Travels in Spain, The Historical Centre of Valencia

Valencia Town Hall

Regardless of the size of any Spanish city the historical centre is generally small and easily managed on foot and Valencia is no exception confined as it is within a circle that was once the old medieval city walls.

Our excellent accommodation was close to the central squares adjacent to the Cathedral and to the central market which was one of my favourite places.  Every morning I volunteered for breakfast shopping duties and made an early morning visit joining lines of Valencians going about their daily business, some vigorous, some dawdling, some urgent and energetic some reluctant and lethargic.

On the very edge of the centre is another market, a very fine building with a colourful Gaudi-inspired façade which is an example of Modernista Valencian Art Nouveau architecture of the time and has since been declared a national monument.

Valencia 008

It was once a real market but these days it has been gentrified and gone up-market and instead of stalls of fish and vegetables it is home to expensive cafés, restaurants and shops, the smell of the sea and the soil has been replaced by barista and croissant but it is a good place to visit all the same.

Not a great deal of the original city walls remain in place, just a pile of gnarled stone here and there but there are two restored gate houses that El Cid would surely have recognised even today and I chose one of them to pay the very reasonable admission fee of €1and climbed to the top where there were good views over the whole of the city.

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One of the things that I especially liked about Valencia was the general level of cleanliness with tidy streets and a thankful lack of graffiti, I know some people consider it to be a form of expressionism but in my opinion it is almost always a punishable crime.  I do however like good urban art and on almost every street corner there was something worthwhile to see, always well done and tasteful.  (The three worst places that I have been for graffiti by the way are Bologna, Lisbon and Ljubljana).

Valencia 05

Finally we visited the Bull Ring which I know a lot of people won’t agree with as being something worthwhile.  I used to think that I would like to see a Bullfight but not anymore.  Not because I disagree with it in principle but simply because as a spectacle it wouldn’t appeal to me.  That is because I am not Spanish and it is not part of my culture and tradition.

“Nothing expresses the masculine quality of this country better than the bull-fight, that lurid and often tawdry gladiatorial ritual, which generally repels the northerner in the theory, but often makes his blood race in the act.”  – Jan Morris. ‘Spain’

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There are many calls from outside Spain (and within as well) to ban the sport but that would be doing away with a pagan tradition that stretches back to the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans and once it has gone that link will disappear forever.

“I do not consider bullfighting a sport, it is an art, a science, a ritual more spiritual than physical”   Patricia McCormick – America’s first professional female bullfighter

The informative little museum explained that in a bullfight six bulls are killed in an event and this involves three matadors with their band of attendants, the picador horsemen who lance the bulls and the banderillos who stab them with barbed spikes.  If the spectators approve of the matador’s performance they wave white handkerchiefs to signal to the president of the fight that he should reward him with a trophy, one or both of the bull’s ears and/or its tail.  Personally I would rather have a bottle of champagne or a cheque!

Every year, approximately two hundred and fifty thousand bulls are killed in bullfights. Opponents condemn it as a cruel blood sport, supporters defend it as a cultural event and point out that animal cruelty exists elsewhere in horse racing, rodeos or any form of hunting with guns which are all forms of sport that are stoically defended by those who take part.

Personally I would include the cruel and pointless sport of fishing in that list because to my way of thinking there is nothing more barbaric than catching a poor creature just going peacefully about its daily business with a hook and line and dragging it from its environment in a most stressful way and watch it lying there on the bank of a river gasping for breath.

All in all, I remain firmly on the fence in the matter of Bullfighting. I think we should first address the issue of man’s inhumanity to man.

Valencia 01

23 responses to “Travels in Spain, The Historical Centre of Valencia

  1. I think that any activity whose ultimate aim is to kill an animal for no other reason than their personal pleasure should take a really good luck at themselves…fishing, hunting, fox hunting, all of them.
    What would be more reasonable is “fair bullfighting”. The bull is not drugged, not drained of blood, not spiked with a load of knives and the Spaniard has just a sword and a red blanket. That would show us if bullfighting is an essential part of their culture. And I’d pay to watch it, of course!

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  2. Wonderful traditions of my Spain, indeed. And love Valencia for if not more than sentimental reasons!

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  3. ‘gnarled stone’ I like. Takes me back 🙂

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  4. I’m of the opinion some rituals (and cultural norms) can stand the occasional review. Longevity is not a substitute for legitimacy.

    And yes, we are cruel in other ways . . . but few people (none I know of) go to slaughterhouses and stand around cheering.

    Most hunting has at least a component of utilitarian intent (wanting to eat) and it doesn’t involve intentionally making the animal suffer by wounding it multiple times before killing it.

