bed so that we were well rested for the next day.

Rather than make two blog posts about the weekend, I am just going to put it all in one. The next morning, Karin and I woke up and went to breakfast. We had found a café the night before that was going to be open in the morning and that sold horchata so that was our main goal for breakfast: to try horchata. And we did. And it's really good. Horchata is a typical cold drink originating in Valencia. I actually had no idea what was in horchata until our tour later in the day. Horchata is made from tigernuts, sugar, and water. The Muslims actually are the ones who brought the tigernuts to Valencia, along with the spices that are used to make paella. So pretty much the food that is unique to Valencia wouldn't exist without the Muslims, but of course at one point in history they were forced out of the city by the Christians, but it's better now. :)
Anyway, after breakfast we briefly went into the cathedral just to look at it, but I didn't take pictures because mass was going on. Then, we headed to La Lonja de la Seda, also known as the silk trade building (that's what I called it all weekend anyway). It's another one of those World Heritage Sites and it is famous for its gothic architecture and because it is a symbol of the wealth that was in Valencia during the 15th century. It's funny because when I picture an exchange building, I picture the New York stock exchange, but this was a lot less modern than that is. Plus, right now it's just an empty hall, but Karin and I actually got to see some old photographs from when it was furnished with desks and such, so that was cool.
The column room--supposed to resemble palm trees
The chapel. The ceiling was awesome in here,
but not original to the building
Tribunal room
After the visit to this silk exchange building, we went back to our hostel to meet up for a walking tour. The tour was pretty good, but not fantastic, but we still learned quite a bit and got to see some new, different things. Here are some pictures from the tour:
Okay, so this is such a sad story that our tour guide told us..could be true, but might not be. Who knows. Sometimes I am skeptical of the things I am told, but it's still a good story to share. Anyway, at the top of this building there is a bird with an egg in its beak and supposedly, when times were hard in Valencia, mothers would take their children to this building and tell them to look up at the bird. They would say if you just wait here, the bird will get tired and drop the egg and then you'll have food. Well, pretty much what happened was that while the children were looking up and waiting, the mothers would abandon them there. Horrible story, right? I can see it happening though. :(

There was a marathon going on in Valencia
Watching some street dancers

One of the entrances to the cathedral
What used to be the skinniest building in the world..
before they knocked out the inner wall
and connected to the neighboring building..
and before putting a vending machine
at what used to be the entrance...
The foundation to a building--made of broken statues
Mansion turned ceramics museum
Torres de Serrano and the Valencian flag
After the tour ended, Karin and I went back to the Torres de Serrano to climb up to the top and get a view of the city.
Cathedral is on the right
View of the park
(probably one of my favorite things
about the on to find out why)
Okay, so the park is seriously one of the coolest things about the city. It isn't spectacular or anything, just a normal looking park, but it's in an old riverbed! How cool is that! Imagine if the Chicago River dried up and then was converted into a park, that's exactly what this park is. In 1957, there was a huge flood in Valencia and this flood was so bad that they decided to redirect the river. So the old part of the river just sat empty and dry for several years and then in the 80s, there was a huge project to make the riverbed into a park and have the Jardín de Turia. I just think it's so cool. The town would be completely different/ugly with an old dried up riverbed running through the center.
Flood then.
Park now.
Anyway, after the tour and the climbing the Torres de Serrano, we went back towards the City of the Arts and Sciences to go to the Fallas Museum. This is going to get into another long tangent, but Fallas is a huge four day celebration held in March that is unique to Valencia. All year round, each neighborhood has a commitee that makes their own falla that is displayed at Las Fallas. The fallas are these big elaborate sculptures made of wood and paper mache that have all of these ninots (doll/puppets) on them. Usually the fallas are very artistic and deal with some sort of social, political, or economic issue that is going on. Las Fallas is about community and about having one big party for four days. Anyway, these elaborate sculptures are made and recognized for four days and then on the night of the 19th of March, they are burned! Literally set up in flames by fireworks. But not all of them are burned, one ninot (only one figurine of a falla) is "rescued" by popular vote and sent to the museum (which is where Karin and I went). When we were on the tour, there was a group of girls from Holland and one girl when she heard about Las Fallas was appalled that with the recession and all that people put millions of euros into these fallas just to burn them in the end. Her reaction was funny, but really it's true. Anyway, to give you a better idea, I have included photos from the museum and found a video on YouTube. I will probably not be returning to Valencia for Las Fallas, although it does look like one heck of a party, but it also looks like I don't want to be anywhere near those flames. Haha
The winner from 2013
After the Fallas museum, we walked around and took more pictures of the City of Arts and Sciences, some of which I already posted above, and then we started walking back to the hostel. We stopped for a brief lunch/snack in the river park and then we hung out for awhile before it was time to walk to the bus station to catch a ride home. The ride home was okay, in the fact that we made it home safe, but it was freezing! And pretty foggy. I was so cold the whole time and really could do nothing about it. When Karin and I got back to Madrid, we thought we were never going to warm up again, but once home, I climbed into my pajamas and bundled up. I felt a lot better and it was off to bed.

So there it is. My weekend in Valencia. Sorry that it took so long for me to write about it. Hope you enjoyed it.

No comments:

Post a Comment