Valencia – which until just a fortnight ago was just another name on the list of cities on our route. Today it means a lot more to me. And why not- after all Anu and I have been in Europe for over 2 weeks now, and a better part of the time was spent in this city of oranges and bicycles. But its much more than just oranges or bicycles. Every person passes by centuries as s/he picks their way through the city. You can traipse across time all the way till 138 BC when the city was founded by the Romans.
At the centre of the city is the Plaza De La Virgen (virgin square) where the eight virgins pour out eight fountains. Pose for your selfie there – and if you listen to the gushing waters they will tell you their secret- that they represent the eight irrigation channels of the Turia river that runs through the neighbouring areas. If you happen to pass by the Virgin Square, watch out for Thursdays at 12.00pm. You will see eight very distinguished gentlemen dressed in immaculate Spanish formals gather diagonally across the fountain. These are the eight chiefs who control the eight irrigation channels- and they hold council over any local disputes. Do not worry- they are friendly… they will not sentence you for saying hello.
Take your time. Soak in the spirit. Walk the narrow graffiti prone lanes. Feel that energy: it is happy, heavy and slightly lazy. Breeze through the city traffic and soon you will figure out that although it takes you 30 minutes to cover the city diameter, yet all the action is focused around the city centre. It is here that history breathes. It is here that culture flirts with fashion. It is here that merchants advertise their wares at the central market- Europe’s largest covered market spread over 8000 square meters.
In this atmosphere you cannot be blamed for indulging in philosophy with a tinge of romanticism. The many churches dotting this city bear testimony. One in particular is remarkable- The Cathedral Metropolitan of the Assumption of our Lady (or simply the Cathedral). Not just for its architecture, murals or painted ceilings but because it hosts the Holy Grail (or so goes the assertion).
Paella seems to be the new age religion of Valencia- and it enlists even the most cynical of tourists. Personally, I think the Paella is over rated- but I am not a gastronomical expert so don’t take my word seriously. Their local drink Örchata” is however highly under-rated. Made from juice of the churfa (nut) with water and sugar added to it, the Orchata is by far the most delicious health drink I have tasted in a long, long time. For those seeking more than just health in their drink, Agua De Valencia is the elixir. Comprising of nearly a third of volume as alcohol this refreshing drink carries potency to knock down a mule! Beware.
And then there’s the River Bed Park. This is the dry river bed of the Turia river that was diverted from city areas to prevent floods. The now dry river bed have been developed with beautiful gardens, resplendent fountains and a riot of colours from the various flowers and plants of the River bed park.
Follow it till you reach the Science City. You will suddenly feel like Gulliver in Brobdingnag. Towering structures of mysterious shaped buildings peer at you. As you walk through the kilometres of Spanish ceramic carved pathway of the science city, the Opera invites you with its soulful Mozart and Beethoven presentations.
Take your time. Dip into an occasional café or bar and call out “Uno Cortado” the most popular drink- a shot of expresso coffee with milk. As you practice your sign language, it is here you strike-up friendships and trade worldviews.
And while thus gainfully engaged, you should watch time flit past. That is when you will feel at one with the true spirit of Valencia: happy, heavy and slightly lazy. Hello Everyone- take your time with Valencia.