It was my second time going to Girona, Spain and it was another reminder of how much I love it there. This could be due to the beautiful sunshine we had everyday, having such a great host show me around, or enjoying the wonderful villa with an indoor outdoor sitting room, but for whatever the reason, my stay was once again divine.
Now I’m going to diverge, and give a little background on Girona because it’s really interesting. It’s part of a region called Catalunya, an autonomous region which has it’s own unique culture and language, the language being Catalan. Like so much of Europe, this region also has a dark history. I’ll try my best to avoid sounding like a lesson, so I’ll summarize and shorten.
During the civil war, all of Spain was going through major changes and unrest. In the 1940s during Franco’s rise to power, there was real division amongst the Spanish, to the point that many didn’t consider themselves Spanish at all. Franco was known for opposing democracy and individualism. He used coercion and censorship to control the country. He suppressed anyone with different ideals and beliefs. During the 1950’s, not so long ago, speaking Catalan was a punishable offence. To put things into perspective, today there are over 13 million people who speak Catalan.
We can only imagine what it was like to live in Spain during that time and to have been assimilated into societal norms. It wasn’t until 1979 that the region regained its autonomous status and identity. Now you’ll see stickers of the ancient Catalan donkey, which is used to ridicule the Castillian bull, a symbol of Spanish nationalism. You’ll also see the odd sign labelled ‘Independencia.’
Well that’s about as much detail as I’m going to get into, but I must share one more thing, and of course it’s about road riding. One word, amazing. There is all sorts of terrain, non stop natural beauty and to top it off the roads are immaculate. Not just the toll highways, but roads that are virtually empty; rolling through small towns, over mountains, hundreds of obscure roads all freshly paved. It’s really a cyclists dream. The wild boars even like the roads! Why during one of my rides I saw one spring across the road. It was pretty funny, and reminded me of Pumba from ‘The Lion King,’ with it’s mechanical bounce and tuft of hair blowing in the wind. I swear I could hear it grunting and snorting all the way across. Good times.
|Tight squeeze through the streets of Girona|
|Now that's what I call a mini-van|