To the Left from the Beach
Up top – 30 kilometers of trails and excellent free-ride opportunities. Down below – everything a big-city dweller might miss while on holiday
Throughout the whole year, Barcelona absorbs an abundant flow of tourists, and during the summer season the coast of the Costa Brava and the Costa Dorada, which are closest to the city, are full of inveterate beach-dwellers. If you feel tired of watching the crowds, to change the view is a piece of cake. Visit Tortosa, Montserrat, Berga, or choose any other town where a traditional celebration is expected – Catalans are really good at arranging them. If you have already seen the castells – human towers, there are plenty of other choices, such as festivals of strawberries, flowers, snails, and sardines. Or masquerades and processions, dedicated to one of the Saints – Anthony, Peter or John.
Take your eyes off the sea and have a look on the opposite side: a vast green land called Terres de l’Ebre is located nearby. Wineries with wine tastings in cool cellars, a mysterious half-light of gothic cathedrals, an incredibly tasty paella served at the restaurant in the Ebro Delta Reserve (the rice for it was grown in that very field which can be seen from the window), the taste of oil made from olives grown on a thousand-year-old tree: everything goes into a treasure chest of impressions. In the mountains, the river slowly rolls its waters, everything here is sinking in green, saturated with smells of pine needles, rosemary and other Mediterranean herbs.
The Ebro Delta. Rice and Birds
Marshy territory, overgrown with reed, with the maximum of food, a minimum of predators and no urbanism is a perfect place for birds. Visit this place to see a unique ecosystem – a place where a deep river meets the Mediterranean Sea, creating dunes, coves, salt marshes and shallow lagoons along the way. Most of the tourists come here for birdwatching, which is a very popular activity in Europe, while the rest enjoy exploring the vast open spaces of the reserve, fishing, breathing fresh air and taking photos of rice fields. Several varieties of rice are cultivated in the delta, including bomba rice, which is considered best for paella. A local specialty store, where you can choose and buy the right sort, is situated right next to the information center of the reserve.
Ulldecona. Centuries and Millennia
Already in the Stone Age, people lived and performed some creative activities here. This is evidenced by the largest collection of rock paintings in Catalonia, which made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List. And in the vicinity of Ulldecona, the most impressive concentration of thousand-year-old olive trees in the entire Mediterranean can be seen, there are over 1,500 of them. The oldest ones are more than 1,500 years old, and can be seen at the Museo Natural de Olivos Milenarios del Arión in the open air. There’s also a 13th-century Templar Castle of Miravet nearby, but it is too young by local standards.
Tortosa. Moors and Christians
In the 2nd century B.C., the population of Dertosa (old name of Tortosa) was as numerous as that Barcino (Barcelona). Today, although the city is not so popular as the capital of Catalonia, the Castle of La Suda, the Gothic cathedral and the medieval city center where Renaissance Festival is celebrated in July, commemorating the heyday of Tortosa after the Reconquista in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance era, are definitely worth visiting. The city is overcome with a total historical reconstruction: banner bearers juggle flags, falconers exhibit birds of prey, children ride merry-go-rounds. On the square you can see Moors fighting with Christians, while in the alley a folkloric scene is played, and in the castle you can try your hand at shooting a cannon.
L’Ametlla de Mar. On Land and at Sea
This coastal town did not bend down to the pressure of mass tourism. The main income source here is fish. The caught fish, just like a hundred years ago, is traded in the morning from boats or is sold in the port at auction. From here you can go on a Tuna Tour and swim with the tuna. Spain has a quota for catching this fish: shoals of young tuna are brought to the local shores for fattening (up to 300 kg), and then exported to Japan and the US. After the tour, which lasts about three hours, it’s worth visiting the restaurant El Molí dels Avis, where they serve unbelievably delicious fish.
Berga. Fire and Water
It will take an hour by car to get to this small town from Barcelona. This place goes crazy twice a year. Its main holiday, La Patum, is already on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Theoretically, the main reason for the fest is Christian – the May holiday of the Body and Blood of Christ – but in practice, it looks rather pagan and full of ancient folklore. Processions of drummers, dwarfs and giants end with fires and pyrotechnics, when the narrow streets and the main square get filled with bristling firecrackers, devils and hydras. In contrast, the July holiday of St. Eloi, the patron saint of blacksmiths, cools the ardor. On the way to the ultimate target – the cathedral square, where everyone is welcome to taste hot chocolate – participants are bound to get wet: water is poured from balconies and doors, and even in churches they attach hoses to fire hydrants.
La Pobla de Lillet. Concrete and Gardens
All the structures at the Artigas Gardens designed by Antoni Gaudí were made from concrete, which was held highly at the beginning of the 20th century (especially since Eusebi Güell, the permanent sponsor of the Barcelona genius, opened its production nearby). An hour’s walk along the shady paths is the best rest on a hot day: past the waterfall to the sources of the Taurus (the symbol of Luke the Evangelist) and the Lion (Mark), through the arched bridge of the Eagle (John) to the pavilion on the rock, from where opens an absolutely breathtaking view. If you are not a particular admirer of the brilliant architect and not a collector of gardens, then maybe this place is not worth a separate visit. Still, after a holiday in Berga, the soul will seek tranquility.
Теxt: Olga Savelieva
Published on: January 24, 2018