I am so tired and it’s only 4:00. That’s what happens when you spend the morning standing and walking around the city (the day after also walking around the city). I think my legs might fall off if I walk anymore today. With all this walking, maybe I won’t get fat from all the food I’m eating. 🙂
This morning the students from my program met with the mayor of Valencia and toured el Ayuntamiento (the city hall). We heard a speech from the mayor in a large ballroom with these incredibly huge glass chandeliers (shown in the two photos below. The one on the left shows the colors better).
After the speech, we met a guide who gave us a tour of part of the building. We got to sit in the chamber where the city’s council members hold sessions, which was pretty cool.
We then toured the museum housed in the building and learned a lot about Valencia’s history. At times the tour guide was a little hard to follow, but I still picked up quite a bit of information. Valencia, like many places in Spain, has been under the control of lots of different groups of people. From the Romans to the Visigoths, the Muslim Moors to the Christian monarchs, Valencia has seen many different cultures throughout its history. There are still leftovers from these other inhabitants in the culture: Arabic words that are now part of the Spanish language, names of locations in the city, architectural details, etc.
We also learned about the crest/coat of arms of Valencia, with it’s four red stripes, two Ls, two laurel branches, a crown, and a bat above it (shown below).
I don’t remember what everything stands for, but I think the two Ls stand for loyalty (“lealtad” in Spanish) (but don’t quote me on this). The bat (“murcielago”), somewhat of a symbol for the city of Valencia, exists because of its resemblance to a dragon. There are legends about a saint (who I think the guide said is one of the patron saints of the city) who defeated a dragon. However, when the dragon is drawn as if looking at it head-on, with its wings outstretched, it looks a lot like a bat. This, combined with there actually being bats in the countryside around Valencia, resulted in the dragon becoming a bat in the crest. Kind of cool, right?
After touring the museum, we got to go out on the balcony in the front of the building, which overlooks a plaza.
After all of this, we still had a walking tour to go on with a different guide. We split into two groups and walked around the older parts of the city, seeing many of the same places I visited yesterday. Our guide was great and easy to understand and I learned even more history from him.
We returned to the Catedral de Valencia, a cathedral constructed during many different time periods. The main entrance is in the Baroque style and is newer than the rest of the church, although it’s still pretty old by my standards. The two other entrances reflect two other architectural styles: Romanesque, with a hint of Moorish influence in the geometric decorations, and Gothic.
Next we saw the very, very old Lonja de la Seda, a market for trading of all kinds of goods, one of them being silk. It was constructed in the 14 and 1500s, during Valencia’s Siglo de Oro (Golden Age in English, a time of wealth and prosperity in Spain). My host dad says that if I get a chance I should definitely check out the inside and the cool columns it contains.
The last thing we got to see was the Mercado Central, and this time it was still open and we got to go inside! It was built in the early 20th century, in somewhat of an eclectic style, though the guide said that its design was influenced by art nouveau. I’m sure I’ll be back here (more than just once) for all of the great food.
We also learned a good deal of history on this tour, like the fact that for about 6 months during Spain’s civil war, Valencia was the capital of Spain (the Republic, anyways, so just a part of Spain). It didn’t last too long as the capital because the official Spanish government soon fell to Franco, with Valencia being the second to last city to fall. We also learned about the river Turia, which runs south of the city. If you read my post yesterday, you’d remember that I mentioned a “river” to the north, which is now just parks and recreational areas. So what happened to that river? They moved it (the tour guide made it sound pretty simple, though I would think moving a river would be anything but). The river used to run north of the city, but heavy seasonal rains in the fall caused lots of flooding problems, so it has been relocated to a less troublesome location. We learned a lot more, but I can’t think of it now (believe me, it was a lot of information to learn in one day. I doubt I’ll remember it all).
As for the rest of the day, I have to go take a test this evening (yay…) to see where I’m at in with my Spanish skills (there is a name for this type of test, I know, but I cannot remember what it is in English or Spanish right now…). After that, we have a meet and greet with all the students from the program, so that should be nice. Tomorrow, it’s off to visit Xativa, a nearby city with an old castle, on a group day trip. Hopefully, my legs are slightly less sore tomorrow. Somehow, I doubt that will be the case.