03 August 2007 | Duh!
Valencia feels exhausted. Not surprising, given the excitements of the America's Cup and the annual extravaganza of the Fallas in July. The streets and parks are empty; this is the Calatrava bridge over the ex-Turia riverbed. The bridge is beautiful, but the most striking thing is the emptiness of the park. We tried hard to think of any other large (rich) city where the parks would be so empty at 1700 on a sunny Friday afternoon. London, Berlin, Wellington, Seville, New York, would all see crowds.
It also fits with the strange formality that haunts the city. In Andalucia, you feel that a swirling chaos might erupt any moment and whisk you away to some unpredicted future. Here, a stately formality precludes such thrills, instead imposing an order and grandeur that infects the mind. You think of majesty, of empire, and of staggering architectural ambition. That's a different post.
The America's Cup programme describes this as 'the greatest moment' in Valencia's history. No! What of the conquest by the Muslims in 711, and by Jaime I in 1238. (It is noticeable in the architecture and the style of living that this area was Christianised some 250 years before most of Andalucia.) And what about the Republican government, who made this their headquarters? This is another place where history and conflict, imperial fortunes, civic pride and extravagant religiosity are written all over the face of the town.