Student blogger Isha shares the highlights of her CAPA-led day trip from Barcelona to the city of Girona, where she explores Game of Thrones film sites, Salvador Dali's surrealist art, and historic neighborhoods rich in Catalonian history.
After settling down a little and getting familiar with Barcelona, The CAPA family took us for a day trip to the city of Girona. Five students along with the program coordinators were ready for the day at 9 am and met at Barcelona Sants, the central train station of the city.
A 45-minute high-speed rail ride with some of the most gorgeous countryside views of Northern Spain later, we arrived in Girona around 11:30 where our tour guide Anna was ready with maps for a day full of exploration.
Girona is one of the most popular and historical regions of Catalonia. Its history goes back 2000 years in time, and this city’s perfect old town charm makes it worth it for anyone visiting the Northern region of Spain.
As soon as we walked out of the station, my friend Evan pointed out to me, ‘Hey Isha, you smell that? That’s fresh air you’ll never smell in a big city...” and that’s when I really knew, that all the stories I grew up listening to about the clean air—an old town charm of European cities—were in fact all true, and I was witness to them in the first person. Not only were there minimal roadways and vehicles on the streets, but there was also a very sustainable vibe to the city unlike in Barcelona where things are more cosmopolitan and fast-paced.
While Anna and all of us were having a conversation about Catalan Politics in the region, she told us that Girona is one of the most prominent regions in Catalonia that is pro-independence from Spain. After listening to Anna talk about the political hostility, I was able to put two and two together while walking through the city by spotting the yellow ribbons, which are a clear symbol of independence in Catalonia.
Once we reached our starting point, she told us that we would be doing our city tour on a path of a triangle. From our starting point to the old town, from the old town to the modern part of the city, and from the modern part, back to where we started- which was not too far a walk from the train station. And this in fact was actually planned so that we were able to draw on the architectural differences between the medieval and modern parts of the city.
The Old Town and Synagogue
Old Girona is full of old medieval buildings and architecture that goes back various hundred years in time. The most interesting fact about this city is that it is home to one of the most important and well preserved Jewish communities around the world. From 982 to 1492, Jews had lived in the city and the area where they inhabited can be distinctly identified by cobblestone streets, narrow winding roads, and trees that are centuries old. After taking a walk in the old Jewish part of the city, we transitioned to the modern part of the city by crossing the Jewish synagogue.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking.
Yes, This is the cathedral from season 6 of Game of Thrones, and yes, I was as excited in reality as you are seeing an image of this place on your screen.
( Even though I have never watched Game of Thrones, Anna was quite marveled at all of us being so excited about being in a space where one of the most sensational TV shows were filmed. #veryhyped)
The Modern Part of the City
As we walked from the old town to the modern part of the city, Anna pointed out that the distinction cannot not only be made by just observing a change in architecture, but also a key distinction is the changing of stone in the streets and on the walls. There was a spot where there was a clear distinction shown between the two on the same wall and left all of us very fascinated.
We sat down to have lunch at Placa Independencia, one of the famous squares in Girona. And from thereon, we visited one of the most famous ice cream shops run by two brothers in Spain.
Their toppings were very interesting, and I highly recommend it for anyone who would visit.
Figures and Salvador Dali
About 22 kilometers from Girona, the town of Figures holds the Museum of Salvador Dali, where there are highlights from his work, his romantic life with Gala and other treasures from the world of surrealism. It was believed that he wanted to give something to the town of Figures, where he was born, and he thought to give them a museum will be something that will always attract people from around the world and will generate revenue for them to maintain economic stability. It is one of the very few museums in the world designed by the artist himself and is home to some of his greatest contributions to surrealist art.
Overall, It was a day well spent and organized by the CAPA team to make sure that we immerse ourselves well into the Spanish culture by getting a taste of the smaller parts of the region.
Isha Mahajan is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2019, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Political Science and Journalism major at University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester.
Isha's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.