Catalan flags hanging from balconies, colorful houses along the Onya river, quaint narrow cobbled streets, looming cathedrals and formidable medieval walls, welcome to Girona–the fortress of Catalonia.
I remember reading somewhere before that Girona’s folks are the most hard-core when it comes to their Catalan roots, and boy was that so true. They don’t stop at just proudly hanging Catalan flags everywhere, but at virtually every restaurant/bakery we went to/passed by, the menus and pastries’ names were in many languages (Catalan of course, included) but Spanish. It felt a bit bizarre yet fascinating to browse through a menu in Catalan, English, French, and Russian, sometimes even Chinese, without a Spanish word in sight.
But hey I’m not complaining, it’s just an initial observation ;) In fact, Girona completely won me over with its old-fashioned, understated charm. I have been to quite a few places: cosmopolitan capitals like Paris or Amsterdam, sleepless cities like Tokyo or Barcelona, or those bathed in history like Rome or Prague, but nowhere can capture my heart like those unpretentious, pretty, slow towns. The list contains some travellers’ favorites: Kyoto, Lisbon, Venice… and Girona is one of them. There is just something about this tiny place that cast me under a spell from the first moment I got there. It is hard to tell why, but perhaps because I felt like I belong there. Walking on those narrow streets, I felt as if I had known them intimately; looking at the colorful town with white capped mountains from afar, it was a sense of serenity that washed over me.
The best way to explore Girona is to get lost. Really, let your feet guide you through those pretty streets, trace your fingers on those century-old stone walls, find a quiet spot on the top of the ancient fortification and take it all in.
Excuse me I’m a dork:
The Onya river:
Some landmarks you can’t miss, like the imposing 1000-year-old Girona cathedral:
A walk on the city’s wall, aka. Passeig de la Muralla, gives you a spectacular view of Girona’s old town:
The chuch Esglesia de Sant Feliu:
Or the Arab bath:
But best of all, are the streets. It was hard to not fall in love with them:
Lioness’ bottom–a fun landmark in Girona. The original sculpture, created since XI century at the entrance to the city, of a climbing lion was first mistaken for a monkey but soon gained its popularity among Girona’s residents and visitors. Although the original is now in a museum, in 1986 a similar statuette was erected at in Plaça de Sant Feliu–near the original spot:
Legend has it that if you kiss the feline’s bottom, you will be able to go back to Girona. I didn’t, but I can see myself coming back to this lovely town one day…