Earlier I mentioned that flights were cheaper out of Barcelona than Madrid. That statement is only partially correct. Travel sites claim that Girona, a city an hour or so northeast of Barcelona, is Barcelona. Therefore, what I saw was one flight to Amsterdam for 74 euros and the rest for 225. Being the spendthrift that I am, I opted for the cheap flight, not paying attention to the fact that it was in another city.
This mistake led to one of my favorite parts of our trip. We left our Barcelona hostel around 5 pm to head to Girona and arrived in the city around 7. We checked into the hostel, dropped our bags and decided to explore the city while the sun was still shinning.
Girona was originally inhabited by Romans, Visigoths, and Moors before being conquered by Alfonso I of Aragon in the 11th century. An interesting fact, the city has been sieged 25 times and fully captured 7 times. Therefore, the wall surrounding the city played an integral role throughout its history. Many parts of the wall are from the Roman period, with additions from later stages. The wall currently called Passeig de la Muralla forms a tourist route around the Old City.
We saw people climbing the wall as we checked into our hostel and decided that we wanted to see where it led as well. At the base of the wall is a bunker that was used during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). As explained by the plaque outside, the use of total warfare (systematic air raids on civilian centers in non-combat zones) led to the construction of war architecture in villages and towns. Girona was bombed under the orders of General Franco on April 20th, 1938, January 27th, 28th, and 29th, and February 1st, 1939. Such attacks led to these structures found in various places around the city. They were built from reinforced concrete and originally covered with an earth mound over two km high to withstand the direct impact of a bomb of up to 100 kg and provide protection against air attacks for over 600 people.
After witnessing a protection feature of the 20th century city, we ambled over to its 1st century sister, the Roman wall. We climbed a series of stairs and walked along narrow passage ways all that led onto these amazing views of the city. I will let you explore such a site through the many photos that documented our journey.
At the end of our journey we ended up at the Cathedral that is seen illuminated throughout the photos. Next to it is the Bishop’s palace, which currently houses the city’s Art Museum. Of course at 8 or 9 pm these buildings are no longer accessible to the public; but, it was still interesting to see the facades and read a little on the placards outside.
We walked down the large staircase leading and continued downhill past the basically near the river’s banks. We settled down to a small cafe, only to learn that they were the one cafe serving a gluten free menu. Again, how fortunate could we be?
With our stomachs full we traveled home through the streets of the city offering one last view of Girona. The following morning we woke up at the crack of dawn, walked to the bus station to catch our flight to Amsterdam.
I must admit that this was one of my favorite cities we visited throughout our travels, it had such good bones! I feel rather lucky to have made the original mistake to fly out of Girona because otherwise I would have never known of its existence. Traveling on a strict budget is offers a special perk, because you cannot follow the ordinary route of a city due to financial preoccupations, you opt for less expensive choices. That doesn’t mean that you miss out, but rather your trip is enriched through the special glimpses of life in another country you would not have otherwise seen. Girona was one of those experiences.