Visit: 9th June 2014
Ross and I finally finished our exams last Saturday, and wasted no time getting away to celebrate the following morning. Louise came too, so I played gooseberry on our little trip to Spain. It had originally been planned as a seven day holiday for all of us, but after Nowell dropped out, I booked an earlier flight home too, leaving Ross and Louise to enjoy the final three days in peace.
We flew from Gatwick on easyJet to Valencia on Sunday morning, arriving around lunchtime to a city none of us had visited before. We only had a day there, so headed out for sightseeing and tapas as soon as we had checked into the hotel. We stayed toward the south of the centre, near to Valencia’s distinctive opera house.
We are all big fans of Spanish food, so we took every opportunity to eat good food that we could get. The first place we sat down at initially appeared to be an Italian restaurant, but luckily they could do Spanish food too, so we had Iberico ham, anchovies in vinegar and patatas bravas. We visited the cathedral that afternoon, and, after a rest back at the hotel, went out for dinner at a rather nice place near the cathedral called Vicentino, where almost everything came deep fried. It’s not your traditional tapas, and they probably overdid the deep frying, but it was nevertheless very good.
We visited the silk market itself the following day. It is located opposite the Central Market, which is a covered market housing many dozens of food stalls. Mostly they are selling ingredients of the highest quality, but there were also panaderias selling pastries and coffee. We had some chocolate-filled mini croissants and an espresso, as well as juicy cherries and peaches. Being in a place like this makes you realise how homogenised and bland the food shopping experience has become in England. Here is a picture inside the market.
The Silk Market costs €2 to get in, which is cheap of course, but it’s not a large building. The reason it was inscribed on the UNESCO list is because it is one of the best examples in the world of secular Gothic architecture, and was used for its original purpose for more than 500 years.
The silk that was traded here was harvested in the surrounding countryside from the cocoons of silkworms that inhabited the mulberry tree. Although they don’t exactly look alike, there is a reference to trees in the Sala de Contratación (trading hall), where the columns meet the roof in a manner designed to evoke palm trees.
An interesting feature of the building is the stereoscopic – or 3D – floor. Although the building itself was constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries, I haven’t been able to find out whether the floor is more recent. Whenever it dates from, though, you have to agree it’s an impressive effect.
Another interesting feature is the unconventional spiral staircase, constructed without a central column. This was done to show off the marvellous wealth of the city. Unfortunately you can’t walk up it, though you can use a different staircase to get to the upper floor.
The ceiling in the upstairs room has an ornately carved ceiling, in what was again intended to display the power and wealth of the agricultural economy of this region.
In terms of the visiting experience, the market could be improved by some English descriptions. As it stands, the signs are all in Spanish only, so it is not easy for tourists who haven’t read up on it to understand exactly what it is they are looking at.
After our day and night in Valencia, we headed to the Joaquin Sorolla station to catch a Renfe train to Cuenca…