The Mazer were very interested in the local Jewish past. We had visited the Jewish Quarter during our city tour yesterday, and for today we planned a day trip out of town. Of course, the medieval town of Girona was the perfect choice for them.
The driver and I picked them up promptly at their hotel in Eixample district, and we headed to the Northern exit of the Barcelona to take the highway.
The ride takes a bit more than one hour, that we spent discussing Barcelona and answering their questions about anything: from the Catalan language, to the current Spanish economical situation… I also commented the landscape we were passing by: logistic and industrial areas first, agriculture and mountains later. And when we started approaching Girona, I started giving them an introduction to the city.
The arrival to Girona is very scenic: after living behind some dull commercial subburbs, we border the high plane trees of La Devesa park and we are confronted with the magnificent Old Town of Girona rising on top of a hill and crowned by the Cathedral.
The driver dropped us off beside the Onyar River, and we headed to the bridge to see the beautiful image of the colorful houses of the riverbank reflected on the water. Pictures here are a must!
We then crossed the bridge and entered the medieval alleys. I kept explaining the local history, interesting facts and legends, as we passed the robust church of Saint Felix.
We decided to have a quick look at the Medieval Baths, a Romanesque building that follows the Arab Bath style. Really pretty and quiet, and it doesn’t take long to visit. And next we started a pleasant stroll along the city walls. Despite the short flights of steps here and there, I love strolling along the gardens of the walls to get a better idea of the city past. When we reached one of the highest points, kwnowing their interest on the local Jewish History, I told them about the attacks of 1391 and how the Jewish were trapped in the Torre Gironella: a horrible time in our local history.
Now we started our descent back to the Old Town, and I took them through another road that goes around the back of the Cathedral. This building is a mix of different centuries, and it features a beautiful cloister and an impressive gothic interior but it’s really famous for its gorgeous 1000yo Tapestry of Creation. They decided, however, to skip it this time, as we wanted to focus on the Jewish heritage today.
We walked down the 90 baroque steps that lead to the Cathedral and we arrived to the entrance of the Call, the Jewish Section. We continued discussing it and exploring the alleys and its little details, and we arrived to the Museum of History of the Jewish – which of course we couldn’t miss.
The first floor of the museum explains how the Jewish lived here in the Middle Ages (their clothes, their neighborhood, the areas where they have been documented…), and it also gives you a quick introduction to the main Jewish traditions and rituals (many of their visitors have a Christian background, and that’s why it’s important to explain it – although for Jewish visitors it can be a less interesting part). It also features the largest collection of medieval Hebrew tombstones in Europe, carried here from the actual medieval Jewish cemetery of Girona.
The second floor gets more interesting: we dig into their professions, their rich intellectual activity (from the first Kabbala school in Spain, to doctors and some of the first map writers…). And then the museum narrates the facts of the Faith Debates (and how they are related to Girona through Samuel ben Nahmanides, one of its most illustrious rabbis), the forced conversions and the final expulsion and exile.
In this second floor there is also a lovely medieval patio great for a little break and to take some pictures, and in one of its ends its just has been discovered the Medieval Mikhva. I’m very excited about it, as there is only one more in Catalonia that has been certified by the specialists: it’s in Besalú, only half an hour ride from Girona.
After the visist, we continued exploring the medieval Alleys and Squares, enjoying their history, seeing picturesque corners and hearing about lively legends. We also stopped at a couple of lovely shops (I always say I need to come here for the sales! I love the Girona shops!).
At the required time, we crossed another bridge and headed back to where the driver was waiting for us. What a pleasure it is to visit Girona!
Would you like to go with me? Check out my Girona Tour!