    Fishing falls into the sliding scale of what we know about animals, nervous systems, and the progression of awareness and capability for suffering. (Although, I agree with you . . . but I also know you enjoy F&C)

    As we learn more about animals, there is a preference for avoiding the intentional infliction of suffering. That is, at least by most people; there are still sadistic bastards who like to torture animals . . . I try to avoid those people especially since killing them is frowned upon.

    Although sometimes ill-defined, we can generally recognize when someone is on the wrong side of the torture line and, as such, I can definitely recognize bullfighting is on the wrong side of that line.

    Here’s a mental experiment we could conduct . . . as opposed to weakening the bull by repeatedly stabbing it and slowly bleeding it to near-death, why not just drug it? The effect is the same; the bull is incapacitated to the point that it’s somewhat safe for the bullfighter to strut around and eventually kill the awful beast. If the spectators want to see blood, we could employ the same tricks used in movies. After all, I’ve watched the same actors ger fatally wounded in a number of movies and they seem perfectly fine as they walk around spouting uninformed opinions.

    For that matter, matadors could use those fake blades they use in movies and the bull can be trained to perform a dying scene satisfactory and realistic enough to satiate the bloodthirst of the audience . . . but, no trophies . . . unless they are prosthetic.

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    • Some good points as ever.
      I stick to my view that hunting with guns is a bloodthirsty sport and has little to do with putting a piece of meat on the table to feed the family but I guess I am straying here into the territory of the pro-gun lobby of the US!

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      • Hmm . . . how many US hunters do you know?

        Sure, there are them who hunt for pleasure or trophies (about 1% of hunters) and some just like to shoot things (they typically donate the kills to food banks and other organizations who make sure the meat is used) but more and more hunters go out specifically for the meat (close to 40% at last count). That’s “specifically”; others go out for the meat but also the social aspect and other reasons.

        I no longer hunt, but I can tell you all the hunting I participated in was primarily to bring back meat to eat. If one is interested in wild game meat, there are not too many resources one can tap. You don’t typically find game meats at the supermarket.

        Not so with fishing (for me). That was more the experience of fishing. In fact, the ideal fishing for me involves the fish jumping off the (debarbed) hook all on its own with me never having to touch it.

        Understand, I’m not defending the practice (or denigrating it); I eat meat and fish so I don’t feel I have the right to tell others they shouldn’t fish or hunt. But, I also don’t like hearing the misconceptions people have about the practice.

        Now, if we’re talking about getting on horses while wearing silly outfits and chasing down foxes . . . well, that’s just plain silly. And that’s aside the fact a fox isn’t going to feed 20-30 adults.

        Here are some raw numbers you might find interesting:

        Click to access fhw16-nat.pdf

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      • You make my point for me so well. We defend aspects of our own cultures that others find undesirable. Spanish defend bullfighting just as you defend hunting with rifles. Some in the UK defend wearing silly outfits and chasing foxes.

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      • Hmm . . . Not defending. Correcting part of of a perception. Many do hunt for the meat. Argue that it’s not necessary, and I’ll partially agree . . . Except where people rely on that meat as part of the food they eat (miss getting your deer and you’re having to buy the equivalent in beef).

        Some of these issues have complex arguments, some don’t. All deserve accurately addressing them.

        Argue that hunting with guns is barbaric, and I’ll disagree because a lot of effort goes into clean and quick kills (bow hunting is another matter).

        For the record, I’m not pro hunting, but I will correct erroneous perceptions and facts.

        The idea of tradition is not (in many cases) defensible. It’s not defensible for hunting either because you can go “hunting” with a camera and accomplish everything but the kill.

        But, there are other reasons for hunting with guns (which I don’t defend but should at least be argued accurately).

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      • The point is, if one wants to argue against something, one needs to be informed about the full range of arguments and have data to support ones conclusions. Tradition is not something that overrides all other arguments (IMO).

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      • I agree, the same applies to bullfighting!

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      • I take your point!

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  5. Nice experience. You always make me want to go to the places you visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love Valencia! In Catalonia they no longer allow bullfighting. I am sure, given time, it will be outlawed in all of Spain.

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  7. I don’t agree with any sport that causes suffering to animals, so I could never watch a bullfight. I don’t eat animals either, though I do eat dairy and eggs so admit to being a bit hypocritical. But I think everyone finds their own line and that’s mine. The flesh is weak!

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  8. Many rituals have disappeared since Egyptian times. This one disappearing wouldn’t worry me.. 😉

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  9. I never really understood the importance of bullfighting in Spanish culture. Regardless of how much I hate such sports, but I can understand the allure of fox hunting as a historically posh sport and hunting in the US as a male bonding experience. Still, never quite got the Spanish point of view

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